If the method you’re using to learn (=get used to) a language makes you feel righteous, it’s a bad method.
Your language-learning method should make you feel guilty. It should make you feel bad. It should make you feel a little dirty. Like learning English by watching Jersey Shore.
Will you end up talking weird? Yes, you might. I went through a phase where I could only speak Japanese like the juvenile delinquent high schoolers in Gokusen＝ごくせん＝極先（→極道（の）先生）, who are more or less equivalent in verbal sophistication to the Jersey Shore kids. 1
Why is that OK? Because my speech was native-like. Did it need fixing? Yeah. But fixing aesthetically displeasing, native-like speech takes all of 2 weeks. Fixing non-native-like speech is much harder. And Fixing a total inability to speak brought about by “source perfectionism” — the whole “I will only speak the Japanese of sushi-eating virgins who were born on the foothills of Mount Fuji between dawn and sunrise on January 1 during a solar eclipse in a lunar leap year” that a lot of schooled people get into? Well…you can’t fix a car that doesn’t exist.
If you’re proud of yourself for the book you’re reading, if you’re proud of yourself for getting through so many pages, then it’s a bad book. You shouldn’t be proud of getting through the book, you should be feeling bad that you’re running out of book. You shouldn’t be proud of yourself for watching “classic” 黒澤明/KUROSAWA Akira movies…you should be getting titillated by the sex and violence 2. In fact, you should be fast-forwarding to the sex and violence.
Why should you feel naughty? Why should you feel like you’re getting away with something bad — like cutting class…you know, skiving school? Well, there are many reasons, including (but not limited to) efficiency, effectiveness, sustainability. I won’t cover them all ‘coz I can’t be bovvered but I will tell you talk a bit about the ones that are easy to explain. Basically, it goes like this (I feel like Paul Graham waxing techno-philosophical here ):
Work that looks and feels hard pays in personal and social recognition; you get gold stars from yourself and society simply for being seen doing it. But work that looks and feels and is generally indistinguishable from play has to earn its keep; it has to (ultimately) get results. Any wageslave can walk into a swanky restaurant well-dressed, but it takes a real wealthy person with real charm to turn up in sweatpants. No one will fault you for taking a boring Japanese class even though they never freaking work, but if all you do is watch Samurai Champloo and eat Pocky all day, you will almost certainly have to answer for your playtime with some mad skillz.
Simple story, bro: Guilty → Fun → Addictive → Continue → Pwn
No decorative towels here. Since you’re focussed more on your fun than on social convention, you both shed and also outright avoid all kinds of dead weight. This means that all your tools have to earn their keep (you can tell I’m loving this phrase) — they actually have to contribute by making you want to use and interact with them. No boring textbooks for showing off to strangers at Starbucks. So, yeah, pretty much a rehash of the effectiveness argument. You get what you pay for, playa. Lay off me!
In closing! You shouldn’t feel guilty when you’re not doing Japanese 3. No, you should feel guilty when you’re doing Japanese. Right during the act. Not “oh no I suck” guilt; that. You want “OMG I can’t believe I get to do this I hope nobody sees me and I totally skimmed through these manga without looking up any words and oh crap I have a final project to do but I’ve spent the whole day in bed watching Samurai Champloo instead” guilt. If you’re feeling righteous, you’re doing it wrong.
So, back in Utah, I have a Japanese friend, Nanako, who knew me from when I basically knew no Japanese. Anyway, during the “hardcore phase” of AJATT, The Original Project if you will, there was a time where I was watching a lot of Japanese-dubbed South Park. A lot. As you might expect, I started talking like the kids in the show. But Nanako didn’t know that. She was just pleasantly shocked at how natural my speech had become, in a sort of “OMG! Where did you learn that?!” way. And, no, it wasn’t the swearing . It was little things like 「マジかよ」…
- Or…just titillated period? [NSFW] ↩
- Incomplete? Yes. Guilty? Absolutely not. ↩