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Desires and Decisions

Just to start, let me say this. I love confessing other people’s sins. You know how it is — other people are just so messed up! Other people have so much crap for me to be angry at them for. And it’s so much easier than dealing with my own stuff. I could go on for days about other people’s mistakes. In fact, I could write a whole website about it (hmmm?). Take some of my friends from Japan. They want to learn English: “Khatzumoto, teach me English”. But they spend all their time with other Japanese people, listen to Japanese music, read Japanese comics. Great for learning Japanese, absolutely useless for learning English. So I say to them, I say to my friends from Japan who want to learn English, “go to Most of what I did was apply their English-learning techniques to Japanese. They know what they are talking about. It is very effective. Follow their instructions.”

Most of these friends of mine can get through the English on Oh, they understand the English. But almost none of them do anything. Almost none of them ever download an SRS and start using example sentences. Even if I I download it for them, I swear they never use it beyond the first demonstration. They just go on with their lives, content with the idea that “English is so hard, man”. Content with buying random books about English. Content with writing shocking English. Content with doing things the way they’ve been doing them.

I know how they feel. Who wants to start something new, right? But still, I don’t get it. I mean, dang, man — what more do you want? The road has practically been laid out for you, you need but follow it! And so I used to lie there in bed, thinking “Dude, WTF?! Just do something! Learn it!! Stop whining about how it’s hard or about how school sucked or about how your dad should have accepted that posting to New York so you could have grown up speaking English or how your teacher was stupid or how English has more phonemes than letters and the whole writing system is a slimy, tangled morass of contradictions and exceptions to shaky rules and there are so many accents and dialects and sub-dialects and some people misspell on the Internet and what’s a Germanic language doing with this much Latin in it in the first place and ‘these sounds cannot be heard by the Japanese ear’ and AAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!”.

Other people are so messed up.

But then it hit me what the problem is. I know it’s a problem I have. I think it’s a problem we all have. It’s the difference between the people who achieve something and those who don’t. Before, I thought that the problem was that people’s desire was lacking, I even touched on it in a previous post, but perhaps that was inaccurate — or at least incomplete. Anyway, here is what I now think is the real problem.

You see, everyone has desire. Everyone wants to be good at something. Everyone wants to know a cool language, everyone wants mad kung-fu skills, computer-hacking skills…you name it. Everyone wants to be able to play a piano concerto with their eyes closed using only their big toe. So, the difference between those who do know a language, do have kung-fu/computer hacking skills — et cetera — and those who don’t must, in fact, be very small, and it is this: Those who have the skills didn’t just want to be good, they decided to be good. Want or decide — one is a wish, the other is a choice. One can get crushed, forgotten and swept away by the hectic business of everyday life; the other is inevitable — it sweeps everything out of its path, it crushes, avoids or otherwise overcomes obstacles. Like commercial breaks or uninvited missionaries, it’s always all up in your face.

So, if you want to be good, then good luck with that. If you’ve decided to be good, then gosh help anyone or anything that gets in your way!

How about you? Do you just want to be fluent in Japanese, or have you decided to be?

Anyway, enough soapboxing from me. It’s time to go back to wanting to kick rear like Bruce Lee…(sigh) those abs, man…those abs.

  18 comments for “Desires and Decisions

  1. uberstuber
    May 17, 2007 at 08:28

    There is no try.

    I think everybody runs into these kind of people, in all aspects of life. Yes it’s annoying, but all we can do is try.

    Don’t let people discourage you, for all of the people who dismiss your advice there are those few who really are appreciative of your work.


  2. JDog
    May 19, 2007 at 00:49

    Sorry for this off-topic post, but since there is no place I know of to put generic posts, I thought I’d start here. Is there any way on AJATT to see the comments that YOU (the user) have posted and where they are? I get lost in trying to remember which posts I’ve commented on and where they got “filed” after they were taken out of the “Latest Stuff” section. Upon Googling I discovered a comments feed a while ago, but it looks like you made that unaccessible now, Khatz?

  3. khatzumoto
    May 20, 2007 at 01:18

    Thanks, uberstuber! I’ll stop losing sleep over it ;).

  4. khatzumoto
    May 20, 2007 at 01:19
  5. JDog
    May 20, 2007 at 10:53

    Doh! OK, I was typing the URL in wrong. Thanks for the link.

  6. Halcyon
    January 13, 2009 at 14:36

    People have so much more potential than they give themselves credit for and I’m generally amazed at how lazy and indifferent 80% of them are. First of all, I go to high school. As you know, traditional schooling neither fosters an appreciation for good education and rarely gives one. When I tell other kids that I don’t have cable TV they tell me “omg wtf do you do with your life?!” I used to respond to that question with “learn Japanese”, but judging from the blank stares that this incurred, I might have well have said “cull butterbur from the polyglot nation of San Francisco”. I’ve since switched to the more colloquial “learn shit” (which still comes across as a radical notion) .

    So yes, this is more a rant of me being fed up with the anti-intellectual high school culture. But what frustrates me is that people don’t know what I and what you know. Instead they listen to teachers. Don’t even get me started about the education system.

  7. March 12, 2009 at 04:47

    That’s the spirit Halcyon. I was so close to dropping out of “school” because I wasn’t learning hardly anything. I ended up finishing it off because by the time they’d let me stop going I only have about a year left but, what an inefficient use of time. My children certainly won’t be going to public school, not in North America at least.

  8. Francis
    January 4, 2010 at 07:01

    You know the funny thing is, I think I only got this far into Japanese because I decided to declare it as my major my first year into college. After that, I never felt as discouraged or wanting to quit as my other classmates probably because I decided to commit four years to it and it just became something that I did, not HAAAAAAVE to do.

  9. 星空
    June 24, 2010 at 10:15

    For your nakama that say they want to learn English and complain about it:
    if you want to blame someone for all the complications of English, blame either Shakespeare or the French. Sharks’ beard made up so many words it’s not funny. It’s one of his life’s accomplishments (along w/ 33+ plays that need some help with their plots, but I won’t go there…). It was the French that gave us “café” [WITH AN ACCENT] & “bureau” [eau= long o?! just who are you kidding?!] it was also the franks that imported all that Latin. ah, The romance languages. 大嫌いのよ、特にラテン語。あっ 痛みが我(われ)を殺すだろうな。我は今、シセロにもう一つ死を死なせたいんだよ。(I also begin to ponder why MS Word must have an accent in cafe but refuses to allow those double dot thingies {i can’t remember how to spell it} in “nice german words” like “doppelganger” and “haagen-dazs”.  なんでもない。I digress.)

    What annoys me more is bastardization of foreign words. I have big issues with “kah-mih-kah-zee” and “hawn-choh” if you catch my drift. It’s 神風&本長 for goodness’ sake!!!! “イングリシ”もとても大嫌いなんです。音は違うなら。もう一つ闡明し方 (せんめいしかた)を考え付きません (かんがえつきません)。 

    我のしょうようを失礼しました。 m(_ _)m

  10. rootabega
    March 21, 2013 at 10:48

    Not sure if this the right place to leave my first post, but I felt it’s time to pipe up after lurking for years. My decision to learn Japanese was a confluence of fun and oh, f**k me. Allow me to explain. A few years back, I found myself watching more and more Japanese films, particularly older ones. Eventually, I started to feel a little foolish for not being to understand a single word of a language I was hearing, thanks to my movie addiction, on a daily basis. Around the same time, the doc fed me the results of a MRI scan, which indicated a had a nice-sized little hole in my noggin, and wasted no time informing me, “Use it or lose it.” Apparently, I was a shoe-in for the ol’ alzheimers unless I subjected my brain to some vigorous daily exercise – like for the rest of my life. My memory was already subpar, cognitive deficits galore, too challenging for me to sit classes, not to mention killer fatigue. Despite all this, I decided to seriously start learning Japanese. Oh, it takes me much, much longer than most language students to catch onto things, but with sheer persistence I’ve made one small gain after another. No matter how many times that rock called Japanese rolls back on me, I keep rolling it up that hill. It took me five years before I wrote my first kanji kentei (only level 10), but I passed with a nearly perfect score. I was so nervous, my hand could barely move to write, but my god, I did it. Now I am studying for level 9. I will keep going as long as I can draw breath.
    Khatzumoto’s philosophy of AJATT has been a huge influence on me. Thank you, Khatzumoto!

  11. iko
    July 15, 2016 at 18:23

    hi khatz,
    yr jap friend know how to learn english and you have shown them everything but still they would not do it. here is the reason the voice in their head is telling them otherwise. The voice is not their choice and they are not choosing. They are all not choosing but just reacting to everything in their daily life. They are just following their voice in their heads and not learning

  12. Lucas de Sousa
    April 30, 2017 at 20:14

    Man, I’m brazilian, I’ve gone to english classes for four years, and it really helped me to learn english… I’m kidding! I literally lived english for all that time, when I was on school, in my home, I watched english videos, and in the ending of the english classes (after the four years), the teacher was asking for help with studants who “failed” in the last test… and the teacher was a natural american. I never really understood how could I learn english and my classmates couldn’t until I found this website. Well, I’m writing all that “book”to tell you that I don’t even know if I’m going to learn japanese, but you are really giving me instructions for life. I am sharing that idea of “planners” and “players” with all my friends and it’s really helping them. So I thank you, for me and for all of them. You are a boss! (Oh, and sorry for the bad english writing).

    Muito obrigado por tudo e até mais! (“Thank you for everything and bye” in brazilian portuguese)

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