I get it all the time now.
“Hey Khatsumodo! Love teh method! Your righting iz rully motuvashonul! I’ve been running my Japanese OS for 4 hours now, but i don’t feel much change! Hehe. Lolz!”
“Hey! I really love all your talk about immersion! I don’t know kanji yet but I picked up a Japanese dictionary today but I couldn’t understand anything!!! Is this normal??? It’s too hard! Maybe I’m just not good at languages!!! Do I have to do Heisig? But how will I learn readings and grammar?”
I’ve been working with your method for almost six months now, and although I’m doing the things you talk about on your website, and putting a lot of time into stud*ying, it still seems like something’s not quite right.*
OK. Now’s it’s time for a little section of AJATT that I like to call “REALLY? With Khatzumoto”.
Really. What the heck did you think was really going to happen within hours of you changing your OS to Japanese? I mean, really!? Really! Did you think your hitherto dormant Japanese midichlorians would instantly fire up at the sight of kanji and you’d start having friggin’ Russel Crowe Beautiful Mind moments in Japanese with equations and primitives and radicals spinning through the air? Really!
And really. Did you really think that you were going to open up a dictionary on day 1, read that 何 means ある代表的な物･事をあげ､その他のいろいろな物･事を省略して一まとめにしてさす語, and then be nodding your head in satisfied comprehension? Really?!
Really?! Did you really think that just because in The Thirteenth Warrior Antonio Banderas learned Old Norse in five minutes one night while sitting around a campfire with red-headed guys called Sven, that you could simply put in a couple of hours more effort than him, watch a Miyazaki movie or two and BAM! next morning you’re writing the following year’s effen Naoki Prize winner and Kadokawa is on the phone talking about $50,000,000 advance for the sequel and Toho want distribution rights for the live action movie starring Ken Watanabe? I mean, really? REALLY? You realize Tom Cruise’s Japanese in Last Samurai sucked, right? Even after a multi-million dollar five-minute Hollywood crash course!
What were you thinking? What was going through your mind? Where did you expect to be, and who told you to expect to be there, and what gave you the impression that that was a reasonable expectation to have?
I’ll tell you what you were thinking. I’ll tell you what was going through your mind. I’ll tell you where you’re going so horribly, catastrophically wrong. Let me tell you about the left turn you missed at Albuquerque.
There is a fallacy lodged in most people’s minds that tells them that “performance on the first trial is a good predictor of performance on the 10,000th”. Well, bollocks. It isn’t. If nothing else, at a purely mathematical level, depending on the definition of points, a single data point is an unacceptably small statistical sample on which to base any judgment about anything.
I’m not saying not to do sampling — we do it all the time; perhaps we even need it survive — when you take a sip from a cup to determine how hot the entire drink is, you are sampling. But this assumes that heat is evenly distributed throughout the liquid. When the cup is the size of a language, and every learning method is like a non-turntable microwave, then expect that a sip after two seconds of heating, generally, tells you jack squat. And this, by the way, is why the US has a 50%+ divorce rate, because most people in the US use a marvelously intricate, painstakingly delicate and utterly useless mate-sampling system called “dating”, to select partners for a completely different system called “life” (‡taken from my forthcoming book: Baseless Remarks About Complex Social Phenomena II)
But when we see a baby fall do we tell her to quit this walking thing while she’s ahead and let the “more athletic” Afro-Carribean babies do it? When we hear our baby ga-ga-goo-goo unintelligbly, do we have her euthanized because she sounds like a retard? When she drools, do we beat her senseless because that’s just gross?
Well, that’s what you would be doing to yourself if you were to give up at this point. You would be euthanizing the nascent Japanese version of yourself because he sucked the first time.
But adults “euthanize” themselves and each other all the time. If that new, magic Solution To The Problem they paid $200 for doesn’t work, adults will mercifully “kill” the nascent Japanese child inside them, with soothing appeals to “I’m too old for this” and “I just lack talent” and the all-time favorite — “I don’t have the time” — never having given her a real chance to grow. We adults are quick to accuse small children of impatience, when in fact we are the impatient ones and the children simply lack a sense of time altogether.
You could suck at tennis right now; you could be the worst kid there on your first day. But if you simply racked up enough trials to form a sufficient statistical sample, you could get really good, and if you went even further, you could go on to surpass Pete Sampras. Realistically, though, you won’t surpass Sampras because you’re a whiner who finds excuses for not following her dreams, but barring severe physical disabilities, if you really wanted to, if it mattered enough to you, you could do it. Remember: most people drastically overestimate what they can get done in 2 days and drastically underestimate what they can get done in 2 years.
But who wants to go that far? Screw it. Go on. Give up. Give in. Kill babies. You might as well. They’re ugly and hairless and useless anyway.
What’s that? You don’t want to be a baby-killer any more? OK, let’s help you work with that. Remember how Michael Jordan missed over 9000 shots in NBA games alone? Think about what that means — it means that this man missed more shots than most people take in their entire lives. This is the arithmetic of success: conduct so many trials that the number of errors you experience exceeds most people’s lifetime trialcounts. This is the meaning of aiming to fail.
I read a great quote the other day:
If at first you don’t succeed, you’re about average.
No one in all of human history has been born comprehending the real text of any language on their first try. Why were you supposed to be the first? But at the same time, all who have continued, and put thousands and thousands of hours into it, have gone on not only to comprehend text but in many cases to create text themselves. I bet if I’d thrown you an English newspaper when you were two years old — after two solid years of constant exposure to English — you’d have been hard-pressed to even hold it the right way up.
All of which is a very longwinded way of saying: Push the continue button and play another round. The absolute worst thing you could do is not to fail, not to look stupid, but to run away from real Japanese. Stay. Stay. Stay. The Japanese Fairy does not visit those who flee. The Mastery Fairy hates baby-killers. The longer you stay, the more certain your victory; it’s that simple.
And this is why this thing has to be fun, because it will be relatively long and because it will be constant “failure”, of a sort. You can’t push your way through it, you have to find a way of making it pull you along. I leave you with the sage words of a young man named Ryan:
if your study of Japanese [hurts], YOU ARE DOING IT WRONG!
*Sincerest apologies to T-star for singling him out like this and lumping his very legitimate question with the other two — which aren’t real, in the sense of actually having been written by other people, but are very realistic in terms of reflecting a composite of actual emails I have received and I kid you not about the spelling — and sincerest thanks to him for being such a good sport about it! You, sir, are a gentleman and an AJATT hero!