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Mitigating the Impact of Early Output

June 02, 2024 — Tatsumoto Ren

I'm forced to output early. How can I mitigate the damage?

If you're already living in Japan, or taking Japanese classes, you may find yourself in situations where you need to speak Japanese. If you're not fluent yet, early output will damage your Japanese. In this article, we'll explore strategies to help you mitigate the damage.

Input before output

One of the fundamental principles of the AJATT philosophy is the concept of input before output. In AJATT, we recommend delaying speaking in your target language until your output ability emerges naturally. This mirrors the learning process of young children acquiring their native language.

We recommend this approach based on the observation that attempting to speak before your brain is ready leads to the formation of bad habits. You make a lot of mistakes, and there is a tendency to repeat mistakes if they have been made before. Additionally, it is difficult to engage in conversations if you don't understand what others are saying in response. Ultimately, premature speaking can lead to a frustrating experience.

The idea of input before output is to make good habits the first time by only saying things that you know are correct. If you focus on learning to understand first, then by the time you do start speaking, you will already have a pretty good sense of what's correct and natural and what's not correct and natural.

Avoid making mistakes

When you're forced to speak prematurely, it can be tough to know what to say. There's no one-size-fits-all solution, but here are some tips to help you out.

You will come across situations where you need to say something, but you're not sure how to say it correctly. This applies to both grammar and pronunciation. In such cases, it is recommended to say what you know for sure is correct, even if it doesn't exactly match what you think. How do you tell if a phrase is correct? Normally, it's correct if you've heard multiple native speakers say it before. Alternatively, you can try to say it the way you know, and then make sure to check if it's correct later. Chances are, you will say it incorrectly. If you keep a mental note that what you've just said is probably incorrect, it could help prevent saying it again and creating a habit. To check the correctness of a sentence, you can try searching in your sentence bank or online.

Get input

Prioritizing input is crucial. It is important to listen a lot. Get tons of high quality input. The time spent listening should significantly exceed the time spent outputting. I think that if you're speaking your target language even pretty early on, such as once a week or a few times a month, then as long as you're getting lots of input each day, the potential for any serious long-term damage is minimal. Consider constantly wearing headphones and listening to podcasts, audiobooks, or anime. I did this while studying in university to maximize my immersion time. If you get a lot of high quality input, you will be less prone to solidifying your speaking mistakes.

Let's also cover toxic input that comes from other learners' output. If you attend classes with other non-native speakers, you have to listen to your classmates speak, and a lot of them speak incorrectly and have bad pronunciation, so you receive toxic input. To counter this, focus on getting as much high-quality input as possible. Hypothetically, if you were to get 5 hours of high-quality input every day, that would amount to 35 hours per week. So if you have 35 hours a week of good input and then 5 hours per week of exposure to toxic input from your classmates, then overall you're probably going to be fine because the vast majority of your input will still be of high quality, effectively overwhelming the negative effects of the toxic input.

Yes, receiving toxic input is not ideal and may have some negative impact. But I think if you get tons of high quality input, you'll be able to mitigate the negative effects to a large extent.

Balance output

Another thing you will have to do is balance the amount of output you do. On one hand, you want to enjoy your life in Japan, make Japanese friends, and engage in activities that allow you to use your target language. On the other hand, you also want to continue improving your language skills. If getting perfect at Japanese is your top priority, then you shouldn't output at all. However, if you avoid output altogether, you may end up having a miserable experience in Japan, feeling isolated and depressed. And it will not be very fun.

If you're forced to attend Japanese classes, it's relatively easy to avoid outputting. And there's no negative effects to avoiding outputting because you aren't losing anything if you don't speak, unlike real life situations. You can simply respond only when the teacher asks you a question and avoid speaking beyond that. Even if you have classes every day of the week, that's only about 5 hours per week. You can still get plenty of high-quality input outside of class to mitigate the negative effects of premature output.

Tags: faq