How Can I Apply The AJATT Method to Getting Used To (=Learning and Becoming Awesome At) Mandarin Chinese?

Hey, what’s up?

What exactly is the AJATT (“All Japanese All The Time”) method? That question doesn’t have a short — or permanent — answer. Nor, in my opinion, should it. Why? Because it’s always evolving, and people always need clarification. — that’s this site — has grown quite a bit over the years, from its humble beginnings in 2006 to its arrogant, bombastic, decadent present. Over that time, a lot has been written and said. And more is still being written and said right now — it’s what the geeks call an “open canon”. I’m writing and saying this as we speak right in front of your face . 1

Great. So what?
What does any of this have to do with learning Mandarin Chinese?
I don’t care who you are! I need answers, playa! I wanna know the price of milk in China and you’re still not talking about it!

Chill, Winston. Easy now. We’re getting there.

So there you are. You probably came to this site on the enthusiastic recommendation of a pleased AJATTeer 2. S/he probably told you how awesome this site was, how ridiculously handsome I am, how I changed her/his/its life.

But now you’re here and you’re just confused. You’re overwhelmed. By the sheer volume of information and discussion — on the order of a thousand posts and tens of thousands of comments. Enough text to fill a paper book thick enough to maim a human baby or other small mammal. How, even with the help of Daniel Bedingfield, are you gonna get through this? How are you supposed to read all this? How are you supposed to take mine and other people’s experiences and distill them into a coherent path of action for yourself? 3

Short answer: Nutshell.

Nutshell? Yes. As in “in a”.

In college, I read a slim volume by a man named Adam Robinson (the man who more or less invented the (SAT) test prep industry), called What Smart Students Know. Of the many delightfully effective techniques it contained, perhaps the simplest and most powerful was the “summary sheet” — a single sheet of paper, regularly updated, containing a condensed version of all the notes, lectures, text and other content of, say, a college course, up to that point.

Nutshell is basically that. The language acquisition method of this website, constantly condensed and constantly updated and specifically tailored to Mandarin Chinese.

While the AJATT method — or methods, if you prefer – was, as the name suggests, developed for and through Japanese, many people have used it to achieve fluency in many other languages, Mandarin being one of them. It doesn’t hurt that Japanese and Mandarin share a writing system (don’t get clever and technical about it — they do) and many borrowed words: many Chinese words for modern scientific concepts were actually coined in Japan, using their shared writing system. So, yeah, like, methods transfer surprisingly easily — in all my optimism, even I was a little shocked. I guess it goes to show that a language is a language is a language.

Plus, me going out and changing existing blog posts after the fact, no matter how old, would be an exercise in utter folly. Not only are there far too many of them, but the act of modifying them all would destroy the “referential integrity” of this website — links would stop working, comments would start referring to things that no longer exist, posts and quotes at thousands of external websites would cease to make sense. Not to mention the loss of archival value. And it’s not like this breakage could just happen once, since the AJATT method is constantly evolving.

Nutshell, on the other hand, is made to be broken: updated and modified regularly.

‘Bet you’re excited now, aren’t ya? Yeah.

Well, I’m gonna give it to ya…for free. All you need do is hit me with your name and email, and I’ll have my people talk to your people, and send you the relevant info.


Spam sucks a$$. And your privacy matters, dawg. Your email address will never be shared with third parties.

PS: If you’re one of them brave and beautiful souls who doesn’t want or need a summary and likes to read things in full, even rambling things, then click here :) .


  1. Don’t mind the broken metaphor; this site is full of them :P . It’s like hair on the floor of a salon; we just don’t bother any more…
  2. That’s what we call those who have imbibed the local Kool-Aid
  3. You could just wing it. But I guess not everyone still has that tinkerer spirit alive and burning inside them.

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