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The Anchors

I’m generally not one to buy into rules of thumb (at least I like to think so), but I’ll make an exception here.

I’ve found that one big secret to making immersion work is to make sure that it happens:

  1. Last thing at night, and
  2. First thing in the morning

What you do at these two times of day is valuable for several reasons, some stronger than others. (For one thing, listening while you sleep has been empirically shown to help learning. But I won’t waste your time trying to convince you with shaky, as-yet-inconclusive science). I’ll just say that in terms of just outward behavior patterns, those two “anchor points” do tend to set pattern for the rest of the day. Broadly speaking, the rest of one’s day often seems to run off of the inertia from these two times of day.

Focus your energy on managing your immediate environment, the 3-foot wide country that is you — especially at these two critical times — and you may well find that other things just naturally fall into place.

  32 comments for “The Anchors

  1. Leonardo Boiko
    March 16, 2011 at 00:08

    > I’m generally not one to buy into rules of thumb

    Oooh, I see what you did there.

  2. Jeff
    March 16, 2011 at 00:41

    I’ve been trying to do this lately. I bought an iPod-compatible alarm clock so that I can set it to sleep mode playing Japanese podcasts and wake up to Japanese podcasts.

    I too noticed that doing things at these two times tend to stick with me, especially the first thing I hear in the morning.

    The only problem is that it seems to keep me awake. I have trouble falling asleep as it is, and listening to much of anything makes it harder. But I listen for at least a few minutes before I turn it off and try to go to sleep.

  3. Chagami
    March 16, 2011 at 00:49

    I keep the audio on all night and it really does two things:

    1) It’s hard for me to get to sleep and I’m a light sleeper. So, over the course of a night, there’s probably the sum total of an hour that I’m awake (perfect time for study!)

    2) It’s just one less thing I have to do in order to get the environment going again in the morning. I think I’m passed the stage where I really have to struggle to keep the fire going, but still, I’m lazy 😛

    Also, I’d like to point out that I use my laptop’s speakers to stream out the audio, rather than headphones. It is literally impossible for me to sleep with headphones on, so using speakers seems to be great.

    As long as I keep the volume low, no one will even hear it outside my bedroom ..keep in mind though, I don’t sleep with anyone at night (I have a girlfriend, believe me!)

    • salem
      March 16, 2011 at 03:09

      This is the same reason I keep something on while asleep. Whether it has any effect in terms of “sleep learning” or not is totally peripheral to me: it just pays in that all I have to do when I wake up is hit the volume up a little higher. Who knows how many hours of listening I’ve packed in because I haven’t been going “Oh, I’ll just get breakfast/get dressed/clean my butt then I’ll put it on…”

    • 魔法少女☆かなたん
      March 16, 2011 at 14:49

      I keep a notebook computer to listen to stuff while I’m going to sleep.

      This was more because I sleep better with something to listen to, rather than silence, which can get somewhat irritating at times. I found the internet broadcast of a radio station which I’ve come to love, which generally plays a mix of enka, pop music and talk shows, so I just leave that on.

      I don’t know if there’s a such thing as sleep learning, and frankly, I can’t be bothered to find out at the moment, but it doesn’t really matter.

      • March 17, 2011 at 00:45

        Which radio station is that? Do share.

        • 魔法少女☆かなたん
          March 17, 2011 at 09:04

          It’s FM-HANAKO in Moriguchi. At first, I was listening to another station, FM-JAGA in Obihiro, which was okay, and tried a few others which I didn’t enjoy as much, but this one was the best I’ve found.

          Internet broadcast times are around 6:40 to 19:00 (in Japan, which is late afternoon/night for me), with repeats of some of the programmes at other times. At off times, you get a kind of soft instrumental music in place of their regular broadcast.

  4. Mattholomew III, Esquire
    March 16, 2011 at 06:59

    Harry Potter audiobooks. French. Every night.

    This s**t works.

    • March 16, 2011 at 07:32

      Mind telling me where you got them? All I need is the (internet) location of (Japanese) audiobooks, and I’m set. 😀

      • kalek
        March 16, 2011 at 10:44

        While I am also very interested in getting Japanese Harry Potter audiobooks by way of digital downloads, I’m not sure if Mattholomew III is the one to ask.

        He appears to be learning French 😉

        • Rebecca C
          March 16, 2011 at 12:04

          Certain torrent sites may have what you are looking for. Horribly illegal though, I’d never condone that. 😉

          My husband falls asleep listening to the German Harry Potter books, so most of the time I’m stuck listening to that rather than Japanese. I think we are going to have to start taking turns.

          • March 16, 2011 at 20:52

            I would, but I want be in accord with the law. ;D Even if I WANTED to ( 😉 ), I don’t have the resources to download it.

            I tried Amazon and all the others as such. But they are wayyyy too expensive. Reason I never bought audiobooks in English in the first place.

            But thank you!

      • Sam2
        March 26, 2011 at 05:29

        try this one:
        it’s podcasts in japanese spoken lightly and with much grace by a native speaker. she has the most memorable voice in my opinion –
        and there are lots and lots of classic poems and books to pick from (legally),
        and, I believe, you can also download the files.

    • Stephanie
      March 17, 2011 at 01:17

      Where’d you get the French Harry Potter audiobooks?

  5. March 16, 2011 at 13:12

    I like the idea of anchors on each end of the day. Looking forward to putting it into practice for myself and sharing it with others. It seems a great thought in thinking about creating a personal culture of language learning, of getting the idea of identifying as a language learner into the deep, into the DNA of who I am. Thanks for sharing it!

  6. March 16, 2011 at 15:15

    I have definitely found that working on whatever language I’m learning first thing in the morning with my coffee is one of the best times of day to do it, I noticed this a couple years ago. Good one.

    Right before bed, though? Nah, waaaay too tired, I couldn’t possibly concentrate enough.


    • March 16, 2011 at 20:47

      I found this: reading until you’re breakneck tired in L2, has the same effect. I still have L2 memories from before I fell asleep.

  7. March 17, 2011 at 03:40

    Except ‘all Japanesee NEWS all the time’ is making me crazy. I gotta’ go back to anime, I think.

  8. ahnaka0
    March 17, 2011 at 06:29

    For some strange reason I’ve found watching the live NHK stream on NicoNico one of the most enjoyable things. And I hate watching the news in English. hmm…

  9. Aziz
    March 17, 2011 at 06:54

    I started doing the whole immersion thing a month ago and i still haven’t seen any results so far,most the japanese i know has come from conventional ways like books and dictionaries,or is too early to expect results?

    • kalek
      March 18, 2011 at 01:38

      If by results you mean “I can understand EVERYTHING” or “I can speak VERY FLUENTLY (or at all, given where you are)”, then yes, it’s probably too early.

      Can you pick out a word every once in a while now? Does the language sound less impossible (i.e., you can discern sounds more than you could before, making things sound less like a “blur”)? Are the Kanji/Kana becoming more familiar to your eyes, even if you still can’t do anything more than spot the Kanji you know from RtK and try to come up with their meanings? If so, you’re making progress.

      Just worry about having fun in Japanese and making progress, and everything else will fall into place ;D

    • Jason
      March 18, 2011 at 06:05

      Are you watching Japanese shows that you’re interested in? If not, you’ll tend to forget it soon.

    • salem
      March 18, 2011 at 06:05

      The immersion will honestly take a long time to ramp up, but you won’t get fluent in the language (especially in understanding) without it. My recommendation: how many hours of listening are you pulling per day?

    • Chagami
      March 18, 2011 at 08:39

      I’m nearing two months into my immersion process and I feel the exactly the same way, and actually, the “why don’t I understand?” feeling gets worse in the second month!

      It seems that in the first month, the results are more obvious than the second. Going from absolutely nothing to something is a huge jump, compared to going from only knowing a few words to only knowing a few more.

      In fact, I may actually have started to feel despair at this point if I didn’t have a moment to seriously reflect on what I know in Japanese last weekend.

      I was talking to my Mum about learning Japanese, and I was trying to show her 1) why textbooks are pointless, 2) how adult learners actually have an advantage to young children because we understand concepts, and 3) how we pick out words from hearing them over and over.

      After I finished my spiel, I looked back on my examples I gave her and thought, “Jeez, I actually know a fair bit!”

      So yeah, I’d like you to think about what you mean by “results”. If you want proof that immersion works; have you learned any new words at all? Chances are you have, and there’s your results. But if you mean actually understanding a decent amount; then yes, way too early.

      Just sit back and have fun!

      …which actually brings me to my own issue (I’ll have to eat a bit of crow now :P)

      I’ve been having so much fun just watching anime, listening to music, and other audio/video that I’ve been neglecting my Kanji study.

      I’m working on Heisig, and although I still do a fair amount of SRS reps every day, I’ve neglected learning new Kanji. This is directly being caused by my up-and-coming anime addiction. Anyone have any thoughts on what I should do?

      • kurac
        March 18, 2011 at 08:49

        learn more kanji, duh.

      • kalek
        March 18, 2011 at 12:47

        If you’re on your computer a lot, set up some sort of automation to open your SRS every 15 or 20 or 30 minutes, do some small, easy, specified amount of reps (I do 5 reps in Surusu in a random deck; I’d do a 1-2 minute time box in Anki if I used it anymore), and then go back to whatever you were doing before. This way, you can do lots of reps in one day, but concentrate more on immersion.

        If you use Windows, check out the software at , specifically Karen’s Countdown Timer 2.

        If you use a Mac or Linux, use crontab ( ) to do the same thing. I use this setup on a Mac combined with a script that will open a random deck in Surusu in Chrome. The best thing about this setup is the SRS doesn’t take focus when it opens, so if I am watching a movie full screen, the SRS won’t bother me. But, if I’m browsing the Internet or listening to music or doing something else that doesn’t require my complete attention, it’s easy to switch to the SRS, do a few reps, and switch back to whatever I was doing before.

        If you (or anyone else for that matter) want this, but need more help with the setup, email me — kalek197 [at] gmail [dot] com. I’ll be more of a help if you’re a Mac user (since I already have a working setup for myself), but I’m sure we can figure out something for Windows ;D.

    • 魔法少女☆かなたん
      March 18, 2011 at 08:45

      Let me tell you a story.

      I didn’t start the immersion thing on purpose. I didn’t read this blog (which I only found last year) and decide it was a good idea. I wasn’t even really trying to learn a language at first.

      It just kind of happened.

      I was only listening to music at first. And then I wondered, what are the words to this? Can I sing along? I heard certain words frequently, and tried to find out what they mean.

      It was like a snowball rolling down a hill, and it’s only grown bigger and bigger since then. It’s become an essential part of my life now.

      However, I’ve certainly felt like I haven’t progressed much in terms of understanding at times. So, not too long ago, I ended up watching a couple of movies in Hungarian, a language I don’t know at all. I couldn’t understand a thing, or even make out any words, although it was still pretty fun. The difference was striking, though.

      The fact is, you *don’t* see results. They just happen.

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