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On The Very Serious Subject Of How To Have Fun All The Time

Another day, another email pregnant with possibilities for insight to help us all. Her name is B-star. And this is her story, in her own words. Heavily, heavily edited for spelling 😉 :

I’ve been studying Japanese for a looong time. Like most people, I sucked at it until i chanced upon your method. It works much better and I suck less.

Here is the dilemma: I’ve stopped. I have to urge myself to even watch a Japanese cartoon WITH SUBS, much less a raw cartoon.

This has been a problem throughout my life. I’m what u call a chronic procrastinator. A normal procrastinator puts things off till lata and tries to reason it out in their head. A chronic one puts it off until whenever and has no reason why.

I’ve explored my belief system à-la-Robbins, and I do have some sucky ones that I need to handle, but I was wondering what you had to say about procrastinating at my level.

Specifically, I wanted to ask you how you get through your “desert” moments when you don’t do anything you’re supposed to do. What do u tell yourself? How do u get back on track AND STAY ON TRACK (which is always harder to do)?

Hope you can help oh great one of the Japanese (that’s me sucking up to you so you’ll give me a life-changing answer. LoL)

LoL indeed, young B-star. LoL indeed. And good question, by the way. So here’s the answer: Maybe…probably…wait for it…:

Maybe you just don’t want to watch that particular anime that much. Maybe you’re just not into it any more…for now.

Ask yourself this question: “If I were fluent in Japanese, and I didn’t have to do anything for ‘learning’ or ‘study’ reasons, would I be watching this right now?”.

If your answer is anything but an emphatic “of course, motherlover!”, then

  1. Don’t bother watching that anime or whatever. Just effen don’t. That’s it.
  2. Find something you do want to watch, that you would watch anyway simply for the sheer fun of it
    a) If you can’t think of anything, then get more stuff, and/or look through all the stuff you can get your hands on until something pulls and holds you in.

Sometimes stuff pulls you in but can’t hold you. Dump it. The media has to be worth watching in its own right. Recall what made you want to learn Japanese in the first place — you watched stuff because you wanted to watch it, and you stopped watching as soon as you were bored (this counts for reading, too by the way…and for video games — fortunately, most people don’t play video games ad taedium so they typically don’t need warnings like this). I am saying do the same thing — keep switching stuff up (Massive Turnover) — just be sure the thing you switch into is Japanese, that’s all.

As Mark Twain is said to have once said:

“Work consists of whatever a body is obliged to do, and…play consists of whatever a body is not obliged to do”

DO NOT, DO NOT, DO NOT turn Japanese into work. Don’t turn it into “study”; don’t turn it into 勉強 (a word that refers to scholastic study in Japanese, but actually carries the rather negative meaning of “coercion” in Chinese). Just play at it. PLAY. That’s why I keep telling people: don’t make all these rules about what is and is not OK for you to do in Japanese, or how Gokusen is over-coloured by the argot of juvenile delinquents or watching Love Hina will make you talk like a girl — it doesn’t matter, you need to learn all that vocabulary in order to truly be proficient in Japanese anyway, so whatever you watch is fine — as long as you’re enjoying it right now.

Write this on your liver: just because anything is OK to watch in Japanese, that doesn’t mean that everything is worth watching…to you that is. One person’s Star Trek is another person’s…well, I can’t imagine how any human being could fail to love Star Trek, but you get the idea.

Immersion Responsibility is a Two-Way Street

Anyway! Your only responsibility is to do stuff that’s actually in Japanese; the remainder of the responsibility rests entirely with the Japanese stuff — media — itself. The media has a responsibility to entertain you. You don’t have to find the value in it; it has to demonstrate its value to you by being so much fun that you don’t notice time going by — by sucking you in. It has to make you wish that eating and sleep and bodily hygiene could take care of themselves because they cut into your media time. And if it doesn’t do that or it stops doing that, then you “fire” it by changing to something else. You are the boss and there are no labor laws. Fire the mother. You do the work of setting up and showing up to the environment, but after that the environment must work for you.

Some people will tell you that you can only enjoy stuff in a foreign language once you’re fluent. That is some chicken-and-dinosaur-egg nonsense right there and I will tell you now — you can enjoy authentic “funbun” (For Native By Native — thanks to two young Chinese-acquiring studs for this word) stuff in a foreign language right from the get-go. If you simply stop turning it into work and trust your taste. You are in charge now. You decide what comes and what goes, and boring stuff always goes. It doesn’t matter if it has the same amount of Vitamin J as 50 bowls of rice; it doesn’t matter if it has traces of Nagase Tomoya’s urine on it — if it’s boring then it’s out. the. door.

In fact, you can make a game out of this. It’s kind of the “Aim to Fail” of media exposure — find Japanese to throw away. Or, put another way — focus on how much Japanese you discard. How much Japanese stuff do you “skim”, “sample” or “try”, only to throw away? Increase this number, increase the number of Japanese things you discard and the amount of cool stuff you hit will naturally increase as well. It’s all just probability games. As I’ve hinted at previously, I’ve been doing that throughout the month of May 2009 with Cantonese. My goal was to try (not necessarily watch from start to finish, but at least try — sample) 100 Cantonese movies. Now, I may or may not actually hit 100, but (1) that’s not the point, and (2) the reason I may end up not hitting 100 is because in all that randomness I found 3 or 4 movies that were so cool I wanted to watch them again and again and again.

Let me make one thing crystal clear: I. Do. Not. Read. Or. Watch. Things. Repeatedly. Out. Of. A. Sense. Of. Duty. I don’t do anything — the film [or book or song or game or whatever] does it to me. It just so happens that there are some films out there that are so well put-together, with lines so beautifully delivered, with plots so funny, with timing so perfect, that as soon as I hit the closing credits I find myself wanting to go back to the beginning. Having said that, if you do not want to repeat, then do not repeat. Just don’t; don’t even go there. Remember — your only responsibility is to the Japanese language as a whole, everything else is disposable; nothing is sacred. The canon is not closed.

Skim, Sample, Skip and (Sometimes) Stay: The Bookstore Principle

While we’re here, let me tell you a thing or two more about that 100 Cantonese Movies In One Month sub-project, and what I discovered while doing it for the first time.

Have you ever noticed how you seem to have more fun at the bookstore skimming books than at home with the books you bought? Well, it’s because, at the bookstore, you skim. You sample. You skip all the crap. Skim, sample, skip. You only stay when you find something you like.

The key to having as much fun at home as you do at the bookstore is to start behaving the same freaking way at home. Treat your bookshelf less like some oversized wooden embodiment of all that you want to be but aren’t, and more like a bookstore. And do this with everything — text, audio, video — everything. Only those lame indie-music-loving friends force you to listen to a track “because it’s good for you”. Them, and people in authority who are bad at being in authority, which would sometimes seem to include most people in authority. Real friends and equals leave you alone. I feel like I’m on a completely different subject…

A good movie or book or game or whatever is like a good friend. And a good chapter of a good movie or book is like a good friend. And a good snippet of a good chapter of a good movie or book is like a good friend: you stay with them because you like them, not because you have to or should. Don’t stay with them out of some sense of obligation, don’t add more “shoulds” to your life and “should all over yourself”, as Antonius Robbinicus once so eloquently put it.

When something or someone is cool, she/it/he will make you want to spend more time with her/it/him. There will be no duty involved.

One never gets bogged down at a bookstore. One only gets sucked in. So why…why trudge through a boring anime or game or book? Because you “should”? Because other people are looking and you might look illiterate if you skip too many pages? Because you have to finish what you started? Fuhgeddabout it, man. Instead, remember this: there are no other people and there are no means and there is no rule except “have fun in Japanese”…if a book or a movie or even a person gets dumped along the way, then so be it. There’s plenty more where that came from.

Both Active and Passive

To go even further, what this means for us is that: “It’s in Japanese therefore it’s good for me” alone is not reason enough to watch something. It has to be fun AND in Japanese. As Rossini almost said, but didn’t:

“All Japanese is good, except the boring kind”.

If it’s boring, then don’t watch it. Switch to something else. Simple. Period. End of sentence. Case closed. “But I might learn something!”, you say — yes but you’ll probably die of boredom before you do. The truth is, you can learn something doing anything, so there’s no reason to go mentally chewing broken glass on the off chance that you might may could build some character.

Media is like Kleenex in that it’s really good to use and very hygienic, but once it’s been contaminated with snot (boredom), you throw it away. Only those stingy relatives you visit once a year force you to reuse dirty Kleenex. For your own health: throw away or put aside all boredom-contaminated media and get a new box of tissues. Good media’s actually re-usable, of course, so the Kleenex simile has holes in it. Not as big of holes as those in Stargate “we just travelled to another galaxy to meet a community of humans whose ancestors were abducted at the dawn of Earth civilization, but somehow we’re perfectly able to communicate complex technical instructions in life-and-death situations using a fully-fledged 20th-Century Standard American English vocabulary all without a Universal Translator or any other such magical device and oh look they have USB here, too” SG-1, though.

This is such an important point that I’m going to repeat it: you actively move through media, constantly changing what you watch as soon as it gets boring, but at the same time, you passively wait for something to come out and grab you. When that thing does find you, you will know; there will be no doubt, because it’ll stop you in your tracks. And you’ll have a beautiful time together (indeed, time may well stop). And then you’ll get tired of it, and start moving again.

Tip: when something grabs you, you might want to find out who made it, and start looking for other work by the same creators. In my experience, if you like one piece of work by a certain creator, the chances are much higher than random that you’ll like her other work. For example, did you know that Trick, Ikebukuro West Gate Park, Handoc, Keizoku and Sushi Prince were all directed by the same guy (TSUTSUMI Yukihiko) ? These are all some of the coolest shows, Japanese or otherwise, ever made. So cool, that it would be worth acquiring a certain language just to be able to enjoy them fully.


To conclude:

  1. If you’re bored it’s not your problem and it’s not Japanese’s problem — it’s the media’s problem. Change the show, not the person and not the language.
    • The reason you feel like all of Japanese sucks is because you have mixed the pure, clean spring water of fun Japanese stuff with the runny, cholera-infested turds of obligation. Purify the water — remove the obligation, so that you are left only with fun stuff, and Japanese itself will be fun for you again. As I’ve mentioned in a previous article, I went through a stage when, for some inexplicable reason, I simply couldn’t bring myself to sit down with a book; I always ended up watching TV instead; this really bugged me — had I attained literacy just to never use it again? But when I sold off the 30-50% of my “bookstore” ( 🙂 well, bookshelf) that I wasn’t interested in any more, suddenly reading became super fun again, and has been ever since. I continue to treat most books like disposable items to be processed — read or not read — and not some kind of proud decoration, and I continue to read heavily. Also, I skip the boring parts of books just like TV. DO NOT READ THE SPECIAL INSETS IN MANGA JUST BECAUSE YOU THINK YOU HAVE TO! In the case of anime and movies — don’t feel like you have to follow every single moment. Remember, it has to bring you in. And it’s OK to stop sampling after even 30-45 seconds. Fire the media. You do not have to finish what you started.
  2. “Throw away” is a synonym for “change”. I can watch a movie 10 times, until suddenly, at the 11th viewing it’s like…mmmmyeah: it just starts chafing. Maybe 6 months later you’ll want to see it again. So it’s…not necessarily a matter of all-out disposal — especially with stuff that you’ve liked before — more one of switching things up. Often enough, I find that something I once didn’t feel at all excited about, has magically grown on me.
  3. Tools for switching things up for free: LiveStation, YouTube, KeyHoleTV, NicoNico, the Internet, real-life Japanese friends.
  4. Tools for switching things up for cheap: Japanese shops [i.e. shops for Japanese people], Netflix and other video rental options, TV where available.

Thus spake Khatzumoto! So it shall be written! So it shall be done! And now it’s your turn. How do you turn those dry “desert” moments into a sweet, tasty “dessert”? Please share 🙂 .

  45 comments for “On The Very Serious Subject Of How To Have Fun All The Time

  1. Scuba
    June 1, 2009 at 01:43

    Ad nausium is doing something until your sick of it…

    It’s usually used as a term for arguments when someone repeats something over and over again even if it doesn’t make sense in hopes that it will convince someone of their point.

    So, maybe that’s appropriate?

  2. Bob
    June 1, 2009 at 01:58

    I get it. I totally get it. You’re right, it’s so clear… But my lord, Mandarin Chinese media doesn’t half bore me to death sometimes…

    Ok, they do great in the movie department, and there’s plenty of good reading material out there, but their TV shows just don’t drag me in, and most are just plain awful!

    I’m not interested in Japanese style teen dramas and thats just about the only thing that seems to get produced, and they all just seem to be such low quality… why can’t they dub Star Trek or Deathnote or something into Mandarin, or produce something at least half as interesting themselves… I guess all the creative Chinese people go into making films or something… and the less said about their video games the better, the world really doesn’t need that many World of Worldcraft/Diablo rippoffs…

    Sorry, sometimes it all gets too much I can’t stop myself from ranting… :'(

  3. quaren
    June 1, 2009 at 02:03

    Wow!…. long post and I agreed with every single thing you said… Sadly I have had to realize this on my own a while back. I had wanted to learn Japanese for a long time, allot of it because I actually found the language fascinating, but more practically to be able to enjoy anime, movies, manga, video games, etc…

    …but for some strange reason I started to feel obligated to keep plugging away at anything I started…. watching/reading/playing things not because I wanted to, but because I thought it would be good for my Japanese learning. I actually started to loath Japanese media…. I started to wonder what happened since I used to l love it so much before, and I realized, it’s because I was watching things that I didn’t like!

    Finally, I just decided, I do what I normally did, find things I wanted to watch/read/play, only in in Japanese and I am happy, my original goal already achieved, to enjoy Japanese media in Japanese.

  4. david
    June 1, 2009 at 02:08


    Sampling 100 Japanese movies sounds like a ton of fun. Sampling even more movies sounds like even more fun. And, depending on the person, this may result in a nice 200 hours of watching Japanese movies if you like them all. x)

    I really really like this idea of sampling media. Like, I have a handful of manga that I started but I couldn’t bother to finish. There’s just as many TV dramas that I still haven’t finished. I’ve thrown out most of the music that I’ve ever listened to in Japanese because they didn’t stand the test of time, and now I listen to Rip Slyme. Haha

    This kind of sampling, I think, would make great Intermediate Goals. Like, make it a goal to sample 1,000 web pages or something in a month.

    I’m a terrible procrastinator as well, that’s why I after six months, I’m still chuggin’ along but I didn’t do nearly as much as I could have if I just turned up the heat and left it on. But after talking with Khatz for an hour with consulting, it’s set things straight for me. The thing that got me was when he asked me, “do we really care how long it takes”, referring to how long it takes to reach fluency. And, it got me thinking, “no not really, because I’m doing the same thing I would do if I were fluent, so.. ” This sounds like it’d only make that procastination problem worse, but, that following day I had a chunk of reviews that was larger than the normal chunk, and I turned off the Timebox, turned on the Rip Slyme, and just sat and enjoyed the music as I flipped through my reviews. Not caring about “oh I must get these done as soon as I can.” Afterwards, I could have read a book, but I opted for sitting and watching a movie instead. And, I have chilled the heck out as of lately, and I decided that instead of saying things to myself like “on I gotta read more”, “oh I should be doing my reviews completely in the morning and right before bed”, “oh I should be watching 200 hours of Japanese TV a month”, etc. I just get happy with the pace I’m working at, and accept that progress will be slow and steady. And, ironically, with all that worrying out of the way, you suddenly have all this time on your hands that you’re spending doing things that are real in Japanese. Hmmm..

    Thanks for the article Khatz. ~ ^^

  5. June 1, 2009 at 02:48

    It seems to me, that the “desert” b-star is talking about is not only the problem of what things to listen to, watch, or read, is the problem of motivating yourself to listen to, watch, read, or do anything at all. I know you’ve written about this before, but what about the those days when the extra effort you spend to find something in Japanese just doesn’t seem “worth it” despite your good intentions and desire to know Japanese, and you would just rather do… something else..for whatever reason. Or nothing at all. Those days when doing srs reps and adds feels like an obligation, rather than something you’re doing for fun?

    to b-star: On Khatzumoto’s recommendation, I read The Now Habit by Neil Fiore earlier in the year, and it was a big help. It seemed like a lot of issues I had been having, both with AJATT and life in general had some link to procrastination, and that book helped to deal with them.

    also, @ Scuba
    Ad nauseam is a Latin term used to describe an argument which has been continuing “[to the point of] nausea”.[1] For example, the sentence “This topic has been discussed ad nauseam” signifies that the topic in question has been discussed extensively and everyone involved in the discussion is sick and tired of it. [wikipedia]


  6. Scuba
    June 1, 2009 at 04:14


    Read the rest of the wiki
    now read my post again…

    hrmm… I wonder if there is a Japanese wiki for it? =P

  7. gilles
    June 1, 2009 at 04:47


    I read this blog occasionally, just wanted to thank you on another great article.

    I don’t know if you have come upon this story about a French guy called Julien who purportedly learnt Mandarin just like a native, he shares a bit about how he learnt and well he basicly did ACATT.


  8. C
    June 1, 2009 at 06:38

    Hi there.

    I’ve got to admit, I too had this conditioned presupposition to assume that the SRS is study, and reading manga / watching Doramas is study–but one has to go through the study part first in order to get to the part where you can enjoy what you’re watching.

    As it turns out, that’s rubbish–appropriate cybernetic enhancements (aka dramanote for Doramas, and rikaichan, in this case) are insanely useful. Hell, this is even after reading through the entirety of this site about twice (if not more). So, I guess it just goes to show how much you actually need to be mindful of your own attitudes, and so on–there’s no magic bullet, beyond introspection, critical analysis of the process, and corrective feedback.

    So, for those of us who are somewhat slow on the uptake, Khatz has yet another grateful listener.

  9. Harry
    June 1, 2009 at 11:24

    Very awesome post.
    I’ve had some trouble with this-.- One momment I’m having fun the next I’m like “I’m… Bored”
    Not with media though its mainly with SRSing:S Still trying to find a solution to this, these Kanji are taking me forever:[

  10. Richard V
    June 1, 2009 at 11:50

    I just can’t wait to get the kanji done, so I can start getting into literature. Well, light novels. Anime isn’t really my thing, 95% of it I find incredibly boring. However, out of the anime I do like, I can watch over and over again. Akira, Ghost in the Shell, Gundam, Neon Genesis are my main ones. And of course, Death Note, Elfen Lied and the usual suspects. But I can’t wait to start digging through the Gundam light novels.

    Of course, I still check lots of anime that comes out, just to see if there’s anything I like. I just picked up The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, and that’s an awesome movie.

    Also, lots of the sci-fi novels I’ve read in English also have Japanese translations. I didn’t think they would, but I’m constantly surprised at how much underground English material is translated into Japanese. One of the first J novels I order is going to be this:

    Which is a translation of Vacuum Diagrams, a collection of sci fi short stories by a British author. I would never have believed that a Japanese translation would exist of it.

    So I’m basically just going to do what Khatz suggested anyway, by doing what I’d normally do in English, but in Japanese. This might mean that I’m just getting translations of English media, which to some might seem like defeating the point of learning another language, but I don’t think it does at all.

  11. Rob
    June 1, 2009 at 12:26

    I find it fascinating that everyone including Khatz will preach about keeping it fun all the time (which I agree with 100%), but then on the other hand say you should cut time out of that fun, break down whatever media you are using into pieces, then paste or write that piece into an SRS for further analysis. If you stop and think about it doesn’t it sound absurd? Do we instruct children growing up to keep sentences they like so they can analyze and review them later? Do five year olds routinely forget how to express themselves in their native language because they haven’t been saving and reviewing all of the new words that fly at them everyday? Or a better question might be, would a five year old be better at expressing himself if he were forced to save and repeat the same sentences while growing up? I doubt it.

    It sounds like I hate the SRS, but I really don’t. I don’t like that people believe they are necessary or aid in language acquisition. Everything Khatz said above is what aids language acquisition. I believe the SRS can actually hinder it. Let’s look at B-star. Let’s say that she does what Khatz recommends and finally finds a novel or manga that really grabs her attention. So she’s reading it and whoops…I really need to do my SRS reps today she tells herself. Nah, they can wait…..but tomorrow there will be even more…….but this book is so good…..wait, I’m really into this book, shouldn’t I be capturing some of these great sentences that are making me feel all warm and fuzzy inside and type them into my SRS……….then I’ll have more reviews waiting…….and now the enjoyment of reading the book is just ……gone.

    That may have been an extreme example, but I’ll bet everyone that is insistent upon using an SRS comes across some form of a situation like that on a regular basis. I say trust the fun, trust the input, trust your brain, give it time and the language will come naturally. Lose the analyzing and the SRS.

  12. beneficii
    June 1, 2009 at 13:09

    Basically, to B-Star you need to find something you love, something where if they took it off the air, you would take to the streets. I’ve found that in Chibi Maruko Chan, which even during the times when I wasn’t very faithful I would still watch.

  13. Tyler
    June 1, 2009 at 18:00

    Rob, I can completely understand where you’re coming from. What you’re supposed to do mainly is put sentences into your SRS, that you truly feel like something you truly, honestly love. No, I know what you’re saying. It’s my opinion, or theory, really, that if you truly like the sentence that you have mined, it’s going to be in a context that you generally like. And in that same context, those vocabulary should show up quite often. If you like that context, you’ll remember the vocabulary with the repetition, and you wont necessarily need an SRS AS much.

    Yes, the SRS should not control your life; it is a program that is self-automated to help you take better control of your memory with that which you are learning. I think that if you are reading something interesting, and you want to sentence-mine the interesting sentences, you should just sticky-note it(or something all the lines of that). I know that there are people that misinterpret the necessity of an SRS, and believe it has to be a daily ritual in order to learn a language. I think that an SRS can be very necessary, but I don’t believe it should be a religion, or that you should feel like you have to do it.

    The SRS should be another puzzle piece that connects all the other pieces together; necessary, but is a part of the flow in your Japanese language acquisition; the SRS will not teach you the Japanese language, and it is not God. Flowing in your Japanese life, you should WANT to use it as a tool,”I WANT to learn/remember these things”, as opposed to you SHOULD be wanting to use it, or SHOULD use it,”I really need to do my SRS reps today she tells herself. Nah, they can wait…..but tomorrow there will be even more…….but this book is so good…..wait, I’m really into this book, shouldn’t I be capturing some of these great sentences that are making me feel all warm and fuzzy inside and type them into my SRS……….then I’ll have more reviews waiting…….and now the enjoyment of reading the book is just ……gone.”

  14. 40 pancakes
    June 1, 2009 at 19:56

    This is all perfectly valid, but I think Khatz may be overstating it slightly. I mean, has anyone ever read a book that only gets good a few chapters in? I have, many times. Same goes for movies/TV. The old cliche of “don’t judge a book by it’s cover” really does have merit. I think there is a balance somewhere between forcing your way through something and stopping after the first page.

  15. Rob
    June 1, 2009 at 22:28

    I’m sorry but I just don’t buy into the “only save sentences you love” thing. I don’t believe anyone loves or even likes individual sentences. Plus, the theory behind the SRS is to enter sentences that are just a little bit out of your grasp – with one or two new words or new grammar point. I doubt it is possible to really “enjoy” a sentence that you don’t fully understand.

    But more than just that, I think the stopping and analyzing is what is hurting the language development. I am by no means an expert on the subject so all of this is just my personal thinking, but I believe any learning – including language learning – is best done when the learner experiences something or many things and the brain takes its time to sort it out and come to an understanding of it naturally. In other words you would be better off when you find interesting content to keep going through it instead of stopping, looking up every word, worrying about remembering all the new words the first time you encounter them, going over that same context again and again to memorize it, etc. I don’t think language is best acquired in that way.

  16. nacest
    June 1, 2009 at 23:06

    by the way you’re talking, you are only confirming that what you are saying is indeed true, but for you only. It doesn’t automatically apply to everyone else.
    I like my SRS deck and what it’s doing for me. I do it because it makes me feel better. In my opinion this fits perfectly into the “have fun” paradigm.
    Sometimes I don’t really feel like doing reps, that’s true. The solution is to simply not do them, and wait until I’m in the mood. I’ve done it for some time now, and it looks like it’s working ok.

    Now, this only applies to me, and I don’t know about everyone else. But it’s just to show that there are other points of view.

  17. June 1, 2009 at 23:37

    Actually I encountered the situation Rob mentioned pretty early on in my SRS career. I solved it in 2 ways.
    1. No sentences I have to type in. No, none, never. If it’s from a book or a movie and I have to pause and type it out, it’s not going to happen. If the word or phrase is that important, i figure i’ll meet it again somewhere more convenient.
    2. I created an SRS “holding pen” in MS Word where I cut and paste sentences before transferring to my SRS later ( That way I can finish reading my internet page at leisure and set aside time for the SRS later.

    I’m seeing definite results with my SRSing, but not everything is for everyone. If it doesn’t work for you, toss it out.

  18. Rob
    June 1, 2009 at 23:44

    I’m just stating my opinions, if anyone wants to use an SRS then of course they are welcome to. Personally I think any language learner would be better off without one, but again that is just my opinion and I don’t pretend to be an expert on the subject.

  19. david
    June 1, 2009 at 23:56


    I know where you’re coming from. It can be pretty tough convincing people to just let go of these sort of things and just completely focus on digesting one’s media and let the brain figure everything out. The SRS can sort of feel like stopping the flow of things to “pick up the pieces” that, if there weren’t any pieces to pick up, because the brain just took it all in and what it knowns now is a result of many many happenings in the language.

    I mean, there’s this guy. And, from the sounds of things, he just read and listened and watched things in the language he wanted to learn and it just happened for him. This can be kind of hard to grasp for someone that’s always so focused on perfection (which using an SRS somewhat forces since it is memorizing certain information).

    I’ve only been using an SRS for nine months, and, I have my difficulties with it. And, I’ve had some difficulties trying to get myself to believe that if I just read and listen and watch that things will make sense. And, here’s what I decided on. Instead of looking for sentences that push just a little further into the language, I let them find me, mark them up with a sticky-note (or, if it’s on a computer then I just copy and paste it to the SRS). In this way, the learning has already been done, I experienced these words that I’m copying in, and I’m using an SRS only to remember them, not to learn them. I like to think of this as the middle man. Honestly, though, I think that if you’re letting your brain figure things out, you’re going to be in great shape. Because, if you think about it, you’re constantly experiencing things in the language, and thus, building up all these mental images. And, as a result, you’ll have been “reviewing” all this time. And, the need for reviewing isn’t as needed in this way, because it’s backed my so many images and experiences.

    Am I close to what you were thinking?

  20. Rob
    June 2, 2009 at 01:32


    Yes I think that is close to what my thinking is. Now I’m not at all claiming that this is my original thinking because it certainly isn’t. I just believe in the input/silent period method to naturally acquire language. (which is essentially Khatz’s method minus the SRS and dictionaries) It is also the hardest way for adults because we generally can’t accept not knowing the meaning “now”. We want instant feedback and want to check to make sure we are indeed getting it. But all of that analyzing and checking is not natural and I don’t think will lead to natural results. We all want to think and speak in Japanese as natural as we do in our native language and I think the only way to do that is to learn it like we did our native language. Essentially that breaks down to shutting up for 2 years, getting lots and lots of input, watching and listening intently, trying to infer meaning and moving on. Don’t stop and look up every word, don’t fixate on certain phrases, just let the brain take everything in. After 2 years or so, (could be less if you have enough time to put into it) then you should have a natural basis of understanding the language as a whole. You should be able to follow Japanese naturally like a 2 year old kid. Again these are not my ideas. You can do any search on natural language acquisition and find these concepts.

    Also, I can’t say I’ve followed this recipe to a tee and in fact am wondering since I have been doing Japanese, first with an SRS and later a dictionary, if I messed up my chances at a natural native understanding. The other question that I wonder about is whether media like TV, movies, books, etc., can actually replicate the same input experience a child would receive growing up in a Japanese household. Another important factor that must be considered is motivation. I don’t think an adult could sit back and watch movies or listen to the radio all day and in two years be fluent. Young kids have a strong, strong will to speak and be heard. They really want to understand what is going on around them. So for the adult, there also must be some strong motivational force at work in order for a natural fluency to take hold. I am actually trying to work that one out myself as well.

  21. Squintox
    June 2, 2009 at 02:01

    40 pancakes, true. But most people in this context are really only ploughing through the book for the sake of learning Japanese and not for enjoyment. If they continue to watch/read something in hopes of it getting matter, that is a different question altogether. Doing that implies that you have an interest in the media anyway.

  22. david
    June 2, 2009 at 03:23


    A lot of what you’re saying goes almost perfectly with what they talk about over at ALG World ( And, I think that they are right in their thinking over there. They teach language naturally, by having teachers come in with games and stories and activities. They say that, the adult learner can become fluent in the language after two years, and in fact, they learn even faster (twice as fast) as children would. (My guess is that it has something to do with the adult’s knowledge of concepts).

    It would be nice if someone, anyone, would just decide from the start to take this natural approach to learning a language and give some feedback on it. I’ve thought about it before for my Japanese, but, it’s certainly hard to let go of the SRS and such.

    Maybe you can hook me up with some of those articles or w/e that you read on this natural language acquisition. I’m interested in reading about it a little more.

  23. Duncan
    June 2, 2009 at 05:15

    I think there are some places where native speakers will have an advantage over almost everyone who starts learning a language as an adult. But I don’t really find that discouraging… if I wind up speaking Japanese well enough that my speech is natural, and diverse, but I occasionally muff a particle, I’ll be happy enough. I guess I think the obsession with “native” level Japanese is a bit misplaced for most people- get to the point where you speak well, and then worry about whether or not you might eventually speak like a native. About 95% of the utility of speaking a language comes from speaking it really well. If you want to pursue that last 5%, go for it, and more power to you.

    My experience has been that having a fairly good-sized Japanese vocabulary and a large set of stock phrases, along with being able to read and understand Japanese pretty well is really useful, even though my grammar is iffy once I wander out of my comfort zone. So I wouldn’t worry about getting to “native level”- I’d worry about getting to a level where you can read almost any modern Japanese, and you have no trouble getting your meaning across in conversation.

    Of course there are some places where a non-native can easily beat most natives. I can read kanji that very few Japanese can at this point. But… that mostly underlines the fact that that’s a pretty marginally useful skill. If the native speakers needed to be able to read those kanji they would be able to read them ;).

    Anyway, david: don’t renounce the SRS- one of the things adults do really well is learn vocabulary. The SRS can help with that. But- you might _de-emphasize_ the SRS. I think that if you have a limited amount of time doing some reading or watching a TV show is more important than using the SRS. And also- sometimes the SRS is no fun- and if there’s one thing I think is true it is that it’s better to do something ineffective than to fail to do something effective. In the long run effectiveness is very much a matter of what you find it easy to keep doing. At least that’s my 2 cents.

  24. Shtephen
    June 2, 2009 at 06:10

    I think it is very easy to have fun with Japanese when it comes to television, movies, and music. When it comes to video games, manga, and books, the task is much more difficult. I have manga and books that I enjoy but I find myself getting super pissed off due to the fact that I don’t know all the words and all the readings of the kanji same with playing video games there is allot of words made up of kanji and kana in there that I haven’t learned the vocabulary for, or their readings. The material I have is enjoyable but my lack of knowledge is what makes things miserable for me. With SRSing I find that doing SRSing with Kanji sucks I finished RTK and had tons of reviews because I always kept hitting the “hard” button even when the kanji was not. I decided to get rid of Anki just because it didnt work for me. I now only use the Reviewing the Kanji website since it only has the three options of “No, Yes, and Easy” and I can easily see whats going on with my Kanji by what box they are in Its still SRSing but it feels better than Anki or Mnemosyne . I like to see where my progress is but with Anki its not to helpful in doing that so its just not as good to me as other things. I do use Anki with my sentences though, but not very much because its just not fun for me. Every day I jump through several books and manga and I am constantly learning. Things like have really boosted my vocabulary within a short time and I like the setup since I can see where my progress is with items and I often find my self coming across items that I reviewed on that I find in my normal studying/attempt at to make japanese fun.

  25. Jonathan
    June 2, 2009 at 08:38

    Obviously, people (adults) were becoming fluent in second/third/nth languages LONG before the invention of SRS, or even flashcards. And the general consensus among learners who use an SRS is that you also have to do non-SRS stuff (informal reading/listening/immersion) in addition to your daily reps. So really, an SRS is neither necessary nor sufficient for L2 acquisition.

    Does it make the process faster or more efficient? I’m not sure. I tend to think so, both because of the scientifically well-established effectiveness of spaced repetition for long-term memorization, and just plain old common sense (although the latter is infamously questionable in my case :))

    For my part, I love SRS’ing. It sounds weird, but I can’t wait to get up each morning, get my coffee, and do my reps. I get a huge sense of accomplishment from watching Mnemosyne’s “Scheduled” and “Not memorised” counters drop from two or three digits to zero every day, and that makes it fun. So it’s fun, and it’s in Japanese, and… hey! Don’t I recognize that formula from somewhere? 🙂

    It’s fun in much the same way that RPGs are fun (YMMV), particularly RPGs involving lots of micro-management like Pokemon or Final Fantasy Tactics. Adding items, grading my performance, keeping track of statistics… it’s a form of instant gratification, in a process where delayed gratification is the name of the game. I like numbers and structure; that’s just how my brain is oriented. It’s not a choice, it’s a lifestyle! 😉 But it’s largely what keeps me going in my quest for fluency; if I didn’t have some kind of objective indicator of how much progress I’ve made and what I’ve learned so far, it would be all too easy to succumb to the old “when the heck am I going to get good, I haven’t learned a single thing in months, I’m sitting here pretending to read these strange symbols that I’ll never actually understand and I should just give up” trap. (Okay, maybe it needs a shorter name.)

    Anyway, I’m not the sort of person who buys into ideas like kids-are-magic or east-Asians-are-magic, but I’m very much the sort of person who is quick to self-doubt. The SRS keeps me motivated and encouraged (not to mention organized and accountable), and that alone makes it indispensable in my opinion.

  26. Rob
    June 2, 2009 at 10:32


    What actually started my thinking was awhile ago when I came across this old thread on How to learn any language’s forum regarding Julien Gaudfroy, who is French but taught himself to be fluent in Mandarin.

    The one thing he said that jumped out at me was, “Sometimes the more you think, the less you learn. Which also means that at the end you are less able to think.
    Think of that: the main reason why we study a language faster in its country is because we don’t understand anything. You keep hearing words and wondering what they mean, and will remember them before knowing their meaning. Which means when you start using them you’ll do it naturally!”

    Here is a video of him on a Chinese TV show.

    Anyway what he was saying stuck in the back of my mind. I also later found this paper which summarizes some of the natural acquisition methods.

    I think the ALG people have it right too, but the problem I’m trying to figure out is how to replicate “comprehensible input” without a native person and also finding some way I can actively respond to the input which a TV or podcast can’t provide. My initial thinking for a beginning to this type of process would be to start with a lot of kids videos where the basics of the language are reinforced with a lot of simple speaking and pictures. Then perhaps finding the right exchange partner on skype would be the answer to being able to have an active response to the input. We’ll see.

  27. Chiro-kun
    June 2, 2009 at 16:19

    @Rob –

    I can see where you’re coming from because for the better part of my first year with Japanese, I dumped my SRS and hated anything to do with sentence mining. I tried starting over dozens of times, but all in vain. I had two major burnouts during this period for the selfsame reason.

    Nearly a year later, I’m back to SRSing and have managed to get my count up to 2250 (the number of course, doesn’t matter). I do it almost everyday and when I take vacations, I look at the huge pile and simply do them in small, managebale parts (and don’t add new items for a week or so).

    Before doing this, I ran a short two-week experiment on acquiring vocabulary through simply reading/listening (mostly reading). The results were pretty disappointing if you want to look at it from the perspective of vocabulary acquisition. When you have more than 5 unknown words in a given document, it becomes impossible to remember them all. And that’s only one document.

    There are certain things the SRS will do for you and there are certain things it won’t. I simply see the SRS as a means to keeping a lot of words at the back of my mind. I know that the only way I’m really going to master those words is if I see them repeatedly in different contexts. The SRS is just to keep all those words which I HAVEN’T mastered at the back of my memory.

    The problem with SRS as I see it is that people often add a ton of irrelevant, unimportant and BORING words which you probably will never encounter in real life. You waste hours reviewing all this crap which drains you of both your concentration and energy. Also, adding more than one sentence for a single vocabulary word can prove tedious in the long run.

    In short, as long as you’re spending less time SRSing and more time reading, foruming and listening – you’re good to go I think. An SRS is a great tool for keeping a truckload of vocabulary in your active memory until you repeatedly meet such vocabulary in different contexts and finally master them.

    As to whether one can get fluent without an SRS, I believe they can. There are plenty of anime and manga fans who can play through all of クラナド and ひぐらしのなく頃に without ever havin used an SRS. And we all know how visual novels are choc-a-bloc full of text. I don’t ever recall having looked up every word in a dictionary when I was reading Eragon.

    So I believe SRS in moderation + intensive input (news, political mishmash and other boring stuff are out!) = fast fluency with a large vocabulary

    Intensive input – any kind of SRSing = slow fluency with a small vocabulary

    So I believe the only problem is the time constraint. I don’t see why everybody is in such a hurry to “master” Japanese to “native-level fluency” anyway. You don’t even need such a large vocabulary if all you do in Japanese is read manga, participate in forum discussions and watch TV dramas. I don’t see WHY it is mandatory for people (who are presumably never going to Japan) to watch news and read about politics in Japan (unless of course you’re a news junkie or really like pol science or….I don’t know). As long as you spend all your free time doing things in Japanese instead of in English, methinks you’re well on your way to fluency.

  28. Charles
    June 2, 2009 at 17:32

    I really loved this post. I’ve been in a bit of a slump lately and this may drag me out. I’ve found lots of decent A/V stuff for input. Movies and TV programs that I don’t tire of. My main heartburn is the SRS and finding good quality interesting stuff to put in it. I liked きのこ‘s idea of only cutting and pasting stuff. That would cut down on SRS input time considerably. I’ll start digging around the interwebs and see what happens. Any recommendations?

  29. June 2, 2009 at 18:14

    Whatever you would read in English, find the equivalent in Japanese and read that. I find I spend a lot of time reading agony aunt sites like Dear Abby, so I’ve been searching for Japanese agony aunt sites, etc. If you like sports, find Japanese sports sites. If it’s movies, find movie sites in Japanese. Whatever it is, make sure it interests YOU.

  30. WangSen
    June 3, 2009 at 00:06

    I am jealous of all the problems you guys have with Japanese immersion. Take a look at the stuff that mainland China produces..CRAP! I have been living in China for a while now and been using my Anki. Thats been going well. But TV in China is horrible. Movies are pretty bad too. Nothing like the variety I have seen in Japan or back in the States. Most things here have to be pretty sanitary and plain. Nothing risky or offensive. A lot of historical TV shows, and dramas that seem to be rip-offs of western shows. Chinese people are great but the mass media is horrible. The only place I have found good things to watch is on the Internet. There are some shows online that are hilarious but sadly would never be allowed on TV. Actually , I have heard, if they get to popular on the net they may get yanked from there too! Long story short ..Anybody out there want to share their Mandarin media picks?
    Check out 哐哐哐 on youku. (Probably only funny if you have had some in-China experience).
    Goodluck all.

  31. Freakman
    June 3, 2009 at 05:13

    While this may not have too much to do with the topic at hand, I wanted to chime in on the discussion Rob and others were having about the importance of SRS (or at least its absence)
    Disclaimer : This is going to be a pretty “here’s my experience of this damn thing, YMMV”

    I’ve been learning Japanese on and off (in the AJATT sense) for what now amounts to 6-7 years (from about 18y.o to 24-25)
    Of course, I didn’t realize I was learning for the first 2-3 years.
    I simply did what lots of bored students do to pass time : watch anime (copious amounts of it – roughly 150 series over 3 years last time i checked). It was fun (for the most part – god knows Japan produces a lot of crappy anime…. I wouldn’t confess to watching 1/10th of it under duress) and I didn’t think about it too much.
    My first idea of japanese was like “Man one would have to be a big nerd to go through the hassle of learning this language even aliens would be stumped by”, so I almost vowed not to learn it (just for the purpose of enjoying non-translated content at least)….. boy did my brain betray me on that.

    Now as Khatz has established before, there’s no problem with the Japanese presented in Anime. It is perfectly valid input, despite showing some slight bias (I mean, I probably learned 発射せよ・修羅場 before 会社…. but to be honest, everyday words bore me. I remember reading somewhere people usually speak a language using only 3000 words…. what’s the point of having hundreds of thousands of words in the dictionary if you’re only going to use a fraction of that ?! Shakespeare would weep. So I totally understand why Khatz always has the weirdest vocab in his japanese blog posts. (I mean, who uses 拙者 except for visual novels crossing into the 時代劇 territory ? :D)

    Anyway back on the topic, after 2-3 years of watching anime, I could actually understand most of the simple dialogue in anime, with only specialized vocabulary being a minor annoyance. (Ghost In the shell is still to this day a bitch to follow)
    The rest could be inferred from the context (and anime tends to be context heavy so it definitely helps).
    To say this came as a surprise is an understatement. I mean I almost vowed not to learn this language, and the travesty : my brain actually learnt it just by being exposed to it ! I claim to be a victim of language poisoning.
    As I was blissfully unaware at the time, I had simply followed Khatz’s method almost to the T, but minus the SRS.
    So what did I do ? I indulged in my new found super powers. I started watching shows without subtitles (…. that’s probably just because I didn’t want to wait for subs :o). It did feel slightly overwhelming at first without the safety net that subtitles provide, but I felt confident enough to not even bother checking words except on a few rare occasions (like …. WTF just happened? I think I just missed 80% of the plot). As someone said, not obssessing over things you don’t understand helps a lot.

    My next evolutionary step was simple : the moonrunes ! I had pretty much run out of interesting anime, so I turned to the japanophile geek’s second favorite pastime : the visual novel. My problem was simple : I didn’t know the first thing about kanas, much less kanjis.
    So I just rolled up my sleeves, whipped out the software du jour (namely Slime Forest), and learnt hiraganas & katakanas in a matter of days, then moved on to kanjis. The shortcoming of that game were soon apparent (you weren’t taught the readings, only individual meanings of the kanjis with mnemotechnic hints ala Heisig’s RTK). So it wasn’t fun for me. Simply because I couldn’t map the kanjis to the words I had learnt. I used a dictionary to try and do that, but the material (i.e the learning game) was not *fun*.
    So I did the sensible thing : I took what I reckoned would be fun : a visual novel.
    What I did with it was less sensible though : I pretty much brute-forced through the damn thing. I took an electronic dictionary (Jwpce), and proceeded to look up every single kanji I didn’t know. This basically amounted to forced SRS’ing except the text in the game was my only source of sentences. But I found it more enjoyable to do repeats on new sentences than to simply do SRS’ing for the sake of it. Overall, I gauge I forgot a kanji 5 to 6 times before it “stuck”.
    It took me around 2 months to go through the game, but when I finished it, I could read hundreds of kanjis without having to look them up.

    After that, the rest is history : I just kept practicing by reading with less and less lookup involved.
    「There are plenty of anime and manga fans who can play through all of クラナド and ひぐらしのなく頃に without ever havin used an SRS.」
    Now that one hit home a lot more accurately than a US bombing and took away the roof : Those 2 games were some of the first I played once I had a solid grasp of kanji 🙂

    To sum up this rather bloggish comment, here’s the deal about SRS i.m.o :
    Any intensive exposition to a language is going to cause repetition, simply because of the repetitive nature of languages (and I just meta-proved my point) Remember what I mentioned earlier about the 3000 words : well you can be sure those 3000 words you’re going to learn fast if you go through random material). The SRS is only a perfectionist’s tool : it’ll leave no holes and no room for chance.
    From my experience, intensive exposure will still lead you to a near native fluency in reasonable time, with or without an SRS. But the absence of an SRS makes it a bit more haphazard. You will forget things, as such is the way of the brain, but the more you practice, the more you will remember.

    So what are you waiting for ? Stop reading blogs, have fun, and learn Japanese like the best.

    Note : this comment lacked remarks about the awesomeness of Khatz. So here are some : your blog is awesome ! You’re an inspiration to all the L2/3-challenged people in this world.

  32. June 3, 2009 at 18:13

    I agree with pretty much the whole post. I would just emphasize one thing which I’ve sort of figured out after my recent skimming binge.

    After stumbling upon Gedo senki a week ago and enjoying it a lot, I’ve felt a need to watch some good anime (something I haven’t done in a while – my Japanese exposure has been mostly tons of music and rewatching my favorite shows). I’ve read a few reviews of some really good shows and I started sampling them. The problem is, I’ve approached them with extremely high expectations of the bad kind – “ok, if this show isn’t absolutely awesome in every goddamn frame I’m not watching it”. Ironically, by consciously focusing on fun in this way (“I MUST HAVE FUN ALL THE TIME”), I didn’t really give the shows a chance, because some shows simply aren’t mindblowingly amazing in the first 20 seconds – and when you decide that the beginning isn’t fun, you start skipping scenes, trying to find “the fun part”, which is more likely not to happen with such an approach.

    I sort of realized what I was doing (koanishly – “looking for fun isn’t fun” 😀 ), but only after starting to watch Hatake no gotoku: because the show WAS a lot of fun in the first 20 seconds, I gave the rest of it a chance; And then I sort of remembered that even the best shows can’t be consistently amazing, not because the producers aren’t trying, but rather because between the awesome fights and the instances of hilarious humor you simply have to have some plain ol’ dialogue – you know, exposition, character building, people just talking etc. all of which, while not brimming with teh awesome, also has its purpose.

    So, the lesson for me was: RELAX! Give whatever you’re watching/listening to a real chance. This doesn’t mean enduring stuff which is bad/boring/Belgium – when you realize that something simply lacks quality, drop it. It also doesn’t mean not having high standards. What I’m sort of trying to say is: relax and find the balance – skim, skip, but also give the materials (and peace 😀 ) a chance. Sort of like how you would enjoy stuff in your native language, no? 🙂

    on the topic of SRSing, I pretty much agree with Rob. Apart from my parents translating some words for me in the beginning, when I was a small kid, I learned English without consciously using any sort of method – I simply enjoyed TV shows, comics, computer games etc.

    But then again, I see that some people need an SRS. Heck, Kats achieved fluency using it. To quote the no doubt dashing Freakman 🙂 “From my experience, intensive exposure will still lead you to a near native fluency in reasonable time, with or without an SRS. But the absence of an SRS makes it a bit more haphazard.”

    To this, I would add: if you have the right knowledge and awareness of the principles of language acquisition (i.e. Khats’ method minus the SRS), and a judo grip on your mind to stick to them consistently, you can learn a language without an SRS. This requires lots of trial and error and unlearning some things and habits as much as learning new ones, but it’s possible.

    This doesn’t mean that you MUST or even SHOULD learn a language without an SRS. If acquiring that judo grip in order to use the Khats-minus-SRS method is too costly (in time and effort), and if some people simply enjoy using an SRS (and we know that Khats’ method works, him being the living proof), then by all means use an SRS.

  33. Caomei513
    June 4, 2009 at 02:24

    Yeah, I really agree with Khatz on this one. Just recently I’ve been feeling burnt out on Korean, and I didnt really feel like doing immersion or sentences for about two days, becuase it just felt like work. But then after reading this article, I decided to go online and look up bios and stuff for my favorite K-pop artists and ended up having a lot of fun and added about 48 sentences. The whole time it never felt like “studying”…. because I realized it was so much fun reading this stuff about my favorite singers, and my Korean improved alot becuase of it.

    Thanks again Khatz!

  34. Angel
    June 7, 2009 at 15:20

    My problem is that I like to be able to understand what’s going on in any given medium, whether it be a book, a movie etc. The AJATT method is basically me throwing away that understanding for a damn long time, which feels impossible for me. I’ve been trying my hardest, but I keep slipping and giving in.

    I’m a huge gamer, it’s probably my second favorite hobby. E3 just happened, and they announced a lot of great games, some of which probably won’t come out in Japanese. Should I just not play them until I learn Japanese? Because that’s gonna be a loooooong time.

    I should also mention that my main hobby is reading American comic books. I really doubt that I’d be able to read the Blackest Night or Battle For The Cowl in Japanese. I’d be delighted to be proven wrong, so please someone tell me if I am.

    I’m just really confused on how to proceed in this whole Japanese thing. If anybody has any advice for little ole me, I’d love to hear it.

  35. dan
    June 22, 2009 at 16:23

    This inspired my to give the 100 film method a go for Japanese. At the moment most of the media I have is a bore – so it’s a good way to find something new.

    I’m in the UK so the easiest way I’ve found to rent Japanese DVD’s is an online rental place, like netflix in the USA. The UK one is called “lovefilm”, it’s seems very heavy on anime, shogun, yakuza and horror but very light on anything else.

  36. June 26, 2009 at 19:10

    My Latin is better than my Japanese: ad taedium. よしっ!

  37. August 21, 2010 at 21:44

    For the past 3 days I did 52 Kanji a day. exactly. I guess I just got my Heisig book so I wanted to follow a schedule.

    Today I did like 20 or so. I just didn’t feel like doing 50.

    And I’m fine with that 🙂

  38. Emp
    November 1, 2010 at 18:41

    Not sure whether or not this has been suggested since I’m too lazy to exhaustively search, but I highly recommend going for those lovely video games called visual graphic novels. Or something like that.

    Closest thing I’d ever seen to one before I started were those old Goosebumps choose your own story books. I always lost at those…or cheated. These are like the cooler, older, Asian cousins-in-law of those books, and they have naturally gone digital.

    Anyway. So it’s like reading you a manga and interacting with it (usually; there are some where you just click through it, apparently), making policy choices in the story. And maybe some rpg elements or mini-games, or whatever other gravy the maker might have put in. But it’s mainly a suped up version of a book. The cooler ones are fully voiced. So you’re reading and listening at the same time.

    (Story begins before I have any active drive to learn Japenese, but have picked up some via osmosis). Now I first started one of these because I read a manga and was investigating online to see if there was an anime and found out that it was based on an otome game* (this is girly fantasy for those who don’t know), albeit a very introspective, psychology-based one, full of symbolism and darkish philosophy and humor.

    Not to be put off by the fact that it didn’t have an english version (most don’t, as they are sadly off the mainstream even with anime otaku types, and are rather unwieldy for individual/small group trans projects), I got it and armed with a text-grabber and aggregator program that auto-spammed online translators and gave you up to half a dozen different translations in parallel, I started playing the game. I wasn’t particularly paying attention to the japanese in and of itself. Though the uber voice acting definitely had me hooked enough that I would only interrupt it if I were hearing something for the third time in a row (and not even then if it was said by one of my better-liked seiyuus), my main focus was on playing the game and going with the story.

    But I still ended up learning me some japanese. (Shocking, right? /sarcasm) Just from seeing and hearing patterns together. It got to the point where amongst my four active translators I would find myself slightly correcting them all based on context. And this is where I wasn’t actually trying to learn anything at all, so naturally I started picking up even more when I actually got above a mild interest. Waaay more than I got from watching subbed anime (though I have consumed far more of that), or other more commonly-known ways to irresponsibly enjoy japanese.

    I submit that playing text-heavy video games (ie visual novels) in japanese owns both reading manga/books/etc and watching movies/anime/etc on a mild-to-moderate scale for the following reasons:

    1) You don’t play video games you find boring (at least I don’t). Even when you are grinding at some level you are enjoying yourself. The duty bit is already pretty much a non-issue here, yeah? I do not feel loyalty-bias to video games for some reason.

    2) VNs are like a dense set of all-in-color manga, each of which have rather different endings and somewhat different middles, existing in parallel in the same general setting. They also speak to you as you read them. You get the listening and visual context of video-based stuffs, but on a self-controlled timescale like book-based media. Plus with the reading. Kinda like the best of both worlds, right? You get everything but speaking practice.

    3) These video games are low-energy enough that you can take the time to muse on things without pressing the pause button or worrying that you will die now because you got distracted thinking about kanjis. You don’t need good reflexes either. Everyone can play! More importantly, everyone can play whilst eating a snack. You generally only need one hand, and that not all the time.

    4) Chances are that if you are after “completion” whereby you want to achieve all (or much, anyway) possible endings that you will need a guide to consult (or you can muddle through it with lots of repeating trial and error and possibly still miss the subplot that you didn’t realize was an option to shoot for). These will all (or at least the better ones) actually be in japanese. Makes sense that if no one bothers to translate the game itself, no one will bother translating the online guide either.

    5) Generally speaking, you cannot ever be satisfied with only one playthrough. The coolest stuff doesn’t get unlocked until after you’ve already achieved something else. So you end up getting repetition with slight variation which personally makes me muse about nuances.

    6) You can’t really just passively let it wash over you. You have to make choices, so you kinda have to pay attention. At least a bit. You feel more engaged since the gist (as in most video games) is to make you feel like it’s something you’re living rather than just observing.

    7) If you do get bitten by the boredom bug in part (“I’ve already gone through the prologue x number of times; I know the situation, thanks!”) you can skip through selectively (or put it on auto and semi-vegetate whilst listening to the excellent voice talent but not otherwise being engaged) and therefore skip the boredom too. Therefore #1 is still valid.

    8) We’ve all had those moments when we were backseat writers and were like “well if it wereme, I would do it this way.” VNs let you indulge yourself there to a nice degree.

    9) The more semi-popular ones often have spin-off manga/anime/book series, etc. So you’re back to that stuff anyway. x3

    In conclusion book+video game = awesome. Or at least potentially awesome. Also, most VNs aren’t otome games like the one I was describing. They are as varied as in any medium through which stories are told. As a starter I recommend Ever17, which is slightly romance-oriented, but mainly a double-level sci-fi flavored mystery with two protagonists living two disjointed stories in the same-ish place but without apparently relating to one another until the very end when you unlock the true story with all the nifty secrets (and you can’t get that until you do all the other paths first). It’s quite intriguing. It actually does have an english trans (which is like subbing an anime: read english but still hear the japenese) but that’s quite hard to find and I won’t tell you where. You weren’t going to reach for that anyway, were you?

    *If anyone is interested, it’s called Heart no Kuni no Alice and is an Alice in Wonderland parody. I highly recommend it and just about anything else that their maker, QuinRose, has come out with. They are more balanced for those who like some meat on their plot to balance the romancing. But get Anniversary edition instead of plain Heart, since it has better graphics and added content and no downside as far as I can tell.

  39. 星空
    December 15, 2010 at 10:13

    ad nauseamとを探していたと思うけど

    ad lassitudinem は言ってみていたの。退屈=lassitudo

    それに、sci-fi の番組イッパイがあの問題があるよ。Stargateだけはない。

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