Calm Down and Hurry Up

I know exactly how you feel. You want to know Japanese and you want to know it NOW!!! NOW!!!!! NOW!!!


You, my friend, need to calm down. Relax. Drink some cocoa, hug someone good-looking, breathe deeply.

I know exactly what you’ve been doing. You don’t know enough Japanese to fully “get it” all yet, so, sometimes you don’t bother watching or listening, because you only understand bits and pieces of it anyway, and you wonder what happened to all the good times when you used to actually understand the words that people spoke, when you could read a page of text in like 5 seconds flat, when you ate cake with a knife and fork instead of chopsticks. So, you feel “screw it; I don’t know it now; I’m not going to know it tomorrow; who am I kidding? I’m not Japanese; I’m Joe Bloggs. This whole learning a language thing was a mistake; I belong to the culture of my birth and this suffering is what I get for going against NATURE blah blah blah blah critical period et cetera, et cetera, et cetera”.

You, my friend, need to hurry up. Quit the whining. Stop talking kafuffin. Get your immersion environment back up and running, do your SRS repetitions, go sentence-picking. You don’t have time to be worrying about this.

Calm down and hurry up. Obviously conflicting advice. But it’s appropriate for many of us language-learners, whose minds are in conflict as it is. Now, I don’t actually know if you have these thoughts or feelings at all, but I’ve seen it enough in myself and other people to feel that it is a general pattern. I’m going through the same thing with Chinese. I just want to know it already, you know? I mean, what the kafuffin, can’t I just know something by wanting to know it? But then, I don’t quite know enough, so I have to do all this work and WHEN WILL IT END?

So, like I said, we need to calm down. Calm down, and accept being noobs. It’s OK. Everyone who starts is a noob, including Chinese babies: their Chinese sucks :). And we need to hurry up. Stop wasting time, and just hurry up and get down to work. The reason we don’t know the language(s) we want to know yet is that we didn’t work hard enough (if at all) in the past. The past is the past, we can’t change it. But we can change the future. And all it takes is one small payment in the present. Everyone who ever learned a language to fluency busted tail to do it: everyone. Whether they knew they were busting tail or not is immaterial, tail was busted. Accept that. Accept that you suck now and that tail needs to be busted. But…but…also accept that your tail-busting will be handsomely rewarded with fluency. You WILL get there. You WILL get fluent. IF you work now, IF you do just this one small thing, IF you take one step in the right direction — that’s all you need to do, take one step, rinse, repeat — then you’ll get there. You just will.

You want to sprint there and be fluent tomorrow, don’t you? I do. Unfortunately, you can’t (yet). But you can do one small thing. So do it. I know it seems small, I know it seems like just a drop in the ocean. I sometimes wonder (I’m not always Mr. Hopeful) — how can learning one more stupid word lead to fluency when there are so many effen words? The same way that one spark can burn down a forest, or one cell can grow into a person. Learning a language is not a linear process. The better you get, the easier it gets for you to get better. The more you know, the more you are able to learn. Knowledge, words, structure will get stickier — but first you have to go through this sucky period, before the curve starts to shoot up.

Think of your work as water and your ignorance as a jagged rock — you need to pour water on that rock to smooth it out. The good news is that it won’t take geological time to erode the rock of ignorance, but it will take a lot of water, and so you need to keep pouring. It may not look like anything’s happening, but it is. Just focus on pouring, keep the water moving.

Since we are human beings and we do get bored, the key to keeping the water flowing is to enjoy the pouring. Enjoy the journey, because, no matter how little time it eventually takes, it is still a long trip: Longer than you might wish, but at the same time, shorter than you might fear.

Remember: languages are finite, made by humans for humans. There is nothing you are lacking intellectually. It’s not hard, just long. Now get running.

  39 comments for “Calm Down and Hurry Up

  1. Lionel
    January 14, 2008 at 13:04

    Dang! Everytime I read one your articles I get more encouraged to continue. I’m still going through Heisig. But thanks man, later.

  2. yun
    January 14, 2008 at 13:22

    in your about section it says you learned Japanese in 18 months. I don’t know how long you’ve been learning Chinese, but if you had to compare your progress learning Japanese to Chinese, would you say that you were at the same place you are at now when you were studying Japanese? Has learning Chinese come quicker or slower than learning Japanese, and does it have anything to do with any adjustments you made to your lifestyle/way of learning/motivation/new difficulties with Chinese, etc.?

  3. Cush
    January 14, 2008 at 23:35

    Hey Khatz! A quick question. when I’m still at the Phase 2 (1333 kanji so far) what do you suggest I read and/or listen to because as it stands right now my reading ability is limited because I don’t know all the kanji ,and my listening/comprehension abilities are limited because i don’t have alot of sentences in my SRS. So this make the whole AJATHT thing somewhat frustrating because because I don’t know what i’m seeing/hearing. So what do you suggest?

  4. Mark
    January 15, 2008 at 04:03

    Hi Khatz,

    Talking of forums, which we weren’t, although I agree that a forum here would almost certainly encourage useless and timewasting debate on a plethora of subjects, have you thought about adding a ‘Resources’ (only) page, where readers could post good movies with exact subs, good tools, good books, and generally good resources for using with the AJATT method?

    I must admit that I am running out of *good* resources (jdramas to watch, etc.), so I am utterly selfish in hoping for the appearance of such a page :-)



  5. Nivaldo
    January 15, 2008 at 04:03

    Hey, Khatz! Great post again. I’m sure the japanese version of this post will be awesome. Well, on to the point: Khatz, I really can’t get an MP3 player right now so I divided my environment into 2 parts: writing environment and sound environment. So, the writing one will be running almost 18-24 hours a day(I’ve got enough quantity of kanji to at least pretend I’m writing Japanese – 1300 and of course going up till 2042), but now I’m worried because after I finish Heisig’s book I’ll still have my writing environment but the sound environment won’t be as permanent as I would like it to be like 18-24 hours a day of listening and reading. Could you suggest any alternatives?

    Well, I’m not Khatzumoto but I think I can help. Well, while still at Phase 2, I think you should look more at what you would enjoy listening and watching(usually music and movies) even not understanding a single bit of what they say. As for reading, you could pick up some mangas or anything in Japanese and try to “read” some lines. I think you should be able now to at least catch the meaning of an entire line or two out of a whole page of text. Also, I think you can try outputting(writing) something in kanji, it doesn’t matter if it’s not gramatically correct or anything like that, just try to put what you think in kanji form, notes in kanji form, whatever in kanji form, for example, today I was studying hardware so I put the following as main title: 固物(harden, thing). I don’t really matter if it’s in verb form or correct as long as I’m able to decode it when “reading”. I hope I’ve helped you. Before anything else, keep believing you can achieve fluency.

  6. ModishMinuet
    January 15, 2008 at 06:22

    I know that this is probably not the best place to put this, but I wasn’t sure where to put it so I put it here.

    I was wondering if anyone knows of a free DVD audio ripper? I’ve looked but they are all only trial versions. If it comes down to it, I’ll just go ahead and buy one, but I’d rather check and see if anyone knows of one that would be free first. Thanks!

  7. nacest
    January 15, 2008 at 07:23

    you could try watching and reading Japanese translations of something you already know and like in your language. That sort of eliminates the comprehension problem. And meanwhile, just dig in with those kanji, very soon you’ll own them all!

    >I must admit that I am running out of *good* resources (jdramas to watch, etc.)

    That’s odd, there is so much material out there (unless you dislike anime and manga). As for books, I can’t be of much help yet, because I haven’t finished one yet (not even a chapter actually :S ). I got
    2)涼宮ハルヒの憂鬱(すずみや·ハルヒのゆううつ) (I found it a little difficult for my level)
    3) NHKにようこそ (I just got it, and I haven’t worked on it yet).
    4) a 中学校 history book (I was interested in Japanese history, and the level is a good compromise)

    J-dramas: if you haven’t seen them I suggest:
    4)Stand Up!!
    These are my favorites so far. I’m not going to write about anime and manga recommendations because there are too many and I don’t know what genres you prefer. Unless you are interested, that is.
    Hope that helped. It probably didn’t, but that’s all I can give at my level. And after all, gimme a break! I’m just a slow-witted 16 months old! :P

  8. Mark
    January 15, 2008 at 08:35

    Hey nacest,

    Thanks for the recommendations – just the type of thing I was talking about.

    I have no doubt there are tons of great dramas out there, but if you just trawl through the stuff on d-addicts, it can take quite a while to come across ‘good’ stuff if you don’t know what to look for. It’s obviously the same for any country – if you didn’t have people to recommend good British tv (for example), you have to trawl through a load of old rubbish before coming across it ::-)

    Cheers again,


    (seen all of gokusen already, unfortunately, but I am just staring with ‘stand up’ – any more suggestions very welcome :-)

  9. JDog
    January 15, 2008 at 08:38

    Nice post, Khatz! That’s exactly what has been on my mind lately as I’ve been slackin’ because I’ve been busy. When I came here it was almost like you read my mind and answered the question that was in it. Thanks!

  10. JDog
    January 15, 2008 at 11:29

    >Unfortunately, you can, yet.

    Is this some sort of reference to that brain simulation thing you’ve talked about before? Or maybe I’m just overthinking it like I do :)

  11. JDog
    January 15, 2008 at 11:30

    Unfortunately, you CAN’T, yet.

    Gosh, sorry for the excessive comments!

  12. dancc
    January 15, 2008 at 12:28

    geez why don’t I know Japanese yet!! Thanks for your site, when I started researching how to learn Japanese it was your site that took me from the research phase to the actual learning Japanese phase.

    I have a general question for khatz, or anyone for that matter.

    I’ve only been studying Japanese for 1 month and I’m hooked, the more I study(play) the more I want to study. Sadly school has started back up and I only study for 3-4hrs a day with as much listening to jp music as I can(8hrs usually). (ripslyme and yui are awesome)
    atm, I am on lesson 21 of the pimsleur set. up to #430ish in RTK, and on chapter 3 from genki:an intergrated course in elementry Japanese.

    Anyways my question: It seems like a huge task to sentence mine. I am just taking the sentences from the dialogues from my textbook but to memorize each line takes a descent amount of time. Is this normal since the characters and vocab are all new to me?
    Also to say I “know” the sentence I just have to be able to write/say it when I see it in my SRS? Is it ok to forget it the next time I see it? And then after a few times forgetting It’ll eventually pop up and I’ll know it? Or do I have to actively study my sentences, or just study them for a minute or two when they show up on my SRS?

    long post, I hope it made sense.
    Thanks again.

  13. January 15, 2008 at 13:12


    You’re not meant to ‘memorize’ each sentence, just be able to read and understand it when it comes up in your SRS.
    If you read this post then it explains the process you should be going through each time with your SRS sentences. It specifically says ‘not’ to memorize things.

    Hope that helps.

  14. Nivaldo
    January 15, 2008 at 13:26

    Look, dancc. Or you are not following a good path(I think) or I’ve misunderstood the whole AJATT method. Anyway, I think it’s better for you to first finish learning all the kanji with RTK and then start sentence-mining. I’ve not yet finished the book but from the experience I’ve been having I can assure you that when you finish the kanji, the sentence-mining process will look much more natural because you will understand the meaning of each character thus removing the focus on the meaning of each character and concentrating more on the meaning of a whole sentence and then input it in your SRS. I think this is the correct and natural path.

  15. Skinnyneo
    January 15, 2008 at 18:30

    It’s pretty crazy reading your posts! It seems like your reading my mind. I’m getting pretty frustrated with Japanese a lot lately despite having just finished Heisig. Your posts are a big inspiration though. Thanks so much!

  16. nacest
    January 15, 2008 at 19:58

    I suggest you thoroughly read all the posts of this blog, if you are interested in AJATT.
    Not only you should postpone your sentence mining until after you’ve finished with Heisig (for how to review, see the posts in the phase 4 section), but you should also give up with those lessons for the time being. Actually, if you write the words “lesson” or “course” on this blog, Khatzumoto might go crazy (笑)

    Do things meant for Japanese people, not for foreigners. You don’t want to learn “foreign Japanese”, do you? :P
    And 3-4 hours a day is a lot! I only get 1-2, sadly. Use that time to finish your kanji soon, and the rest of the day for audio-video-text immersion.

  17. dancc
    January 15, 2008 at 20:37

    Hey thanks for the responses.

    My goal was to finish RTK first, but since I can only do so many RTK before I have to stop, I found that I still have time and motivation to do other stuff, which is why I decided to mine sentences early.

    I think I have read every post on this site, I was just wondering about a few things. I still have a school mentality as in if you dont remember it for the test you get a bad grade. So I felt a little unsure of a few things, mostly of not memorizing the sentences, and maybe a little lack of faith that I would eventually “know” them after seeing them in the SRS a few times.


    p.s. I just found a Japanese mall near my house. They have a bookstore, video store and a bunch of other stuff. Shopping trip this weekend!!

  18. dancc
    January 15, 2008 at 20:40

    oh I almost forgot what I really wanted to ask Khatz. How do you like working for a Japanese company? I’m going to graduate as an engineer in about a year and my goal is to get a job in Japan but I’ve heard some sterotypes about Japanese companies.
    Thanks again.

  19. Zack
    January 17, 2008 at 19:15

    dancc – get those kanji done. You may not have the readings (yet), but being able to recognize them, distinguish them, and have an attaching meaning is a huge deal. It’s the fundamental backbone of the language.

    It’ll take some time to get through if you only have 2 or 3 hours per day, but if you’re serious about it, then just dedicate your japanese time to it, and get it over and done with. You’ll thank heisig and katz when you do. I did it, and know I do.

  20. khatzumoto
    January 18, 2008 at 11:12

    I can’t really make a comparison because the nature and scope of my Japanese project is different from the Chinese one. I went into Japanese with all guns firing and I was going to learn it no matter how long it took me and, essentially no matter the cost. I haven’t given the Chinese project the same level of commitment yet. But I’m warming up :)

  21. khatzumoto
    January 18, 2008 at 11:13

    Just chill and watch stuff. Don’t worry about comprehension for now. Get used to the sounds, rhythm, cadences. A language is like a song in that sense.

  22. khatzumoto
    January 18, 2008 at 11:13

    Thanks for that idea. Yeah, that’s something we could do, and just have people post comments on it.

  23. khatzumoto
    January 18, 2008 at 11:15

    Sorry, I still don’t get what’s wrong with the sound environment? It sounds like you have it under control, with 18-24 hours a day…

  24. khatzumoto
    January 18, 2008 at 11:17

    >Is this some sort of reference to that brain simulation thing you’ve talked about before?

  25. Mark
    January 19, 2008 at 01:54

    Modish: “I was wondering if anyone knows of a free DVD audio ripper? ”

    Yup – I spent lots of cash on costly mp3/mp4/avi/etc. converters, but recently found this:

    It’s free, and it’s freakin’ great – the GUI is not quite as nice as some of my paid-for tools, but it’s sooo good that I haven’t used any of my paid for tools since I found it. It can do pretty much any audio or video conversion.

    One thing that Super can do that I was unable to get Xilisoft/other to do is make a **good** quality mp3 file from the video (avi) J-Dramas that you can download from D-Addicts. Xilisoft/other seem to be able to make great mp3s from DVDs, but the quality of mp3s from avi was not good.

    So, I’d advise you to get ‘Super’….


  26. Nivaldo
    January 19, 2008 at 03:11

    Well, maybe I expressed myself wrongly. What I was trying to say is that my sound environment is not running 18-24 hours a day(usually only 1-2 hours a day). That is why I was asking for some alternatives but after reading your other articles and because of some recent matters the sound environment will wait only some more days. So, sorry for bothering you about it.
    Curiousity: Are you liking the way you’re commenting(at fridays)?
    Well, though not being terrible it is somewhat not good(at least for me), I mean, it keeps me anxious about the reply(especially an important one). The feeling is much like that of waiting for the next episode of Naruto Shippuuden(ONLY next WEEK).
    Anyway, thanks for the GREAT help.

  27. March 3, 2008 at 15:23

    Woah, I am so glad to have found my way here. Totally digging your site. It’s funtastic! Like your style – your way with words. Oh yea, I found my way here thru Someone put a link to your site there.

    I’ve been trying to pick up some basic Japanese on my own for more than half a year already. Just for the fun of it. Progress is slow. But it’s ok. As long as I enjoy the process it’s all that matters. It’s much like a hobby to me.

    I could now understand those frequently used words and phrases and am able to guess my way thru. Due to time constraint and lack of time to revise my hiragana… I kept forgetting em. Darn. Till I swore I am not giving up on it. Not even when I am old and wrinkled would I ever give up. I have all the time in the world as long as I am alive and kicking.

    Oh, by the way, just some backgrounds on moi.. I am Chinese and hails from Malaysia. A tropical country surrounded by sea. Or I shud say I am a Chinese who does not read or write Chinese. Even struggles with my own name. It’s that pathetic. That’s why people laughed at me when I proclaim that I am going to learn Japanese. The irony.

    Adios for now. Shall be bookmarking you for my periodical reading. I don’t get to surf much nowadays. Sigh.

  28. Nivaldo
    March 5, 2008 at 04:46

    Wow! Re-reading this post I felt compelled to comment. I think it is the best post ever. It gives new forces when someone is already down. The feeling of looking at a whole page of text and being able to read only 7 or 8 words out of 50 or 60 is just discouraging. If this post were participating in some kind of contest, it would be the 一番. Keep up the VERY GOOD WORK!

  29. Sunny Ray Fullbright
    March 14, 2008 at 07:44

    カツモトさん、始めまして。もちろん、アメリカ人で、Sunny Ray (I know…. please
    don’t make fun of my name, it’s sad but it’s actually my name.) と言いま
    す。どうぞよろしくおねがいします。 Currently, I am in the process of learning
    sentences now. (I don’t want to bother you with my religion but, I thank
    God that I found your website.) I followed your steps and examples and to
    be honest, I really do understand why you choose to do such things in that
    order. Ofcourse, Step 1 is completely perfect for any beginner to get fired-up
    about learning (what ever that reason for learning would be. I can’t lie,
    I was learning because I had a crush on a japanese lady, and trust me, in
    the words of a texan…, “Japanese seemed impossible to learn until I found
    your website.” And on top of that, before I followed your examples, I could
    not understand where to start.) Every book in the library I went to that
    was japanese learning book was not good at all. I mean, You must understand,
    right? First thing you mainly see is sentences in romaji and a bunch of
    sentences and translations. But, with the native set of kanji, it’s so easy
    to pick up a word and a meaning of the word in a sentence. Okay… I could
    type about phase 2 all day but… I won’t (For your sake^^). My current phase, sentence establishing phase, I am actually picking up about 30 sentences easily everyday, and I think it really helped!! I mean, before I knew anything about japanese, I only saw the japanese girl that I liked as a just pretty face, but now I am starting to understand her true feelings and mind. It’s so strange how I misjudged her. I used to think she was just the cute and strict (aka never going to get her in a mollion years chick) type. Now, me and her are together, and I think it’s so good because in a way, she is somewhat of a mother to my young japanese mind. (Maybe you can totally disagree on this one, but I hope you don’t)

    Okay (as if I didn’t write enough)

    I just want to say a big “本当にどうもありがとうございます!”

  30. Sunny Ray Fullbright
    March 14, 2008 at 08:10

    Oh katsumoto… I actually have a question now… In your own opinion, what do you think the percentence rate (ratio?) of how the input level should be compared to your output level. I talked to some friends of mine and they think “INPUT 75% OUTPUT 25%”…. I disagree… Because in my opinion, I think it should be “INPUT 90% OUTPUT 10%”….. Maybe I am the only one who thinks that but, I read your post on how imput always outdo output and in my own opinion, I think I use about 10-20% of words and phrases I know. I don’t attend to bring the impression that I mentaly try to limit myself in anyway but, to me, there are definantly japanese phrases that I can pull good meaning of, but I don’t think I can ever think in such a way at the monment. Recently, I listen to Crystal kay… the Songs, “Motherland” and “Butterfly’s Garden” are shurely my top favorite at the time and I can understand Motherland perfectly. “Thanks to SRS’ing” and singing it too. I understand Butterfly’s Garden but, have you listened to that song? Call me very dumb but, there is no possible way for me to set my mind to pull greater meaning of that song yet. But to tell the honest truth, I only started SRS’ing for that song yesterday, And I heared Motherland before I known some japanese.. I guess I shouldn’t complain about everything to you but… What do you think about this thought and comment? If you happen to have spare will you please listen to the 2 songs I told you about? Oh and please don’t forget to tell me your opinions about me and my friends thoughts and about my questions. I say thank you in advance.

  31. khatzumoto
    March 28, 2008 at 09:57

    Yeah, you can never really go wrong with input, in that there’s no such thing as “too much”… I don’t think so, anyway. The output just takes care of itself.

    I’ll try those songs!

  32. Dr Talon
    April 20, 2008 at 13:34

    Hey guys, something I find really helpful and motivating when going through the kanji is watching japanese movies. Going through Heizig’s book I’m sure you’ll notice that his book is divided up into chapters. About every 10 chapters I honestly take a break and watch a movie because going at kanji every day, ALL day is hard work.

    Watching the movie (Japanese movies people, and NO ENGLISH SUBTITLES!!) try and concentrate on the way the Japanese convey their emotions using body language and the way the characters react to one another given a specific environment.

    I’m an anime guy and intensely love the stuff and I can tell you that I’ve done the math on how much anime I’ve actually watched (own personal curiousity I guess) and you would have to sit in front of your computer for 9 months straight (no eating, sleeping, no getting up to go to the bathroom, no going to school, work, NOTHING except watch anime) and from this experience I can tell you that no anime series will get you better aquainted with emotion or meaning for that matter, than a good Japanese movie.

    Taking a break and watching any Japanese movie will calm you down and put your mind back into saying “Ok, I need to go back into a serious “Kanji Intake” mode.” My favourite Japanese films are Sukida (guess what emotion this movie concentrates on lol, it’s not dirty or anything), The World Sinks except for Japan, and All About Lily. All are awesome movies. Buy them, download them, get them somehow and they might just help you get back into your Japanese mindset.

  33. Dr Talon
    April 21, 2008 at 08:26

    Another thing too, if you begin to feel tired in your studies just drop down and do 100 push up’s :D always works!

  34. Magdalena
    July 3, 2010 at 02:30

    This is one of my favorites. Direct and motivational. I read it in my moments of weakness. Great job!

  35. Natsu
    October 26, 2010 at 11:08

    XD Hahahahaaaaa~! This is fantastic! Truly one of the best I’ve read. Most of what I’ve read so far is motivational, and I’ll tell you what, you’ve helped me a LOT. And a lot of other people, too, I’m sure. You make learning japanese sound hard, but easy. Long, but short. You make hard-work sound like fun! (Or is that last part just my opinion?) It’s just one big thing o’ oxymorons! XD Fantastic.

    This one specifically, was quite amazing, and fills me with enough emotion to want to start laughing right here and now. So I shall. This is certainly one of my FAVORITE websites. Haha, you’re awesome! ^^

  36. Suisei
    January 26, 2012 at 01:46

    Sadly, I’m in the beginning stage and just went to get farther into knowing japanese. I do make myself do reps but I tend to not enjoy it but force myself too. I want to hurry up as much as I can with kanji but don’t want to burn myself out. I’m just stressed on learning japanese as quick as possible..:/

  37. Kimchi
    August 1, 2012 at 09:31

    Aa, reading this I suddenly got worried I wouldn’t get any reading done since I only have access by computor to anything japanese(excuding the local library that has it’s fair collection, which is über sweet). . .or so I though but
    I went and almost bought a book (that I actually have trouble affording) before I realized it. You know, I have a friend that bought me a shounen jump when she went overseas!Aand found another! Lucky me. I’ll just read them over and over until I can understand everything in them!
    Thumbs up for making due!!

  38. May 21, 2014 at 02:04

    Truly an inspiring read, even for really positive upbeat peopel like me, i was recently getting donw about my progress, but after reading this i just want to be patient and keep going and trust that my hard work will naturally result in the goal. Thanks khatz, so inpsiring beyond words,

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