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Don’t Plan Your Day, Plan Your Environment

Why was I such cranky jerk on the “day in the life” question?

Because I don’t even think in days.

That’s right. I said it. I don’t think in days. I’m like a 5-year-old. I’m impulsive. I cannot sit still. I like sweet things. I…what, drink breastmilk 1? And…10 minutes is an eternity to me. That’s why I came up with all this crazy incremental/decremental timeboxing crap, because 10 minutes feels like forever to me.

So, for you to ask me how my typical day goes is like asking me how my typical year goes. It really is. “Then in January, I…”. No.

So what do I think? How do I do immersion?

I’ll tell you how. I think about now. Here. Now. Because, I somehow got to know deep down that the only Japanese that really matters is the Japanese you’ve done in the past few minutes. Not the Japanese you plan to do, not the Japanese you should have done but didn’t. Yesterday’s Japanese was yesterday’s fun. This morning’s Japanese was this morning’s fun. We’re here, now. New game. New life. New round. New fun. The only Japanese that can help you is the Japanese you’re doing right now. Japanesewise, assume that the past simply didn’t happen (it did, but…given long enough, it really will be as if it never happened, so…)

And so I’m always asking myself: “yes, but what am I doing now? Where’s the Japanese now? What can I play at now? What would be fun to do now?”.

Screw planning your day. Plan your environment instead.

What does that mean?

It means making your tools easily available at all times. It means putting Japanese within arm’s reach.It means that if you have to get up to get to the nearest Japanese book, it’s too far away.

It means Japanese on the walls, Japanese in the backpack, Japanese in the restroom, Japanese in the kitchen, Japanese in your headphones, headphones on your ears/neck, Japanese on your computer monitor, Japanese on your bookshelves, Japanese on your browser, Japanese as your homepage, Japanese in your favorites, Japanese in your car, Japanese on the train, Japanese while you walk, Japanese while you shower, Japanese while you eat, Japanese while you run, Japanese while you sleep…If you breathe, if you have working vision and hearing…then you can learn Japanese.

But it also means relaxing. Just have it there. Just make it so it’s there. In your face. There’s no need to struggle. Just keep it in your face. What about people who live in Japan but never seem to pick up any Japanese, you say? Well, those people are wearing blinders and hazmat suits; they have cut themselves off from their surroundings because that’s something adults can get away with. We encourage, enable and even force kids to play or otherwise interact with other [local] kids for most of their waking hours. But adults keep to themselves, out of choice first, then out of habit, and then out of pride.

Anyway, don’t worry about what you’re going to do. That’s not your job. Your job is to facilitate. You’re just a logistics officer, remember? Focus on creating and managing options. Don’t think in terms of the next 24 hours, think in terms of the first 3 feet. Because whatever is persistently, repeatedly appearing within 3 feet of your face (thoughts included)…that’s what your life is. You don’t really need to manage your time if you manage your personal space, because whatever’s in your personal space, the little country that is you, will automatically eat your time.

There is no day. There’s just the last few seconds and the next few seconds. There’s just what’s in front of you. There’s just this one round. This one slice of time. What are you doing for Japanese this round? Make it so that you can be proud of the answer to that question.

And that’s why Japanese has to be fun. Because anything that’s not fun will get postponed into oblivion. “Later”. “When I have time”. “When I have the energy”. Yeah, right. That crap only works on actual five-year-olds. We all know that those are just different ways of saying “never”…

Also, I AM NOT CRANKY! And I’m tired of everyone always generalizing! 😛

  • “しちゃってんだけど” – Google 検索


  1. This isn’t awkward at all…

  32 comments for “Don’t Plan Your Day, Plan Your Environment

  1. Justin
    February 21, 2011 at 13:03

    best advice in a while

  2. Oli M.
    February 21, 2011 at 15:07

    So it’s less “All Japanese All the Time” than “Lots of Fun Japanese Everywhere You Go”. But I guess LOFJEYG is a really awkward acronym in a lot of languages. It’s the kind of acronym a cranky person would use.

  3. February 21, 2011 at 15:33

    Good post, this is why I just leave Japanese on all day, like today I had to study all day but the TV (well actually computer streaming Japanese TV) was just there playing all day, occasionally I’d tune in but I could at least listen while I studied non-Japanese related stuff for school.

  4. Colton
    February 21, 2011 at 17:30

    It smells like Eckhart Tolle in here…
    Not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course. I should probably get back into that book and read the rest of it – I stopped about halfway through and focused on kanji instead. 1100 down, 942 to go… *sigh*

    Hm… Random-ish, but it’s related to my learning Japanese and being able to focus on things in general: tinnitus is bugging the hell out of me and robbing me of (some of) my ability to concentrate. I’ve been doing pretty well with kanji so far, but recently I’ve found that this obnoxious phantom static noise is hampering my progress a bit. Anyone have any experience in dealing with it?

    Eh, probably not the best place to ask for that, so I’ll just say thanks to Khatz for giving me a solid foundation for learning the language. Can’t say I know much of any Japanese yet, but given that I’ll have the writing system down in a couple of months, going kanji-first, sentences/vocabulary/etc. later definitely looks to be a wise plan of action… or at the very least, a functional one. So yeah… thanks for the road map. Tis nice.

    • Neige
      February 23, 2011 at 11:19

      I’ve been stuck with tinnitus for years now and the best way I found to attenuate its effect on my concentration is by listening to music in the background. I’ve been doing this with success well before starting AJATT, I just switched what I listen to when I started learning Japanese.

      Providing a varying aural stimuli seems to counteract the constant stimuli of the tinnitus.

      • Colton
        February 24, 2011 at 11:05

        Yeah, that’s pretty much what I do. It seems to be getting better, too, albeit slowly. Managed to fall asleep listening to Japanese today, so I’m apparently doing better than I was before (couldn’t sleep because of it).

        Thanks for the reply

  5. 魔法少女☆かなたん
    February 21, 2011 at 17:44

    I admit, I don’t plan any of my days. The closest thing I have is an alarm clock that goes off at the same time 5 days a week, and a sense of “Heavens to Murgatroyd! It’s late, midnight even!” that lets me know I should probably be sleeping. Because coffee is not a substitute for sleep, I’ve discovered…

    If anyone asked me what a typical day is for me, I think I’d have to say something like “I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you” and mutter something about living on the edge. It would make me sound like a super spy or something, which is actually kind of sexy. Then I would point behind them and scream “WHAT IS THAT!?” before running away.

    I certainly couldn’t give a straight answer to that question, after all. When does the Kana experience her favourite language? I don’t know, right now, listening to some song by Aiko(I think!) while looking at the characters on the “one kanji poster to rule them all” advert below.

  6. February 22, 2011 at 00:26

    Epic and right on the money. This post prompted me to turn off The Black Keys and to turn my random Chinese music playlist on this morning.

    One way that I keep Japanese and Chinese in my face is Twitter. I follow a lot of people who tweet in those languages. And what’s more in your face than Twitter!?

    • February 22, 2011 at 14:12

      Yesss!!! this is why I love twitter ~_^. While that’s in my face I got the music and podcasts in my ear. Lol my friends are amazed I can understand so much after only a year and month of studying by myself.

  7. Rout
    February 22, 2011 at 06:01

    What if you’re at the stage when you can’t read anything at all in Japanese? I don’t think it’d be possible to ban all books/websites in *insert your native language* at this stage, unless you wanted to get helplessly bored. Yet Khatz is always talking as if you should, or am I misunderstanding something?

    Or maybe Khatz simply has been able to read Japanese for so long now he’s forgotten what it’s like not being able to 😀

    • TomatoGraffiti
      February 23, 2011 at 02:45

      Are you speaking of yourself, personally? Are you just starting out and barely know even hiragana?

      If that’s the case, then I still think it’s a good idea to stay surrounded by Japanese whether it be text or audio. Even if you’re skeptical of it, you -will- pick things up as you go along. Besides, how do you ever expect to learn something if you’re not exposed to it, right?

      Though, I do understand–it can get a little boring/tedious when you don’t understand much of what’s going on. In that case, I suggest watching a lot of fun shows, not just anime, but variety shows and dramas. They tend to be very entertaining and you’ll likely hear some words over and over again and learn them. The same goes with reading–if you keep coming across certain words or kanji, look them up.

      If you use the Firefox browser, why don’t you try the Rikaichan add-on if you haven’t already? Very handy!

      Sorry if that was a little long-winded. Good luck!

      • Chagami
        February 23, 2011 at 07:53

        I second the Rikaichan suggestion. 🙂

        I’m only 300 deep into RTK, so really, I’m in the same boat. So I think at this stage, time management is what you should be worrying about. Like, if you’re talking about Facebook and Perez Hilton, then just press alt-f4 (Mac: command-Q) and go from there. But if you’re talking about places that will directly benefit your Japanese study, then it’s okay, but keep your time there at a minimum.

  8. Zxvwt
    February 22, 2011 at 13:13


    While I can’t speak for Khatz or anyone else, I do believe he means it when he says that immersion is important. Once you start making excuses, you’ve already made it harder for yourself to learn the language. The more Japanese you expose yourself to, the more familiar it becomes and the more likely you are to learn it. In my experience, the things I know the best are the things that I have been exposed to the most.

    Sure, you might not understand one bit of that manga you have or that Japanese website that’s your homepage, but I’m sure you can enjoy a Japanese youtube video or song. Even without understanding anything, you could probably enjoy an anime/drama/documentary as long as you can guess from context what’s happening. Start with those things. The fun things.

    As for not being able to read anything, think about this for a second: I don’t know how it is nowadays, but when I was a kid we didn’t start to “learn” to read until first grade or so. That means living in a world surrounded by material that you can’t read for 5-6 years. Yet kids always manage. They understand by context. They ask their parents. They extrapolate based on the one word they do know. Can you not do the same with Japanese or any other language? Similar to music or TV, find the fun stuff. Manga is often a good place to start because you can understand a lot without having to be able to read every single word.

    At the end of the day, if you only want to read things when you know every word, then you’ve set yourself up for failure. No one can know everything from the start. That’s why it’s called “learning” a language and not “instantly absorbing” a language. But maybe you could tailor things to your personality. Try children’s books. It’s possible to know every word in them without a monumental effort.

    Of course, if you’re having the worst day of your life and listening to Animal Collective is the only thing that can make you feel better, then maybe it’s alright to make an exception. Other than that, if you want to learn Japanese or any other language, you’ll only get what you put into it.

    • Eri
      February 22, 2011 at 14:43

      The thing with kids and not being able to read though, is that they aren’t concerned with it. They don’t NEED to read things to have fun. They don’t care about reading (usually), if they see writing they just ignore it. Personally, I don’t even remember not being able to read, that’s why for me only Japanese is extremely boring and even though Khatz is telling us to suck it up and do it anyway, it’s just not possible for some. And with Japanese, most people can’t do what children do: wait to learn it in school and for the mean time ask their parents if they absolutely need to know what something says. Because people on this site will never learn to read Japanese in school and they most certainly cannot ask their parents what something says.

      Really, just trying to read Japanese sites right at the beginning is too big of a step for me. I try not to go on English sites too often but sometimes you just get super bored of not knowing what going on except for maybe the odd sentence you can figure out. Total immersion is probably the best, yes, but it’s not practical for someone with a sort attention span (not saying Rout has a short attention span! I’m only talking about me here!)

      One day I shall go full Japanese; I have a lot of sites I’d love to be able to read. But for now to keep myself from going “Japanese sucks, I hate this and I will never go back to it”, a little English won’t kill me. Sure, it might inhibit my Japanese learning, but I’m not too worried about it 😉

      • Rout
        February 22, 2011 at 20:08

        Well, I have a perfect excuse for having some English here and there – my English still needs improving! Especially spoken English. But both spoken and written are far from native-level, in my opinion. But it’s been my dream to learn Japanese for years now, I won’t give up so easily.

        I just need to figure out a way to go through Heising’s book without inputting the stories into SRS seem like a hassle…

        • Chagami
          February 23, 2011 at 08:06

          That is a txt of the Kanji in Heisig order, with stories! (Note that the stories aren’t the same as Heisig’s, but they serve the same purpose.)

      • 魔法少女☆かなたん
        February 22, 2011 at 23:09

        Instead of going to “Japanese sites” per se, there’s always the option of switching the language settings on a site you know pretty well to Japanese. With YouTube for example, it’s not too difficult to figure out what 評価する means or that clicking 追加先 and then お気に入り, you can add(追加) a video to your favourites(お気に入り).

        Or when reading an English Wikipedia page, take a look at the Japanese one for a few seconds, too. Just take a look. You don’t have to try to read the whole thing.

        These are immediate attainable goals (and they’re fun, too, if you love Japanese language), better than jumping right into a big wall of text you can’t read and worrying about whether something is total immersion. You’ll get to complete immersion through the little things.

      • Ken
        February 23, 2011 at 00:12

        “what children do: wait to learn it in school and for the mean time ask their parents”

        They don’t. Studies of children’s language, especially in cases where their school and parents use different dialects, show that children overwhelmingly learn language from listening to their peers, not their schools or parents. There’s nothing like the shame of peer pressure to get kids to do something!

        • Eri
          February 23, 2011 at 01:47

          Well, I meant that in the case of ‘reading’. Not simply language… I’m sure children don’t learn to read from their peers. Because their peers care about it just as much as they do: probably not at all.

      • Zxvwt
        February 23, 2011 at 02:26


        After reading through my post again, I realize that I sound a little combative in it. I don’t mean to be the parent saying, “You better take your medicine and you better like it!”

        You’re right about kids. So copy their behavior. Avoid reading and go play a video game. The only difference between you and them is that even if they don’t consciously look at it, their surroundings are all in their target language. They may not care about reading, but the books in their house are all in their target language. When they do start reading, they have tons of material at their fingertips. And they’ve been exposed to it frequently already.

        To be more succinct: don’t read. Play. Have fun. Just make sure it’s in Japanese. While you’re having fun, learn the kanji. Once you’ve got a large number of kanji under your belt, then try reading again.

      • Chagami
        February 23, 2011 at 08:02

        “One day I shall go full Japanese” ..if not now, when?

        • Eri
          February 24, 2011 at 05:08

          When AJATT ceases to exist; because I’ll always come here no matter what 😉 And anyone coming here is obviously not going full Japanese.

          I already go to mostly Japanese websites. There’s just the odd one that isn’t I still go to. like deviantART, because if I didn’t go there everyday I’d have piles of messages everyday. I’ll go to more and more Japanese sites when I can understand more. I know the whole ‘point’ of AJATT is to go to them even when you know nothing, but I’m putting my own twist on it. I’m sure Khatz won’t strike me with lightening just because I’m trying to make it a little more fun for myself. After all, that’s the real point of AJATT.

      • ブライアン
        February 23, 2011 at 21:11

        Do you know the kanji yet? If not, you’re not really even at the beginning yet; go pick up Heisig and get going. In the meantime, English won’t kill you, but looking at Japanese can be pretty rewarding in its own way (“hey, I *know* these kanji!”).

        If you’ve done Heisig, you’ve got no real reason *not* to read Japanese. Go to a site, open up your dictionary in another tab. Find a sentence you want to understand. Parse it, look it up, try to understand. Move on if you get bored or stop caring. Rinse and repeat. It’s slow going at first, but it’ll get quicker the more you do it.

        Find a topic you care about. Got a favorite anime? Look it up on the JP Wikipedia. Are you a musician? Find a Japanese blogger who plays your instrument (I personally follow a few guitarists’ blogs.) Other ideas: go read a manga you read in English. Get a ニコニコ動画 account. Play through a visual novel. Follow random/famous Japanese people on Twitter.

        (And for what it’s worth, you don’t have to completely abandon English; just get as close as possible.)

        Also, I very much agree with 魔法少女☆かなたん’s (nice handle, btw) suggestion. For me, Facebook,, and Youtube were in Japanese from day one. (And I have, in fact, picked things up as a result of this.)

        • Eri
          February 24, 2011 at 05:17

          Well, I guess I can’t avoid it forever, but I have to admit that I’m not doing Heisig. Nor will I ever do it. I did start it a while ago (before I even found this site actually) but I found it extremely boring so I quit. After finding this site I decided to try it again, but I couldn’t do it. It bored me too much. Reading this site some more I figured “if you’re learning grammar, words, and everything else from sentences, why can’t you learn the Kanji too?” But this could be because I don’t have the mind set that most Japanese learners seem to have that “Kanji is the hardest part of the language”. I’d say the grammar is, but then again it’s not the difficult either…

          And I don’t go on most sites like Twitter or Facebook or any of that. I rarely use my Livejournal account, and when I do it’s to find doujinshi. I don’t even go on Youtube that often. If I want to watch something it’ll usually be an anime. In that case I’ll either download it or use the DVDs I have and set the language to Japanese with no subtitles (funi is awesome like that). The Japanese sites I do go on are either art sites are fanfic sites. Videogames are the best thing for me to do in Japanese I guess 😉

          • ブライアン
            February 25, 2011 at 00:37

            I wouldn’t say it’s *impossible* to learn kanji from sentences. But it’s going to be very, very frustrating. Not because kanji are difficult, but there is are a fair amount of subtleties — 未 (not yet) vs. 末 (extremity) for example. And as a result, having a single clear keyword for every character makes it easier to learn compounds. So, given 未来 (future) you can remember it as (not yet)+(come) rather than “oh, that one tree-like one and the other with horns in it.”

            Heisig can be boring if you let it. The trick is not to let it. Fill your stories with pop culture references and dirty jokes that would get you suspended in high school. Innuendo, violence, puns. There are a lot of ways to make it more interesting.

            When it comes down to it, kanji are the basis of all Japanese — spoken and written. They’re also one of the few parts of the language that lends itself to systematic study. 20 a day for 3 and a half months and you’ll be *done*. There’s no way you’ll pick up kanji that quickly and completely through immersion.

          • Chagami
            February 26, 2011 at 02:42

            I’m doing Heisig too and would highly recommend every Japanese learner uses it to learn the Kanji, but if you find it boring and have a different way of learning Kanji that you prefer, then you should go your own way.

            Like, if the options are not doing anything, or doing things in a cumbersome way, I think the second option is the obvious solution 🙂

            Anyway, ブライアン, I think I’m going to take your suggestion of glaming up my stories. Due to laziness, I just go with the default stories. This is fine for now; I don’t necessarily enjoy doing my reps, though I don’t think it’s a chore either. But at the same time, I think the best way to overcome burnout is to prevent it. :p

      • Neige
        February 25, 2011 at 10:50

        One thing that may help with reading is reading a story you already know and like, for example, reading the manga version of your favorite anime.

        I started reading at about kanji 300. The first book I read was the 涼宮ハルヒの憂鬱 light novel, I chose that book because I liked the anime version and even though I understood almost nothing, when I did recognize some kanji, I usually was able to situate myself in the story and was able to somewhat guess the meaning of the surrounding text.

        Little by little I have completed the first 4 涼宮ハルヒ books.

  9. JohnK
    February 22, 2011 at 13:25

    “The only Japanese that really matters is the Japanese you’ve done in the past few minutes. Not the Japanese you plan to do, not the Japanese you should have done but didn’t.”

    This sums it all up very neatly.

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