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There Is Nothing To Believe In

In the game of getting used to a language…

Try not to have opinions. Opinions are for politicians and voters. Try not to have beliefs. Beliefs are for religions.

You’re an engineer. You’re a tinkerer. Tink. Tink. Tink. You have tools. You use tools to construct inevitable fluency — engineered inevitability.

There is nothing to believe in or opine about. Not in this game. If you want to believe, join a major religion. If you want to opine, go to a town hall meeting. If you want to have arguments, join a debate club.

And if you want to get used to a language, gather and play with tools. Tinker. Mix and match. Throw some away. Pick them up again. Change them. Mod them. Share them. Sell them.

Kids often ask me “Khatz, what’s your opinion on X?”. “What about this app?”
F### my opinion. My opinion can eat a dionions. Onions. Raw. Arngh. Bite into them like apples.
Either the tool works or it doesn’t. I’m handsome, but I’m not G-d. I’m not the Buddha. No, wait, no use being humble: I am the Buddha…’s younger brother, who stayed at home, in the palace, with the hookers and blow. Nirvana? I already live there. It’s called: “the palace” 😛 .

My buddhacial status notwithstanding, my opinion is just so much verbal flatulence, at the end of the day. And so is yours. All we have are the facts. Either the tool works or it doesn’t. Try it or don’t try it. Use it or don’t use it. Facts speak for themselves. There is nothing to believe in. Don’t be a believer. Don’t be a debater. Be a tinkerer.

Here’s my point. I’ve finally got the off-color religious humor out of my system. So here’s my point: you’re going to, at some point, run into an idea that people around you will think is crazy. One of these ideas might literally change the world of getting-used-to-languages. At the very least, it could change your life. But you’re not going to get to see this change if you’re always running to some authority to ask their opinion. I’ll give you my opinion, but…

Just…don’t be obsequious. Don’t be humble. Be courteous, but…inside, in your heart of hearts, don’t be humble. And this why I hate the JLPT.  I hate the attitude people. have toward it. I actually like tests; I (almost) love tests. But I don’t value tests above myself. I don’t think tests tell me anything about who I am. Indeed, tests are a better learning tool than an evaluation tool. Tests are just tools. Tools are not to be worshipped.

  5 comments for “There Is Nothing To Believe In

  1. December 29, 2011 at 02:52

    This reminds me of the concept (by Weber?) of listening to authority with a rational mind; authority should be there to keep everything in order, but if it asks you to do something that’s irrational, don’t do it… or something like that

  2. Caren
    December 29, 2011 at 07:01

    *nod* One of my favorite learning tools is a DS/ipod/iphone game called Shikakui Atama. Sadly, every site I’ve been to where people actually bother to rate games has low ratings for it (or no ratings) while other games like tadashii kanji and kanken get great ratings. If I listened to their opinions, I’d never have realized that shikakui atama fits my learning style way better than any other kanji game out there.

  3. Sholum
    December 31, 2011 at 10:29

    Okay Caren, you got me interested, so how good i- WAIT! What does it do differently than other learning games? I looked for information (for about five minutes…) but couldn’t find anything.

  4. Caren
    December 31, 2011 at 13:06

    Well I like it (especially the DS versions) because the sentences are more predictable. Each level has a set of sentences  that never changes. They’re all elementary-school level vocabulary. When you answer, you can see a definition of the word in question using an elementary-school level definition (in the old DS version, only when you get an answer wrong).

    It’s also shorter. Tadashii kanji takes FOREVER. A quiz is like 40 minutes long. Kanken is also quite long. The old DS version and the iOS version are 20 questions, the new DS version is 20 questions too but done only 5 at a time. This makes it ideal for short study bursts. 

    Also, having only 20 (or 5) questions rather than some of the long quizzes in the other games makes it less tiresome to input all the sentences into Anki.

    I guess the reason it’s so great for me is because it’s inferior in content to the others. There’s less pressure. The sentences are short. It’s easy to track what you’ve done. The vocabulary is easy. It’s multiple choice (old version and iOS version, new version isn’t.). However, just because it fits my style of learning, doesn’t guarantee it’ll fit yours – which was kind of the point of this ajatt post. However, you should give it a try. It runs well on emulators.

    The old DS version is only grades 1-3, the ipod version is grades 1-6, the new DS version is grades 1-6 and contains kanji (in the study section) and 4 other subjects in the actual learning section. The ipod has all those other subjects too individually, or you can buy the entire package for like 15$ I think. I only wanted the kanji, so I just downloaded that one.

    Other ds stuff worth trying: ukkari o nakusou (reading), kodomo no tame no yomi kikase 1 – 6 (listening)

    • Sholum
      December 31, 2011 at 14:26

      Thanks for the information! I will try it out. 
      I don’t have anything from Apple, so I’ll be trying the DS version.
      I find that the best way to find your optimal study routine is to ask several people what they do, try it, then toss it or modify it to work for you.
      The one thing that has always been a problem for me is getting demoralized by the amount of stuff I need to learn (this is my problem with kanji). I also am kind of lazy with using Anki, so less stuff to input would be good.
      I try to use as much ‘normal’ stuff to learn as possible. I actually have a couple of Japanese computer games, so I can usually recognize the ‘quit’ button and the ‘options’ button (‘options’ is a weird one. I’ve seen it in katakana as well as kanji). I don’t know how to pronounce them or what the individual kanji mean, but I know what the word means.

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