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.
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.