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Unclean! Why Would AJATT Do A Tie-in With Other People’s Stuff?

Unclean! Why would AJATT do a tie-in with other people’s stuff? Isn’t AJATT the Supreme Truth?

Well, of course it is. That’s beyond question. Of course no truth can ever compare to the sublime beauty of AJATT. Wait, is that throw-up in your mouth? Are you OK?

At the same time, John, Benny and I have perspectives that are similar enough to be compatible, yet different enough to be very useful to you.

Even though AJATT is the Supreme Truth, it’s important to come into contact with Other Truths. Even AJATT has blindspots (gasp?). John and Benny give you rich detail in areas that AJATT skips over — for example, John’s guide really holds your hand and takes you through the latest digital resources; it’s comprehensive in an area where I just “pull a Linux” and blow people off.

John and Benny think thoughts that I never done thunk. They see things that I never done seen. This can only help you.

John and Benny are also clear, cut-to-the-chase and…sane. ← Yeah…I’m not so into that side of things.


Dependency on one source — even when that source is the Supreme Truth that is AJATT — is a form information tyranny. It’s also the source of a lot of unnecessary pain: it tends to produce dogmatic behavior. People take a minor piece of AJATT, view that piece as gospel, and proceed to hurt themselves with it.

Case in point: people thinking that they have to do 50 sentences a day just because that number comes up in AJATT. The truth is, I just threw that number out there as an example of what’s possible, not as something that’s “required”, necessary or even probable. I didn’t really give it much thought. But who knows how many Na’vi my innocent, off-the-cuff metric has killed!?

In school, I never depended solely on the assigned textbook; I always bought, brought along and used one or two extra references of my own. The different books complemented each other. They compensated for each other’s weaknesses and multiplied each other’s strengths. Often, all you need to get the most out of an idea is to hear two different explanations of it.

When you can view AJATT — and indeed any other set of ideas — as just one bright star in a constellation, then AJATT can take its proper place. You can more clearly see where the common threads are; you can more easily see what’s necessary versus what’s optional and open to interpretation. You see that there are many ways to skin the proverbial cat, and this helps you skin your cats better 1. This democracy of ideas enables you to pick, choose and customize your learning process with more success and confidence.

The world of language learning is plagued by dogma. People cling to other people’s ideas with religious zeal. That would be fine were it not for the fact that it doesn’t help. It just creates unnecessary acrimony over what are ultimately minutiae.

Since language acquisition is not a religion, we can be agnostic about it; we can be open-minded and relativistic about it. We can pick and choose. We can use whatever works no matter where it comes from. There is beauty and value in contradicting and contrasting ideas. In language learning, there is no set of ideas so perfect that it can’t benefit from another set of ideas.

Electic, Syncretic, Intergalactic

AJATT is very eclectic. Eclectic and syncretic. And intergalactic. Krashen, AntiMoon, Heisig, Wozniak, Bandura, Hawk, Koch, Lao Zi (!), to name but a few —  all are combined here. AJATT is made up of pieces that no one else had ever put together, pieces that many people didn’t think belonged together. And that’s where its power lies — in its flexibility. Anything that works can be AJATT. No matter where it comes from.

So, for example, while AJATT is largely biased towards input, it also draws a lot of inspiration from output-based work like that of Hawk and Benny the Irish Polyglot.

Why? Because output-based methods have an urgency and an economy about them that I feel is very valuable. “Quick and dirty” output-based methods:

  • Teach you to be efficient, effective and decisive.
  • Teach you to prioritize, to worry less, to first learn the parts of the language that give you quickest, biggest returns.
  • Give you strategies for maximizing your minimal language abilities
    • How to have fun conversations with native speakers while you still suck
    • How to communicate with a very limited vocabulary
  • Bootstrap you, giving you traction and providing workable, enjoyable intermediate goals on your way to a more comprehensive, native-like fluency.

In broad terms, output is very Western (“opine!”) where input is more Eastern (“observe!”). Stereotypically, the West is results-oriented while the East is process-oriented. Both sets of ideas have their strengths. And both have massive weaknesses when taken to a pathological level — which is often inevitable when there’s no crossover. But you can combine them. You can get the best of both worlds.

That, I feel, is the way forward. Not drawing a line between uz at Khatzumoto’s dojo and those dirty rotten scoundrels, but by walking through the paper walls. Whenever you see a contradiction, see opportunity instead. See it as a chance to give birth to a third way — your way. Contradiction means freedom to choose, mix and match.

Ironically enough, most stuff that seems different is actually 90% the same anyhow. We’re all autodidacts; we all focus on having fun; we all just want to do well. That’s a lot of similarity. I say, don’t split hairs — weave them together instead. Use multiple, independent sources. See the bigger picture. See that there is room for dissent and difference of opinion — especially when that dissent is your own. Go from dogma to pragma.

Difference of religious views is good reason to burn people and books. But when it comes to language learning, it’s just a terrible waste of potential. Also, being pragmatic is way more profitable. Screw believing in stuff. Believe in these dollars, be arch. Oh…crap. Inner monologue. Dangit. Cancel. Cancel. Maybe if I make this color lighter, you’ll have trouble seeing it.


  1. What the animal cruelty?!

  4 comments for “Unclean! Why Would AJATT Do A Tie-in With Other People’s Stuff?

  1. December 25, 2010 at 19:46

    Hear hear! 🙂
    I should add that the hour that I interviewed Khatz was nothing but pure agreement. Kind of hard if you imagine us as being opposite sides of a war, isn’t it 😉 I don’t see our advice as that hugely conflicting because I look at the many things we say, rather than one aspect of our approaches that happens to differ. I retweet @ajatt all the time because of how much I agree with the AJATT philosophy!
    As Khatz said, a combination of everything is the key. Even though I’m all about speaking from day one, you can bet I’ll be using a sprinkle of AJATT and focusing on kanji at first when I get to Japanese 😉

  2. Matt
    December 27, 2010 at 04:36

    The funny thing about language learning is that we /already know/ the most efficient and effective path to doing it, and everyone agrees on it: Use flashcards every day, remove all your dependency on L1, and use every single moment of your life to absorb new words, vocabulary, pronunciation, reading, etc, and talk with as many native speakers as possible in that time.

    It’s really not about efficiency, but about finding which methodology fits most easily into your life style, the methodology that /you/ will be consistent to, and will motivate you to put more into it (the self sustaining process of learning). Very few people have diligence and drive to dedicate 100% of every moment to studying hard and efficiently. That’s why finding ways to make study more natural, fun, and less stressful is really the magic to language learning. And of course, since we all like different things and live different lives, the formula will change between people.

    But the common underline in any methodology is getting you to creating a pattern of behavior that encourages use and exposure to the target language. I focus more on input simply because it fits more naturally in my lifestyle. Someday I will definitely need to focus more on output to catch up, but I’m not worried. I have to learn the input anyways, and by the time I’m solid on it, doing output will seem like child’s play. The same can be said from the other angle as well.

    As long as I show up to the game every day, I will win.

  3. December 27, 2010 at 10:28

    Fundamentalism is lame, no matter what you’re talking about. Results are what matter, and clearly Benny and Khatz both have provable results (though they’re rather in the details). Since I am neither Khatz nor Benny, the idea that what they do will 100% suit me is silly, so of course I mix and match. Anything less would be intellectually dishonest, and all I’d be doing is cheating myself.

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