Learning Japanese Entry #8 Habits, Efficiency and Dropping Classes

This is entry 8 of my Learning Japanese Diary via the AJATT method. As always, the entry I made during the time of writing is below and after the entry I will discuss things I did right and things I did wrong, after knowing what I know now. A lot of the stuff I did in the beginning stages was stupid so definitely read to the end! Feel free to comment with any questions. 

Click here for the previous entry.


Diary Entry

13th of November 2015:

I completely forgot to write an entry for October which is a shame, I’ve been really busy immersing though. What can I say, it’s going really well. Of course I still suck but I’m loving the process, it’s just really enjoyable! As I have settled into University, and my new daily routine, I have managed to cram in much more listening and immersion than I did at home. If I’m in a lecture I usually keep one earphone in so that when I tune out or get distracted at least the chance of it being by something useful is high. Also a lot of the lectures are pretty boring or about stuff that I already know, for example the database lectures we’ve had have been about stuff that I knew most of the concepts already and just had to read up on it to refresh and learn about new vocabulary. What I tend to do because of this, is read through the lecture notes before hand to check if its worth paying attention to or not, if it’s not I will sit there and listen to an episode of an anime and do my kanji reps. Unfortunately I have to be there for attendance so I can’t immerse myself fully.

Oh and I finally completed the 2000~ RTK 1 Kanji! Wooo! I absolutely plowed through them and have about 1300~ in long-term memory which is great! I’m still a bit behind on the sentences as the kanji reps take a lot of time, although recently they have started to reduce down in size. No longer am I getting 300 a day, it’s now more like 120ish or less!

I have made some changes though to further reduce the amount of cards I do. I noticed that some kanji I just kept on forgetting and I started getting annoyed when I saw them, things like 勅 and other ones which seem really odd or hard to remember. So what I did was use notepad++ (a more advanced program for viewing .txt files in) to store all my books, subtitles and other Japanese texts. I then search all of these at once for a kanji (using CTRL + F) and if it pops up rarely or not at all then I will get rid of it from the deck. I haven’t deleted them though as I may need to do them later, so I have added them to a new deck along with RTK 3 kanji (which also seem pretty useless at the moment). I feel that with the current knowledge of 2000 or so kanji I can learn any others from context quite easily.

Doing this has reduced my reps quite a lot and has allowed me to progress with other activities such as sentence picking, reading, and watching a tonne of anime w/ Japanese subtitles! I have found that watching with subtitles has been a massive boost. My reading still sucks but reading subtitles while listening has allowed me to create links with words I already know from listening but don’t know how to write. It has also given me a better understanding of sentence structure, although I’m still struggling with a lot of it, I seem to be noticing a lot of the similar patterns.

Using subtitles has also helped my sentence picking a lot as well. Using this and notepad++ along with aegisub I can easily find subtitles while I’m watching anime. If I hear something I want to know I can simply find it in aegisub and add to notepad++, I keep both of these open in a separate window so I don’t have to pause the anime.

The classes where going quite well but recently I have been thinking about dropping them. After telling the teacher what I’m doing and the amount of work I’m putting in she actually came over to me and ripped my earphone out of my ear during class while shouting at me to not do it, which kinda pissed me off. I mean if I can’t listen to Japanese for a 2 hour Japanese lesson where I’m relearning stuff I already know and while being taught in English, then there isn’t much point to it! Most of the stuff in the class is way too easy, I’m usually there to ask the teacher about more difficult issues like help with reading dictionary definitions etc, not how do you say “There is a cat in the room”.

Also we just started the dreaded grammar drills. At first it didn’t seem like she was going to teach us grammar and for a few weeks this was the case. It was just sentence structures with example sentences e.g. how to say you want something or how to compare 2 things etc. In my last class for example she taught us て form. Which to be honest I saw people talking about on the internet and people complaining about it but I never really paid it much attention. Then, as she handed out the sheet that showed examples such as 飲みますーー>飲んで I was like, “This is て form? Oh okay, I know this but I don’t know how to change it, I don’t need to…” That was when I realised I don’t need to be there. Grammar is pointless, as Khatz says its like trying to learn quantum physics to drive a car. It’s too complicated and you can acquire it much easier and more effortlessly through immersion. I’ve seen enough sentences with て form and ます form to know the difference but I never thought about it, I never needed to! It just is, ya know?

Anyway, I’m probably going to stop going to classes, it won’t affect my grades or anything as I am taking it for interest so that’s fine.

Language exchanges have been an interesting topic that I have been thinking about recently. I’ve made a few friends with people from the University as well as people I talk to online. At my Uni, a couple of the natives actually come in and do a study session for about 2 hours with us while covering similar topics to what we do in the lessons (but minus the grammar). They talk in ONLY Japanese and teach us natural conversational speech which is great. I think I will keep going to these as they are great for the whole comprehensible input hypothesis, i=i+1 and all that, plus they are hilarious!

I also speak to my friend on Skype every Friday for an hour or two. Unfortunately it’s mainly in English but I will often ask her questions in Japanese to hear her response. I’m not really practicing my speaking skills here but I am trying to understand her normal speech instead. I’ll be honest here and say that my output is incredibly low but my understanding is a lot higher. That’s obvious though as output is a side effect of input. Although I’m not necessarily practicing my Japanese with her, it is still incredibly helpful having someone to get any difficult questions answered, as well as asking to explain things I really can’t understand from context (although given enough time I would but yeah, sometimes you just gotta know!). I help her with her English while listening to Japanese so it isn’t too bad. It could be worse! She actually just texted me saying that next week she will only talk Japanese but in very simple Japanese so I can comprehend her haha Hopefully this will come in handy.

I’m also off to London tomorrow to check out the opportunities with MEXT and other scholarship programs as well as future work prospects at the Experience Japan Exhibition! Should be fun! Side note: I have a literature review in next week and I’ve written more in this post than I have in 5 weeks of doing that, hahahaha.. I’m going to die. Anyway, stats!

Immersion environment: Good so far, constant 20+ listening a day. OS’s in Japanese, changing wallpapers with kanji and words.
A few manga lying around my room. Need to get some posters though!

Listening: 2380~ hours

All in one Kanji deck: DELETED, I got fed up with doing this one as well, wasn’t really necessary so I got rid of it.
All (was my Heisig deck, I renamed it): Mature 1312, Young+Learn 622, Unseen 0, Suspended 0, Removed about 200~

J-E Sentence deck: Mature: 688 Young+Learn: 413 Suspended: 0 Unseen: 91
J-J Sentence deck: Mature: 284 Young+Learn: 101 Suspended: 0 Unseen: 5645 (I’m not sure if I mentioned this but this is so big because I accidentally added a script from an anime into it and then realised after a few days that it was a really bad idea)

New Sentences: Young+Learn 104 (I made this deck to add J-J cards from anime and see them straight away as opposed to adding them to my J-J deck and them getting lost in that massive amount of sentences… I need to sort that out…)

End of entry


Making things habitual

Reading back over this entry has actually made me realise a few things. I didn’t directly talk about it in the entry but you can tell that I had finally “settled into AJATT” and had gotten used to immersion. It was more than just that though, I had made everything I did a habit. Meaning that even if I wanted to stop, it would be incredibly difficult to do so.

I think that no matter what you are learning, if you can reach the point where you have,

  • integrated the language (or skill) into as much of your daily life as possible,
  • succeeded in completing an initial goal (in this case learning all the jyouyou kanji) and,
  • created habits to keep yourself studying as much as you can

then I would say you are very likely to succeed at an exponential rate. Reaching this stage means you have already beaten most people and are well on your way up the ladder of success. The first stage is definitely the hardest and requires the most motivation, but after that it all becomes rather “easy”. You still need to put a lot of work and effort into what you are doing but you no longer have to force yourself to work, it’s now just second nature. You no longer have to force yourself out the door to go jogging, you just automatically go jogging. 


Making things efficient

With time I gradually perfected my daily routine and made it incredibly time efficient. I expect I will talk about this again in future posts as the entire process was, and still is, an ever-changing process. I briefly discussed in the paragraph above about getting rid of kanji flashcards that I just couldn’t remember. Some of you may think this is a bad idea, but it’s actually worse off if you keep trying to study something over and over again that you just can’t remember. It’s obviously not working so get rid of it or change the way you are learning the item. 

I could have used a different memory technique for the kanji that I really couldn’t remember but at the time I wasn’t too knowledgeable in this area and just opted for the “screw it, if I need them they will come up again” option. After all, Less is more. The reason why this is a good idea and why you should always opt in for the easy options is because it literally saves you a hell of a lot of time. You can then focus the otherwise wasted time on other more important things that you need to learn first.

Why would you spend ages attempting to break down and understand a really difficult sentence when you haven’t even got the grasp of basic grammar yet? It’s not worth the effort. Go for the easy stuff, save yourself time, the effort and the frustration that comes with attempting to learn something that is way above your caliber.


Soon after this entry, I dropped out of Japanese Class

Why did I drop out? Put simply, it was a waste of time. At the time of this entry, I was in my first year of University. Due to being in the first year, this class would not count towards my final degree. Even if I got a good grade, it would mean absolutely nothing. If I did this class in the 2nd year however, my grades in class would count towards my degree. Due to this, my teacher cussing at me for listening to Japanese, in a Japanese class, and due to realising how insane Khatz’s Japanese was, and that his method definitely was the way forward, I eventually decided to drop out of class.

This turned out to be a really good decision. This freed up about 4 hours a week (2 hours per class, 1 hour travel and 1 hour homework/coursework), which allowed me to SRS more and watch more Japanese TV (which I ended up learning 10x as much from). I actually did this class again in the 2nd year so I would get credit towards my degree. I ended up with a 1st class in the unit and I was 1 mark off top marks. I managed that with an attendance rate of less than 60% (note: attendance didn’t matter in the 2nd year).

What I am trying to get across here is that classes are inefficient. I am not saying that they are useless, if you go you will probably learn something, but if you are using a method such as AJATT then you will progress at such a quick pace that you will soon exceed the level that your classes are at, making them pointless (unless you can move up a level).

The content that is taught is also not always taught in an effective manner nor is all the content required to “acquire” a language. For example, learning conjugation is pointless, just get used to the language and your brain will pick these patterns up over time.

The little study session that I mentioned we had, that was organised by the exchange students, were a lot better than the classes as the entire lesson was in very simple Japanese. Unfortunately these sessions only happened about twice due to lack of people turning up. I would much prefer the lessons being taught like this as you would learn so much more, but on the other hand if this was implemented in normal language classes, I highly doubt that anyone would turn up to classes. People would think they are too hard. Too hard = no students = no profit for teaching organisations :C


There was some other stuff I mentioned in this post but I think I discussed the main issues. If you have any questions please post them in the comment section below! Thanks for reading! 🙂

Click here for more information on learning Japanese


By Matthew Hawkins



Here are some of my favorite tools and sites for learning Japanese

Thank you for reading this blog post, which I hope you found useful for learning Japanese. Here are some of the most useful websites that I’ve found for finding Japanese content to use for immersion as well as some really useful learning tools to help you through your Japanese studies. Some of these are affiliate links which just means that if you decide to use these sites by clicking the following links, then I will earn a commission. But honestly speaking, these are the sites that I use and recommend language learners, even my friends, to use anyway.

Anki Tools: To get started, I really like Migaku for Anki. By itself, Anki is already a super useful tool for language learners but Migaku allows for integration with websites like YouTube and Netflix, allowing it’s users to create flashcards from the shows and videos that they are watching, as they are watching them. If you use my link you can get an extra month for free.

Speaking Practice: For this I absolutely love iTalki. There are thousands of Japanese teachers on the platform that are available at all times of the day to have conversations with you, in Japanese. Some teachers take a more traditional approach while others are just there to chat, these are the ones I would recommend if you are looking to improve your conversational Japanese. Lessons start from just $5 and there’s no long term commitment, I highly recommend them.

Immersion: I’ve used a lot of different earphones / headphones over the years but by far the one that has come out on top is the NENRENT S570. This is a singular in-ear earphone that matches your skin tone to keep it discrete, meaning you can listen to the language you are learning while at work, or school. For a full list of tools and gadgets I recommend for maximizing your immersion time, check out this blog post.

5 Replies to “Learning Japanese Entry #8 Habits, Efficiency and Dropping Classes”

  1. I am so sorry for the late reply, the comment system hasn’t been working and I’ve only just fixed it.

    Interesting question Alex, I hope I can provide some insight but Japanese is a lot different to Chinese so don’t take my word literally.

    If the sentences are grammatically correct, the audio is spoken by natives, and you don’t find it boring then go for it. Chinese seems like a language that really requires some intense listening so I would recommend it, or you could use actual Chinese TV shows and make similar Anki decks with the audio from the show and images as well (great for context) here is a tutorial I made a while back for it – http://www.britvsjapan.com/get-thousands-contextual-sentences-learning-languages-sentence-banks/

    Japanese has pitch accent (高低アクセント) which is similar but by no means as complex as the Chinese tones. In fact I didn’t know about this until I was almost already fluent, then I kinda started panicking about it as I thought that I might be hard to understand for natives. After speaking with plenty of natives here in Hokkaido though, this worry has since gone and most people are very impressed with my accent. On saying that, I did have an issue with my girlfriend the other day when I said 操舵 (souda, a word used for steering a ship or boat) and she thought I said そうだ (souda, a more common word that means “that’s right”) due to the way I pronounced the word.

    For Japanese and other languages that aren’t as complex you can probably get away without studying this kind of stuff but as you say Chinese is different.

    I hope that helped!

    1. Thanks for the reply. Actually since I wrote this question I decided to use Anki to understand a Chinese podcast (https://www.slow-chinese.com). This has been great because within a day or two I can fully comprehend the podcast and enjoy it more for passive/active listening.

      I’m also just now installing VMware Fusion on my mac so I can run sub2srs and try that method.

      For anyone else reading this and learning Chinese, I also found it massively valuable to study Chinese grammar via example sentences here: https://resources.allsetlearning.com/chinese/grammar/Main_Page

      ^ there is a premade deck on anki with all the sentences from this site. So just suspend them all and unsuspend as you go – the grammar explanations on this site are the most lucid I have seen anywhere.

      Cheers Matt!

  2. I am so sorry for the late reply, the comment system hasn’t been working and I’ve only just fixed it.

    I am glad you are progressing and doing well! Stick with AJATT, you will be fine if you keep going with it.

    NHK Easy is an okay source. It is simple so it won’t be useful for the higher levels but for beginners I would say it could be great, especially if you enjoy checking the news each day. It is by no means as complex as the actual NHK articles that are posted but it contains furigana that is correct so that’s a massive bonus.

    I tried not to look up stuff too much in English as I knew that defeated the point of learning Japanese in Japanese, however, sometimes I did want clarification to check that I knew a piece of grammar was correct. In this case I would do a quick google search or check Kae Tim’s grammar guide. For the most of it though I just accepted that I can’t read Japanese right now but I will try and read as much as I can, whether I understand it or not. This also involved skipping a lot of complicated text. Anything that contained a lot of kanji scared me so I would skip it and move on. The meaning of different pieces of grammar will just come to you over time after loads of exposure. It takes hundreds of times of hearing the same grammar in different situations and context to really understand what it means, so just let your ears do the work. I have very few grammar explanations in my flashcards, and those that are in my deck are in Japanese, not in English.

    Yeah you are kinda right, it’s kinda half reading and understanding some of the story and half reading for the purpose of sentence mining. And yes, it can become frustrating sometimes, the beginning stage is literally the hardest part because there is so much to learn and you feel like it’s impossible, but if you keep at it each day, after a few months you will start being able to understand enough to make the process a lot more fun and enjoyable. For now though, to make it less stressful, work with stuff you enjoy or have already read/watched in English. This will make learning a lot easier as you already understand the story of the content you are consuming.

    Once again, I apologise for the late reply, if I may ask, how are thing’s going with your Japanese right now?

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