Don’t Ask Me For Advice…

…as if I have all the right answers from the back of the Book of Life and Japanese.

Most people don’t mess up by doing the wrong thing.
They mess up by doing nothing.

Sure, going to Japanese class seemed like the obvious answer.
And you tried that.
And it didn’t work.
And now here I come telling you that there’s a better way.

It’s natural for you to drop one blind faith for another.
But that’s just the problem.
The blindness.
And the faith in institutions that don’t know you and don’t care who you are.

Sure, I’ve experienced more than you. And tried more stuff than you.
But that’s neither here nor there.
I don’t know you.
And I’d like to care, but I’m not a nice person like that.

But I’ll tell you what you can do.

Open your eyes.
Look around.
Become observant.
See how you feel. See what you like. See what seems to work and what doesn’t seem to work.
Have faith in common sense.

Common sense, confidence and open eyes.

That’s all you need to succeed at Japanese.

You don’t need me to answer every little question about your SRS card format.
Should I put kanji on the front?
Should I put kanji on the back?
Should I put kanji on the side?
Should I put English here?
Should I write it out?

Who cares?
Stop shoulding all over yourself.

Do whatever. Try whatever. See for yourself. It’s not that hard. You do it for a day, a week, two weeks, one month, three months. Then you check your results. And you’ll know whether it worked by seeing how much less you suck at Japanese. And if you’re bored the whole time, then it’s definitely time to stop. Remember, a method cannot simply be objectively good, it must also be fun to actually do.

  1. You make separate SRS decks, each containing just one card format.
  2. You let things take their course for a specified period — 7 days, 30 days, 90 days — “playing” the decks against each other.
  3. Then you see which deck is “winning” — which is funnest to work with.
  4. Then you let go of the rest and run with that one.

The point is, you don’t need anyone to tell you anything because the results are telling you everything you need to know. The presence or absence of fun…is everything you need to know. Do you understand more real Japanese today than you did yesterday? If so, you’re winning; keep winning. If not, start winning. It’s that freaking simple.

The last time I checked, reality was the boss of the world. Not Khatzumoto, not the people who run your school, not the Japan Foundation. Reality. If how you feel when you’re doing something and how good you are after you’re done doing it aren’t what counts, then I don’t know what the heck does count.

Surely there can be no better teacher than the reality of your experience and your results.
Listen to that teacher. Not to bossy old people standing at the front of the room, not to some invisible foundation. And definitely not to random Kenyans online.

Reality will teach you. Reality will lead you. Reality will prod and encourage and correct you in a million different ways every day. If you’ll just listen. If you’ll just look. If you’ll just notice. Reality is sitting right there, waiting to help you.

Don’t be loyal to the method. Be loyal to the language. The method’s just there to get you and the language closer to each other — to get you hanging out and spending more time together. If in doubt…screw everybody’s advice and just go straight for the language. The method is just a wrench. If you can screw the tap back on by hand, then do it by hand.

Don’t ask me if the shoes are going to fit or not. Try them on. Take a walk. It’s free. And safe 😉 .

“As humans develop the ability to typify and apprehend formal realities, the loss of truth as emergent disclosure goes unnoticed.” ~ Michael Heim


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  15 comments for “Don’t Ask Me For Advice…

  1. Justin
    January 24, 2011 at 13:29

    1+2=3 Effort + time = win

    all together = simple.

  2. typo420
    January 25, 2011 at 04:03

    Firstly I’d like to say what an amazing site and thank so much for all your advice and resources from this site because without it i wouldn’t have even dreamed of memberizing more than 200 kanji let along 2000, aswell as srs which is a godsend.

    Now to the post. The post of this article has come at such a perfect time as I was considering for a while asking about different kanji cards and layouts but you advice is so clearly brilliant, just try it out. Each of your posts seems to become more and more philosophical like Buddha/Buddhism that says don’t take my word for it or even believe me for that matter, just try it out and find out for yourself whether it is true.
    This is possible one of the best pieces of advice ever with regards to language learning in my opinion. Currently I am taking GCSE(exams in england when your 16) Japanese and we are learning it in one year instead of two as extra subject for my A-levels. Now although you’ve said that classes suck, I actually have to disagree, but also agree. The reason I agree is that give you stuff to learn go over it a few times in class and then tell you to learn it without actually telling you how to learn. This goes for all subjects and the whole school system in general. The reason I disagree though for Japanese is because its FUN. Although its only two periods a week they are still really fun and interesting. I think that i find it fun BECAUSE its japanese though. Also the teaching is good in England and we have quite a few handouts each lesson. White handout is the lesson sheets with stuff from the lessons, with example sentences for everything plus so room for filling out own sentences; pink sheets for vocab, although its hard to learn from just vocab, but it does contain example sentences for about half of the items which is great. We also have yellow sheets for kanji with pronounciation, which is actually redundant thanks to RTK.

    I know this is a long comment but i’ve just fascinated right now with the whole AJATT concept and philosophy of it. Also, I know this article is called ‘dont ask me for advice’, but, I would just like to ask a few small questions.
    1) Do you know of any good native japanese listening material for upper beginner/lower intermediate level, so i will be able to understand at least half of it and build up to it. I am at a level past て form so i’m not too sure how to describe what level i’m at but i would upper beginner.
    2) Im currently applying to do Maths with Japanese at university at Manchester university, mainly just for the gap year in the third year, and they use textbooks like genki, minna no nihongo, dictionary of basic/intermediate/advanced grammer. My question is would it be possible or recommended to mine the textbooks when i’m at uni early on and finish them early, then, let sentences from native material come to me. Or would it be better to stay at the same pace as the class and then just get native material in spare time.

    Sorry for the long post and questions. Hopefully you would be able to answer them.
    Thanks in advance and cant wait till next post.

    • Joe
      January 25, 2011 at 14:52

      I can recommend at least one good piece of listening material for Japanese beginners/intermediates: Nihongo Dekimasu, Japanese language learning series put out on TV in Japan a few years back. Here’s a link to the first episode:

      www.youtube.com/watch?v=scWtXh8tWI0

      I watched this after doing the AJATT method for 4-5 months and even though I didn’t understand everything, I was blown away at the fact that I could understand most of it and enjoy something made by Japanese people in Japanese. Khatz usually will tell you to avoid material made for foreigners, but the fact that this series is almost entirely in Japanese makes it an exception I think.

      • Mike
        January 25, 2011 at 21:32

        Interestingly enough Erin’s Challenge, the series you are referring to, is a continuation of the Let’s Learn Japanese series featuring the (in)famous Yan-san. Those videos are also interesting even if it’s only for their entertainment value.

      • Kanjius
        January 26, 2011 at 06:43

        This site www.erin.ne.jp/en/ has more than just the videos, including transcripts. There are a lot extra videos and skits too I believe.

      • Jason
        January 27, 2011 at 00:29

        Ughh…I like the idea and all….but I really can’t stand shows like that.

        Watch 鉄骨 Or 振り返れば奴がいる for some real Japanese drama.

    • January 26, 2011 at 02:30

      For your second question, I advise mining the textbooks as soon as possible so you can move on the real stuff. In fact, I don’t recommend waiting till you get to university to start. As soon as you’re ready and you can get your hands on the books, start mining. If you get Manchester and realize you’re at Uber-Advanced Practically-Native Japanese level, you can work it out with your professors and sort something out. Why suck longer when you can pwn faster?

      • Jason
        January 27, 2011 at 00:34

        Agree. Totally agree.

        I was extremely set on reading anything Japanese I didn’t care what it was. I went to the book store. And I would buy Japanese novels.

        I randomly picked a novel, knowing nothing about it, came home and read it. It was 530 pages. I finished it in about 3 months. At first it was beyond intimidating, cuz you know….95% of the stuff in the novel is never taught in classes (I took 4 years of garbage Japanese classes….and it didn’t help…I never studied…I hated it..it was nonsense…and plus nothing we learned in class helped at all).

        The novel was about a cop in Australia investigating a murder of a guy, and the suspects were these Aborigines. I was blown away. And I couldn’t wait to finish reading it.

        And guess what…

        Now?

        I can read Japanese at BLAZING speed. I mean, probably near the speed of a native. I’m not sure. But before I would stop before every word and have to “think”…now I don’t even think anymore. It’s like reading my own freaking language.

        Amazing.

        You need Japanese stuff MADE FOR Japanese people. Not foreigners.

  3. January 26, 2011 at 12:23

    Typo: You make a separate SRS decks

    Awesome post!

  4. Violetta Volkova
    January 27, 2011 at 04:06

    I think this post is just another way of saying he wants to be lazy and wants us to stop sending him questions regarding his own method or site… Makes sense since he has other important things to do like make up more blogs or post another status update, although it’s kinda harsh for those who are “really” lost with his own methods… Oh well, at least now he might have less emails to delete.

    • ahndoruuu
      January 27, 2011 at 08:38

      Nah not even. Everything you will ever need to know from Khatz is posted on this site. Any further questions about tiny details are things you can figure out yourself by actually trying them out and seeing for yourself. You don’t need his opinion on every little thing you do. Whether or not it works is all the validation you need. Self-reliance goes a long way.

  5. 魔法少女☆かなたん
    February 20, 2011 at 04:33

    I love this article. It nicely sums up everything I’ve ever discovered about myself, life, learning, science, alcohol consumption, and other various things I probably shouldn’t mention.

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