Too Much Technique, Too Little Volume: それ以前の問題

This entry is part 11 of 11 in the series Mediocre Excellence

“…beautiful things grow out of s##t”
~Brian Eno, Composer

Adults focus too much on technique and too little on volume. Too much on technique and too little on frequency. Too much on technique, too little on consistency. Too much technique, too little exposure.

There’s a word for this in Japanese (isn’t there always?). Well, a phrase: それ以前の問題(それいぜんのもんだい/sore izen no mondai). It means: “Dude, that’s not even your freaking problem”. It means: “Dude, you don’t even have the precursors to be having that problem”.

You go to the rink. Everyone’s freaking out about skating right, knee bend, not falling, going backwards. Good. Great. That’s nice. But you know what? None of that is an issue because most people — adults and children — simply have not skated enough ice kilometers, have not been on the ice enough times, for their technique to be an issue. It’s それ以前の問題.

You go to any discussion about how to “learn” (i.e. get used to) Japanese. Real life or online, take your pick: they’re equally asinine. There’s always a sizeable faction of richardheads waiting to whip out their junk and mind-molest you with the idea that “anime is bad for your Japanese”.

‘TF? Yeah, and maybe yellow isn’t a good color for that homeless guy’s skin tone, but you know what? That’s not even his freaking problem.  Sore izen no mondai, son. First, he needs a coat. You can go all Queer Eye on him later.

A recklessly adventurous Frenchman has been lost in the North African desert for five days without water. You find him in his car, lips chapped. Sunburned beyond French recognition. He’s been drinking  his own urine since Wednesday. He turns to you and goes “please, water, s’il vous plaît”. You reach into your bag and hand him a bottle of Volvic. And he looks up, smiles and goes “Mmmmyeah, I’m more an Evian man. Volvic’s kinda bitter.”

Crazy, right? Insane, right? Impossible, right? Madness 1, right?

I wish it were. The truth is, crap like this happens every day. Thirsty, pee-drinking Frenchmen rejecting Volvic left and right.

You are a pee-drinking Frenchman. Yes, you. I am a pee-drinking Frenchman. We are all pee-drinking Frenchmen. Even chicks. You’ve been living in a Japaneseless desert your whole life until now. No water — no Japanese — to drink. Not a drop. But now you’ve reached this massive oasis. It’s called Japanese pop culture. It’s got all kinds of flavors — manga, anime, videos of your Mom, I dunno.

And some faggot 2fellow of questionable awesomeness on the Internet is telling you not to drink the water because “it’s got sugar in it; it’s fattening”. And you’re going to listen to him?

Do you know why kids get good at things? I’ll tell you why. Because they don’t know how to get into their own way yet. And adults — parents — are generally so happy to have the “rugrats” 3 out of sight and out of trouble that they just leave them alone; they don’t interfere. They don’t start teaching technique unless and until the kids have a foundation of play and raw exposure.

Yukio FURUICHI puts it best. Apparently, he’s really good at English. He learned AJATT/AntiMoon style — by watching Friends. A lot of Japanese adults come to him for advice on how to learn (i.e. “get used to” English). They want methods and tools and techniques and tips and pointers and hacks. He tells them (I’m paraphrasing): your problem isn’t technique. It wouldn’t matter which method you used: none of them would work, because you simply physically have not been and are not being exposed to enough English. Your raw exposure time[, volume and frequency] is pitiful.

First of all, anime is fine for your Japanese. Trust me. Ask my friends who are learning Hebrew: they wish they had anime. If you’re into anime, watch the heck out of it. But even if anime were bad for your Japanese — which it isn’t — but even if it were…you are that homeless guy freaking out over wallpaper colors. Beige or off-white? Who PHEQUING cares? それ以前の問題だろ!Get a house first. Get exposed to Japanese first. Be a jerk about wallpaper later.

Does this make sense? Am I making sense? I’m still standing here with my keyboard on my lap (standing with my keyboard on my lap, yes…crazy anatomy here). I’m still sitting here with my junk in my hand, because…because I know I haven’t quite gotten across to you what’s in my head here. And I don’t know that I can; I don’t know if I can, but…I’m gonna try anyway.

Are you going to willingly starve to death unless you get caviar? I mean, does it have to be slimy, salty fish eggs for you or nothing else (!!!)? Because that’s what most people who are rejecting anime and showing up and passive listening are doing. Please, at least consider this tuna sandwich. Consider this bottle of Evian.

Supposedly, there’s some form of “real”, “proper”, “correct”, “gourmet”, perfect, inhumanely slaughtered veal/foie gras/Fendi-mink-chinchilla-rabbit-mix-fur-stole version of Japanese that exists somewhere, and nothing but this form of Japanese will do, and anime definitely the HECK isn’t it and if you don’t have that exact Fendi stole then you might as well freeze to death; you might as well kill your Japanese baby; you might as well let Japanese die for you.

That kind of junk is what grown-ups do every day.

Stop trying to skate right. Just go to the rink. Quality comes from quantity, not the other way around. Quality is the cream that bubbles up from quantity. Awesomeness comes from mediocrity — mediocre- and even crap-looking regularity and showing up. Cream comes from milk.

Don’t do well. Don’t do it right. One is better than none. Just show up.

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  2. don’t worry — it’s OK for me to say it because I’m black…and also a closet homosexual…I make products with “spoon” in the name; there’s gotta be fire to that smoke. right? I mean, believe you me, I wish I could say “no homo” here, but, frankly, there may very well be homo.
  3. I mean, think about it: “rats”! LoL. It’s like they’re vermin! It’s as though parents think their kids are form of household pest!

  14 comments for “Too Much Technique, Too Little Volume: それ以前の問題

  1. ナカツ
    February 29, 2012 at 00:09

    “Does this make sense? Am I making sense?”
    Yes! :-)
    Now where’s my bottle of Japanese pee…

    • February 29, 2012 at 03:37

      *wheeze* “Is it made from the urine of Japanese alpine skiers? No? I’ll pass.” *hack*

  2. デウィット
    February 29, 2012 at 00:41

    Yellow is problem for the homeless man’s skin; Jandice.

  3. Freddy
    February 29, 2012 at 02:34

    Good one to get the day going!
    I need some piss… straight from the source, yo! 

  4. Q
    February 29, 2012 at 04:54

    Great post Khatzumoto!

  5. ガイ
    February 29, 2012 at 05:12

    Yey for Hebrew!!
    אבל למה שמישהו ירצה ללמוד עברית? 
    Nice post khatz (*adding phrase into SRS*) 

  6. ライトニング
    February 29, 2012 at 08:00

    Where can I find meanings of sayings without having to find an english translation? I try searching for the sayings and no explanation is ever in japanese. :(

  7. February 29, 2012 at 11:58

    You see this with other languages as well, not so much the phenomenon you see with Japanese about people not wanting to use children’s media like cartoons and what-not (most people, I’ve found, really like the idea of using that stuff for Spanish since it’s simple and fun), but what you DO see are people who constantly think they’re “not quite ready yet” to start talking to people, especially native speakers, in Spanish (or whatever).
    Look, they are gonna KNOW that you’re not a native speaker, there’s no getting around it, and…look, when you’re listening to someone who’s native language isn’t English speak English, are you or are you not generally inclined to cut them a LOT of slack when it comes to their command of the language? Exactly, the fact that they’ve managed to get where they are, wherever that is, alone is impressive enough and deserving of congratulations.  Speakers of other languages (except maybe Parisians with regards to French) will all have the same attitude towards you when you try to talk to them.
    This goes doubly so for English speakers, and TRIPLY so if for American English-speakers, because English-speakers in general and Americans in particular are the last people in the world known for their foreign language skills, so when a Spanish-speaker or Japanese person or whatever meets an English speaker (yes they can tell by your accent and, probably, by how you look), particularly an American, who speaks ANY of their language, they’re generally impressed and flattered.
    Dude, no one’s going to call you stupid or incompetent just because you don’t have a perfect, native-level command of their language (except maybe the French and only in Paris–but, to be fair, the rest of France hates the Parisians as much as anybody else, it’s kind of the national sport there).
    START TALKING TO PEOPLE.  No, it won’t hurt anything, plus it’s easy and free to do from home thanks to the plethora of language exchanges available online now and the fact that English is the most popular second language in the world right now (meaning everybody wants to learn it) which means that YOU’LL have no trouble finding someone willing to talk to you in their language in exchange for you talking to them in English for the same amount of time (that’s how language exchanges work).

  8. March 1, 2012 at 00:37

    This, people, is why AJATT is about so much more than just Japanese.

  9. Spot53
    March 1, 2012 at 10:21

    This is one of those moments when you want to make out with and then profess your eternal love to a blogger. I want to say this to so many people in my life. Quantity trumps quality everytime…unless you are attempting to disarm an active WMD…which (statistically) you are not.

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