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Do “Wide Standards” Apply To Immersion?: High Achievement Despite Low=Wide Standards

This entry is part 3 of 4 in the series Wide Standards

e_dub_kendo on “Don’t Have High Standards, Have Wide Standards”:

Khatz, just to clarify, this applies to the “study aspect” like doing SRS reps, etc, but given any 86,400 second period one should be striving to be in a Japanized environment for as many of those seconds as humanly possible right?

I guess what I’m saying is, it doesn’t matter how many kanji you learn a day, as long as you learn some, or how many sentence reps you do, as long as you do some — that totally makes sense to me.

But is immersion different? I know that there have been times when I was tempted to get slack about immersion, to stay in English even after things I NEEDED to do in English were finished, but because I have deeply drilled into myself this instinct to constantly maximize Japanese exposure, I have been able to overcome those temptations to get sucked into the 24-hour NCIS marathon on USA [Network] that was playing in the other room, and etc.

If I’d been taking a less hardcore approach, and expected less of myself in this regard, I can easily see days passing with very little time actually spent in Japanese. Basically doing a small “token” amount of immersion and then saying, well, as long as I do some each day that’s good and then tuning into the Family Guy re-runs (when in the he## is this gonna get a Japanese dub, btw?).

And, I think if my immersion fell apart like that, my SRSing and what-not would follow quickly behind it. Generally, slippery slope arguments are fallacies, but in this case, the pull of English is so powerful it really does create a “slippery” condition, I believe, and we must be on guard.

I feel like I haven’t worded this very clearly, but hopefully what I am trying to ask/address is coming through. Thanks.

To put E-Dub’s question into 6 words:

Do “Wide Standards” Apply To Immersion?

They do, actually. In a weirdish way, though.

I currently practice what I like to call “leveraged immersion” (mixed with a technique called “multiplexing“). Leverage in the sense of pivots — using minimal effort to get maximum results.

I have “wide” standards in terms of the effort I am willing to expend. But I want to get big results from it.

What does that mean in practice?

When I was in college, doing the “original, 元祖 AJATT”, before there was a website or a name for what I was doing, when it was just a personal experiment, a little game, I had traction.

I wanted to see how far I could take it and what would happen if I did. Well, I came, I saw, I got used to. The whole of my world was in English and I was in danger of becoming monolingual for the first time in my life. I didn’t want that. So I playfully…very playfully…pushed against it.

Obviously, the experiment produced impressive results, and I wanted to extend it. Higher, further, faster, deeper. More Japanese. More of other languages. A lot of my writing can sound rather fruity and hippie-ish, but there is a side of me that loves the core ideas of organizations like McDonalds and Wal-Mart, that shares the American corporate penchant for massive-scale, plug-and-chug replication and systematization, that makes out with pictures of Ayn Rand taped to my pillow (don’t…don’t judge me).

But the trouble with saying “no English” is that it can feel like deprivation at times. It was fine when it was just a game — “let’s see what would happen if I said ‘no English'” — but now it feels more like oppressive prohibition than playful restriction. Before I was doing it just because. Now, I’d doing it because: “Khatz must practice what he preaches”. And you’d be doing it because “Khatz practiced it and now preaches it”. Well…screw that. That’s dogma. We don’t need that. We need pragma.

So I don’t say “no English”. I just don’t allow English media on any of my good — best — machines. I let English exist — there are business books I need to read that are untranslated — but I don’t allow it on my best/most convenient hardware. English can be around, but it has to settle for a second-class existence.

So it’s not “no English“, it’s…”no convenient English. It’s not “no English”, it’s “no unaccompanied English”.

It’s sort of a Pareto principle thing. The machines and physical spaces on and in which I spend 80~90% of my time, and which account for the majority of my computing power, have no English going on — they’re reserved for Japanese and Chinese.

So I can watch Family Guy if I want, but it’ll have to be on my iPad (she’s been demoted to bi##hbox status), over a Wi-Fi connection, with chintzy speakers, in the kitchen, standing up. Meanwhile 1, the nice Bose speakers and 90-inch projector screen right next door are playing a Stephen Chow movie. And I can hear the Stephen Chow movie. And there’s this obscenely comfy beanbag right there, right in front of Stephen Chow. There’s no competition.

I can watch Family Guy if I want, but there has to be Japanese/Chinese playing and audible at the same time. Maybe some reps going as well. In other words, the English has to be accompanied; it has to have a “chaperone”. Case in point: I’m playing Ghost In The Shell (Cantonese version) as I write this English post 2.

What AJATT was and is…is total immersion in principle 3, but Pareto majority immersion in practice. It’s de jure totality and de facto majority. Now, it happens that:

  1. In college, during the original AJATT process, I was always aiming for 100% total immersion, even though I only ever hit it a few times — Thanksgiving Break, etc.
  2. In college, my apartment 4 was a 100% Japanese zone. It literally was Japanese soil. It was…I had…an AT field 5 around it and everything.
  3. You (E Dub Kendo) and I have both grown into adults with almost total control over space and time — we can be wherever we want — at home — doing whatever we want almost 100% of the day. We’re time billionaires (although, as I’ve discussed before, this actually turns out to be a “lottery winner” perspective of our time wealth — because of overhead and “time taxes”, in actuality we have maybe 2~6 hours per day more than regular civilians; we’re not just rolling in time like Scrooge McDuck rolls in gold coins, and we can’t directly re-generate our time through savings and investments).

So we feel like we should go for “total”, and we feel bad when we don’t. The only reason we never went total before, the only reason other people don’t go total is because they don’t have the control that we do. But we have control. So shouldn’t we go total? Well, maybe not. Like I said, I have business books to read, seminars to watch.

It’s the critical frequency/probabilistic algorithm thing all over again. It’s engineering (imperfect functional perfection) over mathematics (abstract perfection). IMHO, we want to approach this like engineers 6, not mathematicians 7We don’t need infinity, we just need…a really large number. And…that metaphorical dirt, that margin of error, that imperfection, that traction, that resistance, that English pimple on our otherwise-perfect Japanese skin, may turn out to be necessary for us to, I dunno, feel human or something. I sound like an old man now; I’m old at heart 😀 .

What about the slippery slope? Well, there is none any longer. We’ve literally inverted the slope. All convenient paths lead to Japanese. All our best gear is there. You can go English if you want, but it’ll suck. Who wants to stand up in the kitchen when Evangelion is on the big screen? I certainly can’t be bothered…

  • × All Japanese All The Time
  • Some Japanese All The Time
  • All Japanese Some Of The Time
  • × No English
  •  No convenient English 8
  •  No unaccompanied English

Don’t control yourself. Control your environment. Your environment will control you for you. And don’t control your entire environment, just control the leverage points: that is the wide standard.

PS: Should regular civilians — wage slaves, people at school, etc. try leveraged immersion? Yes and no — mostly no. Certainly not as much as say, housewives and freelancers and NEETs and NR people. For civilians — people who don’t have full control over all their time — their lifestyle already forces partial immersion on them anyway, so it’s not something they need to do consciously; they’d get better results with a deliberate focus on maximizing the immersion function at all times and in all places. So the “old ways” still apply. Having said that, things like sensory split (splicing) and multiplexing 9 are something anyone in any position could use and benefit from.


Series Navigation<< Don’t Have High Standards, Have Wide StandardsHow to Make Miracles Happen and Get Called a Genetically Gifted Genius >>


  1. This is the multiplexing part
  2. This is what we call “splicing” or “sensory split”
  3. (and in name)
  4. and when I moved into a house, my bedroom
  5. (wow, way too much Evangelion for me)
  6. and statisticians
  7. Besides, mathematicians seem to go insane and commit suicide at an alarmingly high rate. Forget that.
  8. No English on the good/best gear
  9. You like all the fake-a$$ technical terms I make up? Pseudoscience for the win, baby! Cargo cult linguistics all up in this 😛 .

  24 comments for “Do “Wide Standards” Apply To Immersion?: High Achievement Despite Low=Wide Standards

  1. lisbet
    December 15, 2011 at 00:32

    When I read things like this I feel jealous that I didn’t find this approach when I was younger. In my 30s, with a spouse and a need to at least share control over the environment, I can’t be quite as immersive. And I have to read tons of English for grad school. And write a ton in English. But I’m trying to do as much as I can in Japanese.
    I won’t bore you with the annoying details of having to compromise (like a good adult) with someone else in your space who doesn’t want to hear Japanese all the time 🙂 But it means that the comfy TV is not the one with Japanese on it in our house.

  2. December 15, 2011 at 04:31

    An awesome answer. Thank you. What a cool way to frame it . Seriously. And the interesting thing is that it is probably a more accurate depiction of my day-to-day than the model I was trying to understand it under. I mean, I’m still reading this blog aren’t I? And it’s not EXACTLY a need, I mean, I’ve had the basics down a long time now. Just really wowed right now. This better model for framing it will, ironically enough, probably enable me to get better results (ie. more actual real time spent in Japanese) while seemingly suggesting that I actually try for less. In other words, by no longer aiming for 100%, I can probably get closer to that 99% than I have been previously.

  3. Aaron Tang
    December 15, 2011 at 15:24

    I have recently set VERY low standards, doing easy stuff that I enjoy doing. That plus my motivation is quickly accelerating my Japanese skills and allowing me to be more accustomed to the language.

  4. Freddy
    December 15, 2011 at 16:12

    Yeah, having a son, I HAVE to be immersed only partially. Mainly, my full workday consists of me, headphones, japanese, japanese, and japanese.

    At home, with the wife & son, it’s a mix of english and hmong dialect and spanish. Once midnight rolls around it’s back to japanese for a couple hours.

    So, to sum it up, sometimes full immersion is not fully achieved, but when it does happen the trick is to take 100% advantage of it.

    I keep my mac, linux, and windows machines on japanese, my iPhone on japanese, everything I listen to at work is japanese, except my boss. 

  5. Freddy
    December 15, 2011 at 16:14

    One last thing, when I am doing Japanese, I am a bloodhound with it, because I know I can’t fully immerse, I owe it to myself to be a beast when it comes to the limited time I have. Ain’t no half-steppin’

    ~ fv 

  6. December 15, 2011 at 22:41

    I absolutely agree with this, I did this with my Chinese, and yielded awesome results. doing it with Japanese and progress is still pretty damn fast XD only can say that ur methods are just too superior 

  7. Kimura
    December 16, 2011 at 06:27

    Definitely makes me feel better. With all the other stuff I’ve been having to do lately, it’s only about an hour or two a day that I can actually do Japanese, mostly Anki reviews and trying to rebuild my RTK knowledge. Since wide standards apply to immersion too, I don’t have to worry about “oh, I *have* to listen to anime in the background when I’m playing Gmod or working on that Minecraft mod” (the former doesn’t work because I found out I can only get a playable framerate in fullscreen, which breaks alt-tab and mutes background windows, and last time I tried the latter, my Java compiler exploded because I typed “雪ボールを落とす” instead of “drop(Item.snowball)”), I can just focus on “during that time that I can 日本語をする, it should be 100%”.

  8. Dmitry
    December 16, 2011 at 07:40

    >Besides, mathematicians seem to go insane and commit suicide at an alarmingly high rate. Forget that
    Being a mathematician who also happens to study Japanese in a perfectionistic way for fun, I find this statement highly doubtful.
    Mathematicians tend to do quite well in life.  Though I agree that efficiency demands practical compromises.

    • December 16, 2011 at 18:02

      The interesting thing is that this isn’t really a compromise. It’s just a different way of framing the experience. Basically you just back up a step and say, “If the goal is All Japanese All the Time, what points in my environment can I leverage to get me closest to that goal” and doing that instead of trying to overcome human psychology. This way has the same ultimate goal: As much japanese as possible, and the same results: Exposure to a lot of Japanese, It just accepts the fact that English probably will creep in , in places and at times, and provides a way to accept that without having to feel guilty, because you can know you have created a system/environment that will take care of things.  Doing all your management up front, and then letting go and not micro-managing yourself to death. And thats a good thing, because all that energy we normally waste on feeling guilty, now we can apply to doing some SRS reps or something.

  9. Agent J
    December 17, 2011 at 15:48

    Ah a decent sized post. Makes me feel warm inside.
    Like old times.

  10. December 18, 2011 at 10:33

    I used to refuse to allow myself to touch any object until I could tell you what it was called in Spanish.  If I went to make a sandwich I would say to myself aloud, in Spanish, “Opening the refrigerator…” and if I could think of the word for refrigerator or spatula or pan or butter or what-have-you, then I’d have to grab the dictionary and look it up first 😀
    I’m weird.

    • January 17, 2012 at 22:33

      I feel that.  Whatever I do throughout my day, I always think in Japanese.  Once in a while,  I hit a wall and think, “Wait, how do I say that in Japanese?” or more probably, “I’d say *this*, but is it actually correct?” Then I go accost some Japanese person and check it.

  11. December 18, 2011 at 15:55

    they’d get better results with a deliberate focus on maximizing the immersion function at all times and in all places.”
    Just realized that, even here, a wide-standard applies.  For people struggling against an environment that wont allow them to immerse anything like a genuine 100%, applying the principle quoted above has to become a game if it isnt to become some kind of self-torture device instead.  This means giving yourself credit for all the little wins all day long. So you are applying a wide standard every time you give yourself credit for figuring out a way to cram a little more japanese in your day.

    For those of us in the situation Khatz described as “time-rich,” though, the only thing we struggle against are our own psychological limitations, and so its difficult to see it in the same, game-like perspective, and why I earlier failed to see how to apply wide-standards to immersion, though it is very clear now. For those of us in this position, leveraged immersion provides a new game within which to attempt to achieve the principle behind AJATT : “All Japanese All the Time.”  Instead of playing the “where can I sneak in five more minutes of Japanese game?” we can now play the, “Where can I remove English so it’s less convenient to use it” game. 

    • Freddy
      December 21, 2011 at 01:11

      “Instead of playing the “where can I sneak in five more minutes of Japanese game?” we can now play the, “Where can I remove English so it’s less convenient to use it” game.”

      Very good point! I’d even say that if you are not in a time-rich situation, you can still do this.

      • Kimura
        December 21, 2011 at 10:34

        Let’s see… Already changed Firefox since I spend so much time on the interwebs. Can’t change the Windows UI because Micro$oft only lets you do that in Win7 ULTIMATE!!!1! Edition… Do programming stuff in Japanese? Last time I did that, Minecraft exploded (but the upcoming 1.1.0 has multilingual support :D). Gaming consoles and 3DS? Region Locks. Books and movies? Not sure what series are good, and お金がない. Do at least have Kuroanime (have to block out the subs though).
        Huh. Guess I’ll have a higher score at that game once I take a few more levels in Employability.

        • ブライアン
          December 21, 2011 at 10:48

          I’ll bet you can switch system language on your consoles.  I set my 360 to Japanese, and a surprising number of games have Japanese language interface (sometimes even full localization (notably: the entire Halo series)) on the US release.  As for books, the internet will hook you up.  (「無料小説」をぐぐったら).  It’s a game, if you don’t look for more than one way to accomplish your goal, you’re doing it wrong.

        • ライトニング
          December 21, 2011 at 17:32

          To combat the japanese OS problem, i get the 90 day enterprise trial from MS in japanese, and every 90 days just back up and reformated 超ちょろいだぜ、ちょろい!
          If you have a ps3, you can change the interface, and sell your old games for japanese ones (or jap versions) Also, any system up to GC can be emulated, it’s how I play my old games like FFV and Ocarina of time in japanese!
          For books and movies, first off try with your favorite genres when you were in english, and if not, just experiment. Not endorsing torrenting. Ok, maybe I am,仕方ないww but it’s the only way I can get my old anime that will cost me 八千以上ドル if I tried buying it.
          tkyosam made a video about blocking the subs, just put a piece of paper across the length of the monitor at the bottom.

          • Kimura
            December 23, 2011 at 03:55

            ブライアン: I did it for my DS (not sure if an American 3DS can, have to wait till I get mine on Sunday), and the PS3 can but it doesn’t seem to like my USB keyboard in 日本語 mode. Either way, it’s irrelevant unless the game itself supports Japanese, and hardly anything stateside does.
            ライトニング: My 78GB \steamapps\ folder says できない. And the problem with finding good manga (price and unfamiliarity aside) is that at my local Kinokuniya, the shelves are literally in no particular order whatsoever. Not English alphabetical, not Japanese alphabetical, barely even sorted by language O_O And I already found out from Japanese Level Up about the “block the subs with a small Windows Media Player window” method.

  12. December 24, 2011 at 01:08

    I think some of these newer gems need a place in the table of contents 😀

  13. ニコライ
    August 29, 2012 at 19:54

    I never read this post before (well, in it’s entirety). Weird, I know (I am on day 73 of SS Vanilla). I got to say, it made me feel A LOT better about my level of immersion. I live in Japan, so a plus there, but I am in the Navy, and work in a 100% English speaking environment. My friends/coworkers even get mad at me at work too when I change the TV to a Japanese channel, and not stupid AFN (Armed Forces Network or something, basically USA channels wherever there is a base). But, when I am at home, or in my car, (basically AWAY from the base) nearly everything else I do is in Japanese. Unless I am at the Chu-Hi stand, and that’s only on Fridays! 😉

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