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The Immersion Environment: Rome wasn’t built in a day…But this isn’t Rome, so a week should totally do…

OK. Let’s talk more about your immersion environment for languages in general and Japanese in particular. From what I hear, this self-immersion thing is a bit of lifestyle change that some people have trouble with. And I can see why, so here are some tips on how to make the transition smoother. This is going to be quick and dirty, so here goes:

Before you jump, make sure you have somewhere to land
Today must be Trite Wisdom Day or something because I’m full of old adages. Anyway, here goes: nature abhors a vacuum. When you want to Japanize your environment/de-English your environment, you need something to de-English to. If you give up watching non-Japanese movies, do you have Japanese movies to watch? If you give up non-Japanese music, do you have Japanese beats to which to bop your head in rhythmic fashion? If you give up your English-speaking friends and online acquaintances, do you have Japanese acquaintances to “replace” them with? (Note: I’m not saying you should dump your English-speaking friends. But if they make fun of you, and try to stop you, and just generally get in the way, then they must stand down as you stand up to Japanese. Set them aside. If they’re real friends, they’ll understand, and they’ll be there when you come back. They may even follow you into Japanese!)

Do one thing at a time, one day at a time
Trying to change your environment in a single day is like transplanting an organ, in that your psychological “immune system” will just reject it (拒絶反応). It’s too much shock. Emotionally, I don’t think most people can just cut themselves off that way in a single day. But a week, a week’s enough. Two weeks is MORE than enough. So change out all your music one day, and nothing else. Next day, do the movies. Then, the posters on your wall. The books on your shelf. Et cetera! Either way, make sure you do something every day, just don’t try to do too much in one day.

Don’t just put it away, get rid of it
So where do you put the artifacts of your pre-immersion life? Where do you put your English-language stuff? In a closet somewhere? No. You get rid of it. Mp3s? Delete them. DVDs? Scratch, sell or slice them apart. Posters? Post them to someone else. Get rid of it. Delete, destroy, dispose. Suggestions: Sell that stuff on ebay and reinvest the funds in Japanese-language materials. Or, trade it with a kid from Japan who wants to learn English. I know it’s hard to give it up. I know you were or are a huge “Self” fan, and you’ve been in love with their music ever since you heard “Stay Home” on the closing credits of the first Shrek, and you loved their music even more when you found out they’d made an album using only toy instruments. I know, okay? I know! But dang it, son! (and I mean “son” in the unisex sense). This is about learning Japanese. Japanese is your life now. Japanese is your future. And you’re not about to give it up — you’re not about to let it go — in a moment of nostalgic weakness that leads to an all-night marathon of playing Michael Jackson music going all the way to back to when he was black — not that I would know. This is too important for that. You want Japanese too much. So let go. Get rid of the “Self” albums. Put down the ranger, and become who you were born to be. Become Japanese.

If you don’t yet know all the dialogue and the lyrics, then it’s still worth repeating
Don’t use “lack of equipment” as an excuse to not get going. If you’re assembling Japanese-language tools, either do it quickly and in large volume, or use what little is at hand. Time is slipping through your hands, so use it wisely. Time is precious; it is perhaps the only thing you cannot take back. Money can be earned. Marriages can be repaired (lol — warning: do not take relationship advice from me). But time, once it’s gone, it’s gone. So don’t sit there thinking “Man, if only I had more stuff, then I could really get my Japanese on”. GET more stuff now, or USE what you have. Remember, if you still don’t know all the dialogue to that one movie or all the lyrics to that one song by heart, then it still warrants repeating. I don’t care if you’re bored and have seen or watched it a thousand times. Listen to it more carefully; try to pick out something new; I guarantee you’ll learn something. Of course, don’t go around being bored forever, that’s a recipe for disaster, do get something new to watch or listen to. But no excuses. Start now.

Get it
Is it in Japanese? Then get it. Most of my American friends don’t have this problem, but if, like me, you were raised by what can only be politely described as a frugal mother, then spending money on anything but the bare essentials is hard for you. I still don’t go to restaurants, and even when I do, I just sit there without ordering anything (it’s a sight to behold, my tableful of friends will be eating food and I’ll be reading a comic book).

Get it. Get the book, get the movie. Even if you don’t understand it yet. At first, just having it around you will be motivating. It’ll be another reminder of your goal and your future. Eventually you will actually understand it, either by working through it directly, or as a by-product of your sentence-mining and reading of other materials. To use a personal example — I had collected a lot of Japanese comics like Neon Genesis Evangelion long before I could really work through them or understand them in any meaningful way. Their very presence was a reminder of the joy I would be having one day. It was a reminder of the reason why I had really wanted to learn Japanese in the first place (yes, to read comics). Today of course, I can pick up a new comic I’ve never seen before and read it cover to cover the same day — like the dude said, in order to do something with ease, you must first do it with difficulty.

Now, we’re not all well-monied all the time. If you’re on a tight budget, do use a resource like your local library. But when and where the library fails you, loosen the pursestrings a bit. Ultimately, this is an investment; it really is. Your skill in Japanese can and will pay you back in cold, hard cash money bills. So pay up front for it. I know it hurts, but do it anyway.

Of course, this is not license to be financially irresponsible; we all need to be grown-ups about how we handle our business. But I am saying that money spent on Japanese-learning materials is money spent wisely; it is a worthy expense. Yes, that includes the Japanese dub of Independence Day. If nothing else, you’ve got to hear what they did with Will Smith’s voice.

Anyway, that’s all from me for now.

  33 comments for “The Immersion Environment: Rome wasn’t built in a day…But this isn’t Rome, so a week should totally do…

  1. Saru Sponge
    May 23, 2007 at 13:22

    I’ve been slack with setting up my Japanese Learning Environment. But you’re right. If I don’t jump into it now, I’ll regret it in the future. I’m still getting through Heisig’s Kanji at the moment. Made it up to 500 in just over a month. It’s taking a long time, and I’m plodding through it, but I feel a lot more comfortable with writing the kanji than I ever did before.

    Thanks for your advice. It is worth sticking to.

  2. Christina
    May 24, 2007 at 10:19

    Hey! Thanks for making this topic. I am having such a hard time getting immersed.. but now I think it will be easier. Your site totaly rocks my life by the way.


  3. khatzumoto
    May 24, 2007 at 12:43

    Saru Sponge–500 in a month is really good progress! Congratulations!
    Christina–thank YOU 🙂

  4. Saru Sponge
    May 24, 2007 at 19:30

    I hope so. The stories have kind of started melting together in my head, so I’m taking a week off to revise everything. Ha!

    Christina is right. This site is fast becoming the only English site I go to. It’s hard to wean myself off English, and I’ve had a few false starts, but I’m persevering.

  5. May 24, 2007 at 21:05

    Saru Sponge:
    I can’t recommend the following site enough for helping you with Heisig’s Kanji book. It shedules your kanji reviews to make the most use of your time, and people share stories for later in the book when Heisig stops giving them to you.

  6. Jonathan DeSousa
    September 5, 2007 at 10:06

    My reading skills in Japanese are pretty poor just yet, but I want to learn. And I must want to start (better now then later). Unfortunately, I am not familiar with manga. Could you recommend some reading materials for me? My reading level is currently about JLPT 3ish. I would like to read something that is stimulating, but not overly difficult. I picked up a manga called Doraemon and I can understand a good bit of it, but it is incredibly simple in terms of its plot. I also have read some of the first book of Dragonball, which isn’t bad. I am also just over 1/2 way through RTK1 so I can at least get an idea of some of what I see. I know that I need to work more on informal, though as i get tripped up in that some. Also, I live about 20 miles from Sasuga Bookstore in MA. I can easily get there on weekends to pick up any recommendations you might have. Any help would be greatly appreciated.


  7. khatzumoto
    September 5, 2007 at 10:17

    Let me answer your question with questions.

    What do YOU like? What are YOU interested in? What are the kinds of books that you read in English? What shows do you watch? What are your favorite anime?

    I say this because…I have very specific tastes (not good tastes, just specific ones :D), so other people’s recommendations may bounce off me and vice versa.

    The fact that you are really, really interested in a book (and/or have prior knowledge of its contents gained from other sources) can trump any apparent difficulty…
    So, what matters most is what Jon DeSousa likes.

    Anyway, let me know your answers to the questions.

  8. Jonathan DeSousa
    September 5, 2007 at 21:26

    Hi Khatsumoto-san,

    My reasons for studying Japanese are two-fold. First, I simply love the culture and would like to enjoy it more, in its own language. Second, I study Iaido and Kendo, Japanese Sword-related martial arts. I have many books by some of the greatest iaidoka but I can’t understand much of the writings and can only use the photos for reference. I want to be able to read all of it.

    Manga is for me a stepping stone to help me improve my Japanese literacy, but from what I read with Dragonball, I may actually enjoy it as a distinct hobby in and of it self. I am more into history and historical fiction and so, any manga related to samurai would be interesting. Again, I don’t really know of any manga (outside of those that I already read), but I am also looking for something in my reading level so that I am not so overwhelmed that I give up on day 1. Is there anything in particular that you might suggest?

    Thanks again,


  9. khatzumoto
    September 6, 2007 at 10:11

    I looked up a list of kendoh manga on Wikipedia Japan.
    I limited the list to 少年 manga…that is, the kind targeted towards young people (and that are therefore full of furigana; furigana on every character). This is what I came up with (I’ve never read any of these, by the way, just looked at the descriptions).

    • おれは鉄兵(ちばてつや) [オレ ハ テッペイ (チビ テツヤ)] Ore wa Teppei (CHIBI Tetsuya)
    • 旋風の橘(猪熊しのぶ) [カゼ ノ タチバナ (イノクマ シノブ)] Kaze no Tachibana (INOKUMA Shinobu)
    • 六三四の剣(村上もとか) [ムサシ ノ ケン (ムラカミ モトカ)] Musashi no Ken (MURAKAMI Motoka)

    I would actually recommend you get Doraemon as well (if you like it) because it is so simple. Simple, predictable things are great when you’re just wanting to get your foot in the door…

  10. Jonathan DeSousa
    September 6, 2007 at 12:02

    Hi Khatsumoto-san,

    Thanks for the recommendations. I will get some more doraemon and I have seen Ore wa Teppei at Sasuga. I’ll look for these others as well. I think that 少年 manga will be fine. I actually am finding that reading manga like doraemon that are full of hiragana are actually more difficult to understand than ones with kanji. At least with kanji, I can infer the meaning; however, with hiragana, I’ve got nothing, and I don’t even have a great way to look it up in the dictionary. I’ll pick up some good stuff when Sasuga is open next weekend.

    Thanks again.

  11. noah
    October 10, 2007 at 03:36


    I hope this hasn’t been answered yet, but there is a lot of information to sift through on this site.

    Because your method begins with creating an immersion environment, and because it is after a multi-month method of learning the Kanji before the sentence-into-SRS phase begins, what is the best thing to do while working through the Kanji, if anything?

    I am listening to music, watching movies, etc…that is fine, and I am becoming used to the new sounds, but I have as yet not tried to parse and understand anything being said, as I have not finished RTK. Should I be working through some of the audio in Kana?


  12. khatzumoto
    October 10, 2007 at 03:38

    >what is the best thing to do while working through the Kanji, if anything?
    Yeah, just build and maintain that environment.

  13. jonasan sure-ki-
    December 3, 2008 at 22:15

    So this is from way long ago and you may never read this comment Khatzu, BUT… it’s related to immersion environment so i’m posting it anyway.

    i’m an ALT (on the JET program) who was shown your website by a senpai. From the moment I read the first sweet, sweet line, I knew I was hooked. BUT. I’m an ALT. And I take ESL very seriously. As in, it’s very important that my students are receiving quality English instruction, such that I spend most of my day on the computer researching in ENGLISH. Sure my office buddies are chattering away in Japanese, but I’d be fooling myself if I said that it was anything but background noise to me. Other than at work your website, remembering the kanji, or my girlfriend are the only sources of English that tend to disturb my Japanese immersion. What do you think? Since so much of my time is spent at work, I *want* that environment to be Japanese as well. I’m sure there are texts in Japanese about ESL, but the amount of time it would require me to parse through those articles would significantly lower my productivity (which is already not kanpeki). Based on your own experiences, what would you recommend doing? I know you took notes in Japanese, was there a point where you searched for textbooks in Japanese as well? Or did you stop the immersion at note-taking? Are there other ALTs who frequent this site that have recommendations?

  14. Jack
    January 18, 2009 at 23:42

    Thanks so much for this Site Khatz but i hasve a couple problems #1 most gigantic problem is im only 14 and i have no money so i rely on lime wire and bittorrent to get all the materials and unfourtunately for me my mom is the hot tempered puertorican budget cutting type and 2 ive never taken a clas and dont speak a lick of jpapanese exept for the basics and was wonder ing in addition to immersion if i should use rosseta stone in my regimne before my kanji if its any use what are your thoughts ETC. but otther than that this site is really good and really psychological i always thought language is like learning the guitar because the only real way to lean is to feel it its not a technical thing you just become the guitar an extension of your body just like language is an extension of your mind

  15. Mikomi Rae
    April 6, 2009 at 02:49

    I have some anime and stuff that I bought as a teenager that I can use to study, but I really would like to take your suggestion and trade a bunch of my English stuff with Japanese versions. Any idea where/how I can do something like that? I know there are sites like swaptree, but that’s just exchanging English books for English books, really… Thanks!

  16. kyoushou
    September 10, 2009 at 11:23

    Get it. Get the book, get the movie. Even if you don’t understand it yet. At first, just having it around you will be motivating. It’ll be another reminder of your goal and your future.

    whoa,senpai is also an EVA fan! nice
    i guess im on the right track because i collect Japanese PS2 games specially EVA and those Super Robot Wars, which i really wanted to play with just barely reading and understanding it.

  17. spencer
    November 4, 2009 at 09:59

    Wow, this article really helped me with the immersion process. I like the “Before you jump, make sure you have somewhere to land” Idea. No sense in starting without the actual materials to replace it with!

    Great post!

  18. March 18, 2010 at 16:37

    You may never read this, since it was posted a million years ago, but I just thought I’d brag here, since you mentioned them a couple times in this article…I grew up rocking out with Matt Mahaffey and the other guys in the band Self. When I was like 16 their first album dropped and this girl I *knew* (–like in a biblical sense lol) was good friends with Matt’s sister or cousin, so I got to go to house parties at Matt’s house like every weekend while they were just starting to get big (I’m talking back when Cannon was just blowing up on the radios in the Nashville area). They used to put me on the list at the local bars they played like “Tha Boro” and “Wall Street” so I could come watch their shows despite being REALLY underage and looking about 12. Anyways, its just fun to have bragging rights about something, yeah? I actually burned out on their music years ago, so it definitely isnt a huge temptation to my environment, like it apparently was for someone… But, they were (are?) a great band, and Matt is a really cool, down to earth guy. Cool enough to let a kid hang out with a bunch of guys on their way up as rock stars, even if they have always remained moderately “underground”.

  19. khatzumoto
    March 18, 2010 at 16:46

    But if I…were married to a movie star… 😀

  20. cm
    June 10, 2010 at 03:10

    This is probably a stupid question, but I can’t seem to get access to anywhere that sells movies dubbed into Hindi (the language I am learning). I have Bollywood movies and I’m watching them, but I would love some American movies that I already know the plot of in Hindi. I’ve tried Ebay, Google searches, etc. but all the places that dub movies into Hindi only sell them in India. Any suggestions?

  21. yoshi_in_black
    October 27, 2010 at 22:27

    Well, for me changing my enviroment to Japanese was kind of natural I’d say.
    Since the first time I watched Anime in Japanese Dub I prefered it that way. Since the time 6 yrs ago when I borrowed my first Japanese CD, my collection of Japanese music is growing constantly and listening to English music is kinda strange for me now.^^
    A friend of mine found this page and now I’m reading many Manga in Japanese and, because I’m too lazy to look everything up I don’t understand, one time in English too.
    What I also do is playing much Audiosurf, since that way I listen to Japanese music and play at the same time.

  22. Kimura
    October 16, 2011 at 13:40

    “Become who you were born to be. Become Japanese.” BEST. ADVICE. EVER.
    Anyway, definitely some great tips here; the only problem I have in implementing them (besides chronic お金がない) is I’m not old enough to move out yet. So the only place I can actually change all the way is my laptop, and even then it’s semi-limited for technical reasons (programs only having English versions, font fail, etc). Definitely going to try, anyway… 頑張ってね?

  23. Kai
    October 1, 2012 at 09:35

    Has anyone thought of this program…
    when you are browsing on the internet, the program would
    translate the most common 5 – 10 words(verbs adjective, adverbs, nouns only)
    into your L2 using google translate. Then everyday, or after a certain amount
    of time has passed 4-8hrs of reading, the program adds a few more words to
    the list of what gets translated. This keeps going till all words that can be
    translated are translated.
    just an Idea and if anyone decides to do it please let me know.
    I think it would make learning through reading easier because you would
    be learning the L2 words through context or by google translate if you need to.
    It would be a painless way to acquire literacy in a language with a
    completely different writing system.

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