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

Foreword

May 03, 2021 — Tatsumoto

Congratulations! You've taken your first step towards learning Japanese!

This is Tatsumoto's Guide to Learning Japanese. I'm Tatsumoto. This guide is for people who want to learn Japanese solely through self-study. Do you want to teach yourself Japanese? Do you want to reach a high level of fluency fast? Then this site is right for you.


Our approach

We divide the process of learning any foreign language into two major steps.

  1. Learn to understand the language at a high level.
  2. Use your comprehension to learn to speak the language by mimicking native speakers. This is similar to how kids do it.

We focus on understanding before speaking, or input before output. If you want to learn how to draw, you've got to be able to see before you can draw. You can't have a conversation if you can't understand what the other person says.

This approach makes the journey easy and fun because from day one you are encouraged to learn from compelling content made for native speakers of your target language. Most people who persevered and reached fluency watched their favorite TV shows in Japanese and read lots of books and manga every day. No amount of brute force can get you there, so forget about traditional approaches such as taking classes or hiring a tutor.

All Japanese All the Time

The method explained here is widely known as AJATT, or All Japanese All the Time. It is directed at people who want to get to fluency as fast as possible by spending a lot of time with the language. The key component to succeeding with AJATT is engaging with the language every day, all the time, going as hardcore as you can.

The logic is very simple. The more time each day is spent learning, the faster one arrives at the destination. And of course, the learning process must be efficient. AJATT optimizes learning to achieve the best results. But since studying is boring and exhausting, AJATT strives to make learning fun and interesting. We recommend learning from the language that real native speakers actually use because textbooks, courses, classes and apps don't teach how people really speak.

AJATT has very little formal structure and doesn't try to force any particular workflow. You learn the most common words, study basic grammar, but after that you are taught how to dive into authentic content. You learn new things as they come up in the content.

The emphasis is very strong on input and comprehension in the beginning. You try to get to understand Japanese perfectly before concerning with trying to produce Japanese yourself.

Technology

We use a variety of software to help in the learning process. The tools introduced in this guide are free as in freedom. We don't endorse proprietary software and services that mistreat their users.

Don't spend money

It is important to be mindful of your finances when learning a foreign language. I learned Japanese without spending any money, and I encourage you to do so too. Everything you need to master Japanese can be found online. There is no limit to the amount of media and books you can absorb. With torrents, you can find any anime, drama, or manga ever made. The internet provides an unlimited number of resources for Japanese media. Additionally, you can easily access dictionaries, grammar guides, and software to facilitate your language learning.

Don't go to classes

Why classes suck.

  • They cost money.
  • They don't provide compelling content, they're boring.
  • In class, you get toxic input, you get to listen to speech produced by other foreigners which is ridden with mistakes.
  • Your teacher doesn't know Japanese that well.
  • If you happen to get a native as your teacher, they likely have no idea how language acquisition works, they don't remember how they learned Japanese, and they've never actually followed their own advice.
  • Premature output. You are forced to speak before you are ready. Usually people start outputting naturally after 1 to 1.5 years of learning, and it's very hard to force output to come out earlier.

Don't waste time

Avoid blue-pilled resources. There are a myriad of methods out there, and each of them tells you to do different things. Some methods are effective, but many are not. Unfortunately, the quality of advice on the Internet is often poor, with more bad advice than good advice. If you want to reach mastery in a foreign language, you don't want to waste you time on ineffective methods.

Examples of low quality resources.

  • Textbooks made for foreigners. Examples include Genki, Minna no Nihongo, Japanese From Zero, etc. If your goal is proficiency, you won't be satisfied with the low level and slow pace of textbooks. In the beginning you can use a basic grammar guide, everything on top of that won't be necessary.

  • Wanikani, Duolingo, Busuu and most "apps", especially if they claim that you can learn to speak a language in 10 minutes a day. Language apps can't replace learning through massive exposure to the target language, and they can't tell you everything you should know. Language is not an app that you open and close. Reaching fluency is more like multi-booting, i.e., installing multiple operating systems on a single computer, and being able to choose which one to boot. Each OS has to be useful, you should be able to do anything you want with it.

    The only real "app" you need is a flashcard application to review what you've learned.

  • YouTube channels where everybody speaks English all the time, like JapanesePod101.

  • Any method that doesn't put immersion first or forces premature speaking.

What's next

The next article will provide you with an overview of the method, and the most important steps you need to take. The remaining articles address each step in detail.

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