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Learning Like a Native どんだけ~

So, there’s this new word out in Japan: 「どんだけ~!!??」(dondake). Well, it’s new to non-fashionistas like me, but it dates back to at least 2-3 months ago among the trendy, which means that some consider it “old”.

But I didn’t come here to discuss whether or not 「どんだけ~」is passé, I came here to share something even cooler.

So, last week, I’m hanging out with (Japanese) friends from the old company, and I’m discussing how every bookstore in Japan seems to have an anti-China section, with books that have titles that would get you sued in America. Somewhere in there, I busted out the word「どんだけ~!!??」to describe my internal reaction to the violently nationalistic drivel that this small-but-vocal minority of idiots seems intent on sharing with the world. We decided that every bookstore should have a 「どんだけ~!!??」Section, where all the crap books like this would be kept (I guess they already do, but we’re saying that it should be labelled 「どんだけ~!!??」.

OK, so my point is, I never made a conscious effort to learn 「どんだけ~!!??」. I don’t even remember the first time I heard it, what show it was or who said it (I just have this very vague feeling — not even a thought, just a feeling — that I heard it on TV at some point). Nor do I remember the last time I heard someone say it other than me. All I know is, I’m there speaking Japanese with my friends, and it comes out. This isn’t the first time this has happened, but it is the most impressive instance thus far of this phenomenon.

It would seem, then, that my Japanese has entered a new phase. I have already mentioned how I can correctly infer the meanings of new words I don’t know — even kanjiless words. What is now happening is that I am acquiring and using Japanese words and sentences without conscious effort. Sometimes it actually worries me a little because the word will come out, and I’ll think to myself: “wait, is that even the right word? I just said it because it sounded right…”. Invariably I go and look it up in my dictionary and/or online and it turns out that my usage was fine. I still learn words consciously; I still do SRS entries and repetitions, but it’s really exciting to know that just sitting around watching TV is helping me in such a concrete-yet-imperceptible way.

What a thrill to be enjoying/observing a “growth spurt” like this; I haven’t had one of these in a while (or ever, really — it’s all been pretty gradual up to now) and I wasn’t expecting something so sudden; I’ve just been coasting along building more and more vocab, faithfully doing my SRS work just like a beginner. I know that practice makes perfect and all, but this still feels like winning the lottery! It’s exhilerating stuff, and something I am sure is in store for anyone who just keeps at it. Anyway, I hope it doesn’t sound like tooting my own horn, but I thought it would be cool to share this new development with you.

  17 comments for “Learning Like a Native どんだけ~

  1. July 30, 2007 at 18:34

    We just had a discussion about どんだけぇ on our Japanese Google group last week, after I saw it being used on スマスマ:

    Read all about it.

  2. Mark
    July 30, 2007 at 20:22

    Hmmm…yes, that is pretty cool – in my previous life of conventionally learning Japanese to a fairly good level (which, since I left Japan, has deteriorated markedly), I never even dreamed of getting to the point where I would be able to learn words by osmosis. So, congrats, and with my new adherence to the Khazumoto/antimoon learning methodology, I hope it is something that I can look forward to…

  3. Savara
    July 30, 2007 at 23:45

    I guess I kinda know how that feels… Even though learning words like that in Japanese is still something that will remain a dream for a while… I did notice it in English a lot (Dutch is my native language)… It’s weird because you use a word you know how to use, but you don’t know how you know it. It still happens in Dutch as well for me though, so yeah I guess it is ‘native learning’. Well, it’s cool anyway. 🙂

  4. Glenn
    July 31, 2007 at 02:07

    Reminds me of the first time I used たっぷり, as in 時間がたっぷりあるから大丈夫, and then wondered where I’d heard that word, and if I was using it correctly. I then heard a Japanese person using it almost exactly the same way, and then I checked the dictionary and found out I was correct in what I thought it meant.

    That was a pretty amazing feeling; unfortunately one I can’t say I’ve had since then. Lately when I start to use a word that I think is right just because, I lay off until I get confirmation, because I’m a bit freaked out that I’ll say something I don’t mean to say. Didn’t stop me from using 引き換える in place of 控える today, though. Oh well, you can’t catch them all. :/

  5. July 31, 2007 at 02:36

    Wow, that is cooll. I’ve had moments where I’m using grammar/words I haven’t studied consciously but I have thought abot them before and am aware of my using them. Look forward to the day when I spurt out a word without remembering where it’s from. Keep tooting your own horn because it inspires me!

  6. tatoeba
    July 31, 2007 at 17:35

    Congrats! I can understand the feeling of it. I had the same experience while learning English and it is really exhilarating 🙂

  7. August 5, 2007 at 17:57

    どんだけ!You guys are talking about どんだけ too!? What a small Japanese studying internet world it is.

  8. khatzumoto
    August 5, 2007 at 20:23


  9. anders
    August 6, 2007 at 09:50

    khatzumoto; How many sentences have you got in total now? And how many reps do you do each day?
    I was just wondering since you mentioned that you still do SRS reps/entries. 🙂

  10. khatzumoto
    August 6, 2007 at 13:41

    10319 sentences (minus some kanji and Chinese)
    100 – 250 reps/day

  11. Amy
    August 7, 2007 at 02:30

    すげ~!!! So our efforts really will pay off won’t they?? I only wish I knew the precise onomatopoeia to describe the way my heart beats with excitement at the thought of that happening. Hooray and おめでとう! 😀

  12. khatzumoto
    August 7, 2007 at 06:33

    Amy, the words you are looking for are: 「どきどき」 and 「わくわく」

  13. João
    November 1, 2009 at 09:36

    Why do you still SRS if you are fluent?

  14. Dave
    November 13, 2009 at 11:22


    Why would you still exercise or maintain your diet if you were already in shape?


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