This is what i’ve been doing most nights from around 8-10 p.m I may do some work in the morning and then write reps at night


I’m writing this at around 9:49 P.M. I’ll probably gather my thoughts over the night and add more to this tomorrow but I wanted to post something quickly. I’ve just started reading a very cool book, entitled The Buddha and the Badass, and the first chapter talks about finding your “origin story”, that is, the real things that drive your actions and creations. I’ve often wondered why I was always so obsessed with figuring out specific aspects of language learning, versus just wanting to become fluent in a language. My goal was always to be able to explain the process down to the letter. Not in broad terms, but literal steps that are predictable. I found in my experience that most experts at learning, (unbeknownst to them) left large “gaps” in their explanations of what they did to gain fluency or mastery of a task/skill. I wanted to know their schedules, their methodologies and I was tired of reading things like “find a German girlfriend” or “go to the foreign country as soon as possible”. In fact, my mission eventually became trying to figure out how to master a language (or become highly proficient without going to the native country), which I was able to do with German, without even speaking to any Germans during my language acquisition period. I proved to myself it was possible with a Anglo language, and after learning much more about proper use of time and mindset, I had another major epiphany.

Language acquisition is around 85-90% mindset and 10% methodology. This ration is relative the raw mental strength you need to consistently perform your learning routines for months on end. I then became very focused on trying to figure out how Polyglots think. I completely disagree that they are “just like everyone else” because the inherent bias these people possess is thinking the world thinks like them, which is a form of cognitive bias. People like them (including me)  have a mixture of two things I call “positive obsession” and “unbreakable discipline”. These two things create a psychological framework that is almost indestructible in the pursuit of their goal. These traits also exists in all over high achievers, however psychologically as it relates to repetitive tasks and data, there is definitely something specific about those who enjoy learning languages knowing the sheer demands of the task each time.

Why I Believe this

During this 3 month journey, which was supposed to be no more than 8-10 weeks I’ve been suffering from a variety of maladies, health issues, fatigue and incredible stress from general life stuff. Yet because of my upgraded psychology, I was able to still learn the 2,136 Kanji and stick do a daily regime that included doing a minimum of 1,000 written repetitions of Kanji as part of my system. The last few days I’ve been suffering back spasms and quite terrible nerve pain from some neuropathic issues and I was still able to do my writing. I am not saying I “pushed through”, nothing of the sort. I was able to “handle” what I was doing (and the mental load) relative to other stressful things, which comes down to a hardcore psychology. That said, I know I can teach this to others, because MINDSET IS THE STRONGEST component of mastery I can think of. I did not go into this thinking I was “trying to learn X number of Kanji”, I went in saying I need to master the concepts involving memorization and knew that mastery requires far more effort than anything casual or passive. I knew I would need a rockstar routine, get comfortable with doing very high repetitions and revision, to ensure that my final goal of recall was a certainty. During this time I’ve confirmed that all my research works both psychologically and structurally.

What I’ve learned is incredibly important is your approach. It is important if you are going to spend four to six months on a journey to have your steps unusually well-planned. You don’t want to be in the middle of month three, have a meltdown and no direction and a weak psychology. You need to be able to “see” where you will be at each junction of your plan based on both research and execution. This is also what I am passionate about sharing, is this ability to “see” where you will be with more clarity than one normally gets.

You see, what I’ve learned to navigate is what is called large data, and since all languages are large in terms of words, grammar and all the things you need to learn, the information surrounding its acquisition can become infinitely complex (and by extension inefficient). We will ask: where do I start? what do I learn first? (and why) What are my steps after 2 months, 3 months and how do these things complement each other, intersect and overlap?

These are all the things that I have figured out with my research over the years. With Japanese because of the high barrier of entry (writing systems), it is important to know what you are aiming for and why because it takes so much effort and you don’t want to waste time learning things you have no (initial need for). 2,136 gives you access to the entire language. This can be learned in 8-10 weeks. 3,000 gives you “real access” ,meaning more nuanced words and phrases etc. In the past I looked at all of this as madness and impossible because of the size of the data. But I already know that I’ve already learned 2,136 which leaves 854 Kanji to hit the 3,000 that gives me the reading ability of the regular Japanese adult. I can learn these 854 Kanji in a month, or at a leisurely pace in 6 weeks (with little effort). I can “see” where I will be moving forward.

I’ve also done all of this Kanji memorization without using any apps. I just used my brain, well researched memorization strategies and high doses of repetition. It is very straightforward and quite doable. It took me a very long time to understand that the two biggest difficulties of language learning involve large data and the perception of this data psychologically. 

We have to really break things down or it will be too overwhelming. In my opinion you can’t just “dive in”. There is too much information, it is too disconnected in a logical sense and you will be unable to predict what ability you will gain even if you are putting in incredible hours of work. A person can say “hey i’ll just learn Kanji while i’m reading” and they will never reach anywhere because if they don’t have a set of Kanji they are aiming to learn, at a larger set of 3,000 Kanji for adult level reading you will never be aware of “where you are” because you’ll be learning everything randomly. By learning 2,136 Kanji and then the final 854 to take me to 3,000, I know exactly where I should be in terms of comprehensive ability. As I train my vocabulary, I will have a general sense of what I am supposed to be able to understand, regardless of wherever I encounter it. 

Again, because this data is so “large” people kind of just say “screw it, I’ll just dive in and learn as I go along”, but it is rare these people ever gain true ability in the language, especially in a short period of time. I am quite certain that everything I have done, can be done quite quickly, effectively with powerful results that should allow a motivated learner to be able to read and speak and a high level within four to six months tops. I’ll go more into these details later, but it relates to having a “top down” view of where you are. For example, N5 is the lowest rung in the learning level of Japanese. You need to know about 100 words and a handful of Kanji and about 100 grammar patterns. If f you learned all the N5 grammar and vocabulary, you will know exactly where you are., which is a very low level of ability. Comprehension is directly linked to these levels, so for example, if I know that I need be aware of around 600 grammar partners to understand n2 Japanese, then I need not stress myself about not understanding that level until i’ve covered the all of that grammar and vocabulary and understand the requirements of time and energy.

But after learning the 2,136 Kanji (and eventually by proxy 3,844 words during vocabulary acquisition) and going after the final 3,000 Kanji (takes you by proxy to around 8,000 words) these will all overlap with pretty much every level from n5 up to n1 (the highest level). Therefore, in the pursuit of this specific goal you are virtually guaranteeing your level of comprehension after a certain period of time. It may not be perfect, but it will be significant, as I learned with German. I didn’t speak to any German folks, I didn’t go onto iTalki or chat groups, but I could comfortably listen to podcasts, watch movies and play videos games (including dozens of hours in an RPG) all in German. I was not “perfect” meaning I didn’t understand everything all the time but I was able to maintain around 85-90% in a lot of situations which was enough (because I didn’t even study past 4,500 words). The point is, the work I put in and all the grammar I studied was directly equivalent to my relative understanding and I had mapped out the timeframe almost to the letter to reach that point (without knowing as much as I do now). It is also interesting to note that your speaking ability increases incredibly during this process (without much hardcore speech practice, but more on that later).

This process may initially feel very slow and it is definitely quite challenging mentally, but when the day comes that your target language becomes unusually clear and comprehensible, then it is all worth it. Japanese has begun to slowly enter that territory (as I haven’t been pressuring vocabulary yet). I’ve watched about 400 hours of native audio which means i’m quite comfortable with the phonetics (even more so than after living in Japan) and once I keep pressing forward there is nowhere for me to go but up. All of this data and how it works is what I aim to explain in my upcoming course, which is really designed to save you guys wasted months (or years) and a lot of headache in terms of steps to take. I look forward to sharing my findings and strategies with all those folks who want to do what i’m doing now.

Okay that’s it for me, gonna retreat now. Cheers!


About marcusbird

Writer, Designer, Filmmaker
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s