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You Are What You Eat, You Write What You Read, You Speak What You Hear

This entry is part 9 of 12 in the series Secrets of Speaking

The attentive will recall that Jamie (an AJATTeer) came up with what I still consider to be the greatest analogy in the history of learning languages about a year ago. The attentive will also recall that a photo of Sarah Silverman on the pot was involved, something which totally wasn’t my idea by the way, plus you have no proof and you got nuffink on me and I have plausible deniability.

Well, through the magic of the AJATT Facebook page, Jamie is back, this time with her very own German success story (as well as a couple of awesome new analogies):

Hey Khatz,
[You have such gorgeous thighs, and I don’t know how you do it. The ThighMaster may be a machine, but you are truly the master of thighs. Women love you and men respect you. It pains me to even shift the topic from you, but…] I’ve been “immersing” myself in German since December 2011. At first, it wasn’t pretty. I couldn’t understand much from films, videos, music, etc and my output was simply horrible.

But after 3 months of immersion and SRS Vanilla sentences, I was able to hold basic IM chats and write emails in German with German and Austrian people. 99.9% of the Germans and Austrians thought that I was a language “Genie” 1 and said that it was amazing that I learned German so “quickly” without any tutors or classes. I still believe that input (reading and listening) is still more important than output (writing and speaking) but once in a while I practice output.

I like writing German emails with my friends from Germany, Austria and Switzerland and I’ve had about 5-7 voice conversations over Skype in German. It wasn’t hard for me to understand what the native German speakers were saying. and most recently during Spring break 2013 in New York City, I heard a couple talking to each other in German and I just approached them by asking them in German: “Are you from Germany?” (kommen Sie aus Deutschland?) My brave action allowed us to have a short but good conversation — all in German. The couple said my German was very good especially considering “the short amount of time” I spent learning it, and not once did they try to switch the conversation to English.

So, how did all this “magic” happen? It ain’t magic. It’s just listening and/or watching to >90 minutes of audio in German during my waking hours and playing audio throughout my sleeping hours and making and doing SRS reps from time to time.

It’s about making it fun, doable, and practical to one’s OWN schedule. I learned Spanish from 2nd grade – 10th grade, but my Spanish input and output was NEVER was good as my German. The more I think about it, some of this AJATT stuff is really foolproof. “You are what you eat” and “You speak what you hear”…DUH!!

  • You are what you eat.
  • You write what you read.
  • You speak what you hear.
Series Navigation<< Success Story: Emotional Context Learning — Using Phrases Correctly Without Actively Learning Them Or Knowing What They Actually MeanWhy You Should Keep Listening Even If You Don’t Understand >>


  1. Presumably this is German for “genius” 🙂 …Hmm…this footnote didn’t really warrant a smiley, but the deed is done, so I’m going to leave that superfluous smiley hanging.

  14 comments for “You Are What You Eat, You Write What You Read, You Speak What You Hear

  1. フレヂィ
    May 6, 2013 at 05:55

    Don’t forget… “You act what you see.” Mannerism play a good part in all this as well. But this is more of a ‘nice to have’ as opposed to a necessity.

    ~ fv

  2. Jake
    May 6, 2013 at 09:20

    You are what you eat…so only ‘eat’ Japanese.

  3. MCG
    May 6, 2013 at 22:51

    Not to be too cynical about your process, Khatz, but part of the secret here is that Jamie is an English-speaker, and her target language was German. I’ve been working on French for a long time, and I take in at least 90 minutes of French radio a day. But for me, German still feels like Pig Latin compared with French, which is much more difficult.

  4. May 8, 2013 at 06:43

    Sometimes when I read these success stories, I wonder how so much progress could be made so quickly. Sometimes I find them a little demotivational, but I think this post has shed some light on the mystery.

    Jamie mentions that she had been doing German immersion for a about a year, but nothing came of it until she began SRSing. Three months later, she was having amazing results. Maybe I’m not giving SRS enough credit, but I think that the year prior to her SRSing may have been worth more than she thought.

    I’ve found that in my continuing journey through Japanese, before you can truly understand phrases or sentences in a foreign language, you have to be used to hearing/seeing them, whether you understand them or not. I know this concept isn’t new to AJATTeer’s – it’s written in the site’s header after all – but even so, I have a feeling Jamie was already used to a lot of German, and just got an extra boost from SRSing because it helped bridge gaps that she hadn’t been bridging before (through bi/monolingual hints).

    Maybe I’m jaded from my journey. Maybe that’s why I feel a little demotivated when I read success stories like this. However, I bet I’m not the only one, so I hope someone else feels comforted in the idea that Jamie’s results were from her 1 1/4 years of hard work, rather than 90 days of SRS.

    • Jamie
      May 9, 2013 at 00:42

      actually that’s wrong……. I started SRSing SINCE December 2011, right from the start of my immersion. after 3 months of immersion (with SRSing involved, so in other words around March 2012, I was already able to hold basic IM chats and Email conversation in German with other Germans and Austrians…. who all said that they couldn’t believe that my German was so good after 3 months.. and to this day i still talk to Germans, Austrians, and Swiss people online, who say my German is very good. But saying that I spent a year immersing before SRSing is COMPLETELY FALSE!!!!

    • Jamie
      May 9, 2013 at 00:45

      and i said after 3 months of immersion AND srsing… NOT “after 3 months of SRSing”

  5. May 8, 2013 at 19:40

    “Nurture your minds with great thoughts. To believe in the heroic makes heroes. –Benjamin Disraeli” . . . it’s why I stay off most forums (except this one, and FB, and and and.) Yeah, and the fact I’m so busy with work, changing diapers, etc that I need any free time to be filled with good stuff. Thanks for a new “mantra.”

  6. May 10, 2013 at 01:33

    I’m sorry to report on the demise of the RTK forum.
    First there was this :
    now there’s this :
    I’m very sad to hear this as it was a great community. What are your thoughts on this Khatz?

  7. May 14, 2013 at 23:47

    I think input is easier than output, and perhaps more important at the beginning, but to really progress you need the output.

  8. June 11, 2013 at 19:31

    Input is really important, especially when you’re a beginner/intermediate learner.
    If you never use your target language you will become bored of it. A long time ago, when I was learning Italian, I wasn’t able to order books on the internet yet.
    As a result, I stopped learning Italian. That might sound radical but given that I’d been studying the same two grammar/vocabulary/conjugations books for 3 months straight, it shouldn’t be so surprising after all.

    The only show I had access to was Deal or No Deal, so I quickly said “No Deal” and gave up.

    Now I know that if I started over I could find more material.

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