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What Dave Chappelle and Stalkers Can Teach You About Learning Languages

You’re thinking this is going to be one of those creepier posts about “stalking” Japanese people. Not so. It’s far worse than that.

A good friend of mine, let’s call her Amy, has a stalker. Pretty girl problems, but problems nonetheless 1. He got a hold of her phone number through unofficial means, and sends her all kinds of text messages…from the heart. Texts filled with gems like “I’m sorry; I love you; I HATE YOU!! I STILL LOVE THEE!”

Yeah. “Thee”. I know, right?!

What amuses me about these texts isn’t that they’re crazy, but that they reflect the unvarnished content of what I believe to be most people’s thoughts. Or maybe just mine. Chaotic, nonsensical, unprintable. It reminds me of how children and uninhibited adults react to the excitement of, say, Christmas day: they squeal and pirouette and blurt out high-pitched exclamations filled with nonsense words and a capella percussion.


↑ That’s an impression of my little cousin when she was 7.

In a way, and you’ll have to excuse me for comparing a comedic genius to a common stalker, it’s the same thing that makes Dave Chappelle’s humor so brilliant: he verbalizes the unverbalizable; he says the unsayable, whether it was the obliviously self-loathing hate group leader guy, or the ethnically stereotypical pixies in the men’s urinals. That sounds redundant.


Stalkers, like Dave Chappelle, are shocking, in large part, not because of what they say, but for the fact that they said it. Not because of what they think, but for the fact that they actually went out and said it. Not for having considered the action, but for having taken it. Like a James Bond villain once quipped (and I paraphrase): “the difference between genius and insanity is success“.

Immersion is a crazy idea. But I don’t think it’s an idea that few people have had; I think many people have had the idea, but only a relative few have been mad enough, Glaswegian-accented enough — Spartan enough — to try it. Turn all your TV and movies and music and computing devices and websites Japanese? It’s kind of insane in its brutally straightforward logic: all Japanese people (and non-Japanese people) who are good at Japanese have been and remain exposed to Japanese; I want to be good at Japanese; I will expose myself to Japanese to the same extent as them.

But it works and then people think you’re a genius and accuse you of having a genetic talent — a “gift”. From whom? We don’t know. And why do these gifts seem to have to be worked for? Conveniently, we don’t know.

Having crazy ideas won’t change your life. Trying even one of them will. Let a teeny tiny bit of that insanity out, like vanilla essence, just a drop, just enough to take you into so-called genius territory. And no more 😉 .


  1. PS: Happy ending — legal action has been taken

  8 comments for “What Dave Chappelle and Stalkers Can Teach You About Learning Languages

  1. Pingfa
    July 31, 2013 at 09:34

    Very true. Ultimately, if people did everything they think, everyone would be a psychopath. Any moron can have a genius thought, it takes insanity to get it done.

  2. August 1, 2013 at 15:35

    appreciating the sipmle can be called genius; because most would go with the complicated approach and ignore the simple things.
    Human nature,
    perhaps you’re a genious indeed

  3. blackbrich
    August 1, 2013 at 18:13

    You won.

  4. August 1, 2013 at 18:21

    Things that have happened since I started the ‘crazy’ idea of immersion.

    – Our car driver was shocked when my Cantonese was heard next to a native speaker. He even said he was a little scared because it was really good (in reality it’s not and I KNOW IT).

    – At work I helped a woman applying for an apartment in Canto. Her friends said I had no accent (My speaking sounds okay, my vocab is severely limited though)

    – Native speakers speak to me in Cantonese and then catch themselves, sort of testing where my level is at which never happened before (the irony is that before I would beg to be talked to, but now I’m a little afraid because I’m paranoid about not knowing everything)

    – 我睇香港碟, 無英文字 (Even though I don’t understand a lot, it’s teaching me to read and think Canto)

    I’ve been doing immersion for maybe five months along with learning to read Chinese. It’s not that difficult when there’s no pressure to learn, in fact listening to a song I have no understanding of is a good way to relax in a way.

    The twist is that I had even been around Cantonese for more than two years. And back then I didn’t try to to read and would freak out if there were no English subtitles. Which approach to learning Cantonese is crazy? Avoiding it or trying to live it?

    Thanks again Katz. PS You’re not crazy … I hope.

    • Livonor
      August 3, 2013 at 05:00

      I’m glad my japanese born in AJATT’s womb so I started watching unsubbed anime and avoiding english since day 1. It’s sad to see al other “language learners” stick to their L1 as a safespot so hard that the “target language” stays just as a target, instead of being part of their lives

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