No Speak English

When you first set out to learn a language, it’s an act, a game. A game whereby you acquire a habit of writing symbols and making sounds in a certain way, a way that is called [insert name of language].

Unfortunately the word, “game”, carries with it a negative connotation, one implying a lack of seriousness or significance. Games are for children and for your spare time. But then there comes a time to “get real”.

Male. Cow. Excrement. Nothing could be further from the truth. Life itself is nothing other than a set of games of greater or lesser significance. And for us humans, language is one of the most important of those games. Perhaps the most important (? I dunno).

So, I want you to try a game that I played constantly in the intense stages of learning Japanese (i.e. until you get fluent).

The game is called “No Speak English”.

Tell yourself that you don’t speak English or any language other than Japanese.

Believe it.

Act like it.

Act like someone who only speaks Japanese. Look for the Japanese version of anything and everything, because that’s the only language you understand.

Are you on a plane and you need to read the safety pamphlet? (OK, like anyone ever actually reads it, but humour me here). Read the Japanese instructions. Are you travelling somewhere? Buy a Japanese travel guide.

Don’t read the English section or buy English books because “this is serious” or “this is important”, or “this is no time for games”. It is precisely because this is serious and because this is important that you must read it in Japanese.

Whatever it is, just do it in Japanese. Think about it:

How are you ever going to be able to do important. grown-up things in Japanese if you never do important, grown-up things in Japanese?

It isn’t going to happen by itself; you have to create the environment for it to happen. Push the button.

The overarching difference between a native or native-level speaker of Japanese and a typical non-native speaker, is one of pyschology. Specifically, expectation. The native-level speaker of Japanese expects to know Japanese. She believes Japanese is her right; it is who she is; it is where she belongs; she owns it; it is hers.

As someone aspiring to native fluency of Japanese, or indeed any other language, I recommend you start expecting fluency of yourself, that you start believing in your entitlement to this language. Start believing that it is your birthright — at least as a human being — you are merely reclaiming what was always yours.

People don’t own Japanese because they fell out of a uterus on Japanese soil; they own it because they have never thought of not owning it.

As a learner, banish any thoughts of inferiority from your mind. You can be every bit as good as a “native speaker”, and even better, if only because you care about the language in a way that typical native speaker of any language doesn’t. You must care, because you have done something amazing — you have transcended the unchosen, coincidental circumstances of your original birth and nationality to choose a language of your own free will 😀 .

  29 comments for “No Speak English

  1. Eric
    April 18, 2008 at 17:11

    I am lucky to come across your site like I have. I have been living in Japan for about 5 months now and my japanese isn’t where it could be. But…I believe I will start following some of the teaching you have on this site. I dont think I am too different from your way of thinking as well. And damn…you sure have a motivating way of writing, props to you bro!

  2. Chiro-kun
    July 11, 2008 at 22:17

    また掘り出してたな…この宝物を…
    戦争は今日から始まりそうだな…
    よし!死ぬ気で頑張るぞ!

  3. Vincent
    November 25, 2008 at 07:27

    I have to agree with Eric (and I think with Chiro-kun, but I’m unsure about that text, I’ll admit) that I think I’m lucky for finding this site, especially since your philosophy about learning languages seems like an extension of my own, and a reasonable one at that! I’m going to try this method, with the help of this site. And I also strongly agree that you are very good at being motivational. Reading this was inspiring! Good job, and thank you very much 🙂

  4. Matariki
    June 5, 2009 at 16:19

    This is a great post!! I discovered your site yesterday and have systematically been reading through every post according to the contents list. I feel so inspired!!! I studied Japanese for four years at high school and have carried on with my own self-study for the past four years during uni (Wow! Eight years?! How can I know so little!!! .. well now I can understand why =P).
    As it happens, for the past month I have been plowing through Jdramas and I noticed that when I was least expecting, fully formed japanese phrases were just popping into my head (!). That’s why, as I have been reading the articles, I can believe in your method (/philosophy) because I have already experienced the results first hand =).
    Thank you for all of your insight! I think that this might just be the turning point for my language learning! =)

  5. Yazmin
    July 26, 2009 at 01:51

    (can’t swear in english?!!) okay spanish instead =D

    I basically stripped everything english,spanish,little french….and I have become language-less except for the little japanese I know….I got down with the hiragana, katakana, and the stressing kanji it’s on it’s way but since language is probably one of the most changing things I’ve ever taken the time to notice….I’m rambling on…sorry, I’m weak I tell ya….I tell myself just a little tv time understand won’t hurt…..I have never been more wrong…it’s like a person with diabetes eating sugar coated cake….it just doesn’t help(I know comparing communicating with a sickness that affects mostly children and old people isn’t probably proper but….nvm) it is just true….if you’re not in it for true reasons(like manga! I’ve always wanted to read Eva in the original script…which I know was butchered by english language….or rather translators….some words in other languages don’t have the same descriptions…it’s just not the same….I’m rambling again >.< srry.) just do it….some fam members where actually mean…I tried to keep quiet the fackt that I was learning japanese….but alas Fed-Ex came early! DAMN YOU FED EX!.

    I’ll shut up now xD

  6. Young Master Donal
    September 2, 2009 at 06:30

    Khatzumoto, I’ve been using your method for a while and I must say it’s pretty swell. I’ve learned a lot in such a short span of time, but lately, I’ve become interested in other dialects of Japanese. I was wondering what your take is on learning different dialects of Japanese. Let’s say I want to learn Kansai-ben. Should I learn it as I learn Hyojungo or maybe before or perhaps after? Maybe not at all? My girlfriend (who is from Japan) says it might be strange if I, a White American, learned a dialect (especially Kansai-ben).

    donalsawesomeblog.blogspot.com/

  7. September 4, 2009 at 02:21

    you know what a similar method i applied did to me?
    i ended up translating EVERYTHING into japanese.
    i because japanese-fied. no kidding.

    when writing an essay, i’ll have to pause to translate the japanese word in my head to english/malay whatever it is i am writing.
    when talking to people, i have to pause to translate from japanese back to english.

    this method really consumes you.

    but you know what? it’s fun (:

    • August 8, 2011 at 15:24

      hi hanikas, i saw your blog and i’m impress. your idea sounds fun, but I’m kinda lost to it sometimes.

      Playing this game, I wondered how “I finished/completed playing Silent Hill in PS” would sound in japanese. Khatz said we should just copy copy native phrases/sentence coz being too creative is doubtful and will make us sound unnatural

      Anyway, I think you also copy your sentences, except from excite.co.jp, where do you copy your sentences

  8. Lavita
    April 27, 2010 at 07:23

    Does this game of “No Speak English” work for beginners? Because it sounds like it is for someone who already knows enough to get by.

  9. Sarah
    August 8, 2010 at 12:05

    @Lavita:

    As a beginner, I was a little intimidated by this as well (I’m learning French) and I thought it would be impossible to implement if I wasn’t going to understand half of what was going on (I changed my OS to Linux just so I could change the language). But I always kept google translator and wiktionary.com open to translate for me (both in the language I’m learning, of course) and eventually I weaned myself off of the translator so that now I rely completely on the French dictionary to find out the meaning of words I haven’t heard/seen before. It IS sucky at first, it IS frustrating, because you don’t understand anything, but not very long down the track, you do. It’s AMAZING how fast you pick it up, you will be very surprised…just keep at it.

    By the way, if you don’t always have internet, like I did for a very long time, just listen to your headphones as much as you can until you do, it really does make a difference. I found after an entire month of just repeating podcasts that I had downloaded weeks before, I could read and comprehend much, much more than I could before.
    I’ve been at it for 3 months now – during that time, I have moved house, studied full time (still doing that) and living far out in the middle of nowhere ( so no native speakers for me ), but I’m still going strong! Progress right now is fast and very rewarding.

    Good luck!

    • d4rk_l1gh7
      November 20, 2010 at 23:25

      So, If i Set my PS3 to Japanese, my OS to Japanese, favorite websites to Japanese (YouTube and stuff), watch Japanese TV (via some streaming app), and Basically Live in Japanese, isolated from the Portuguese and English world i live in. Become a newborn, only in the Japanese environment… it world work?

  10. nippyon
    October 31, 2010 at 14:14

    haha i actually did read the flight safety instructions in Japanese last time I traveled by plane.
    I did the same thing when I saw a show in New York and the brochure pamphlet thingy was in Japanese. I completely ignored the blatant English description written above it and read about ギャィーズアンドドールズ, not “Guys and Dolls”. It was a great exercise in reading Katakana, which I usually loathe more than anything in the Japanese-speaking world, except Kanji.
    One day, while looking up Gackt interviews on youtube, I stumbled across an interview that only had english subtitles halfway through it. I had meant to take it easy that afternoon, and just watch things with english subtitles. Once I hit the no-subtitles point in the video, I was terrified. All of a sudden my precious english subtitles had vanished and I was left all alone and defenseless with Gackt speaking pure Japanese. Scared as I was, I was determined to finish watching that interview. So I did. And after about 5 minutes of scatter-brained confusion, I began to understand it. When the video finished, I watched anoth video, this one also raw Japanese. As I went on, I was less and less intimidated by lack of English subs, and pretty soon it was becoming natural to just watch the comedy unfold in Japanese. And I never again underestimated the power of Japanese subs for comedic effect. If they hadn’t been there, I would have been lost. Thanks to them, I understood almost everything, even the jokes. It was awesome. I love Japanese subs>..<

  11. 星空
    November 23, 2010 at 11:03

    私の魂/心が日本人のだよ!って言った方が良かったな、勝元先輩

    i remember reading a quote once, somewhere, that was something like this:
    “to learn another language is to gain another soul”

    (this needs to be on a shirt)

    • Ken
      November 24, 2010 at 05:08

      私の心が日本人のだよ!


      It’s the first time I understand a sentence in written Japanese…

      YAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  12. ダンちゃん
    November 23, 2010 at 18:42

    うん、それはチョコの諺だ。

    「新しい言語を学ぶということは新しい魂を得るということだ」と翻訳したらいいかも。

    • ダンちゃん
      November 23, 2010 at 18:43

      あ、チョコじゃなくて、チェコね ^^;

      • Chiro-kun
        May 20, 2011 at 02:43

        わざわざ指摘するからさwww

  13. N/A
    February 20, 2011 at 00:25

    I tried it with my English Teacher.
    Needless to say he wasn’t amused…

    私は英語教師を試してみました…
    彼は面白がっていませんでした。

    Is the above correct? I had help from Google Translate and corrected it to the best of my knowledge.

  14. Areckx
    May 20, 2011 at 02:07

    そしてもう、 英語に大体世界の国語でしょう? 忘れないので、AJATTたち。 英語は面白いなので、日本語もう楽しみに~! うん!

  15. Ness
    June 1, 2011 at 12:03

    …I like this game. A lot. I already played it a lot of the time, too! 😀 It’s awesome, because sometimes I realize I figured out a word– without looking it up, just from hearing it in an anime or song or something repeatedly, so when I do look it up just to check and I got it right it’s like… Wow… And it’s like being the japanese-learning baby, it’s just what a word means, there’s no other way to say it… Until I teach it to myself in english when I look it up, and it’s like working backwards… And it confuses me but I luv it! xD ~can’t wait to get my japanese copy of Pirates o.t. Caribbean to eventually recite every line in two languages~
    THANK YOU for writing this website, it has made my life that much awesomer and lots of the articles have things in them that help with things other than language. Like, I just *finally* finished an essay because I did it *The African Way* instead of just doing more more and more research on it. 😀 Anyway, I’ve rambled about four or five of the articles in a comment for just one, so I shall shut up naow~ ^^
    (Seriously, you’re awesome.)

    • June 1, 2011 at 21:15

      I’ve watched all three movies of Pirates in Japanese…. they’re just awesome!

  16. Lourens
    November 19, 2011 at 00:31

    Sugoi Arigatou =]

  17. Suisei
    January 15, 2012 at 17:07

    Hey guys, what should a beginner do at the beginning? To be honest, I’m not if I should change my computer to japanese because it would be difficult to understand and I’ve been getting frustrated when I watch something that I don’t understand (since I’ve been avoiding watch tv and english videos but been kinda giving in) Any ideas on what to do at first? I need some help and want to learn japanese as soon as I can.

  18. アミール
    April 6, 2012 at 23:47

    “you have transcended the unchosen, coincidental circumstances of your original birth and nationality to choose a language of your own free will”
    Searching for words of motivation, this statement probably struck me the hardest. Understanding this, made me realize why I’m learning Japanese. Just cause you’re born on another piece of soil, doesn’t mean you can’t do something on that distant patch of grass(:

  19. Kimchi
    August 4, 2012 at 06:01

    Heh, this is great and all but it became annoying when my brain did this to me without my permission today. It just shut off my swedish-english and switched on the little (as in:limited to no) japanese. Doesn’t work when sharing a living with someone who does not know this language!
    So It got kinda weird when I couldn’t understand a word of what my mother was saying unless I was looking at her because the sounds were just gibberish.

  20. April 5, 2015 at 08:16

    This an awesome way to explain how to use and realize a new language and also very helpful. But it’s annoying as i got the same problem as Kimchi. As whole it’s great to have such sites. Thanks a lot …..

  21. Raphael Barros
    September 17, 2015 at 22:50

    Man, I really want to try this, even if for a week only. But sadly I’d rather not screw some other parts of my life (like learning other important things besides my L3) in order to accomplish this kind environment.

    But I agree that this probably does wonders for your language learning, and I’ll try to find some free space in my life to accomplish something as close to this as I can 😛

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