First a little about moi. I am a writer, designer and filmmaker. In my brief and not quite illustrious career, I have written for newspapers, worked at Comedy Central (briefly) and got a hybridized degree of some kind in film and business from Howard University. I have two blogs, The Winding Road to Being Published, and Marcus Bird: Jamaican in Japan. I also have a web series I’m making about my time in Japan, with you know, cute Japanese girls, drinking parties and visits to ancient temples. You can check that out here: www.youtube.com/marcusbirdtv
Living in Japan without knowing the language properly sometimes feels like a hot blanket that’s over my face. You functioning in a series of minimums; minimum speech, minimum communcative ability, minimum emotion, minimum everything. Essentially, as an adult you take a serious downgrade as you walk into bars and restaurants ordering food in the manner a child would. That said, I’m changing that.
I made decision to accept the language and culture of Japan by embracing it through proper study. The reasons for this are numerous, and you can peruse my blog, Marcus Bird: Jamaican in Japan to read the evolution of my mind state after living in Japan for a few months. With that said, there isn’t much more of an explanation here. I’m just tracking my progress as I attempt to use the AJATT (All Japanese All The Time) system to achieve relative fluency in Japanese.
For now the goal is to see how well I can improve my Japanese over a 5 month period. I’m on the second week of AJATT and I will write my observations below but I will give a simple explanation of AJAAT.
1. You create an immersive environment that is 100% Japanese (music, videos, books, etc)
2. You learn to read all 2,045 basic Kanji using the Heisig Method.
3. You learn to read all Katakana and Hiragana using the same method.
4. After learning 2 and 3, you start learning sentences, with the goal of understanding and being able to pronounce 10,000 of them.
The reasoning behind this can be found at the All Japanese All the time website. The guy who runs it is very smart, witty and well read. Most of the blog deals with developing limiting self-beliefs and mindsets before even going into the method. It’s a good read, and I spent a few hours going through the blog on different occasions before I dove completely into this system. I suggest you read through that website to understand and motivate yourself regarding your pursuit of fluency. I am not explaning anything here, just tracking my personal progress for others to hopefully learn from should I become a beastly speaker who eventually does translation work for the Jamaican embassy 😀
My observations so far are simple:
1. In 15 days, I have learned how to write and remember 350 Kanji using the Heisig method. I already know Hiragana and most of the Katana from previous study. After living in Japan for seven months, my communicative skills are “okay”. I can hold a basic conversation, and order beers, meaning I am NOT by any means fluent. My original plan was to take classes, and a few other things, but this way seems more interesting and more my “style”.
2. Immersion isn’t easy, which is why the creator of this system spends a lot of time emphasizing it “must be fun”. Switching to 100% Japanese music and media sometimes gives me a headache, but I’m doing it anyways.
3. In two weeks, after listening to several hours of (relatively unintelligible Japanese) I am starting to understand more sentence patterns and pick out words I didn’t hear before. listening to differnt kinds of music are exposing me to phrases as well, and giving me an impromptu Japanese rock education.
4. I can recognize all the Kanji I have studied through Heisig, and can sometimes understand the context they are written in if the sentence has few Kanji. I can see that should I know all the Kanji this will VASTLY improve my understanding of the language.
My AJAAT system :
In the mornings, I listen to either a Podcast called S-J-P ( you can find it on Itunes) where the speakers do mostly freetalking on a specific subject. I like it because they speak at native speed about different topics, which I switch from day to day. I am listening to the following bands: Asian Kung Fu Generation, Gazette, The Pillows, BBQ Chickens and Harumi Hosono. I alternate between these bands throughout the day, and the podcasts.
For media, I will watch some Ghibli movies, or Anime with no subtitles. I try and do this in the evening. I plan to grow the collection of my media to include more American movies with Japanese dubs, and japanese reggae and trance music.
I still watch English movies sometimes, because I find the AJATT can be a little stressful if you don’t have enough “exciting media” to watch. If its not fun, its dreadful. So once i get a proper set of movies, music and eventually books, I will do 99% Japanese and 1% English on occassion.
I’m organizing more activities to speak Japanese regularly. I work and live in Japan, so this really means just going anywhere. Yoga classes, the video arcade, salsa nights, etc. Talking to Japanese people regularly will not be difficult. So the mixture of all these things, fueled by a renewed desire to “really” learn Japanese, should be interesting. but I want to make sure I keep track of it. That said, I will post my updatesand observations about the system, so hopefully it will help other people who attempt this to have some clarity as they use it to try and become fluent in a foreign language.
I will say one las thing, I do not believe learning language is “hard” per se… what is difficult is convincing your adult mind that it is both FUN and POSSIBLE. In our jaded, logcial brains, this sometimes is the hardest part to manage. But using this system, if I can learn all the 2,045 required Kanji within say, a month and a half, and beging practicing reading/writing sentences at that point, then spend another three and a half months reading and studying sentences, then say I am able to read and correctly pronounce several hundred sentences (or even a thousand) then not only will I know how to read these, I will be able toe use them in conversation. This means, I “should” be able to see a massive increase in my comprehensive ability. But in my internet searches, I haven’t see a well documented pre-AJATT to beastly speaker blog of any kind… so I plan to be the ultimate Guineau pig. I’m a writer, and a person who wants to speak fluent Japanese.
to Japanese and beyond (thanks Buzz Lightyear)