Pure Pwnage: How Fluent Was I After 18 Months?

So, I have a BIG ego, and do LOTS of ego-surfing. I should make an RSS feed of my self-googling. And during my daily, no, hourly session of ego-surfing, it came to my attention that I had not quite made clear just what I meant by “fluency” after 18 months. In a word, my fluency was near-native. When I spoke on the phone, Japanese people assumed I was Japanese. In more detail, I was able to:

  • Speak and understand adult Japanese-sounding Japanese. Many people assumed (and continue to assume) that I had either been raised in Japan or lived hear for 10+ years. Neither are so, at this writing.
  • Conduct a job interview 100% in Japanese
  • Conduct my visa processing with the Japanese Consulate in the US, 100% in Japanese
  • Make convincing, logical arguments.
  • Write business and personal emails.
  • Understand TV and radio news 100%.
  • Understand and enjoy Japanese comedy shows.
  • Make intentional errors, jokes, witty comebacks and double entendres in Japanese.
  • Read aloud and understand any general-purpose Japanese document (i.e. one intended for a lay audience), such as a newspaper.
  • Read aloud and understand any IT/physical science/computer science expert document (manuals, software docs, academic papers, even legal documents).
  • Write 4500 kanji from memory, 90% retention.
  • Read aloud common Japanese personal and place names (prefectures, major cities).
  • Talk my way around words I did not know or had forgotten. For example “cable splitter” was “small device for splitting a single cable TV signal such that it can be shared among multiple terminals” or something to that effect.

Here’s what was different between me and a “typical” Japanese person, i.e. what I could not or did not yet do after 18 months:

  • Could not skim or scan Japanese documents. I had to read word-for-word. So, my reading was slower than native users’, but not less accurate. I skim and scan now (YAY!)
  • I made infrequent, minor grammatical errors like saying “在庫ですか” instead of “在庫が有りますか”.
  • In speaking, I thought I had to end every polite sentence in “-ます” and freaked out whenever I didn’t. I quickly learned that it was OK to not -ます everything — just sticking “です” or “のです” at the ends of things can be fine in terms of politeness. So this is less an issue of knowing the words, and more an issue of knowing what was or wasn’t OK etiquette-wise. It was like: “Oh, snap, I’m allowed to do that?”…[Edit: in fact, this correction may have happened before 18 months were up (but after interviewing), so…]
  • In speaking, I didn’t have many (or any?) of those native speaker tools – words and phrases – for very quickly recovering from mis-saying something, such as “ていうか”.
  • My active vocab was somewhat annoyingly behind my passive vocab. But I knew time would heal this wound.
  • Using my kanji knowledge, I thought “手袋”/てぶくろ meant “hand-bag”. It actually means “gloves”. Doh!
  • When I spoke, for a while I was only fully comfortable in two registers – super-keigo and Gokusen/anime. That has been taken care of. In fact it only took two weeks of hanging around with normal Japanese people (my coworkers) to fix it.
  • I didn’t use Japanese bridge/filler words like “サァ” and “ていうか” a lot. With “サァ”, at the time, I just felt stupid saying it as much as Japanese people do; now I’m all over it. With “ていうか” I must have just not realized how useful it was? Or perhaps I didn’t understand how to use it, not sure.
  • Since most of my reading, listening and watching (input) had been technical and abstract, my explanations of simple physical things – like how to throw a Frisbee – did not come out as smoothly as I would have wanted; they came out (with lots of demonstrative pronouns and gestures – “you kind of just go like this” – I didn’t know how to say “flick” or “twitch”) but I wanted them to be better. I still feel that I need to work on this.
  • I had trouble using trains the first time not for lack of literacy but for non-intuitiveness of interface! So I put in how much money? Where? Hey, why did the machine eat my ticket?!
  • I spoke somewhat slower than a Japanese person. I’m picking up speed even now. Speed generally wasn’t an issue when speaking formally, just informally.
  • I made and make a point of saying words like “零”/rei instead of “ゼロ”/zero, because I think “零” sounds cooler.
  • I used and use more kanji than many Japanese people.
  • I used and use pre-US occupation kanji in handwriting. E.g. 會rather than会.
  • I had (and, actually, still have) holes bigger than Stargate SG-1 plot inconsistencies in my knowledge when it comes to food. I don’t eat that much Japanese food, in part because I don’t frequent restaurants. Most of my food learning comes from visits to friends’ homes. My eating habits are such that this lack of knowledge is likely to continue indefinitely.
  • I was a bit shaky on certain readings of common artificial food additives (those random chemical names you see on food labels). For the longest time I thought “葡萄糖” meant “grape sugar”; it actually means “glucose”.
  • Names of certain fruits and vegetables, rarer personal and place names, I did not know. Apples, oranges and carrots were OK, but cucumber I did not actually know. BTW, the way I learned these was to look them up and write them down every time I made a shopping list.
  • I don’t know the number of prefectures in Japan.
  • Infer meanings of new, non-kanji (i.e. hiragana-only) words in text. I can do this now; it’s simply a matter of getting even more used to Japanese, once you expose yourself to enough of the language, you develop and incredible predictive ability, just like you do in English. In fact, I got so good at it so subconsciously that I sometimes shocked myself. One time I was trying on a T-shirt, and I said to the shop lady “this one’s too がさがさ/gasagasa (rough)”. Later, I asked my Japanese friend H-bomb if that was the right word and he confirmed it was completely correct. All this, yet I had never, ever, consciously learned or seen this word; it is nowhere in my SRS.
  • I would forget certain alternate kanji/readings. For example, I was in the train and forget the reading of 断つ(たつ)when, say it was conjugated into 断って — I got a fellow passenger to remind me. It’s fun doing this – a great way to get talking to people and save a dictionary lookup.
  • Also I actually didn’t know the readings of less-common but still general-use words like 翻る(ひるがえる)…it had just never come up in my reading. The meaning was clear from the character.
  • I didn’t and don’t know many Japanese children’s games, nursery rhymes and fairy tales.
  • Last, but definitely not least…I’m not that into Doraemon. At all.

So, all in all, after 18 months, I could function as an adult. Linguistically, I was Japanese, Japanese people on the phone assumed I was until I said my name, Japanese people who met me in person assumed I had been raised here. I had Japanese technical knowledge and vocabulary, standard social skills…but also tiny pockets of inexplicable ignorance, I mean, who doesn’t know how to say “flick”? These gaps were quickly filled by further reading and immersion in the language. It’s just like many native English speakers mistakenly write “tow the line”, or say “et cetera” as “e-t-c” or otherwise mispronounce words they’ve read but never heard or heard but never read, or totally mess up place names (I imagine many Americans would have trouble correctly reading “Gloucester”) – that was me in Japanese. And just like a native English speaker, some more reading and listening to good material took care of it.

Where am I now? Well, I need to keep my saw sharp, otherwise it does go blunt. If I go without Japanese for 5 days, I can tell and so can everyone else – when it comes to speech. But…I don’t know. It’s like, Martha Stewart, right? She still learns new recipes and home improvement things but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t own. Same here. I own, but I’m still learning stuff and picking stuff up. The main thing I’m working on is speed. Also witty comebacks – which have to be fast and correct. I’m also working on “arguing” skills, which I guess is a combination of charm, logic and word choice. I also write kanji every day and I’m always looking for strange kanji to read. In short, I am always searching for holes to plug. Another thing I have noticed about myself is that I’m finally finding my own voice in non-technical Japanese writing (i.e. “writing with a personality”) – I feel confident enough to make deliberate mistakes for comic effect, and write something with no more proofreading than I need for English.

The fun continues…


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  57 comments for “Pure Pwnage: How Fluent Was I After 18 Months?

  1. May 11, 2008 at 12:57

    Thanks for the run-down!

    I’d be interested in your progress in Cantonese; how long it’s been since you started and where you’re at now.

  2. Tony
    May 11, 2008 at 14:27

    Thanks for writing such an interesting and informative blog. I lived in Japan for 2 years working in eikaiwa and as an ALT. I failed miserably at learning japanese. To be fair I was improving slowly, but in retrospect my study methods were all wrong. From that failure I realised what worked and what didn’t. My current thoughts on language learning are similar to your own.

    Unfortunately though if I had read this blog before my failure to learn japanese I’m not sure if I would have appreciated it as much as I do now.

    I wouldn’t mind having another crack at learning Japanese, but since I have no plans to return there in the near term, it might have to wait. Now my plan is to have a crack at learning a european language, which hopefully will be simpler than learning an asian language and moreover since now I have a better idea of language learning methods should be more efficient.

    One thing I do appreciate now more than ever is that language learning is not something you do by halves. You either really go for it and study everyday or you might as well forget it. Irregular study and study punctuated by long gaps gets you nowhere fast. Hell when I was in Japan I met people who had been studying english once a week for ten years and still couldn’t put the most elementary english sentence together. Compare that with people who used to study everyday who were actually getting pretty good.

    A couple of thoughts regarding learning Japanese, some people plan to go to Japan for just one year and teach eikaiwa for example. They may not be prepared to make the investment necessary to achieve full-fluency written & spoken. Would you support them using a “cut-down” variation on your method, that eliminates the kanji emphasis? For example.
    1. Learn Hiragana / Katakana
    2. Start mining basic/low-intermediate texts (with furigana) for sentences. eg Genki, Japanese for Everyone,
    3. Enter these into their SRS (they should still enter the kanji as well).
    4. Start learning
    Later if they decide to stay in Japan they could then go through Heisig

    Also is mining for sentences part of your method? If well designed prepared sets of sentences/questions were available should people use those rather than spend time mining their own? [Might be a business opportunity for someone!!]

    Keep up the good work and thanks for the great insights.

  3. May 11, 2008 at 15:19

    I’m curious if you have any “if I had known then what I know now” things in terms of the path you took to achieving fluency in those 18 months. Perhaps some thoughts about how the things you’re doing differently now learning Cantonese would have affected your Japanese study then?

  4. qwertyuiop
    May 11, 2008 at 20:03

    How did you understand the news 100% if you didn’t know words like glove, cucumber and glucose?

  5. Nuke-Marine
    May 11, 2008 at 20:56

    Good post. I do wonder, did you already know all the kanji (english keyword, writing) by that point? I’m wondering as I really started doing my SRS sentences in January (four months ago), though I was hitting Kanji since June of last year (10 months ago….holy cow, has it been that long since finding RevTK?).

    By the way, if you want to really pile on the ego: post an .mp3 (or an video even) of you having a conversation with 4 or 5 random Japanese people. They must talk to you for one or two minutes then guess where you’re from (but they can’t see you yet for even bigger impact). Bound to be good for laughs, especially if they only guess prefectures and not countries.

  6. Mark
    May 11, 2008 at 21:38

    Very good post – nice assessment. Note to self: Just got to stay on track and I WILL be fluent (repeat ad infinitum)…

    Mark

  7. Rob
    May 11, 2008 at 23:44

    I’m curious, once you were at that point and in Japan, did you ever go back and educate yourself about the things that you would have known had you grown up in Japan? I mean, learn about what TV shows/music were popular, major news stories that happened, etc.?

  8. May 12, 2008 at 02:44

    Yes, I completely agree with Nuke-Marine; we want to see you on video! We don’t want to test you or point our where you sound foreign; we just want to see the Khatzu in action and use that for inspiration to show that it really is impossible for a foreigner to speak Japanese as well as (if not better!) a native. Anything! (^_^)

  9. きのこ
    May 12, 2008 at 05:34

    Thirding the call for an mp3. I’m curious as hell as well. 😀

    Also seconding the call for “If I knew then what I know now” from your perspective.

  10. May 12, 2008 at 06:11

    I agree with the folks above…we want video!

    Thanks for this information. It gives me something to shoot for. I’m a little over a week into RTK (frame 99) and am really enjoying it. Your site is what gave me the motivation to finally start learning, and it definitely helps keep me going when I get discouraged or lose sight of the goal. Again, thank you.

  11. Mark
    May 12, 2008 at 07:05

    Hey, yeah – good suggestion re the video. Any chance of posting one or more youtube video blogs, Khatzu? You could show off you Japanese in one (or more), impersonate a drill sargeant and give us all a good talking in (motivate us!) in another, and …well, skies the limit!

    Cheers,

    Mar

  12. Daniel
    May 12, 2008 at 11:24

    This is by far the most motivating post I have read. Sheer jealousy is very motivating, plus, for someone to be able to get this far in 18 months means that the amount of material to learn is not limitless…. man, I want to get back to Japanese now.

    色々な事、おめでとう御座います。じゃあ、今、俺の番だ!

  13. khatzumoto
    May 12, 2008 at 12:18

    @Tony
    >Would you support them using a “cut-down” variation on your method, that eliminates the kanji emphasis? For example.
    I dunno, man…I try to steer away from hypothetical with discussions, but, like you said:
    >language learning is not something you do by halves. You either really go for it and study everyday or you might as well forget it.

    Otherwise you just end up with:
    >studying english once a week for ten years and still couldn’t put the most elementary english sentence together

    It seems to me that “the competition” is not other learners, it is native speakers. They are the people with whom communication primarily needs to happen. They’re not going to want to talk to people if it’s a chore and they have to slow down to retard level and choose their vocab carefully. And they’re not going to write “dumbed down” documents outside of limited contexts. And, it’s not intellectually challenging to get good at Japanese or Chinese or whatever…it’s just a matter of technique. No talent needed. So…why ask for so little when so much is within reach? But…maybe I’m too extreme…I don’t know.

  14. khatzumoto
    May 12, 2008 at 12:25

    @Nuke-Marine
    >did you already know all the kanji (english keyword, writing) by that point?
    “Write 4500 kanji from memory, 90% retention.”

  15. khatzumoto
    May 12, 2008 at 12:31

    @Rob
    Kind of and kind of not…Many Japanese people of my generation like “Lupin the 3rd”, “Sazae-san” and “Doraemon”…tried them, couldn’t stand them. So, I focussed on what people my age are watching *now*, because that’s more fun anyway. I’d watch all these comedy shows and pick up all kinds of slang. Once in a while, people will teach me a children’s game like “達磨さんが転んだ”/Daruma-san ga koronda…like during cherry-blossom-watching or when playing with kids at the skate rink.

    Mmm….when I talk about video games to a Japanese person, I might consciously call “NES” “Famicom” because that’s what it was called here, but, that’s about the extent of it.

    So,the short answer is: “nes” (no/yes). If it comes up, I pay attention. If they have a special on TV on “Late Showa Era pop culture/news”, I do sometimes pay attention to, since these are the things that happened in the Japanese childhood I never had, but…I don’t really go for it actively.

  16. khatzumoto
    May 12, 2008 at 12:59

    @qwerty
    Very good question. These were glaring exceptions (which is why I bring them up) and not the rule.

    If a human interest story on skating were to come up on TV news, and they showed gloves and “手袋” under them, I would very quickly understand that 手袋 = gloves. Ditto for 胡瓜/cucumber. In fact, this is how I learned 南瓜/pumpkin — during the 18 months, there was news story on Halloween pumpkin catapult festival in Colorado (on FNN news), and they showed 南瓜s being catapulted, and it was abundantly clear that a 南瓜 was a pumpkin. Score.

    I learned “葡萄糖” by reading ingredients labels on Japanese food. Since “葡萄酒” is wine, I reasoned that “葡萄糖” must be “grape sugar”. Oops. In a similar vein, for a while I thought that カリウム was another term for カルシウム/calcium, until I saw them together (or saw something about bananas?), and then it instantly made sense that カリウム must be from Kalium –> potassium.

    So these are them “tiny pockets of inexplicable ignorance”, due to bad inferences or things simply never coming up.

    I have one or two American friends who say things like “supposively” instead of “supposedly” and pronounce “banal” as “bay-nll”; it doesn’t change their native speakerness. Last week, a Japanese friend read “装填”/そうてん as “そうしん”, even though she knows 燥ぐ just fine …These people are from “good homes” and went to university and all that, so, they’re just tiny holes that weren’t covered.

    Perhaps due to being artificially “raised” in Japanese from the age of 21…I’m acutely aware of these things.

    So, anyway, exceptions. That’s why I remembered them. That’s why they’re up here.

    Having said that, 手袋 was pretty freaking bad… 🙂 hand bag, dude…Hand bag…

  17. May 12, 2008 at 13:20

    I just want to say that I love your site and find it very inspirational. I’ve been living in Japan for 3 year and though my Japanese has improved significantly, it’s much worse than I wish it was. I think your are absolutely right that immersion is the most important thing and I wish I had done it more from the very start. That being said, every time I read your post it reminds me that I should study, or read the news, or something, and I go do it! So thank you!

    And a lot of the links you have posted are really useful. I will be moving back to the States soon and I want my Japanese to keep improving, so the news and video sites you have linked to will be very useful.

  18. beneficii
    May 12, 2008 at 15:03

    「ちびまる子ちゃん」はどうですか。「ドラえもん」などと同じですか。

  19. khatzumoto
    May 12, 2008 at 15:05

    知らんわ・・・読んだこと無いし・・・

  20. Nuke-Marine
    May 12, 2008 at 16:51

    Oh shoot, I said my question wrong. Khatzumoto, what I meant was did you have your kanji all the way down by the “beginning” of your 18 month learning experience in Japanese or was it a part of that 18 months. I’ve no doubt by the end you had all 4500 down pat. I just remember you saying that you learned the Kanji for purposes of learning Chinese, so it probably was there when you switched to Japanese.

    Plus, I’m not overly attached to the 18 month thing. I’ve just been telling people that learning Kanji is not learning Japanese. Learning Kanji will help you “immensely” when you begin to learn Japanese.

  21. khatzumoto
    May 12, 2008 at 17:22

    @Nuke-Marine
    Yeah, I count the kanji part b/c I was doing immersion on the side…it took me a longer time than I wished, but…

  22. Saru
    May 12, 2008 at 20:02

    I’ve been curious about this for a while. Can you talk about how your accent/pronunciation progressed towards your studies? I’ve been studying obsessively for the past month, and I realized there are tons of words which I know, but I have yet to hear(through music/tv).

  23. May 13, 2008 at 00:28

    Enjoyed this post. Am still enjoying exploring the vast reaches of this site.

    I’ve been in Japan since last August. I came on the JET Program.. somewhat on a whim. (How much of a whim considering the 9 month long application->arrival period.) My real goal was to live abroad and learn a new language. (I studied French high school to university and taught it for 3 years.) But then I got here and some culture shock set in. I think a big part of it was the “what have I gotten myself into” factor since I never really fully considered the consequences of such a move.

    Anyway, my studies thus far:
    – 8 week community class for business Japanese (cost $300, got through 5/6 lessons of Japanese for Busy People, learned a few counters, basic greetings, and a very simple understanding of how the grammar works, ie particles, sentence-final verbs, etc. – oh in addition to the cost was having all my CDs stolen and paying for a broken window – the class was in downtown Atlanta.)
    – Learning the kana on my own before arriving.
    – Self-study since then – mainly through a semi-decent beginning text provided by JET

    In October, I was recommended Heisig’s kanji method, and I jumped on it after reading the forward. I made it pretty strong through 500 in a couple of months. In December, around 600 or so, I started fading. Then I made the decision that I wanted to focus on input (what I based my teaching of French on). That didn’t really work. The problem was a lack of comprehensible input (and I think I was just stuck in some winter blues and lost motivation. This was also the time when I had to decide if I wanted to recontract, and it was a difficult decision.) In March, I got back on the ball. I got a library card, and I’ve been devouring the children’s books. (Written mostly in hiragana, occasional furigana-ed kanji) End of March or so, I was recommended your site. I was wary at the description at first. There are lot of programs out there that claim a lot but deliver little.

    I was pleasantly surprised to find that you were basing your study habits off of the same research that I based my pedagogy on. Most prominently, Krashen’s input hypothesis. (The method I used was TPRS, or more commonly storytelling. You might check it out.) After finding your site, I was actually really upset at myself for simply complaining that I didn’t have access to a teacher who used the method I used so that I could acquire Japanese the “right” way. I knew I needed input, but I didn’t really know how to go about it. And the whole needing kanji to access most things written in Japanese was a huge obstacle of course. Duh, on my own, without a teacher, I’m going to have to put more effort forth, and I’m going to need to find already translated input or establish meaning of the input on my own.

    Well, since the beginning of April, I’ve been back on the kanji train. My goal is to finish by June 1st so I can start mining sentences in earnest. I was at 670ish beginning of April. I’m at 1340ish as of today. できるかな?I’m still reading the children’s books. It’s helping my kana fluency at least. That’s something. And it’s helping me get a feel for the grammar and flow of sentences. In the meantime, I’m continuing with the JET text though I’m more just skimming the grammar points, using the dialogues for input, and attempting the exercises without really thinking too hard.

    Also, I’ve got my first J-J dictionary, one for 小学生. When reading the kids books, I try to be sure to check there first and only if I’m stumped resort to a bilingual dictionary.

    The only thing I’ve yet to do is be 100% AJATT. I’m growing my music list, I’m searching for audio, I’m watching more J-TV (which I’ve fallen in love with!), and I’m re-organizing my bookmarks with all Japanese websites right at top.

    Basically, me saying “hey look at all the stuff I’m doing” is really my way of saying 本当にありがとう。While I knew about input and was trying my best to get it, your site has provided me with confidence. Your words have shown me what true dedication and self-discipline are. You have reminded me that acquiring a language is really difficult and requires many hours of work (that can be fun) and that if you want to acquire quickly, you must change the way you live. I’ve had access to all the Japanese I could ever want all around me, and I’ve been living in an English speaking bubble. It’s time to pop it.

    By the way, I’m never concise. ごめんね。

  24. Nivaldo
    May 13, 2008 at 04:24

    Hi, Khatz! I’m with a very difficult environment problem here. It’s about reading. I’m in Mozambique and here there are no japanese products on sale REALLY. So I’m getting all the study(play) material from the internet (including Heisig). The problem is I know it’s not healthy to stay for too much time in front of the computer but I have no other choice because printing will spend much of my printing ink and printing ink is too expensive (at least here), so expensive that I’m saving it for university work. Printing outside home is equally expensive. So I think there’s no other choice but to read from the computer.
    What would you do, Khatz? If anyone else wants to add ideas they’ll be welcome too.

  25. tom
    May 13, 2008 at 06:15

    i’ve read your blog for a while, and the one quesiton i have is the following:

    did you start from scratch at the beginning of 18 months, or was that when you started using the methods described on your site?

  26. KONDDE
    May 13, 2008 at 08:12

    Khatzu-san!

    YOUTUBE REQUEST!!!

    Pls don´t leave us without a participation vid on youtube, her e in brazil a guy (who provides a site that I can know yours) usually do it, he post his (mono)dialogues in youtube and asks for everybody do the same,

    Go Khatzumoto? Go!!

  27. KONDDE
    May 13, 2008 at 08:15

    The site is:

    www.comoaprenderjapones.com/

    It is a brazilian site ok it is portuguese from brazil,
    there is a lnk to his youtube vids.

    att,

  28. KONDDE
    May 13, 2008 at 08:29

    Khatzu-san!

    Is a off-topic question but will help some persons who shuld have the same problem like me, in fact could help Nivaldo-san I gues.

    In FAQs you sad didn´t learned any Kanji from Heisig book in fact used to get Hanzis from www.zhongwen.com site instead, my question is:

    How did you get all 4280 Odd Hanzi there? Did you donwloaded them from a list supllied from Zhong wen site? Or you did clicking in all 4280 Odd Hanzi to get its information apart?

    Tks,

  29. Nate
    May 13, 2008 at 08:33

    Video Baby! Show me the money.

  30. May 13, 2008 at 14:57

    Yeah, video’s the way to go.
    I’m guessing you’ve also got those mp3 recordings you were making of yourself along the way. You could post some of those, too, so people could hear the progress as you went along. Probably easier for you than trying to convince people by telling them 🙂
    What you think?

  31. May 13, 2008 at 15:40

    Brag to high heaven if you must! You are doing the world a service. Have you punched in “AJATT” and “japanese” into Google yet just to see the grass root inspiration you are bringing to the world of studying Japanese?? hehe!! Way to go. The last time the world of Japanese study had such an awesome kick in the pants was when Heisig released his book eons ago. You are the next my friend 🙂 THANKS FOR REMINDING US WHAT’S POSSIBLE!!!

  32. Ivan the Terrible
    May 13, 2008 at 22:15

    This is what you knew at the end. I’m curious, however, as to what you knew at the beginning of said 18 months. Absolutely nothing? Could you have counted to ten in Japanese? Could you read any Kanji at all? You said before you had an on-again, off-again relationship with Chinese; was it the same with Japanese before you decided to stick with it all day, every day, for 18 months and beyond?

  33. khatzumoto
    May 13, 2008 at 23:00

    @saleem
    I have some audio of me rapping the dictionary (opened my denshi jisho and just rapped the dictionary entry to free beat I had d/led somewhere). That’s about the only thing that isn’t too embarassing to show

    @Ivan, this is what I knew before the 18 months.
    0. Some Chinese and Chinese characters…shaky and spotty…it was through this project and SRSing that my character knowledge grew, since I could “forget about forgetting”.
    1. 情け無いぞ (なさけないぞ), a phrase picked up from playing my friend J3B’s Japanese version of the PlayStation fighting game Battle Arena 闘神殿 (とうしんでん.
    2. The words. こんにちは。これ。それ。あれ。どれ。何だこれ!?。
    3. The first two verses of the song 夏色(なついろ)by ゆず — unfortunately, I didn’t know what the lyrics meant.
    4. I knew the phrase 失礼な! (“How rude!”)
    5. I knew some kana I had learned by brute-force-rote as an experiment…but they were fading fast and I had them very confused (ほ/は、ま/も、シ/ツ、ソ/ン). There are better methods (Heisig).
    6. I may have known the numbers 1-4 from the Missy Elliot song “Get Your Freak On”. I once imitated the Japanese introduction for the amusement of my Japanese friends, but looking back, I misheard it and messed it up.

  34. Nivaldo
    May 14, 2008 at 02:23

    Thanks, KONDDEさん but I’m not really in need of resources, at least not in their digital form. In fact, that’s exactly what worries me, or better, was worrying me. Because they are in digital form I’m forced to stay in front of the computer for many hours a day. But well, I guess I’m being a bit childish. You know, like someone insisting in the same thing. Khatz said that no one is in the ideal condition and the solutions must be worked out. But I’m always looking for help like if I couldn’t do it. I’m already working up the solution and will stop making 馬鹿コメント. 絶対に… 🙂 😀

  35. quendidil
    May 14, 2008 at 11:04

    Rest your eyes every 20 minutes for about 1-2 minutes each time by looking at a faraway object.

    Some people recommend 10 minutes instead while others recommend 45 minutes, I think 20 is a balance. Frankly, I think myopia is still largely due to genetics, but if it makes you feel safe, you can try eye exercises or resting your eyes.

  36. Nivaldo
    May 15, 2008 at 04:58

    I’d love if the “resting the eyes” method worked but I just can’t do it(YET). When I start reading a manga of Naruto, 2 hours get spent so easily like if it were only 10 minutes. But that’s ok. I’m gonna work on this (仕方ありませんね 🙂 ).

  37. Christina
    May 15, 2008 at 11:14

    This is pretty off-topic, but I thought I’d ask.

    You have several posts on listening, but mainly they are focused on why and when. Do you think you could do something on what and how? I know it seems like common sense, but myself and some other language-learners I know are just having trouble with the listening thing. Thank you!!

  38. GMorgon
    May 15, 2008 at 16:51

    Serious question: Do you have a Japanese significant other with whom you practice? You say you go for 4 or 5 days at a time without Japanese… how is this possible when living in Japan?

  39. quendidil
    May 15, 2008 at 18:49

    @Christina:
    I’m not Khatz, but I’ll try to answer this.
    Basically:
    1.Get an MP3 player and put in podcasts, music, audiobooks, newscasts etc.
    2.Get a set of headphones.
    3.Listen.

    The hardest part for me to implement is sleeping with headphones on. I can fall asleep all right, but my headphones will get screwed up or something over the course of the night. I tried leaving my desktop on playing low volumes of ripped anime dialogue but am worried about environmental friendliness and the electrical consumption.

  40. KONDDE
    May 15, 2008 at 21:57

    @GMorgon;@Christina;@NIVALDO

    Even living in your mother tongue language target country is possible to know nothing about it,
    I´m met a lot of people main chinese who despict the fact to living here (brazil) for many decads do not able to speak a single sentence, due to Katzumoto who even living is US learned Japonese to fluency level. Most part of person who plains to learn english
    spends a lot of money to travel in “fulltime” courses stay about 3-4 month there and comeback to brazil in a same lavel when he or she went abroad.

    It is possible create a artificial(when you stay on yours country) or natural(when you travel abroad) enviroment.

    And despict the fact you travel or not a semi-natural enviroment is possible to building in yours origin country.

    Khatzumoto show it for all of us, he was able to get the learning process change.

    The listening process is in fact the most important( and pehaps easier to do, for sure)

  41. KONDDE
    May 15, 2008 at 22:16

    about what to listening in your mp3 device:

    When I started to learn chinese, I friend of mine who was in my classes too, advised me to listening Pmsleur sets, in fact his chinese was better than anothers classmates I included.
    Was to boring need to listening ALL PAUSED ALL THE TIME sets, a lot of english, and them I tried to CLS pod, what a suck! The chinese guys ( a girls who probably apears to be very cute and another guy) trying to show us their english proficience, a Ni HAO lesson pay for 99% in english for exemple, in fact to boring too.

    All chinese courses is VERY boring to listening or pay attetion that, I then deleted all kind of chinese courses from my HD.

    When a suddenly stoped by in AJATT, to freedon my self about what in fact I have some feeling but dont has courage to accept.

    Okay, when you are a beginner(without self confidence to accept WHAT YOU WANT) you can do some classes, listening to cousers sets etc etc. But, try another level and TRASH THEN as soon as possible!

    BTW:

    I keep on studying with a teacher (who is in fact very funny) a old citzen part russian part chinese. Just for fun! Just to test me! Just to know was china 50-60 years ago! Just to contact with anothers real chinese speakers! And the main: just to force me to become fluently as quickle possible and save my chineses classes money!

  42. May 16, 2008 at 12:11

    KONDDE if your Chinese is even 5% as INSANE as your English, you must be scaring the shit out of those poor Chinese people when you talk to them. Be careful man.

  43. Wan Zafran
    May 16, 2008 at 19:05

    Khatzumoto-sensei,

    Thanks for compiling that list — now I can check and compare myself against each point, and work hard towards completing the whole lot of them, haha!

  44. May 18, 2008 at 06:41

    @quendidil (May 15, 2008 @ 6:49 pm);
    A while ago I read an article about sleep learning. The conclusion: it doesn’t work because your brain ‘shuts down’ from everything outside. I know that Khatz promotes it, but so far I know he only promotes it because something gets in just before you fall asleep and just before you wake up. But I guess if this 30 minutes are worth running you pc or radio all night long.

  45. Rob
    May 18, 2008 at 09:34

    I’ve found that when I listen while sleeping that I dream more in Japanese and sometimes the podcasts that I’ve listened to many times will even become incorporated in my dreams and shape them. It’s kind of weird and cool. It’s probably correct that in the deeper stages of sleep nothing may be getting through, but I do believe that during the REM stages in does have a beneficial effect.

  46. slucido
    May 19, 2008 at 04:08

    If REM stages are the most beneficial, I think it’s better hearing after four and a half hours of sleep. If you wake up and connect your mp3 device, you’ll make the most of your REM stages, because they are longer as the night advances.

  47. yu
    May 19, 2008 at 14:08

    I listen to mp3 while sleeping. It has helped with my sleeping habits actually because I end up waking up after 7 hours consistently. If only I got off my bed. Anyways, as someone has said before me, I also have more dreams in Japanese. A couple of days ago, I actually heard/or said I sentence in Japanese while dreaming. During the dream/or as soon as gaining consciousness, I thought ‘Hey, I’ve never learned that sentence in my life (consciously)’. When I woke up, I wanted to check the dictionary for that word in my dream, which I’ve never heard of. But I couldn’t remember it. It would have been nice if I could have verified whether I just made up the word, or I actually heard it somewhere.

  48. sarius24
    May 24, 2008 at 22:02

    Please more audio like ‘madaka’ or a video?

  49. khatzumoto
    May 26, 2008 at 22:50

    @GMorgon
    >Do you have a Japanese significant other with whom you practice?
    No…just friends.

  50. Luke!
    May 28, 2008 at 03:08

    Heya Khatzumoto!

    I was just wondering how good you would say your Japanese is now. I’m not Japanese so I have no way of assessing it, but after taking a look at Michal Ryszard Wojcik’s site, Norsk Experiment, I became kind of disheartened. He has apparently studied English using this Natural Method, yet the English he has written on his site is far from perfect, with some sentences being completely ungrammatical. How close would you say you are to a native speaker? How has your language intuition developed? Would you say you can feel Japanese like you can feel English? (And thus correct sentences and change them around to make them sound better etc.)

    I’d be really interested in hearing about this!

    Many thanks! Luke!

  51. ダンちゃん
    April 29, 2011 at 08:57

    You were able to write 4500 kanji from memory? Dang man… I want, nay, =need= this skill! I think I need a bit more time for this one. ^^ I’m happy to say though that after a year of AJATTing I’ve achieved a lot of similar things on that list. The other day I was chatting with someone and she didn’t give me any of the usual ‘wow you’re Japanese is so good’, which was interesting. Then a way into the conversation she asked how long I had been in the country.
    “I just got here earlier this month”.
    “Whaaaaaaa?” (paraphrasing)
    “THIS IS SPARTAAAAAAAAAAAAAA” (I didn’t say it but I was thinking it. I’ve been wanting to ever since I read that grammar does not exist post.)

    • ahndoruuu
      April 29, 2011 at 16:48

      I’m pretty sure this was due to him learning hanzi for both Chinese and Japanese intially, and considering Chinese, 4500 is not unreasonable.

      Probably this is also why/how he used all the pre-US occupation kanji as well.

      I’m at around 4100 characters myself, though I am doing Mandarin and not Japanese.

    • ahndoruuu
      April 29, 2011 at 16:49

      Also congrats on all the Japan stuff ^^ I read your posts on JATT+ and I have to say I am a little jealous 😛

      • ダンちゃん
        April 29, 2011 at 18:21

        I guess I would be jealous of me too. But then, I’ve really taken my time. I mean, I had -years- of f**cking up studying Japanese. Mistake after mistake. It’s really quite embarrassing. But you know the path now right? So long as you keep walking you will get there, and a darn lot faster than I did I’m sure.

        タカアンドトシ – 早口言葉
        www.youtube.com/watch?v=ld_nsSDcqtU&feature=related

  52. Endar
    July 20, 2013 at 13:27

    Wait, does Khatz like Pure Pwnage?! 😀

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