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Cute Girls, Mathematics, Language

December 21, 2007
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Recently, I met this one girl. She’s really cute. And she knows Japanese. Fluently. Native-level fluently. After only studying it four years. She talks circles around people who studied it for four years in college.

Why is this girl so good at Japanese?

Because she spent 24 hours a day 7 days a week 365 days a years studying Japanese. She has spent 40,000 hours listening to Japanese. Her name is Didi.

The people who went to college spent 5 class hours a week, plus perhaps 1-2 hours out of class per hour in class, for 52 weeks a year. That comes to 2000-4000 hours a year, being generous. This is an order of magnitude less than Didi.

Didi is just shy of four and a half years old.

Don’t ever talk to me about how kids are magical until you spend 40,000 hours listening to your target language.

Don’t ever talk to me about how you’ve spent 4 years studying Japanese when really you’ve only spent 3-6 months, counting by hours.

Don’t ever blame on something as nebulous and BS-ological as talent, what can much more easily be explained mathematics.

Put in your hours. And you will be rewarded. It’s that simple. It is a poisonous combination of ignorance, arrogance and innumeracy to expect to have even passable Japanese WITH AN ORDER OF MAGNITUDE LESS EFFORT than even a typical Japanese toddler has put in.

For the record, I have logged about 20,000 hours of listening since June 2004. And my vocab is easily far larger than Didi’s (sorry, Didi! you’re still my friend!). So chalk another one up for adult learners.

Adults can do it. You can do it. Japanese — any language. But you need to step up to the plate; you need to show up; you need to not have the temerity to think that 1000 classroom hours and some homework is an acceptable level of effort. Because it isn’t. Come back with 5 figures, and then we can talk, literally 8) .

Steve Kaufmann does a much better job explaining it than I have. If, as he says (and I think he is absolutely right) most vocabulary is learned incidentally rather than deliberately, then it is crucial that we give the vocabulary lots of chances — lots of “incidents”, lots of hours of input — to hit us, and thereby be learned.

This is not fluff. This is not theory. This is cold, hard, listen to effen Japanese in 5-figure+ quantities if you want to get good at it. That’s all you have to do. But you do have to do it. As Jim Rohn suggests, success is easy; the things that you need to do to succeed are easy. But the reason so many fail is because: “The things that are easy to do are also easy not to do”.

Language is easy. There may or may not be difficult problems in life, but language is not one of them; get it out of your head that it is.

Now get listening!

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62 Responses to Cute Girls, Mathematics, Language

  1. JDog on December 21, 2007 at 13:22

    Nice motivational post. I am just doing kanji right now but listening to Jdramas and music on my iPod and have already picked up quite a few words. They get clearer and clearer every time, too! It’s like magic.

  2. khatzumoto on December 21, 2007 at 14:51

    Thanks! Little Didi inspired me! It was just so exciting to watch her talk and to talk to her — she taught me a song: 「大きな栗の木の下で、貴方と私、仲良く遊びましょう」, you keep repeating it faster and faster. And I noticed that, yeah, the people who had studied Japanese in college had no clue; they couldn’t carry on a convo with a 4-year-old; they couldn’t even follow a stupid song. And then I realized, hey, this kid has put in TEN to TWENTY times — 1000-2000% — the time [I hesitate to say "effort", because it's all basically been fun and therefore effortless] that the “I learned Japanese in school” people have. I told Didi’s mother this and she’s like “what the running calculations about my child have you been doing?!”, LoL…she was amused.

    But, yeah, let’s lay the magical kids myth to rest right here and now.

    Also, Chon Chan Yan in his book, where he suggests to not learn English as a foreign language, but to learn to the point of “second native language”…that was inspiring.

  3. khatzumoto on December 21, 2007 at 15:00

    …It seems to me that, adults aren’t consciously stupid or lazy, they’re just impatient really. They want language, they want this skill and they want it now and they want to put on the resume and use it get a promotion with and get transferred somewhere cool with and go on business trips with and other crap like that. And, like, it simply isn’t going to happen, in the absence of some incredible technological leap, a couple thousand hours just isn’t going to cut it….They probably don’t realize they’re being arrogant and lazy until you do the arithmetic and realize that toddlers come correct — toddlers are going to play this game until it’s over and then they’re going to play some more just for fun, and then they’re going to play it backwards and sideways and deliberately incorrectly just for kicks. Toddlers don’t know they’re coming correct, but then doing the right thing and being aware of what you’re doing are completely separate things.

    An hour each of class and homework a day? Please…

    • Anotherkanjisite on July 5, 2011 at 06:44

      I strongly agree with the issue of adult stubbornness. There are a number of factors in play, it would seem. Definitely as you’ve pointed out there’s the wanting of the “one button” approach, though I blame the modern American media especially for this one (it’s all consumer-oriented, each advertiser attempting to promise grander results than the next, disillusioning the poor folk into thinking they are kings to whom the world will belong if only they dish out a sufficient enough amount of money at a cause).

      There’s also the issue of the adult ego – adults hate being wrong, they hate feeling like they can’t understand something. As they try to study, the ego becomes stronger until it screams at them to stop trying the thing they are bad at and to return to the thing they are good at in order to help the ego feel better. Children have no egos, they simply have no choice but to go through countless series of mistakes until they ultimately achieve the knowledge.

      Another factor that comes to mind is learned helplessness. While children experience no reserve at trying something over and over again, even if it’s falling off a bike and looking silly, adults have often learned to fear failure. They have instructed themselves that in order to avoid that which they fear, they must not pursue that particular venue. This is a subconscious habit that runs in many adults, especially if they are used to following established routines every day that they have grown comfortable in.

      An interesting thought just came to mind, too. Imagine if someone had never learned to ride a bicycle. Think of all the hard-headed adults you know. Picture them trying to learn to ride a bicycle for the first time. How likely is it that they would agree to go through with it? They’d rather stand in the corner and frown and nod at the children riding bikes than “stoop down” to learning it themselves. And then they group up and blame it on “deterioration of ability due to age”. As long as they keep nodding at each other and agreeing with this “consensus” they get to live in a world that feels comfortable to them because in it, they are not at fault. But really, they’re just being too uptight and keeping themselves from having fun.

      Sorry, felt like ranting a bit. =P

  4. yun on December 21, 2007 at 17:31

    hope u don’t mind a random question.

    when i watch american movies dubbed into Chinese (specifically disney), why is it that the Chinese subtitles don’t match exactly with what the Chinese dubbed voices are saying? One example would be for the Incredibles or Cars. Have you noticed this too? I ordered the DVDs from mainland china, so maybe it’s a mainland thing.

    one example:
    real dialogue: “我知道”
    subtitles: “是真的呀”

  5. David on December 21, 2007 at 22:10

    @Yun – As far as I know, most Disney films (at least the ones from Taiwan and Hongkong) come with two different Chinese subtitle tracks. One matches the English dialogue (一套對照英文發音), the other matches the Chinese dub (一套對照中文發音).

  6. nacest on December 21, 2007 at 23:01

    khatz,
    you’ve been emphasizing these concepts for a while, but after reading this last post an analogy came to mind. Starting to study a language with the A[L]ATT method is a bit like formatting your hard disk.

    You know that after a few months of use Windows gets really sluggish, messy and generally lame? When that becomes unbearable one (or at least I) gathers a little bit of courage, formats the HD and reinstalls the OS. After that you have to start from scratch, install all the programs, download the updates, rebuild the system (in a sort of boot-strap way). But you can do it pretty quick: now Windows is fresh and unencumbered, and you can do your business more efficiently.

    Well, in a sense, when you say that learners should be like babies who start with NOTHING and build block after block of language comprehension, it’s like you’re saying that they should take up some courage and format their “language life”. Boot-strap their way to fluency again. It may be a slow job at first, but it rapidly reinforces itself; besides, you don’t lose all your previous data. You just back it up and keep it ready for emergencies.

  7. JDog on December 22, 2007 at 02:51

    I have a question about reading in early stages. As I stated above, I am in the kanji stage of the game, so I am listening and SRSing kanjis, that’s it. I enjoy just going to like MSN Japan for instance (just because it has a lot of content on it) and glancing through and seeing how many kanji I can recognize and also sounding out and trying to figure out the numerous カタカナ words on the page (I learned the kana before I found the AJATT method). Also, I sound out some of the ひらがな on the page. Does this do anything for me? I mean is it considered reading practice? It is fulfilling enough to me simply to see how many characters of real Japanese I can recognize, but I don’t really know if it does anything for me.

  8. Charles A. on December 22, 2007 at 14:06

    To be fair, should we be counting Didi’s sleeping time as part of the calculations ^__^

    The more I hear it from you Khatz, the more it sinks in. Today, I was just imagining a what if:

    What if there was a site where each day you can download 20 sound files of about 3 minutes each (1 hour total). Subjects ranging from news, music, radio interviews (and call in talk shows) and entertainment. Each day would be a new set of 20 sound files. The idea being that you’ll load them into your Ipod, put it on shuffle and play them all day long. Even your I-pod might have a minor algorithm that’ll encourage it for files you’ve heard less to be played more often.

    Yeah, it’s what Khatz has been telling us to do on our own: Music (he gave his list of faves), Television (ditto), Movies (start with Native movies dubbed), News (yomiori podcast), Discussion (Morimoe). He said break the TV and Movie audio rips down into short segments (heck, just rip audio from the DVD chapters and it’s done for you). Take them all, put them in your I-pod, and listen all day.

    Then you have the 10,000 sentences (another form of input with controlled output). After RTK (or however you did it), this enables the next form of input, reading. For reading, Manga rates a big benefit in my book.

    Tons of input, limited and correctable output with no need to go to Japan to get it Tom Cruise in Last Samurai style.

    Next thing that should be posted (for input purposes) is if there’s a podcast of the Japanese version of Call-in Talk Shows. For those wanting to learn English, there’s a dearth of podcasts by all the radio talk shows where you have the widest range of discussions and topics with male and female voices. Is there a Japanese equivalent out there?

    PS: The purpose of the third paragraph is that I believe most people that want to learn a languauge are not too self motivated to gather large amounts of material on their own. However, if you provide them with the material and the instructions, they’d do it on their own from there.

    Imagine: Now here’s 50 movies in Japanese (native dubbed and Japanese originals) and 500 hours of Japanese audio (news, dialogue, music, audio ripped from the 50 movies). Watch a movie a day and add 1 hour of audio a day to your Ipod which you’ll listen to constantly. Great, now here’s RTK, do it. Great, now here’s the Kana, do it. Great, now here’s 10,000 progressive sentences. Do 20 sentences a day and add into your Anki which you’ll also review everyday.

    I’m sure it could be done, but looking at it makes it sound dry and boring. Taking it one day at a time, but with a short term and long term goals in mind seems more feasible and digestable. Right now, I have 4 hours of Marimoe, 6 hours of Tiger and Dragon, 10 hours of movies, 4 hours of news all rotating in my ipod. Soon I’ll add songs and more TV shows and movies and more news (which I’ll break up into 5 minute segments). I restarted my Anki deck to use Understanding Basic Japanese Grammar as the initial sentences (originally, it was to be Genki). So my new short term goal is 20 or so sentences a day into Anki, listening to the I-pod as I can, and keep up on my RevTK account. My old long term goal was finishing RTK (while doing Pimsleur). My new Long term goal is an 200 hours with a hour ratio of 10 news, 10 dialogue, 10 music, 30 movies and TV in 5 minute segments (so I can track my “listened to” amounts) with 2,000 sentences into Anki.

    Basicly, have a plan and be ready to change it cause you probably will.

  9. Chiro-kun on December 22, 2007 at 15:22

    Hehe yeah impatience lol! Not only for language but for anything, like you said. Like, I have some friends who want to have 00ber k3w1 h4xx0rzing skillz (dunno if I spelt that correctly ;) ) but keep saying “Dude, why does it have to be so damn hard…..” or “Do we gotta be nerds for this or somethin’?” I was kinda like that too but AJATT hath made me see the light ;).

    Completely unrelated info but….today is the day I graduate from Heisig University of Jouyo Kanji!!! :D

  10. Chiro-kun on December 23, 2007 at 03:00

    Khatzu-sensei, I’ve just thought of something. How about watching anime/dramas in SUBS first and then ripping the audio and listening to it all day? Since you’ll have one glance at the Subs, you’ll know what’s going on. Then if you rip the audio, maybe then we’ll catch the words faster because we know what’s going on when?

    • Jan on December 26, 2011 at 12:50

      I’m actually doing this now. Since I have already watched several hundred hours of amine subbed before starting the ajatt method, I decided it would be a good idea to rewatch my favs sans subs and also rip the audio from the eps to listen to from my iPod. I actually really like having some kind of idea, from previous viewings, of whats going on. Also, an unlikely source for this is crunchy roll. I generally watch random amine, and since the site has soft subs, one can easily turn the subs off. The only ‘problem’ is that the site has commercials, but I generally spend that time SRSing.

  11. khatzumoto on December 23, 2007 at 11:49

    @Yun
    What David says. The subs and dubs are made separately. The subs explain the English, the dubs are to sound good in Chinese (and maybe fit mouth movements). So, sometimes there might be 2 sets of subs. Also (this is another one of my stupid vague theories), but East Asia has a very long literary history, perhaps the longest, broadest, extant literary history. And, part of that tradition involves quite a clear separation between speech and text. Speech style can change, but text is clear, concise, terse, and communicats ideas across space, time and language (in kanji). I mean, look how easy to understand 文言文 is:
    “兵者國之大事,死生之地,存亡之道,不可不察也。”. It’s so BOOM, right there.

    Anyway, so maybe that cultural heritage is reflected throughout the kanjisphere, where both subs and newspaper quotes frequently and deliberately are not a word-for-word transcription of speech.

  12. khatzumoto on December 23, 2007 at 12:08

    @Chiro!
    You’re the man now, dawg! You have made the kanji grow strong within you [without special kanji midiclorians]! Congratulations!

    As for the subs thing, I’m not a big fan of the idea….for me, personally, it didn’t work so well. When I see subs, the voices of the characters are literally replaced by English in my mind. But maybe that’s just me. You can try your own ideas without my permission or approval or whatever 8) .

    Nice job on RTK! We need a hall of fame for RTK finishers…

  13. khatzumoto on December 23, 2007 at 12:11

    >It is fulfilling enough to me simply to see how many characters of real Japanese I can recognize, but I don’t really know if it does anything for me.

    You’re getting all those “side benefits” of constant input that people get in Japan or in a self-created Japanese inversion environment. So, what you’re describing is a great thing. Congratulations! Keep going.

  14. khatzumoto on December 23, 2007 at 12:12

    @Chiro
    Do you feel like telling your RTK story any time soon? If you’re too busy, don’t worry…What’s important is doing your Japanese, not recording the process.

  15. David on December 23, 2007 at 12:48

    Hey, khatzu, I recently came across this website www.LinqQ.com and was surprised to find it to be pretty much your philosophy if in a somewhat “spoon-fed” manner. It seems interesting nevertheless, though I’ll admit I haven’t tried it yet. I was wondering if you’d tried it or heard anything about it?

    From the website’s sign-up page: “Learn like a child

    Everyone learns to speak their native language. Why not use the same approach with a second language? Surround yourself with meaningful input that matters to you. ”

    Sounds kinda familiar, eh. :)

  16. Steve Kaufmann on December 23, 2007 at 13:54

    Khatzu,

    Thanks for mentioning my blog. Quite a few people followed the LingQ over to my blog.

    I am tremendously impressed with your site. Practical, sensible, human, enjoyable and motivating…just what is needed in language learning and just what is often, although by no means always, missing when the trained language teachers control things.

    I am a great believer in Ockham’s Razor (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Occam's_Razor). Keep it simple. You do a great job at boiling language learning and learning Japanese down to its essential elements. Keep up the good work.

    I tend to favour phrases over sentences, but in the case of Japanese especially, this may be more of an academic difference than a real one. Learn the flow of the language, learn how the words come together and forget the explanations, the rules, the exceptions, and the theory.

    I would like nothing better than to raise a masu of sake with you one day.

    Steve Kaufmann

  17. Chiro-kun on December 23, 2007 at 15:41

    Lol yeah! After finishing off with RTK yesterday, I’m starting real practice now (plan to experiment with the subs idea for a while but switch to RAWs if it doesn’t turn out too good).

    As for my time with kanji, it was pretty inconsistent! I had managed to learn 500 characters in around 10 days (But I had learnt the first 34 or so characters a long time back) or so but got bored pretty soon. So I switched to sentence mining, looking up unknown kanji at Jim Breen’s WWWJDIC along with their readings. It was frustrating to say the least. For one, I could manage a very small number of sentences everyday (around 7-10). Also, I kept confusing similar looking kanji like 住 and 往. And the readings as well. The thing with Heisig was that the most common kanji like 食 or 飲 came towards the end (beyond 1500 or so). However when I did come across some Heisig kanji, I recognized them instantly and the readings suddenly seemed easy to memorize. So I decided to finally get going and get Heisig over with. It was pretty inconsistent in the beginning, I did between 30-50 kanji a day. The day I crossed 1000 however, I got really pumped up and started mowing them down at 100 kanji per day. It became easier once my school closed for Christmas (that’s when I was at about 1400 or so). I just skipped a single day which I spent watching the entire Gokusen drama 1st season!

    Well, now that I’ve finished it feels really great! I can recognize almost everything in sites like Google Japan, Youtube Japan, etc. It really was worth it! :D (P.S. Sorry for the long post, always happens when I start talking…erm…typing)

  18. yun on December 23, 2007 at 15:48

    i’m just now realizing the importance of learning characters before doing sentence mining. In terms of Chinese, it’s incredibly difficult to learn characters by learning words first, especially if only using Chinese-Chinese dictionaries. Most Chinese dictionaries define words using the characters in the words, so if you don’t know those characters (which happens a lot for me) you’ll find yourself looking up word after word, which all contain that same character you don’t know. This makes inputting two sentences take up to 20 minutes if there are lots of words I don’t know.

  19. Nivaldo on December 24, 2007 at 02:49

    Hi, Khatz! A question. Feel free to not answer to it in details as it get’s a little too personal(I think).
    I’m still doing the kanji part and I’m having some challenges, I mean, in the process we all have the same common “major” challenges. But I believe we also have some minor challenges, one for me is to keep SRSing without bothering anyone else. At home, there are two computers, one supports japanese fonts and the other doesn’t. As the one which supports is also the more “developed” of the two, many people use it and I don’t get the chance to use it for enough time. So I made a program in C++ to resemble an SRS in command line for the other computer that doesn’t support. It is based on the primitives of a kanji rather than on the picture itself(would require japanese fonts). Also I’ll start doing kanji very early in the morning and switch to the other computer to get the most. Sorry, for the long post just to a simple question. Could you tell about some minor challenges you had learning japanese? Thanks.

  20. beneficii on December 24, 2007 at 04:16

    Khatzumoto,

    Quick question: You see, for the first couple of years I had the idea to go to school and get explicit grammatical explantions of the langauge (Japanese) in English. Now, I’ve thrown that out the past few months, but at times while listening sometimes my mind wanders over to grammatical explanations in English. I should really work on stopping that, right? That would interfere with my use of the language right?

    I’ve been working on stopping so far; would you agree that’s the way to go?

  21. dave on December 24, 2007 at 08:57

    Hi

    I just recently started switching over to the 三省堂 Dictionary and have noticed some abbreviated terms for definitions in brackets such as (対) and〈スル〉. I can guess that (対) indicates the word is an opposite and I think 〈スル〉means it can use する but there are some other I’m not quite sure about. I’ve seen ones like〈(と)副〉and 〈下〉among others. I was wondering if you knew of a place that explains these terms?

    Thanks

  22. Eric on December 24, 2007 at 18:16

    beneficii, there’s nothing “bad” about grammatical explanations in English, per se. I studied Japanese for five years in classes and definitely learned something. But it was when I started increasing my input one-hundred-fold did everything really start “clicking” together more. Don’t waste energy forci yourself to stop the English explanations in your head. It will happen with time.

  23. Jen on December 25, 2007 at 06:18

    beneficii, maybe you could look at a Japanese grammar dictionary and see the explanations for the grammatical points that you think of in English in Japanese, and that would help you not to think about it in English? I have been doing that recently, and I have found that it not only helps me to stop thinking in English so much, but it also makes things much clearer, or adds new levels of understanding. I actually sometimes read my Japanese-Japanese grammar dictionary for fun, haha.

  24. khatzumoto on December 25, 2007 at 16:49

    @Nivaldo
    OK…maybe I’ll make an article about “all the little crap that went wrong for a while”. Looking back, all those little challenges were fun in the end. Like, you wrote a program to work with your kanji without Japanese fonts — that’s SO cool…and it was fun, right? Solving the problem? Anyway, yeah…if I can remember anything I’ll write it up.

  25. khatzumoto on December 25, 2007 at 18:41

    @benef
    What Jen said…Generally, I don’t think it works to not think of something: “DON’T think of flying pink elephants…do NOT think of flying pink elephants…do NOT think of flying pink elephants”. But, you can edge it out with other thoughts. If you have a thought in English, just re-think it in Japanese…if you don’t know how, then it may be a good time to look something up. If the whole process stresses you out just forget about it. If you watch, read and listen to enough Japanese stuff it should happen naturally anyway.

  26. Reineke on December 26, 2007 at 07:40

    Khatzumoto. I love your blog. I appreciate your efforts to motivate people and break the wrong attitudes towards language learning and especially those “hard” languages. I do think you get a little too enthusiastic at times and I believe this is one of those times. Anything that requires 40,000 hours to master through active effort is hard by definition. Hard is defined among other things as “requiring great effort or endurance: a hard assignment. Performed with or marked by great diligence or energy: a project that required years of hard work.” If you put in enough effort, surgery becomes easy – a snip here, a snip there. Now, you can wiggle out of this on the technicality that learning through exposure does not require a great effort – given the right frame of mind. It does require time and endurance. However I believe it’s very important to mention (especially when talking about 40,000 hours of study time lol) that some 2,000 hours are sufficient to bring a language learner to a language nirvana where he can actively participate, use the language and enjoy the content. Once the initial foundation has been laid the road between 2000 hours and whatever other number is a very pleasant one.

  27. khatzumoto on December 26, 2007 at 16:10

    Hey Reineke

    Thanks so much for your comment.

    You’re definitely right about that definition of “hard”.

    Do you ever get the impression, though, that when people say “hard”, they’re not thinking of time, they’re thinking of “possibility for anyone but the ‘talented’”?

    And then there’s the idea of “thought”. All you have to do with learning a language is have fun in that language a lot. You don’t have to think that much at all. You don’t have invent a new algorithm, you don’t have to solve P=NP, you don’t have to create anything ex nihilo. All you need do is walk the path. All you need do is copy — plagiarize — native-level users’ ways of writing and speaking. You don’t have to solve any significant problems, all you need do is “show up” to your language. Just be there. If toddlers do it without complaint and gnashing of teeth, does it not seem that just about anyone could?

    People are trying to buy PlayStation 3′s for $50 (2k -4k hrs). All this is saying is…PS3′s cost $500. All we need do is stop whining about the cost and just pay it. We want PS3s, right? Save up a bit and you can do it. 10k, 20k, 30k, 40k hours are going to pass anyway. Rather than a matter of difficulty or lack thereof, don’t you think perhaps it’s merely an exercise in time management?

    I don’t know…

    Thanks again for commenting.

  28. Reineke on December 27, 2007 at 11:45

    We share the enthusiasm for very unique imagery. I was saying that $50 is the first installment that will get you the “playtion” and a couple of easy, cheap games. Totally lame if you’re a gamer but sufficient to have a blast.

    In time you’ll get the accessories, a mountain of cool games and you’ll learn to kick ass. If you miss the payments, they’ll slowly take your stuff away. The closer you are to $500, the more you can afford to fall back with the payments although it’s never a good idea.

    Both “hard” and “easy“are much abused words. In 9 out of 10 cases people will concentrate only on “useful,” “important,” “sensible – you name it” and ignore “fun” and a high percentage will fail and ask themselves why. This goes for both choosing the right language and the right way of learning it. The “right” way is a very tricky issue. You see I appreciate grammars and vocabulary lists – probably to your utter horror- but I also have high regard for “fun”.

  29. mark on December 27, 2007 at 23:43

    > “all the little crap that went wrong for a while”

    An article on that would actaully be really good! I really liked your “…there was a time when…” article, so that would be a great addition.

    (Phase 0 is sooo important, I think – and I think it runs concurrently with every other step until you have finished phase 4!)

    Mark

  30. khatzumoto on December 27, 2007 at 23:57

    @dave
    Sorry to leave you hanging there. You’re looking for the 凡例(はんれい)of the dictionary. Look here: www.sanseido.net/Main/Dictionary/hanrei/dailyJJ.aspx

    Pay particular attention to section 9: 9. 記号・略語一覧
    that explains symbols and abbreviations…

  31. Language Goals for 2008 | AngrySwarm on December 29, 2007 at 10:05

    [...] 2-kyuu is quite difficult and my Japanese is now quite shoddy. However, as Khatzumoto is so fond of pointing out, it’s just a matter of [...]

  32. dave on December 29, 2007 at 10:09

    Thanks a lot khatzumoto!

  33. quendidil on December 30, 2007 at 23:43

    The expression 桁違い comes to mind, but how do you use it here? :D

  34. Deliberate Practice | AngrySwarm on January 5, 2008 at 10:20

    [...] just learning as a child), but not that much faster — you’ve got to put in the time.  Cute girls, mathematics, language: Put in your hours. And you will be rewarded. It’s that simple. It is a poisonous combination of [...]

  35. Rob on January 10, 2008 at 23:02

    Hi Khatzumoto,

    I’ve been wondering about this for awhile. In terms of listening and in your opinion, how long should one continue to listen to the same podcast/news/drama before moving on to something else? I mean I have some podcasts that I’ve listened to over a hundred times and my comprehension definitely increases as the repetitions increase. However, I can’t help but think that exposing myself to new listening material might be just as beneficial. So I guess the question is, when would you say is a good time to chuck out the old and bring in the new?

  36. khatzumoto on January 11, 2008 at 09:26

    @Rob
    I don’t really put an upper limit on it. As long as you’re not bored, keep repeating. I do all the time. Like you said, comprehension definitely increases as the repetitions increase, so keep enjoying the increased comprehension. I have watched looped the same DVD of Powerpuff Girls for a week straight. So…yeah, just let fun guide you.

  37. Meshi on January 24, 2008 at 07:19

    Wow, Khatzumoto your site is always motivating, but now that I hear things like 5 figures of listenting to Japanese its more scary than motivating for me :D.

    Its just, now if we talk about mathematics, I don’t think I have anywhere near the time to rack up that many hours.

    I know, I know… you’ve said before, no lame excuses, and that you were busy and had a life too.

    The thing is I am really enjoying Japanese and I can do it all day long without getting bored, so whenever I can, I get in some study or listening to something or trying to read something. However I can’t do it when I’m working… if I put on my iPod to listen to Japanese I can’t concentrate much on my work. Or well… I can focus on only one or the other. How much good will it do me to listen to Japanese while my mind is on something different?

    Outside work I spend time with my wife & kid and I can’t neglect that.

    So, out of my waking day I can usually put in a couple of hours of focused study, and maybe a couple more not so focused. That was fine for polishing off RTK1, no problemo. 10s of thousands of hours of listening? Big probemo!

    To quote “For the record, I have logged about 20,000 hours of listening since June 2004″.

    Ok lets do some mathematics… 20,000 hours in about 3.5 years, so you’re counting pretty much every waking minute of the day every day as “listening to Japanese”. Hmm, are you serious?

    Somehow I hope you’re not so serious, and that my puny ~4 hours a day is actually significant.

  38. khatzumoto on January 24, 2008 at 07:32

    >How much good will it do me to listen to Japanese while my mind is on something different?
    More than you might think. Try it.
    You don’t only learn when you’re trying to learn. You will pick up quite a bit — I did; I wasn’t by any means paying 100% attention 100% of the time, but the Japanese was playing close to 100% of the time as possible. That includes family time — there can be Japanese going while you spend time together/eat together etc. with your fam.

    >are you serious?
    Very. There’s sleeping time in there, too. But most of it is waking hours.

    >now that I hear things like 5 figures of listenting to Japanese its more scary than motivating for me
    The hours are there. They will pass anyway. Simply redirect as many of them as humanly possible.

  39. Meshi on January 24, 2008 at 07:48

    Ok, I’ll try that.

  40. Jake Freeze on May 21, 2008 at 16:41

    “Come back with 5 figures, and then we can talk, literally”

    >>>>>>.<<<<<<<;;;;;

    When I read this I was so jealous of the fact that you CAN say that, and ofcourse my instantaneous reaction to this statement of yours was a very eloquent one: “You beotch.”

  41. J-Learner15 on July 8, 2008 at 01:26

    whenever u talk about “listening” to Japanese, does that include like music, or should dramas and films take up more of that sorta section. thanks!

    oh, also! is it a good sign if you can sing your way through an album in Japanese?

  42. Alyks on November 10, 2008 at 09:44

    Hey, Khatzumoto, you said you logged 20,000 hours of listening time in this article. Did you really log it each day? How did you?

  43. Naomi on December 23, 2008 at 11:22

    Wow Khatzumoto!
    You are an inspiration. The way you explain things makes them seem so simple.
    I’ve only just started reading your blog, and already, after just reading the first 100 or so kanji in RTK I feel l have finally made progress…. even though most of them are quite irrelevant (I can now comment on sparkling chickens…) I’m not stuck in a rut.

    One problem though… I am finding it impossible to create the 100% Japanese all the time environment – I’m like, 16, and have school….I tried listening to my podcasts in school…. confiscated……I have no iPod this winter lol.
    I know you said no excuses so I’m wondering how I can get around this?

  44. mpz on February 19, 2009 at 11:06

    I agree it’s just a matter of input, input and yet more input.

    The internet helps you find a lot of input material. Use it to your advantage.

    And many people seem to equate “takes a lot of time” with “hard” or even “difficult”. We can argue about the semantics of “hard” until the end of times, but “difficult” or “impossible” it most certainly is not. I’m not saying it won’t take a lot of time, but with current technology (MP3 players etc.) it’s very easy to carve out even small slices of time from your daily schedule and fill them with input, input and input. If you just keep doing it, you’ll rack up some serious numbers before long.

    Japanese is just a language. It can be learned. It’s not difficult. It’ll take time, so you better start already and Just Do It.

  45. Jonathan Mahoney on March 10, 2009 at 08:18

    Beautiful post. I love the way you talk. I’ve become a disciple of Katz. This is where it’s at.

  46. MeisterKleister on November 12, 2009 at 08:45

    Thanks for this great web site!

    Question:
    Does anyone have any good advice on Japanese radio streams? I only found two fully Japanese radio streams at
    www.windowsmedia.com/radioui/Search.aspx?culture=en-us

    i-Radio is fairly good, from what I can tell and the other stream is a live stream of the Tokyo stock market ( >_>)

    Any other good fully Japanese radio streams from Japan? Anyone?
    Thanks in advance.

  47. [...] have to admit, one of the most humiliating parts of learning a language is when you realize that even three-year-olds put you to shame—after months or even years of trying to learn the blasted thing. When I go to a Japanese [...]

  48. [...] and you need it badly. In fact, you need it more than a “real” Japanese person does: they’ve had their fill; they can wait. Many of you have gone the entire first 10, 20, 30, 40 or more years of your life, [...]

  49. [...] ★元ネタ:Cute Girls, Mathematics, Language [...]

  50. nikurasu on July 14, 2010 at 21:25

    “Because she spent 24 hours a day 7 days a week 365 days a years studying Japanese. She has spent 40,000 hours listening to Japanese. Her name is Didi.” こう書いたけど、40万時間は毎日で27時間と同じことだよ。不思議じゃない?一日24時間とか22とか大変すぎるのよ。寝る時間とかない。多くの人は勇気を失うかもよ。そんなに沢山勉強してるのが無理でさ。誇張と違う?誇張なら、言って。お願いします。

  51. khatzumoto on July 14, 2010 at 21:48

    睡眠時間も一応カウントするよ・・・(^^)

  52. [...] I used to subscribe to what you might call an absolute volume (critical mass) model of language acquistion. Basically,  it goes like this: [...]

  53. [...] (abstract perfection). IMHO, we want to approach this like engineers 6, not mathematicians 7. We don’t need infinity, we just need…a really large number. And…that metaphorical dirt, that margin of error, that imperfection, that traction, that [...]

  54. [...] This is more of an “intermediate blues” thing. You’re not a beginner, but you’re not good. Yet. So you start to get frustrated. You start to compare multi-decade experience in an L1 to what typically amounts to a few hundred hours’ L2 exposure, an activity that is not only unfair and self-defeating, but also mathematically stupid. This state of affairs can be easily resolved by pointing out the arithmetic o… [...]

  55. [...] there are no sucky people. Our results are merely a near-perfect reflection of the frequency and absolute quantity of our practice and maintenance activities. That’s all the 10k hours idea boils down to. [...]

  56. [...] devices and websites Japanese? It’s kind of insane in its brutally straightforward logic: all Japanese people (and non-Japanese people) who are good at Japanese have been and remain exposed …; I want to be good at Japanese; I will expose myself to Japanese to the same extent as them. But it [...]

  57. Marina on August 11, 2013 at 01:02

    Hi ! I’m just about to start studying Business&Management and Japanese studies at university and, although I’m a bit biased, I don’t think that studying Japanese in a classroom is so useless. I’ve learnt Chinese this way, sitting in a classroom, although in China, for a year. My level is somewhere between HSK 5 and 6 now, which is pretty good I think. I intend to do the same with Japanese. I love going to class, I love to listen to teachers who know what they are talking about, it’s an environment that stimulates me. I’m looking forward to studying Japanese at university, especially since I’m not going to just study the language, but I will also have classes about Japanese History, literature, culture.. taught by renowned experts (it’s so much better to read a book when you know its author!). I also have a compulsory year in Japan as part of my degree, which I’m sure will be super beneficial language-wise but also awesome to make business contacts and such. That’s another great opportunity I will have thanks to my Japanese major. Now I completely agree that not all Japanese studies graduates are fluent in Japanese and that’s sad, but since we are given many great tools to do so, and with passion, I know for sure that many are indeed fluent. Starting with my own brother..
    I discovered this website yesterday and I’m looking forward to learn more. Cheers!

  58. […] You can learn things that haven’t been explained to you. Heck, you can learn things without even realizing you’re learning them! Arguably, most of what you learn works this way. 3 Most of your learning is not only incidental, but unconscious. […]

  59. […] native-level speaker and a linguistic foreigner is that the foreigner lacks a critical mass — sheer volume — of auditory L2 […]

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