Continual Questioning

In a lot of personal development literature, they say that asking good questions helps us get good answers. Here are some you can ask yourself continually:


  • What if I were Japanese?
  • What if I had been born and raised in Japan?
  • What if I were Jared in The Pretender and I had to fool people into believing I was Japanese, or else be killed?
  • What if I just tried X out? What would happen?
  • What if it were possible to be native-like? How could I make it possible? What would a native do? What would a native be doing right now?
  • What if I were smart enough?
  • What if it didn’t even take smarts?
  • What if I gave myself the chance?
  • What if I gave myself the time?
  • What if I refused to give up until I had won?
  • What if I am a natural winner who just needs to step up to the plate to prove it?
  • What unquestioned advantages do I have over other people? What resources and skills do I take for granted?
  • How would a winner think of herself?


  • What if I could only speak Japanese?
  • What if Japanese were my only language?
  • What if I just turned Japanese on and left it on forever? What would happen?
  • How can I add Japanese to this situation? How can I Japanize this situation?
  • Is there a Japanese version of this?
  • If I were a Japanese kid, what would I be doing now?
  • What do Japanese kids do?
  • What kinds of things would the bedroom, living room and backpack of a Japanese kid contain?
  • What if I watched one Japanese movie (or the equivalent amount of Japanese TV) every day?
  • How would a winner use the time, cash and equipment that I have at my disposal?
  • How many Japanese movies has a Japanese kid watched by her twelfth birthday?
  • How many Japanese books would a Japanese kid from a proper home own?
  • How many minutes have I heard Japanese this past hour?
  • How can I touch Japanese more frequently?
  • What if I made it impossible for myself to not come into contact with Japanese?
  • How can I make it so that Japanese just gets inserted into my life?
  • How many minutes does a Japanese kid hear Japanese by her fifth birthday?
  • Where and how can I get more Japanese books/movies/music?
  • How can I make sure that I look at more Japanese websites?
  • What kind of Japanese stuff can I put on my walls?
  • Where’s my dead time? How can I Japanize it easily?
  • How can I get Japanese into my life for free? Effortlessly? What and where are my “freebie” activities?
  • What’s a time that I’m doing something manual but my eyes and ears are free?
  • Where am I not listening to Japanese that I could be listening to Japanese?
  • Where’s my empty wall space? What Japanese stuff could I put up there?
  • What Japanese stuff can I put on my fridge? What about the toilet? What about the kitchen sink? What about the bathroom sink?
  • How can I be useful to Japanese people? What can I give them? How can I make myself an asset to Japanese people? How can I make myself fun to be around? What can I help with in their lives?※
  • Outside of Japan: What would a highly insulated Japanese immigrant be doing/watching/reading right now?
  • Inside Japan: How do I get premium cable? Where can I put this TV so that it’s always on? Can I get a cheap mini-TV for the kitchen? Where’s the remote?
  • What are some unexpected things that I can eat with chopsticks?
  • What’s an easy and fun Japanese thing that I can do right now?
  • What books and authors do I like in English? Is their stuff in Japanese? Where can I get it? Where can I read about it?
  • Is there a Japanese embassy nearby?
  • Is there a Book-Off nearby?
  • Where can I get free or second-hand Japanese books?
  • Are there Japanese people around needing to get rid of stuff?
  • Are there any Japanese/Asian stores around?
  • Is this helping me learn Japanese?
  • How can I make this so that it helps me learn Japanese in some way?
  • What can I do that at least helps?
  • How can I make it so that this activity increases the probability that I will build and maintain Japanese fluency?
  • How can I wangle and maneuver Japanese into my job?
  • How can I get paid to learn and use Japanese (my way)?
  • Where can I find recordings of single-digit age children speaking?
  • Do I know more today than I did yesterday?
  • Do I know more Japanese now than I did at breakfast-time?
  • Do I know more Japanese now than I did at lunchtime?
  • Do I know more Japanese now than I did before dinner?
  • Have I logged free Japanese “flying hours” overnight?
  • Am I little more used to Japanese now than I was when I went to bed last night?
  • What language is playing for me first thing in the morning and last thing at night?
  • When can I next get started on Japanese again? How soon? What’s something Japanese I can do?


  • How can I make this fun?
  • How can I make this easy?
  • What does this remind me of?
  • SRS: Would I feel relieved if this card were deleted? Would it be a load off?
  • SRS: What if I just tried X out? What would happen?
  • Do I know more today than I did yesterday?


  • How long does it take a Japanese toddler to acquire these?
  • Am I going to allow myself to be beaten by Japanese five-year-olds?
  • Surely I can out-smart Japanese toddlers?
  • What’s an easy and fun way to do this?
  • Do I know more today than I did yesterday?


  • What would be funny to say?
  • What have I heard that made me laugh?
  • What are my favorite movie lines in English?
  • Where’s that simple “kid vocabulary”?
  • How can I make this fun?
  • How can I make this easy?
  • What are some cool Japanese quotes?
  • SRS: Would I feel relieved if this card were deleted? Would it be a load off? Am I bovvered?
  • SRS: What if I just tried X out? What would happen?
  • Do I know more today than I did yesterday?

Output (Writing/Speaking)

  • How are native kids doing who were born the day I started learning Japanese? Have I put it as many minutes as them? Have I logged the “flying hours”?
  • What’s the shortest way to say this?
  • What do Japanese kids say?
  • Where’s that simple “kid vocabulary”?
  • How would I explain this to a 5-year-old?
  • What would a Japanese person say?
  • What do I hear/read Japanese people say?
  • Does this sound Japanese? Have I heard a Japanese person say/use this before?
  • How can I say this using as few words as possible?
  • How can I communicate 80% of this idea using just the words I already know?

※True story: In college I had a female friend from Japan who often took me out on her errands. Example: going to the garage to get her car fixed. She didn’t need me to speak English for her, but she says that my mere presence made her seem stronger — less vulnerable; she was concerned about being ripped off due to being both female and Asian.

Anyway, the plus side for me was, the whole time, in the car, we’re speaking Japanese.

Japanese people need you as much as you need them, especially when they’re far away from home. Don’t be afraid to be helpful. Think about it: I was able to help by just having a useful phenotype and a pulse…I do those things quite effortlessly.

Foreigners in Japan often complain that Japanese people just want them for their English skills. OK, fine, maybe so, but is that really so bad? You instantly have a quality that people want — that’s not something you can say about “back home”. Most of the time, actually, the English thing is just a pretext Japanese people use to hang out with you; because it’s just freaking embarrassing to say things like: “I like the cut of your jib, son — let’s be bosom buddies forever”. And if there’s one thing Japanese people don’t do, it’s “embarrassing”. In any case, a relationship has to start somewhere. Most (all?) love and friendship has its roots in the ground, in the practical and concrete (“he was there”); once it grows, then the leaves do end up in the air.

  11 comments for “Continual Questioning

  1. Joshuah
    July 23, 2011 at 00:20

    And most importantly:
    What would Khatzumoto do? :D

    • March 27, 2012 at 13:14

      Truer words have never been written. Screw Jared – he’s just a pretender. Khatz is the real deal!!

  2. October 26, 2011 at 13:43

    Judging by comments alone, I’d say these question posts are both forgotten, yet probably the most important posts in all of AJATT-land. Sure, you can spread the good teachings of the methods you developed after the fact that you accomplished fluency… but it’s very hard to specifically lay the tools to build a language-learning psychology. As Tony Robbins would say, all success is 80% psychology and 20% mechanics. You can have the best kung-fu-learning methods and have the best teachers, but if you don’t ask the right/necessary/optimal questions, you’ll never have the psychology worth mastery.
    This also makes me wonder, and conclude: if the whole section of the personal development industry that focuses on affirmations, instead focused on questions, I would say we’d have some personally developed hunks and hunkettes running around everywhere. Because nobody can really throw anything at you that you MUST develop within yourself. I’d say questioning is a fatally unrealized tool, only common to success (see Tim Ferriss, Anthony Robbins. Tim Ferriss’ whole success is based on taking the question “What’s the worst that could happen?” to its full extent, thus defining fears etc.).
    I think it’d be useful to meditate (in every meaning of the word) on these questions, and let it all flow in its own time. I certainly realize, from your success story, that these questions were essential. From the “What if I were a Japanese baby?”, to “What if I was in a hostage situation that required my full ability in Japanese?”. I’m forgetting some, but I remember you mentioning them. 

    • October 26, 2011 at 13:56

      “What if I were Jared in The Pretender and I had to fool people in to believing I was Japanese, or else be killed?”
      This is what I meant by hostage situation. :P

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