How to use Free Software to learn Japanese, and more.

FAQ

June 17, 2021 — Tatsumoto

This is Tatsumoto's AJATT FAQ. You can search questions you're interested in if you press Ctrl+f. I'm going to update this article as I receive more questions. If your question hasn't been answered, ask it in our chat.


How to learn Japanese?

You learn Japanese by self-study through immersion. Our guide contains everything you need.

Who can teach me Japanese?

No one can. You have to do it yourself. Languages can only be acquired through massive amounts of watching, listening and reading.

What's immersion?

Immersion is the process of reading or listening to your target language. It is not necessary to move to Japan or talk to natives to immerse. As long as you have access any content in natural, native Japanese, you're covered. Watch anime, dramas, read books, light novels, manga in Japanese if you want to learn the language.

Usually we divide immersion into passive (background) and active. Active immersion requires full attention to the content while passive immersion is when you're listening to Japanese while doing something else.

What's input and output?

When we say input or immersion, we mean any form of listening or reading in the target language. When we say output, we mean writing or speaking in the target language.

How important is passive immersion?

When you're a beginner, active immersion plays a much bigger role than passive immersion. You need to watch something actively first and make it as comprehensible as possible before reusing the same content for passive immersion. At this stage it is not advised to immerse in something passively for the first time because you haven't worked with the content and haven't comprehended it.

However, when you're already pretty good at understanding Japanese, which happens after around a year if you're serious in your studies, you become able to understand your passive immersion really well. At this stage you gain a lot more from passive immersion. When you reach this point, you can use completely new content for passive immersion and still understand it close to 100% if you pay enough attention. Because of that, it makes sense to value passive immersion more as you progress.

What's fluency?

Fluency is when you understand at least 98% of your immersion.

For example, a typical episode of anime contains 300-400 lines of dialog. If you watch the episode and encounter only 7-8 or less unknown words, you can call yourself fluent.

how many words do i need to know

What's AJATT?

AJATT stands for All Japanese All The Time. It's a method of reaching fluency in Japanese in a relatively short period of time. It was created by Khatzumoto in 2006. The goal of AJATT was to teach the methods he used to become fluent in Japanese. The AJATT Method encourages doing as much Japanese as you can every day.

This site is heavily inspired by AJATT. Our goal is to bring AJATT's insights to a larger audience and update the method bringing in new tools and ideas.

Should I read the AJATT site?

If you're interested in Khatzumoto's original ideas, you may want to read the AJATT site. It can help you answer some language learning questions you have.

First make sure you've read our guide. There are ideas in which this site disagrees with the original AJATT method. I want you to become aware of the new approach before you learn about the old ways.

Once you're ready, read the AJATT Table of Contents. You can ignore everything outside the Table of Contents. I also recommend exploring the old version.

These days the site's homepage contains nothing but ads. Don't enter your Email address and don't buy the paid products it offers, there are free alternatives.

Should I watch anime with English subtitles?

Yes, if you want to learn English.

This is actually how I learned English as a teenager, not even joking. I was so fed up with the quality of fansubs in my native language that one day I just decided to switch and start watching anime with English subs. It was insanely hard at first, and I would spend hours looking up every word in a dictionary. However, after a few months I only had to look up a couple words here and there.

If you are serious about learning Japanese, don't use English subtitles. Watch with Japanese subtitles or without any subtitles at all. We've all seen countless anime fans who've watched thousands of hours of English-subbed anime and still know less than 100 Japanese words.

If someone has watched anime with English subs for thousands of hours before starting to learn Japanese, how much of a head start does that give them?

Remember the "watch 10 000 hours of Eng subbed anime" joke from DJT? Well, I actually did watch anime with English subs for thousands of hours before starting to learn Japanese. I can't talk for everybody of course, but my experience was that I knew literally nothing before I sat down and started formally studying the language. I picked up probably no more than about 50 words total, things like お前はもう死んでいる, ただいま and 馬鹿変態.

When you're watching anime with English subtitles, you're reading the subtitles. You're only partially listening to the audio. So I imagine that the only advantage a person who had an experience similar to mine would have is a little more phonetic awareness. They would still have to build their understanding of Japanese almost from zero.

I am struggling to switch from English to Japanese media.

You shouldn't have this problem. Most people before they start AJATT already have a passion for otaku content or other types of Japanese media. If you decided to learn Japanese out of the blue, and you don't like any of the above, it's going to be very hard to immerse without going back to English.

If you like anime, there will be no temptation to watch crap in English. But if you're not like that, then why are you learning Japanese in the first place?

Is it harmful to always have TL subtitles on?

Watching with subs is a reading activity. If you have subtitles on all the time, you have less time to practice your listening. If you practice reading more than listening, and you're not fluent yet, your listening ability starts lagging behind your reading ability.

If developing good accent and listening ability is important for you, always watch raw and turn the subs on only when you hear an unknown word. Alternatively, keep two types of TV shows, one for watching raw and one for watching with subs.

The amount of passive immersion you're doing also plays a role. You can allow yourself to watch more content with subs if you listen a lot.

If your listening ability is underdeveloped by the time you reach fluency, catching up will take more effort than if you listen a lot from the beginning.

Pausing. How often should I look things up?

If you never pause it means you don't look up words at all. The more you look up the faster you progress. Try to find the balance between enjoyment and frequent lookups.

You can watch raw and try to understand only through the visuals, watch with subs and actively look up unknown words, or do something in between.

A community member フェリペ shares the following routine:

I always keep two TV-shows. One for mining everything and the other one for pure enjoyment, without lookups.

Isn't 18 hours each day quite a lot?

Of course. Khatz himself admitted that he was rarely able to do so much, but he always tried.

What good things are there to watch for a complete beginner?

Slice of life shows.

You can divide the language into domains of interest. The easiest domains are shows for children, slice of life and romance anime. Most people start with them and slowly advance until they can consume a wide variety of input and understand it perfectly.

A list of anime sorted from the easiest to hardest can be found here.

Kanji in the current year

Back in my day RRTK didn't exist. The JP1K method didn't exist either. I did KanjiDamage+.

If I were to start today, I would probably start learning words right away. If I couldn't handle it, I would pause and try the JP1K method.

Is it OK to create mnemonics to help remember kanji readings?

Unless you did RTK or Kanjidamage before you started reading, creating mnemonics is not going to be that easy because you lack a more in-depth understanding of how kanji are formed. In this case I would recommend not worrying about mnemonics and trying to memorize the readings as is.

If you did Kanjidamage or Kanjidamage+, you already know thousands of premade mnemonics for kanji readings, and they're going to help you a lot. For me this was pretty much the case. Kanjidamage mnemonics helped me out at first, but I quickly moved past them as I continued to learn new words.

If you choose to use mnemonics, don't rely on them for too long. You don't want to be an advanced learner who still thinks of mnemonic stories when trying to read every word.

I did RRTK but my kanji ability still feels shaky. Should I do the JP1K?

Decks like RTK, RRTK, KanjiDamage and KanjiTransition are designed to give you training wheels so that you could practice kanji in a modified environment for a while and then transition to reading real Japanese and learn real words.

If you have completed one such deck, you don't need to do another one of the same kind. Instead, you should go to the next level and do Ankidrone Starter Pack. Eventually your goal is to start sentence mining while consuming native content.

Even if you feel like you lack kanji ability, just continuing to learn words is going to improve it. Remember, many people never learned kanji through a dedicated deck, they learned words right from the start.

I can only recall kanji when in the context of the specific sentence I learned it in. How do I fix this?

If you've been learning words using sentence cards or TSCs, and you have developed context-dependent memories of the words, that is not abnormal. It happens to many people. It goes away over time as you continue reading with a dictionary.

Beginners are more likely to form context-dependent memories when studying with sentence cards. Word cards may work better for them in particular, at the cost of more difficult reviews.

What are the downsides of using WaniKani?

TL,DR: Instead of Wanikani do this.

WaniKani is inspired by Remembering the Kanji. Similarly to RTK, in WaniKani kanji are presented in an efficient order, and mnemonics are employed to aid memorization. The pros end here. Let's list the cons.

  • The mnemonics are pre-made. WaniKani doesn't let you write your own stories.

    Other systems like KanjiDamage use prebuilt mnemonics as well, but while you're going through a KanjiDamage deck, you can change them to your own personal, vivid mnemonics if the ones given to you are not sticking or you simply don't like the stories.

    RTK encourages you to create your own mnemonics. Personal mnemonic visualizations tend to improve learning and recall compared to premade ones.

  • It forces you to use it's personal built-in SRS. The fact that you can't use Anki with WaniKani is a huge downside.

    Note that on the Internet you can find third-party Anki decks ripped from WaniKani. If you want to try WaniKani, download them instead of using the site and paying for it.

  • It's a paid service. It costs money. It also means that if you want to keep reviewing so that you don't forget what you've already learned then you have to keep paying which is pretty lame.

    Learning Japanese from the zero to fluency without spending any money is the main idea that stands at the core of our method.

  • It makes you learn isolated kanji readings and vocab out of context. Learning a bunch of similar information at the same time out of context is a recipe for memory interference. WaniKani users end up being unable to read kanji with multiple readings. On top of that, this sort of knowledge is impractical because in Japanese kanji are always used to write words. You either know in advance how to read an entire word or you can never guess with 100% certainty based on readings learned out of context. If you decide to learn kanji out of context, it is most efficient to create a mental dictionary entry for each character by only learning its meaning so that extensive knowledge of readings and meanings can then be easily gained intuitively through context.

  • WaniKani's built-in SRS never has you write out kanji from memory, it only has you recall the meaning given the kanji. Anki lets you easily create production cards to train writing out kanji if you wish to do so.

  • You are forced to go through WaniKani at a snail's pace. Apparently if you learn as fast as the WaniKani system lets you it will take you around 18 months to get through the most common 2,000 kanji. On the other hand, it takes less than 3 months to get through KanjiDamage or Remembering The Kanji.

  • Isolated kanji study is outdated. Today there's the JP1K method which is built around the idea of learning Japanese words from the beginning. When studying kanji out of context you have to learn English keywords, and that's never going to be as efficient as learning words.

I just quit WaniKani after learning 1,300 kanji. Should I do JP1K or just jump into sentence mining?

Do N5 and N4 levels in Ankidrone Starter Pack, then jump into sentence mining.

JP1K is made for beginners, for people who don't know any Japanese yet. If you have learned more than 1,000 kanji, there's no need to continue studying kanji specifically. The kanji you don't know yet can be learned together with words.

Is JAV good for immersion?

I'm guessing that's a joke. JAV has extremely poor language density. If you watch JAV, skip all the parts where no one's talking.

If you like erotic content, I recommend reading doujinshi. They offer higher language density.

Should I limit how much dubbed content I immerse with? What are the downsides of dubbed content?

A have a few points regarding this.

  • It's pretty hard to find dubbed content compared to native content in case of Japanese. There are sites with dubbed American movies, but their libraries are rather small.
  • Japanese has an abundance of native content. There's absolutely no need to substitute it with dubbed content. It's not a problem for other languages either. For example, I was surprised how many television dramas exist in Russian, probably even more than in Japanese, and they make new ones every month.
  • Any dubbed content is stripped of basically all cultural interaction, it's just pure language. You're going to miss out on all the body language, gestures, concepts unique to the country.

Taking this into account, dubbed content is not as good as native content, and I advise you limit how much you use it in your immersion. But keep in mind that real Japanese people watch dubs. It is fun.

How to look up words on web pages?

I have a guide on how to set up Yomichan here. Don't forget to install AnkiConnect if you want to make Anki cards.

How do I look up words when I read manga?

Using OCR software (Tesseract, Transformers) with Yomichan. The Mining from manga article explains how to automate it.

If your OCR tool fails, open Google Translate, enable handwriting and draw the word. Another option is to find kanji by their parts on Jisho.

Is SuperMemo better than Anki?

SuperMemo is proprietary software, so it should not be used.

What time of day should I do Anki?

As long as you finish your daily reviews any time is fine. Some people do Anki first thing in the morning, some spread their reviews throughout the day.

Is there a "bare minimum" amount of Anki you would recommend to people who hate Anki?

There are more people out there who hate Anki than those who like it. I somewhat dislike Anki too. Since around 2020 Anki has underwent significant changes that outraged the users. Many existing add-ons break with each new release. Maybe Anki needs to be completely replaced by another SRS.

I still use Anki because the benefits outweigh the costs. If you hate Anki because you dread your reviews, you should just change the settings. It is very easy to make Anki unusable by applying the wrong settings. Try to find something that works for you. On this site you can find my recommended settings.

The minimum amount of time you need to spend SRSing is highly individual. As long as you can finish your daily reviews, learn new cards and add several new cards, you should be fine.

Is there a way to view the cards I have failed the most times on Anki?

You can list them in the Anki Browser. For example, to see cards that have lapsed more than 5 times open the Anki Browser (shortcut: b) and type prop:lapses>5. Likewise, prop:lapses>10 will show cards that have lapsed more than 10 times, etc.

I recommend resetting leeches. It's not worth the extra time required to drill them in. After resetting edit the corresponding notes to make them simpler and avoid lapses in the future.

What is a 1T sentence?

A 1T (one-target) sentence is a sentence that contains only one word or grammar structure that you don't know. For a more detailed explanation see this article.

What do you think of "animecards" (high quality vocab cards)?

When people say "animecards", they mean WCCs.

It's one of worst plagues of the Japanese learning community. I recommend targeted sentence cards (TSCs) or fallback cards instead.

How should I go about making cards for words that are written identically but pronounced differently?

When you spot a pair of words that are written identically but read differently, make TSCs with those words and use furigana with × on the front to distinguish between the readings. I have given examples here.

Anki to immersion ratio. How much time should I spend SRSing?

The most popular community guideline is 1 hour a day.

You can't directly control how much time you're going to spend on Anki. The amount of time is determined by what card type (template) you use, how many new cards you add each day and how fast you can read Japanese.

If you notice that you overspend you time on Anki, try TSCs or fallback cards instead of normal sentence cards, reduce the number of new cards you learn, install Speed Focus Mode Anki add-on.

What should I be "doing" while actively immersing?

Looking up words.

Active immersion is all about making your input comprehensible. Dictionary lookups are the main way of making input comprehensible. Aside from that you can pay attention to scenery, intonation, pitch accent, levels of politeness and other cultural things.

What is the minimum to maintain fluency?

Depends. The minimum to maintain fluency is highly individual. To maintain fluency, continue immersing as frequently as you can.

The longer you have studied Japanese, the longer you can maintain your ability without immersion. If you've studied Japanese for many years, you can even last multiple months.

How should I divide my study time?

Roughly in three parts.

  • Spend 1/3 of your time reading, 1/3 listening and 1/3 doing Anki.
  • Don't spend more than 1 hour a day on Anki, distribute the rest.
  • Watching TV with subtitles counts towards reading.

So, on a bad day when you have only 3 hours of study time, you do each activity for 1 hour. On a good day when you have 12 hours a day, you spend 1 hour on Anki, 5.5 hours on listening and 5.5 on reading.

How many new cards to learn each day?

I recommend learning 10 to 30 new cards a day. The more new cards you do, the more reviews you'll have complete. See New cards.

Should I read sentences aloud when doing Anki reps?

I don't necessarily recommend it. See Reading sentences aloud.

How to make monolingual TSCs for vocab and grammar?

The process of making monolingual TSCs for grammar and vocab is the same because there's no significant difference between the two.

  • Download and install monolingual dictionaries for Yomichan.
  • Keep JMdict enabled for times when your monolingual dictionaries don't pick up certain words.
  • Mine words as usual, delete English from your cards.

Grammar points often only have English definitions. Rely on Yomichan to pin-point the grammar pattern, then use Weblio, sakura-paris or any search engine to look it up.

Some people would prefer to install as many monolingual dictionaries as possible to cover more ground and minimize the need to look up words online.

How to review and grade TSCs?

TSCs are very flexible in how you can review them.

When you learn a card for the first time, read the full sentence and understand its meaning as a whole, as well as meanings of individual words in isolation.

When you review the card later, you can choose not to read the whole sentence and instead only read the target word. Read the word then reveal the back of the card and read the definition.

Pass the card if you understand the meaning and reading of the target word. A definition is just one of many possible ways to describe the word. Don't recall the definition in case of a monolingual card, or the translation in case of a bilingual card verbatim. Having a general idea of the meaning in your head is enough.

How should I review monolingual word cards?

If it's a concrete noun, recall how it looks or what it is. If not, you're better off making a TSC instead.

As I've said, don't recall the whole definition verbatim.

Is there a Japanese syntax parser similar to Jisho.org but with no English?

Mecab.

Should I learn kanji forms of words usually written in kana?

Yes. Khatzumoto did it all the time, and it's practically a common thing among ajatters.

Examples:

  • 沢山
  • 蝸牛
  • 海豚
  • 蒟蒻

If you can read the kanji, then you can automatically read the kana. But if you can read the kana, it doesn't mean that you can read the kanji. By learning the kanji version you're getting both at the same time.

If you already have a targeted sentence card that teaches the kanji version of a word, then the next time you make a card that has that word in it, you don't have to change it to kanji because it's not the target word anymore.

Most words in Ankidrone Starter Pack are kanjified for this reason.

If a word has more than one kanji spellings, which do I mine?

Try putting each spelling in a search engine. Mine the one that brings more results. When searching, restrict the language to Japanese, or there will be Chinese sites in the results, and the number of occurrences of a word will be incorrect.

rankspellings is a script that searches words on Google or Yahoo and prints the number of search results for each. You can use it to find the most common spelling of a word.

For example:

> rankspellings -g 川蝉 翡翠 魚狗
翡翠	19300000
川蝉	487000
魚狗	6130

翡翠 appears to be the most useful spelling among others.

How can I improve at reading Japanese names?

Make an Anki deck and fill it with Japanese names. This may include names of celebrities, politicians or even anime characters. Most anime characters have normal Japanese names unless it's a weird fantasy show.

On the front of the card you'd have the name itself written in kanji. On the back put the name with furigana, a photo and some basic information about the person.

Don't make cards for random people, instead add names of people you've seen a few times before. This is going to ensure that the names are somewhat frequent.

Do you have any thoughts about struggling with katakana-words while immersing?

Words commonly written in katakana, including 和製英語 and 外来語, are annoying because you have to read katakana. Due to the shapes of the characters, reading katakana is more difficult, especially long katakana-words. Even Japanese people hate reading such words.

With training you can get used to reading any alphabet, but it's inevitable that a badly designed alphabet takes longer to adapt to.

Maybe one day Japan will switch to the Cyrillic script. Until then we have to deal with what we have.

Can I use Netflix to learn Japanese?

Please read this excellent article by Richard Stallman: Reasons not to use Netflix. There are plenty of ways to obtain immersion material and keep your freedom.

How to start reading as a beginner?

Start with reading Japanese subtitles for movies, TV shows and anime. Then try manga and eventually novels.

Thoughts on reading before listening?

Reading is very powerful, but it harms you if you don't have enough phonetic awareness. If I were starting today, I would keep reading at a minimum for the first year.

Why does premature reading cripple phonetic awareness?

Reading leads to sub-vocalizing which forms bad pronunciation habits and negatively influences the way you perceive spoken language.

If the text is voiced, such as anime with subtitles, it counts towards reading practice unless you don't read along.

Given that reading can harm pronunciation, when is the ideal time to become an avid reader?

I find that ideally it should be as late as possible. Depending on when you make your choice, you trade progress speed and literacy for better pronunciation. I recommend getting into reading novels after about a year. Waiting longer is likely to give diminishing returns, but go for it if you don't like reading, or you strive for perfect pronunciation.

How much listening should I do before I start reading?

It's hard to completely avoid reading because you still want to make Anki cards and use dictionaries. I recommend only audio-visual input (anime, dramas) in the beginning. After you've done it for 2,000 to 3,000 hours (around 4 months), you can start adding light reading to your studies. After about a year feel free to read as much as you want.

Itazuraneko recommends reading Yotsubato with a specific reading pack. Is that still a good way to get started with reading?

Yotsubato is often recommended as a "beginner manga".

Even though Yotsubato is quite simple compared to many other mangas, it contains lots of colloquial speech, slang, slurred speech, sentence endings and grammar that drive beginners crazy. Vocabulary in the manga is no doubt very simple, and there aren't that many words, but it's not the vocabulary that trips people up.

I have seen countless questions like, "What does this line in Yotsubato mean?" When reading the manga, people get so confused, they can't find unknown phrases anywhere in a grammar book or in a dictionary, so the only thing left for them is to beg other learners for explanations on a forum. That's not what a beginner material should do to you.

Second, Itazuraneko recommends that you read Yotsubato very early on, before you have had a chance to get used to the sounds of Japanese. Reading anything without accompanying audio at this stage is a recipe for failure and is going to negatively affect your listening ability.

From day one listen a lot, listen all the time. Immerse both passively and actively in voiced Japanese media to train your ears. Complete the first two subdecks from Ankidrone Starter Pack, they contain natural, correct, easy to understand sentences with clear native audio. Before starting reading manga, watch lots of anime with Japanese subtitles. Reading along audio is easier and should serve as training wheels to prepare you for reading without audio.

After you've done that, you can go back and read Yotsubato if you want. Although I personally would choose some other manga, I don't find Yotsubato particularly interesting.

You also need to set up OCR to make it easy to select text and look up unknown words in manga.

What's more harmful: early output or letting your reading ability get too far ahead of your listening ability?

Both are undoubtedly dangerous, but why are you worrying about this? If you're aware that reading dominates your immersion, cut it out and listen more. Immerse the right way, and everything will be fine.

In order to increase my reading speed, should I force myself to start skimming?

Khatzumoto recommended skimming mostly as a motivational tool. You skim boring parts to get to the fun parts, and it keeps you focused on your immersion. When it comes to reading speed, skimming won't help. If you read a lot, your reading speed will improve naturally.

Should I use a smaller font when reading to get used to small fonts?

Avoid small fonts, they're bad for your eyes.

Because today almost all reading is done on a computer, you can set a larger font no problem. Plus, computers make lookups and sentence mining easier.

Some printed books are written in small fonts, but you don't need to practice reading small fonts in order to read them. If you can read Japanese in a larger font fluently, you're going to be able to read smaller fonts too.

What about reading physical books?

I don't recommend reading physical books because usually they're not free, and they're harder to mine from. Almost all digital books are free, and you can use Yomichan with them, which is a great advantage.

Should I buy a Kindle to read Japanese books?

No, please! If you already have one, get rid of it. Amazon Swindle is a malicious device designed to handcuff you.

Read the following:

There are good alternatives for reading books listed here.

Should I trust Cure Dolly and "Organic Japanese"?

Sometimes you see people recommending Cure Dolly as a grammar resource. I tried going through it, and here's my takeaway.

  • The grammar explanations are a complete joke. I'm not saying that any competitors are perfectly correct either because they rely on English to describe Japanese, but Cure Dolly is on a different level.
  • Cure Dolly is creepy. Not everyone's going to have enough willpower to sit through its voice.
  • It is long. Most of the content is in video format. I'm not a big fan of videos. Reading a written grammar guide is going to be more efficient.

In order to understand grammar you have to understand it in Japanese. When a guide uses English building blocks to make a model that resembles the Japanese grammar, there's a limit on how accurate the explanations can be.

On this site we recommend reading one of the recommended grammar guides to acquire a rough understanding of what each of the most common grammar patterns means in order to comprehend more of your input. We don't concern ourselves with how to apply the rules to produce Japanese, this is something that comes naturally with immersion. Later after you become fluent we advise learning Japanese grammar in Japanese, using resources meant for native speakers.

Should I trust mattvsjapan and the "Refold" site?

Mattvsjapan wants you to pay money for his courses and paywalled content. This radically contradicts the core idea of this site, which is to learn a language without spending any money at all.

If you want to watch his channel, stick to the videos he produced before around mid 2018, he seems to be quite honest in them. The old videos were inspired by AJATT and taught a lot of good things. Unfortunately, it is hard to find them, most of the videos are not available on YouTube anymore.

In recent years Matt has been criticized for watering down the method and making it less effective. On this site we try to stick to the spirit of AJATT, so I recommend getting yourself familiar with the AJATT theory before you explore content from Refold. It will help you distinguish good advice from bad advice.

How much more efficient is AJATT than Refold?

Refold is a copy of AJATT with some parts reworded. There isn't much difference between the two, except With Refold you have to buy the T-shirts and cups from their store and subscribe for monthly donations to keep progressing.

I'm not that knowledgeable about Refold's teachings, but I understand that Refold was designed to be less effective than AJATT. Depending on how much time you have for immersion, what you immerse with, and how you use Anki you can progress faster, and I wish you do.

Did you track your daily immersion hours during your hardcore phase?

No, never. Change your environment and control your space instead.

It's much easier to control space than to control time.

If you change your environment then, you won't have to "choose" anything. Your environment will essentially make your choices for you.

Don't [choose to] do Japanese. Only have Japanese to do.

In other words, if you only have Japanese books, TV and movies at hand, immersing in Japanese is the only thing you can do. All your time is immersion time, so you don't have to measure it.

From what I saw, people who tried measuring how much time they spent on Japanese weren't actually that good. They were so focused on optimizing their immersion that they didn't immerse.

How broad or narrow is a "domain" of language?

You can start feeling domain boundaries once you cross different genres.

Don't pay too much attention to domains. Can you really imagine yourself having second-thoughts like "I really want to immerse in this content, but I'm worried I won't enjoy it because it's in a different domain."? Just immerse in what you like.

Having said that, domain boundaries can pose a challenge to beginners. Every time you switch domains, your comprehension drops. For the first few months try to keep your domain small.

How to extract audio from immersion content for passive listening?

Learn how to use FFmpeg from the terminal. It's very versatile.

I also recommend that you take a look at impd. It's a program that is specifically designed to automatically manage background immersion.

I only do passive immersion and things aren't working, what's wrong?

Even if you have headphones on all day, without active immersion you can't expect any improvement. It is possible to learn a language without passive immersion, but it is almost impossible to do with only passive immersion. You need to actively immerse and look up as many words as you can while doing so.

Watching raw or watching with Japanese subs?

Both have their advantages. When you watch with Japanese subs, you train your reading comprehension. When you watch raw, you train your listening comprehension. Try to balance the two.

No matter what you choose, it is important that you watch raw at least some of the time. If you always watch with subs, your listening ability won't be improving. I suggest that you watch raw and only turn the subs on when you don't understand something.

When do I make a card and when do I just keep going?

You always make a card.

If you're feeling lazy then just don't. Immersion learning is not math, you're not going to get a bad grade if you don't learn something. If the word is important, it will come up again.

I'm not motivated and don't enjoy learning Japanese, is it still worth my time?

Don't learn Japanese.

It's just honestly stupid.

Just don't.

When and how to go about dropping the SRS?

You should never stop using the SRS, even after you "make it". A few minutes of SRSing each day is a hundred times better than no SRSing at all.

What do you think of the Core 6K deck? Is it a good replacement for the Tango decks?

You don't need to "replace" Tango decks with anything. You'll find both decks in AnkiDrone Starter Pack. Try them, see which you like more. Core 6K is a part of Core 10K.

Core 10K and Tango are quite similar. Both are TSC decks with vocabulary and sentences voiced by a native speaker. I recommend Tango over Core10k. In Tango the sentences are a little more natural, and the presented vocabulary looks more useful in everyday life.

Should I read through Tae Kim while going through the Tango decks?

Only if you don't understand some cards in the deck.

Tango decks don't teach grammar points as thoroughly as a grammar guide would do. If you stumble upon a card that you don't understand even after reading its back, refer to Tae Kim for explanations.

Tae Kim: is "essential grammar" enough?

As far as I see, the Tae Kim guide gets divided into 4 sections.

  1. Basic Grammar
  2. Essential Grammar
  3. Special Expressions
  4. Advanced Topics

So the question becomes, "Can I drop Tae Kim after reading the first half?"

The truth is that all 4 sections describe pretty basic grammar. You can stop at any point and start sentence mining. Looking up grammar and making targeted sentence cards with grammar targets is no different from making cards for regular vocabulary. Eventually you'll catch up.

I'm a beginner. Do you recommend learning the "advanced grammar" within Tae Kim's grammar guide?

The above answer applies.

When I learned Japanese, I read Tae Kim's guide completely, but I did it in chunks. First I learned some vocab, then I read the first section. Then I learned more vocab and read the second one, and so on.

Decide if you're ready before starting the "advanced grammar" part.

When should I change my devices to Japanese?

When you can read Japanese comfortably. Not when you're still a total beginner because it will just make everything harder. But you want to do it sooner for additional Japanese gains.

User interfaces use a limited range of relatively specific vocabulary. If you want to speed things up, frontload the vocabulary before switching your devices. Here I have a list of sentences ripped from Android's system UI. Go through the list and use Yomichan to make targeted sentence cards for words you don't know.

Should I up my active immersion?

Yes, not only active. You should always aim at 18 hours of total immersion per day, as the AJATT site says. After you've been ajatting for 18 months, you can end your "hardcore phase" and start doing less immersion. However, many choose to continue their hardcore phases until up to several years.

I have many bad habits due to being forced to prematurely output for many years in school. How should I go about fixing these bad habits?

In an ideal situation you want to avoid premature output because the bad habits you form are very hard to get rid of later. If you already have bad habits, go through a silent period. Don't output and listen a lot for up to a year. From my experience and experience of other learners, if you have bad habits, immersion alone won't fix them. To correct the habits that may still be present after a silent period study tongue placement and imitate native speakers. When imitating native speakers, pay extra attention to the sounds in each word and record yourself to see where you're off.

English learners should always check the IPA notations of the words they are learning to pronounce. For Japanese learners knowing IPA isn't that necessary, but pitch accent plays a bigger role.

Is it more efficient to stick to one genre/domain instead of jumping around?

If you immerse in only one genre, you're going to quickly increase your understanding of the content in that genre. Once you understand a certain genre well, your overall progress in the language will slow down. So, sticking to one genre for too long is wrong, but jumping around many genres will result in facing too many unknown words if you're not fluent yet. Prioritize enjoyment over "efficiency". The fun cut to Japanese is almost always the shortcut.

As a beginner should I study tongue placement and imitate native speakers or should I just listen?

It is advised to study tongue placement, but it's not an urgent thing for a beginner. Speaking practice is something we do after we learn to understand Japanese.

Unfortunately, we don't know any good tongue placement resources. Such content is in great scarcity. You can, however, try searching for each sound specifically when you're not sure how to pronounce it. E.g., search "how to pronounce the Japanese R sound" on Invidious. There are some sounds in Japanese that require special attention (like らりるれろ and し) and some sounds that you get right away without much practice.

Imitating native speakers is also advised, but not for beginners. It's a practice people do after around a year of studying, or even later.

Imitating native speakers and speaking in general may lead to damaging results when you don't have a good foundation in listening. The sounds you are trying to pronounce don't exist in your native language. If you can't hear them quite well yet, you're setting yourself up for making and repeating mistakes.

The person you imitate should be the same gender and roughly the same age as you. There are sizable gender differences in Japanese. Men and women speak and act differently, use different expressions, pronouns and sentence endings. People also change how they speak as they age. A 75-year old man doesn't sound the same as a 15-year old girl. This is also true for many other languages.

Listen a lot. It's the best thing you can do until you reach a more advanced phase when you're ready to start practicing speaking.

How to approach words with multiple meanings?

Consider the word . What does it mean exactly? 念のため and 不安の念 express drastically different concepts. 出す has 8 meanings in 旺文社 and 29 in 大辞林.

The main way we do sentence mining is by adding sentences from our immersion to the SRS. The SRS is designed to test on very small pieces of information. When you notice a new word in your immersion, it is sufficient to make just one card with the sentence the word appears in. When you review the card, grade it "Good" if you remember the meaning relevant to the context of the sentence.

If you want to make cards for all meanings of the word, you'll have to spend time looking for additional example sentences that express each meaning. Although it is a valid approach, I don't think it's necessary and worth your time.

When you look up the word in a dictionary, it's going to have multiple definitions listed. In monolingual dictionaries the number of definitions can be especially large. You can either paste every definition on the card or put just the one that applies to that situation. Which definition or definitions to choose is highly specific to the target word. Regardless of what you decide to put on the card, when reviewing test yourself only on one meaning. Having to recall multiple things at once violates the minimum information principle and makes the card harder.

Should you make 29 different (targeted) sentence cards just for 出す? It's not necessary. When you find the same word used to express a different meaning, it's acceptable to make another card if you think it helps you. To distinguish the cards rely on context around the target word. Making another card does not contradict the minimum information principle because the extra information is added in extra cards.

What do you think of using MCDs to train production?

Because MCDs require active recall, they can certainly be used to train production. However, I think that MCDs should not be used to train recognition because TSCs do the job better.

How do I get corrections from native speakers?

Some learners assume it's important to ask their Japanese friends for corrections. In my opinion it's unnecessary to get corrected by other people and it's also a bad idea to rely on other people to correct your Japanese. Most AJATTers who sound good never relied on corrections, instead they got many thousand hours of input and imitated native speakers through a technique called shadowing.

  • If you haven't got enough immersion and can't output naturally yet, don't say anything. You're going to sound too bad, a native speaker won't be able to correct every mistake you make.
  • If you've got enough immersion and your Japanese is mostly correct, when you accidentally say something incorrect, you will know it. Your own language intuition and conceptual knowledge of Japanese will give you feedback.
  • If you're not that good yet, and you're in a situation where you have to say something, but you don't know the correct way, your only option is to say what you can and assume it's incorrect. Later try to find a similar phrase in your immersion to confirm yourself and make a mental note.

How to develop a personality in your L2?

Unless you're a schizo, you shouldn't think about it at all.

How to do monolingual RTK?

Don't do monolingual RTK, it's stupid and tedious. After you've achieved basic fluency, do production TSCs instead.

I'm struggling with kanji while working through Tango decks. Should I go through RTK?

I wouldn't recommend that. Try the JP1K method instead.

I just learned that I was reviewing the KanjiTransition deck completely wrong. What should I do from here?

It clearly means that the JP1K method is not for you. You should switch to Ankidrone Starter Pack. When doing Ankidrone, try to learn each word as is, through so-called brute force method. Memorize how the word is read and what it means. If you notice that you can't force kanji readings into your memory, you have to prime your mind for kanji first. Pause Ankidrone and do Kanjidamage+.

How to learn readings after finishing isolated kanji study?

Readings should not be learned in isolation. You're going to learn words with their readings at the same time. You need to read Japanese, look up words and make TSCs.

At first, you may want to use a premade deck. I recommend downloading Ankidrone Starter Pack and learning 1-3 thousand words from it.

I forget kanji readings in sentences. Should I use furigana?

If you add furigana on the front of your cards, you're not going to learn the readings. One of the points of using the SRS is to learn kanji readings, so you're defeating the point.

What I always did is I followed Wozniak's recommendations and memorized different representations of a particular kanji. So, I would take the kanji I have trouble remembering and look it up on Jisho.org like this. Then I would deliberately find example sentences with the words and make Anki cards.

Do your Tango decks have audio or text on the front? Which way is better?

Ankidrone Starter Pack contains bilingual TSCs with sentences on the front. Don't put audio on the front of your cards.

How to rep audio-based sentence cards?

By pressing Ctrl+Delete. Audio-based cards are completely useless.

Thoughts on Khatz's "multiplexed input"

I think condensed audio is a better technique. It's more organized.

Should I put English translations on Bilingual TSCs?

In a very rare situation you may put the corresponding line from English subtitles. English subtitles help you catch the gist of the sentence, but they are almost always not fully correct. Individual words never translate literally, word order and other nuances are often deliberately changed.

Machine translation is even worse. Don't use Google Translate or anything like that.

Passive immersion playlist structure?

It should contain language-dense material that you've actively consumed before. Intermediate learners may include podcasts in the mix.

Thoughts on listening to podcasts while playing a video game?

  1. I recommend quitting playing video games completely.
  2. Listening to podcasts in your TL is a good idea if you're at a stage where your level of comprehension allows you to understand them without much effort. Mind that podcasts are usually harder to comprehend due to a lack of visuals and transcriptions.

Is it OK to make cards for sentences I don't fully understand?

Make a card and save it for later instead of learning it right away.

What are your current thoughts on removing cards once they pass a certain interval?

The idea of removing (or suspending) cards once they reach a certain interval is harmful, especially if the interval is relatively short. Once you delete a card, you can't be sure that you will remember it when you need it.

I would speculate that this idea was born in an attempt to lower the review load caused by using sentence cards. Sentence cards take longer to review compared to other card types. In order to lower review load people suspend older cards and only spend time on relatively young cards.

Instead of sentence cards I recommend you use targeted sentence cards because they allow you to take shortcuts and review faster.

It's alright to delete cards once they reach obscene intervals like 10-15 years. To find such cards, you can open the Anki Browser and type prop:ivl>3650. The number 3650 corresponds to card's interval in days.

I would like to start adding pitch accent to my cards. How should I grade the cards once I add pitch accent?

Don't change anything in the grading process. Just have pitch accent information on the back of your cards but don't take it into account when grading yourself.

If you test yourself on two or more questions at once, your retention of the card will be equal to the hardest of the questions. For example, you will have to fail a card if you remember what the word means but don't remember its accent.

To learn pitch accent of individual words make separate cards. Have a word on the front of the card and its pitch accent on the back.

Google or Microsoft IME?

Both Microsoft and Google IMEs are proprietary, and thus are malware. I recommend Fcitx with kkc or any other free/libre input method.

How do I add a directory to the PATH?

Let's say you want to add ~/.local/bin to the PATH. According to Arch Wiki, to add a directory to the PATH for local usage, put following in ~/.bash_profile:

export PATH="${PATH}:${HOME}/.local/bin"

Replace ${HOME}/.local/bin with the path of the directory you want to add. If you use zsh, instead of ~/.bash_profile edit ~/.zprofile.

How do I make a file executable?

$ chmod +x path/to/file

-x will remove the executable flag.

How to change note types?

  1. Download or create a new note type.

    Any Anki deck you download from the internet comes with a Note Type. If the same Note Type does not exist in your Anki collection, it will be added. Our collection of Note Types can be found on GitHub.

    From the Anki main screen, go to "Tools" > "Manage Note Types". There you will see all the installed note types.

  2. The process of converting notes to a different note type is not difficult. First make sure that you've imported the desired Note Type. Then open the Anki browser (shortcut: b) and select the notes you wish to convert. The whole deck can be selected by pressing Ctrl+A. Lastly, choose the option "Change Note Type" from the context menu or go to menu "Notes" > "Change Note Type..." (shortcut: Ctrl+Shift+M). The rest is a matter of mapping the right fields and pressing OK.

How to change the font in an entire Anki deck?

Change the styling of your card template.

Go to "Tools" > "Manage Note Types" > select the note type > "Cards" > "Styling". Change font-family to fit your needs. See this example.

What are your current thoughts on Morphman? Do you recommend it?

I used Morphman for brief periods of time in 2018-2019. I always disliked its card sorting feature because of how intrusive it is. I don't use Morphman anymore, and I don't recommend it for intermediate learners, but beginners may benefit from it.

This is how I recommend using Morphman:

  1. Have a large enough sentence bank. 2,000+ sentences are going to be enough. You can use subs2srs to generate sentence banks.
  2. Install Morphman, set it up.
  3. Recalculate the database, then disable the add-on.
  4. Morphman will have tagged all cards that it thinks are 1T for you. Manually pick what cards you're going to learn from the ones marked as 1T.

If you don't understand how to use Morphman, search for a guide online. I recommend this guide written by mattvsjapan. There's also a video guide by OhTalkWho.

Is listening to text-to-speech bad?

The robot voice doesn't sound like real Japanese. Particularly, it makes a lot of pitch accent mistakes. Even if you don't count pitch accent, the computer-generated audio is still very bad. You never want to be feeding your brain toxic input.

On the word level, pitch accent data may be wrong, outdated, or there could be multiple accents. When the pitch accent depends on the usage, the algorithm often can't pick the right one.

On the sentence level text-to-speech is even less correct because there are rules that modify pitch accents of words in a sentence. Computers don't necessarily know these rules.

You should always listen to real native audio. For example, instead of generating a text-to-speech audio for a book, download an audio book. Instead of adding text-to-speech audio to your Anki cards, copy pronunciations from Qolibri, Forvo or other sources (banks) that provide native audio.

As a beginner learning Japanese through anime, should I lower the speed to hear the words better or should I leave it at normal speed?

Audio recordings become robotic and distorted when you lower the speed, but in some corner cases it helps catch a word you would otherwise not hear.

Surprisingly, increasing volume helps too, but you also should only use it for specific words instead of a whole recording.

MorphMan for the monolingual transition?

Back in the day I saw a bizarre method of going monolingual by sorting J-J definitions with Morphman and sentence mining them. Though such an approach will work, it's too complicated and extremely tedious.

How would you go about learning programming?

  • Read books about programming.
  • Get a degree.
  • Study the code others wrote.
  • Make Anki cards for questions and snippets you often look up. For example, "how to shuffle a list in Python".

Should I use pictures instead of English definitions?

Yes, for concrete nouns on your SWCs. It's not that important for TSCs.

How much progress can I expect in a year?

It heavily depends on how much you immerse each day. If you're doing Japanese all the time, after a year you can expect around 95% comprehension of your typical input.

When should I make the monolingual transition?

Once you reach ~2000 TSCs mark. The longer you wait the easier it becomes so don't feel guilty for slacking.

Is learning to understand Kansai-ben difficult?

You pick it up through immersion over time. If you study it deliberately, it's difficult.

Can I get fluent with 1 hour a day?

No, but you can get fluent with 12+ hours a day.

I want to learn a difficult language (Japanese) and an easy language (Spanish). Should I learn them at the same time?

It is possible if you manage it, but I don't recommend it. Learn the easy one first and do laddering.

What is your opinion on learning an L3 by using L2 resources ("laddering")?

That's how I learned Japanese. I exclusively used resources in my L2.

I wouldn't recommend using your L2 just because it's your L2. Use the language that has the best resources. Usually it's the closest language to your TL. For example, you can use Korean resources to learn Japanese or Russian resources to learn Ukrainian, assuming you know those languages of course.

Another point is that if you keep using L2 resources for the sake of laddering, it will slow you down. Any language is better learned using resources made in the language itself. Switch to TL resources as soon as possible.

It's basically 90% Yomichan use. For movies and TV shows, I recommend mpv scripts. For manga, refer to my "Mining from manga" article to set up Tesseract. When you can't use the sentence you've encountered the word in, try to find example sentences online.

How do you learn how to write Japanese?

See my Writing Japanese article.

If you want to learn how to write in Japanese, bear in mind that it's going to take a lot of time. You may want to reach a reasonable level of fluency before you choose to do that.

If you want to live in Japan, writing Japanese is going to be important. Otherwise, only learn to write if you're passionate about it. These days the ability to produce kanji from memory isn't nearly as important as it used to be. Most people type on their phones or computers, and typing is done phonetically.

Should I limit how many sentences I mine from a single source?

No.

Should I make mnemonics to learn new words?

No.

How do Japanese people pronounce “?” and “!”?

What is the カ゚ symbol I see in dictionaries?

See this entry on WikiLess. This is called 鼻濁音.

How to type the ¥ symbol with Fcitx?

To type (pronounced 円マーク), press (backslash) and hit the space bar. This will give you the IME's prediction as to what character you want to insert. If the prediction is incorrect, hit the space bar again until you find .

How much reading is required to counteract not SRSing?

You can't fully counteract not SRSing.

What Japanese documentaries do you recommend?

Nothing in particular comes to my mind, but in general NHK specials are pretty good. You can find the videos on Nyaa ISS.

What do you think about graded readers?

I think they're still in use because people are scared to leave their comfort zone, not because they are magically effective. Most creators of language learning materials have never learned a foreign language to a high level and don't understand the mechanics of language acquisition.

In Japanese, I never used any learner materials besides a grammar guide when first starting out, and I was able to reach a point of being able to read novels quite comfortably within 2 years. Thus, it's hard for me to buy into the idea of things like "graded readers".

AJATT is about reading stuff made for natives. If you're a beginner, watch an anime with Japanese subtitles or read a simple manga. If you're advanced, go read a real book.

Why should I avoid Discord, Reddit, 4chan, etc.?

Discord

Discord is substantially worse than any other messaging app. It's a proprietary spyware program. They call it "Discord servers" but that's a lie. You don't really have your own Discord server. It's not free software, you can't actually host it yourself and do anything, it's not serious. Most people there have no idea what they're saying, they don't know Japanese. It's gaymer trash.

Reddit

Recaptcha is required to register. Absolutely terrible privacy policy. People who don't know any Japanese. Requires JavaScript to function.

4chan

Recaptcha is required for every post. Blocks TOR, VPN and proxies. Requires JavaScript to function.

Any good Japanese learning communities?

How do I change language in Telegram to Japanese?

Visit the official Japanese translation page.

Are there any language learning YouTubers that you like? What YouTubers do you like in general?

I don't watch YouTube because almost all content it offers is low quality. I can't recall any good language learning content ever posted on YouTube. If you want to familiarize yourself with language learning theory, search written guides online. It will take you less time to go through them because reading generally is faster than listening.

When it comes to immersion content, however, YouTube can offer something you'll like. Things like streams, podcasts or news are good to listen to, especially for passive immersion. Explore the YouTube guide for details.

What are your thoughts on timeboxing?

Ever since I found out about timeboxing from the AJATT site, I've been applying it almost every day. I usually stick to a simple pomodoro routine, but sometimes I use shorter intervals.

What is the anime you mined the most?

The first season of Steins;Gate, simply because it was the first anime I mined.

How many water bottles do you go through in a day?

Zero.

I assume drinking from bottles is some weird American thing. I drink from cups.

Watch anime.

I also make sure to spend some time immersing in English, it's both beneficial and fun.

How many reps did you do a day on average?

My daily average was ~300 cards.

What other languages do you want to learn?

Probably Polish or Czech.

How strict were you about ALL Japanese ALL the time?

When I started AJATT I was a full time university student, so it wasn't easy, but I tried to immerse as much as possible. I had earphones on in class and while commuting. At home, I always kept the immersion going.

How has learning Japanese changed your outlook on language learning?

Before I started learning Japanese I had been learning English for many years. I knew that to progress I had to watch and read a lot of native content, I also knew that classes and textbooks don't help. I had an intuitive understanding of how one should learn a language, but I knew nothing about Krashen, AJATT and immersion learning.

Discovering AJATT helped me understand why what I did to learn English worked. It gave me a systemic view on language acquisition and a framework to talk about immersion learning.

Do you still watch anime?

I watch anime almost every day.

Have you talked to Khatzumoto?

No.

What are your plans regarding moving to Japan?

As of now, I don't want to move to Japan. Many Japanese people are very xenophobic, and you can't overlook that. Plus, I don't look Asian, and I don't want to stand out.

Do you play video games? Are video games good for immersion?

I never play video games. Most video games should be avoided since they're proprietary. Video games are bad for immersion because they're hard to mine from.

Have you ever had any plateaus? What to do when you're stuck?

I haven't. You can't be stuck if you're doing AJATT, but you can be stuck if you slack on your immersion.

What operating system do you use?

On my desktop and laptop, I use the GNU operating system with linux-hardened. And the distribution of GNU that I use is Arch Linux.

On mobile, I use LineageOS without Google Apps.

Top 10 anime of all time?

  1. Watashi ni Tenshi ga Maiorita
  2. Mitsuboshi Colors
  3. Yuru Yuri
  4. Adachi to Shimamura
  5. Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu ka
  6. Gabriel DropOut
  7. Machikado Mazoku
  8. Comic Girls
  9. Kiniro Mosaic
  10. Ichigo Mashimaro

Just off the top of my head. The order doesn't imply anything.

Tags: guide