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Language is Messy and So Should You!

A short time ago, I was on a trip with some friends. We rented a small house together and hung out. And one morning, while all of us were in the kitchen, I re-realized [not a typo] something about myself, namely that: I don’t like things half-done. So when I see someone cooking and trying to work on their laptop at the same time, I feel an intense sense of moral outrage (which is ironic because I’ve written extensively on how morality is the wrong lens for judging and interpreting almost all of our activities where life and limb are not on the line, which is, well, almost all our activities; I believe that happiness and success are best achieved from a default stance of amorality).

Frankly, I would rather go hungry than participate in a meal that was cooked by someone who wasn’t giving the food the undivided attention of their hands. Like, I can understand watching YouTube while you cook — I do that all the time. But far king doing work on your laptop as you cook? Touching the body of an animal that died for this meal with your laptop hands? GTFOH. No. It’s wroang! Wroang! 間違ってるって!It ain’t raht, Billy.

But language isn’t like that. Language is too big, too messy, too organic, too complicated to be shoved into neat, sterile little boxes — that’s true of grammar, and it’s also true of time management (which isn’t to knock timeboxing; timeboxing is the shiznit; timeboxing is a tool for carving helpful order out of too much chaos, not for imposing too much order onto the natural “eu-chaos” that is an organic construct like language itself). Let your language practice/study/exposure permeate your entire day and life. You don’t need a special time for it.

Do you have a special time for breathing? No. You perhaps have a special time for doing breathing exercises — maybe it’s yoga, maybe it’s swimming, maybe it’s Maybelline. But you breathe all day every day. Languages are like air. Treat them like it. Let your language be your air. Let your target language be in and on everything you do, everything you see, everything you touch, everything you smell, everything you eat.

Languages are airborne infections. But your mental “immune system” — your brain’s ability to forget — will clear any new language away unless you overload it. So the trick with immersion isn’t so much to make it easy to learn as it is to make it impossible not to learn.

The whole world (including the Internet) is your textbook. Google image search is your dictionary. Every moment is a teachable moment. Every moment is learnable moment. There’s no special time for SRS reps — do them wherever and whenever you have a minute; treat your SRS decks like a hip flask and yourself like an alcoholic — just taking random swigs here and there (plus the occasional bender, but only when the impulse hits).

Immersion. As in water. Dive in. Drown in your target language. Don’t come back up for air until you’ve grown skills and gills.

See what I did there?

  2 comments for “Language is Messy and So Should You!

  1. April 20, 2020 at 00:22

    I love your seasoned approach the learning languages, and your ideas has spurred me into taking action to learn a new language.

  2. Yozora
    May 15, 2020 at 01:27

    Heck yeah, immersion is amazing! I love how I can switch up my “study materials” with my moods. I’m advanced (thanks in part to AJATT), but when I need a break from novels I read fanfiction on Pixiv. Some of it’s good, some bad, some weird, but if I’m ruthless at dropping the ones I’m not enjoying after a few paragraphs, I usually end up finding something good. If anyone here likes anime/manga (or heck, even some originally English fandoms like Harry Potter), I highly recommend trying Japanese fanfiction and/or fan comics sometime, once you’re at a level where they’re not too hard.

    Keep up the good work Khatz!

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