Diving in and being strategic about not caring

I felt like writing this post today as a general observation i’ve made.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I’m currently using all of my accumulated language experiment knowledge to learn French (with pretty good results). This idea of “diving in” is based on that and to an extent Japanese as well. Again, the context I need to speak in, is that, my Japanese blog really kicked off when I made an observation about learning without studying. I detailed that in another the highlighted blog post, so if you get time read it. Like most people I tended to think the idea of learning another language was ridiculously difficult, required certain brain skills and would be nigh impossible.

So now, after all the ins and outs and things i’ve tested. and with Japanese i’ve probably done MOST types of programs out there, from textbooks, to audio programs, etc. I’ve determined what I feel is a pretty efficient method to get your “base” to build from. But this isn’t diving in. is just the process of gauging where you are by placing yourself in a situation where you aren’t sure if you are ready or not. But I’ll illustrate what I want to say by explaining what I did with French last year.

The French Experiment Part One

So last year for about five weeks I went pretty hardcore at French. After four days I joined a French organization, and after a week or so of starting my “system” (which isn’t really a system) I entered an expert/fluent speaker level class. It was a theater class, that had nothing to do with teaching French but acting. This was diving in. So on day one, I sat in the class, and up to that point, I had just finished the foundation course of a program called Michel Thomas and I was blown away by the fact that I could “somewhat” follow what was going on during the class. The teacher was speaking quite rapidly about telling stories and I tried figuring out the relative context by listening, but it took me a few more sessions to really try and talk more.

So over the next month, I saw my French skill increase rapidly because these theater classes forced me to speak A LOT, pretend to be a businessman, an angry father, tell stories and so on. But even so, I wasn’t feeling very happy about certain things, and I kept getting super frustrated with myself and eventually stopped doing the french. But I already gave some info in my last post about trying to balance happiness and language learning. I also posted a video last year of me speaking French after 3 weeks, just to give an idea of how quickly a person can go from zero to whatever level it was I speaking at. I’m going to post it here:

As you can see, I was moving pretty rapidly.

But I didn’t go past five weeks, and after a six month period, whatever French I had learned faded away.

French Experiment Part Two

So after I spent a lot of time trying to figure out ways to feel more positive about my day to day life, I realized that many, many, many of my frustrations were related to unusual ways I look at myself.  I’ve also mentioned that in this blog as well (stuff tends to repeat with us humans) but my approach this time with French was modified.

An aspect of what I am doing now is to merely absorb a very very solid grammatical understanding first. Without doing much immersion, without speaking to anyone. This is how I spend the first week and whatever “immersion” I use is ONLY media I can understand through context (Movies I already know etc).   Then I start doing sentences which teach vocabulary in context. Either way without getting too much into that, this time around being more relaxed and focused made things a lot better. I didn’t feel like i was forcing myself to learn, I felt that I was simply implementing a strategy and having fun.

So this is my second or third week of “restarting” French. On Wednesday this week, I joined a French conversation class at the Alliance here just to have a way to be challenged to speak ( This class is the highest level French class at the Alliance Francaise).

This was my “dive” into a situation I wasn’t sure if I was ready for. But, as of Wednesday, I had been doing my SRS reps for about six days, and I was reading many of the sentences I saw out loud and worked on my accent. I also took extra time to research what I saw as common speech patterns. This time, I was pretty shocked by the results.

The class revolved around speaking about shopping and what a person likes to buy and why. Now, this is the FIRST time I am speaking any French at length since starting what I am doing. Not only could I explain myself reasonably well, I didn’t feel “lost” in the group and I actually felt good about myself. So after doing the preparation in a way that ensures I am super comfortable, I dove into a situation that is going to force me to test myself a few times each week.

I am also attempting to chat more to French people I know in French regularly. Last year, I felt very tense and afraid attempting to speak French (sometimes I am still slightly hesitant) but the major difference between now and then is that i’m not crashing and burning and making progress in a stressful situation. I don’t believe last year I even did that many French sentences, so I kept getting in situations where I didn’t know a grammar pattern or enough vocabulary to breathe. So i will track my progress there to see where I can reach over the next 8 weeks (I want to hopefully gain conversational fluency and an improved ability to understand spoken French)

SO….. what does this have to do with Japanese?

Well everything I have mentioned in the steps I am taking with French are based on good/bad methods I’ve tested in learning Japanese. So one must figure out an active immersion schedule, figure out how to stay relaxed with diet and a calm mind most of the time, and then try not to make leaps before you can hop. What I am seeing now is that I can use all this positive French experiment knowledge to use a better, relaxed and efficient approach to learning Japanese.

So I am not focused on Japanese right now, but I will still outline what i am doing in French and occasionally show how it can mirror with Japanese. But I think i’ve finally found the A to B strategy to gain conversational strength and grammar power reasonably quickly.

Now, a lot of language learning blogs have similar information, but I don’t read many of them. The reason I even started my own is because I guess I am a bit obsessive (sister told me that lol) and I didn’t understand enough of the technical details. I don’t mind motivational speeches and so on, but now I think i’ve found a workable, technical method of lower-stress aspects of language acquisition through my own trials and errors. But almost as a sign, I recently saw a video on

“learn a language in 3 months” with this really upbeat guy (I think he is Chinese I am not sure) but he hit some key points that I’ve been thinking about, one of which is spending much of your first month speaking to SOMEONE. There has to be time you sit down, chat in French and also get solid explanations on stuff you don’t understand so well. I didn’t do this last time with French, and I’ve never really done that with Japanese so, the future looks promising. In a few days I’ll post the current A to B and I am sure it will sound like all the A to Bs out there, but I will try and provide some technical information to accompany it that I observed and why I feel like it works! Anyhoo! Sorry this post was so long!

plus tar/ matta ne

About marcusbird

Writer, Designer, Filmmaker
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