Serious Learning – Immersion

Hello all!

I have joined the legion of people who use immersion as part of their language learning routine.  I like to call them the Immersioneers.  And as a direct result of this change, I’m finally taking everything more seriously by, of course, having more fun.  After all, that’s the best way to learn, right?

I also realized why my progress in Japanese had felt so unsatisfactory.  I was only learning in class, and only studying what I “learned” in class.

Studying Latin didn’t really give me a chance to try out immersion as a learning technique, so this is my first attempt at such a technique.  (Actually, I guess Korean was my first attempt at immersion learning, though I’m only realizing it now as I type this…)  Anyways, to the point!

Inspiration

Last week, I decided to finally check out All Japanese All The Time. I’d heard of the site before, but I never really explored it.  That visited changed the way I think about (Non-dead) languages.  You can check out all the awesome glory on your own.  Even if you’re not learning Japanese.  Seriously inspiring stuff.  Not only does the site owner use his own experiences to support his claims, but he also has links to others who’ve done similar things, as well as language experts.

Thanks to Twitter, I have met other learners who are more experienced in the immersion method.  Seeing them just inspires me even more.

Kanji, Even Even More Inspiration

How would you feel if I told you, “Sure, you can learn Japanese, just make sure you go very slowly.”  You’d probably show me some mean hand gestures and proceed to go off and do your own thing.  Currently my class is learning 15 kanji every two weeks, going by the Genki textbooks.  At first I had no problems with this.  Then I remembered that when I started studying Japanese this summer, I had to burn through all of Genki I and then some in order to place into the intermediate class.  That was about 180 kanji in a month.  Not an impressive number, but definitely better than the current class rate of learning a fraction of that in a month.  Sure, I may be able to write about 160 of the first 180 from memory right now, but that’s because I learned them the wrong way, I think.  Also, it might be important to note that I can recognize all of them in writing.  I’ve been trying the Heisig approach, and I have found that remembering the stroke order and meaning, then learning the readings later, feels a lot easier for remembering kanji. I’ll keep tryin’. I’ll wait a few weeks before I actually make some definitive claims, though.

Digression

I’m afraid to say people have forgotten the potential of the human mind. Rote memorization is not/will never be an optimal way to learn languages.  The brain, if any study anyone has ever done is any indication, is specialized for picking up patterns, not remembering random facts.  Did you learn your native language by having your guardians read off a list of words and grammar rules?  No! If you are a native English speaker, your parents probably wouldn’t even be able to do so if it were the most optimal method of learning.  But that’s just cause English is weird.  But I digress….further… The point being, your brain can do more than you think it does.  In fact, it does do more than you think it does.  Okay, now that I’m done with my baseless claims, I can continue my point…wait what am I talking about?

Oh right, Immersion

I have been listening to Japanese non-stop for a few days now.  Anime, podcasts, youtube, music, anything I can get a hold of has been added to the queue of Japanese media.  My OS has been in Japanese for a while now, but I am making a more conscious effort to read/discover the words used.  I have already found myself able to recall phrases more quickly.  It’s still early to make any claims about how drastically my Japanese has improved, but I feel like it is a step in the right direction.  Only time will tell.

Closing Remarks (I’m not really good at naming these headers)

I’m planning on studying abroad next year, and I want my story to be different.  I always hear from other students who have studied in Japan and they usually sound the same : “Yea, I struggled in the beginning, but after a few weeks/months I felt comfortable speaking!”  That’s great and all, but I want to be comfortable beforehand.  I want to recognize most of the kanji that are used around me.  I want to be able to read things without a dictionary.  I want to be able to interact with real people with real language.  But most importantly, I want to be able to prank call my Japanese friend and have him not recognize my voice/accent.  I think immersion will be the ticket to that prank call.

Are you an Immersioneer? (That is definitely going to catch on.)  How do you “study”?   I’d love to hear your comments, since this was a rushed post I just thought of.  It’s not even spel chekd or anythng.  I should get back to work… Later gators. (That’s also making a comeback. Eventually..)

Author: Koyami

I'm Koyami. I am a freelance Japanese-English Translator and I enjoy learning new skills and reading in my spare time. Current pursuits include juggling, piano, and collecting all of the 十二国記 books. Follow me on Twitter and Google+ for blog updates, my Japanese word of the day, and more!

  • I’m fully with you on the immersion idea. I think the reason it works, or could work, is that you get the massive input that ajatt.com and others talk about. I spent a few years in Japan without learning nearly as much as I should have. The key to immersion is actually using the learning environment around you rather than just hoping to somehow absorb the language. If you’re willing to create an artificial immersion environment via “Immersioneering” I am sure you aren’t about to make the same mistakes that I did. My listening is pretty good, but my speaking and especially my writing are terrible so I’ve finally flipped the switch and decided to get serious with RTK. Offer support or distraction at http://mattonese.tumblr.com. I really think that connecting with other students is the best way to stay motivated. Great post! And good luck with RTK!

    • Thank you for the advice! I will try to keep a more active role in my immersion environment. Right now, I’m looking for books and other texts to read so I can at least be more familiar with the writing style. Once I finish RTK, I think it will be easier to use a more proactive approach for the immersion environment. Thanks again for the comment!

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