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JLPT BC 38 | Mythbusting the Language Absorption Myth

language learning myth absorbWe are right in the middle of another one of Kyoto’s infamous hot and humid summers. There is a saying about Kyoto’s weather that it is the worst in all of Japan because it has the hottest summers and the coldest winters. I can completely agree with that.

Part of my day involves walking out in the scorching sun for a good 30 minutes each way to work. It’s gotten so bad that my wife made me a towel with pockets to put ice packs in that I can put around my neck. It really is that bad. If you move to Japan, you might want to avoid Kyoto if you are not a big fan of the weather.

Language Learning Myth #1 – You’ll just absorb the language naturally

When I first arrived in Japan, I was quickly surrounded by Japanese. It was everywhere, signs, announcements in the store or on the bus, the people I talked to. I thought to myself, wow, in no time, I’ll just automatically absorb the language. I had the naïve notion that the language would just funnel into my head automatically because I was living in the country.

And, I did pick up things here and there. Mostly I picked up exclamations like すげっ! and うまい!, but nothing really substantial. I also didn’t really hear any of the words I learned in my one year of Japanese classes I took to prepare for moving to Japan.

In general, I had the philosophy that the language would just passively flow into my brain. That I could clean house and listen to a Japanese podcast at the same time and some how automagically the words and grammar would flow into my brain as long as I kept trying to shove all that stuff in there.

On top of that, it seemed like the things I was learning were falling out of my head. I would learn a few words and then *poof* they were gone the next day never to return again. This simply amounted to a waste of time for me because I would spend some time learning and then have to re-learn the same stuff again later.

Studying Efficiency

In other words, I wasn’t being very efficient with my study time. I kept on thinking though that I could just slog along and eventually I would get to my goal. Well, I slogged along for about 5 years. That didn’t quite work out as well as I thought it would.

So, the moral of my story is to be efficient with your study time. Otherwise you might find yourself a few years down the road and realize you only took a few steps.

Relate New Information

One big key to increasing your studying efficiency is to try to relate every new item to information that you already know. This can be by connecting the new word or grammar point to an image (if that’s possible) or a situation you remember, or even a song.

These new connections you make are kind of like the glue that helps new information stick a lot easier. Now some items will definitely need more glue than others, so the more connections you make the better. This will keep the new item from falling out of your head.

It seems like a really simple concept, but it actually in fact works. The next time you encounter something new in Japanese, take a few moments to ‘glue’ it in your head. Think about how it relates to what you know already and build those bonds. It will definitely help you be able to recall the item a lot more easily in the future.

What are you waiting for?

Make learning as active as you can, when you see a new item try to relate it to thing you know now. Don’t let it pass by without at least spending a little time to glue it in place.  

P.S.  Do you want to work on your vocabulary and grammar memorizing muscles?  Sign up for the newsletter for all the latest tips and tricks.

P.S.S.  Did this podcast make you go out and start actively learning Japanese? Go tell iTunes about it.  Or if you have comments or suggestions for the podcast, by all means let me know in the comments below or contact me and let me know what I can do to improve the show.  Thanks!

Music by Kevin MacLeod, photo by Steven Depolo

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