This blog post was brought to you by the generosity of AJATT's patrons!

If you would like to support the continuing production of AJATT content, please consider making a monthly donation through Patreon.

Right there ↑ . Go on. Click on it. Patrons get goodies like early access to content (days, weeks, months and even YEARS before everyone else), mutlimedia stuff and other goodies!

Why Do We Play? What Dogs Can Teach Us About Learning Languages

Yesterday, I was walking around Yoyogi Park in Tokyo with a friend, feeling butthurt at all the hipsters who were cooler and better-looking than me. We got to the other side of the park and stopped by the dog run to look at dogs.

…and bitches…

Awkwaaard. Anyway, I wish you could have seen what we saw, but I find it annoying to take pictures so I never take any. I tried to prod my friend, Naoko, into taking pictures for us because that’s what girls and people from Japan do, right? But no, she hates taking pictures, too. So we have no pictures of these dogs and bitches but, suffice it to say that it was glorious.

By way of approximation, here’s someone else’s video of other dogs at the same dog run on another day. It’s not necessarily as cool as what we saw, but it’s more than good enough for government work and close enough for practical purposes:

Anyway, so them dogs was running like crazy. Roughhousing, roundhousing, milhousing, jumping over objects and other dogs, playing tag. This is urban Japan, so these were tiny dogs, but they were going at maximum warp for their ship class. It was a joy to watch. Watching them run made me want to run.

And it made me realize how we’ve forgotten the one and only real reason to run, and we’ve replaced it with a bunch of good but ultimately stupid reasons. We run to win. We run because it’s healthy. We run for money. We run to save time. All of these are good reasons to run. And that’s why they’re terrible reasons to run. Good reasons are the worst reasons to do anything. Why? Because good reasons are unsustainable.

Fun gets done. Good reasons don’t. Good reasons are great for making yourself feel guilty, feel like a schlemiel; they’ll get you started but they’ll never help you stay the course. Don’t believe me? Dude, there are people with HIV who die because they don’t take their medication in the right way (apparently, the exact timing and dosage of the drug cocktails is essential 1). And why? Because it’s boringDon’t you think they had a good reason? Who better than they? They had the chance to prevent suffering and death from a chronic illness, but taking the medication was so boring that they essentially chose death instead. They were literally bored to death by their good reasons. If good reasons can’t even get a little pill into your mouth, how can you expect them to get a whole language into your head? 2

The real reason to run is because it’s fun. The real reason to learn Japanese is because it’s fun. No other reason matters. No other reason is sustainable. Globalization? Who the fark cares — my nuts are globe-shaped, why not come over here and globalize these nuts 3! Friendships? I can make English-speaking friends! Chicks? Why would I need to hear a woman’s opinion I mean women and minorities are great and I care about them and hearing about how their day was. Money? Start a business; you don’t need to learn a whole freaking language just so some pedophile in the HR department can consider throwing you a few extra crumbs each month. Prevent dementia? Yaaaaaaawn. What a demented reason. 4

Screw other people. Screw what they think of you. Screw what their mothers think of you. Screw the supposed rewards. Screw the praise. Screw the professionals who do it better (but, often enough, end up hating it). None of them matter. None of it matters. None of it is worth fighting for. None of it is worth playing for. Screw. Them. All.

Why climb the Japanese mountain?
Because it’s there.
Don’t clutter your mind and path with the pebbles of good reasons. Leave the good intentions to the hellbound. You just keep playing Persona.


  1. this is all hearsay from Dan Kennedy by the way; I haven’t confirmed it, but it’s very illustrative hearsay
  2. Clearly, in terms of logic, this is a fallacy of equivocation, but it makes for awesome rhetoric, doesn’t it? 😛
  3. What does that even mean?
  4. Of course knowing a language is worth money, but so are practical jokes — just ask Johnny Knoxville. You can’t make that the reason why you do it, though. Well, you can, it’s just a crap reason that won’t sustain you or the project.

  16 comments for “Why Do We Play? What Dogs Can Teach Us About Learning Languages

  1. December 25, 2012 at 00:59

    Khatz, you’ve again managed to combine half a dozen unrelated ingredients into one delicious soup that conveys your message. Your singular devotion to enjoying the process of learning Japanese is inspirational, as always.

  2. Oosaka Ayumu
    December 25, 2012 at 01:05

    Horny things!!! Too horny 4 normal people to be understood. (Ehm I love this kind of jokes)
    The globalization of the Nut. Coming soon.

  3. December 25, 2012 at 02:26

    Merry Christmas.

  4. Jon
    December 25, 2012 at 02:40

    Nothing was bold. =( Haha. I didn’t know how to skim this post.

  5. Fabian
    December 25, 2012 at 05:26

    This is funny because I bought Persona 4 in Japanese a few days ago ^^

    • Billy
      January 7, 2013 at 12:33

      I think I read this article too early. XD

      Last one told to me listen to a song which was no problem. But I’m still waiting to buy Persona. 😮

      Does your version of Persona by any chance have English subtitles?

  6. Dave
    December 25, 2012 at 05:31

    The linguist Wallace Chafe once tried (successfully imo) to distinguish play as a phenomenon from humor, laughter, and the feeling of nonseriousness behind it. Baasically, what is the difference between the kind of nonseriousness that results in laughter and the kind of nonseriousness that constitutes play in human beings and other animals. The question got brought up because interestingly nonserious play does not always resut in laughter and giggles. What he has to say about laughterr/humor nonseriousness is interarsting but not so relevant here so I’ll restrict my recollection to his thoughts on play. Play is essentially nonserious rehearsal for situations that could potentially be very, very sirius. We get pleasure from play, even if it is strenuous, more often perhaps than the kind of masochism that often masquerades as discipline. Maybe that kind of masochistic discipline is not just a human pathology either because another thing chafe says is that the rehearsal element of play is often curiously overemphasized (e.g. Poor sportsmanship from players and coaches in football games, young pups getting carried away while playing and being overly aggressive). I take this all to mean that nature has prepared us (including dogs) for the inevitably serious situations in life by providing a pleasurable way to rack up those hours of much needed practice. All we have to do is make sure that the rehearsal elements in our lives are not distressfully overemphasized, and that they are appropriately balanced with an attitude of nonseriousness.

  7. Dave
    December 25, 2012 at 05:33

    Oh, and Merry Christmas 🙂

  8. Ruben
    December 25, 2012 at 15:36

    Playing Persona 3 right now.

  9. Tacnd
    January 2, 2013 at 17:11

    I had JUST taken a break from Persona 4 Arena just to see if there was an update on here. There was. And it was good. Off to go have some more fun in Japanese.

  10. Rou
    January 2, 2013 at 19:31

    But honestly, sometimes you have to do things because of the “good reasons”, like in the aforementioned HIV example. There isn’t really a way to make taking medication fun. I have to finish school because of “good reasons” and there isn’t a way to make it run either. And so on and so on…

    • The Real CZ
      January 4, 2013 at 13:05

      You can make school fun. Doing the actual school work might be boring as hell, but you can delve further into certain topics that interest you by going to the library, which is really the only good thing about universities these days. Yes, there are some ways to making something mundane like school more fun. I would have to agree with you about the HIV medication. Just take the medication at the scheduled times so you can go on having fun elsewhere in life.

  11. kai
    January 13, 2013 at 08:01

    This might be a personality trait and not something everyone can relate to but I wouldn’t mind some opinions. Recently, having only a part time job of like 15 hours a week and no tests to study for being out of school and all, I’ve noticed that things that were once a lot of fun, have become less fun.

    Now this might seem like a symptom of depression so far but let me continue. I still see some things as fun, just most goal related things, not things like TV or video games, the things I thought were a lot of fun back when I was in school or working full time. Here is the interesting bit. I had a personal training exam to study for and really buckled down for it, studying like 5 to 7 hours a day for lets say a week. I had already passed the exam once before which meant having to study for it again was mostly redundant and boring. We could say it was your standard “work”, standard “A.S.M.” style work.

    The interesting part is that once I took a break after a few days of 5-7hr drudgery, anything I could think of doing seemed like it would be amazingly fun. It was like being being a kid in a candy store, that feeling. Now I’ve felt this feeling before, and maybe some of you have too, like when you get a study week or Christmas break. It’s like, “wow I could do so much fun stuff I barely know where to start”. So I got that feeling and then thought about studying languages and I was like, ” wow languages seem like so much fun right not, almost too fun”

    So that was my observation, and my guess of why I and others probably experience that feeling are that fun might be actually relative within a certain time span. So if you do something that is really not fun for a certain length of time and then stop, you’ve built up this reference point of how little fun your life is. So you have that reference point in your mind and then you can do something fun and it will feel like even more fun relative to the reference point. However once you do the fun thing for a time, the reference point of how fun your life is changes, it moves up so that fun becomes the norm. However if fun becomes the norm, it actually becomes not fun, because you get used to it.

    This is actually a bit of a defense of work and A.S.M., and I would love to hear other peoples opinions on the subject. The key concepts here are “desensitization” like becoming desensitized to fun. do you experience this? And for the sake of remaining sensitive to fun, is it worth it to do A.S.M. things on purpose? Also, a lot of A.S.M. things can work in your favor like you can earn money to do more fun things ect ect. So does anyone have thoughts?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *