Quantity Time is Quality Time

An adult isn’t just a big cell. A big zygote.

Adding small, imperceptible changes (at the time) produces a big change at the end.

Who you are now is not who you will be; who you are now is not even like who you will be; you will be a completely different person in ten years; most of your cells and even your personality will be completely different. But you won’t notice the difference until you compare big chunks of time. You can’t notice — not even if you wanted to. We suck like that.

A person who knows one kanji and a person who knows two thousand are not the same person. They’re not even the same type of person. But it all happened just one kanji component at a time, five to ten kanji a day. That’s the weird part. The steps are small — IRL, they’re almost pathetically small. But the change is big. The sum is big.

Quantitative changes produce qualitative changes. Quantity is quality. An SD card isn’t like 64,000 3.5-inch floppy disks; it is something else.

You thought that the destination was easy and the path was hard. You thought that you would struggle and stumble and (if Richard Dawkins smiled on you), you would reach the Promised Land. Well, I am here to tell you that that is all a lie; I am here to tell you that the path is easy and the destination is beyond your imagination. Because, as Jim Rohn so famously and eloquently put it: “the things that are easy to do are also easy not to do”.

The path of getting used to language is so easy that you are confused. It’s so easy that you can’t wrap your head around it; it’s too simple for your intelligence to grasp; it’s like trying to hold a ball bearing in your hand — it’s too easy; it’s so easy that you’re likely to drop it; it’s like when you’re nice to a girl who’s used to being abused — it just doesn’t compute. But it is what it is.

You can’t wrap your head around how a chain of easy things can make it so you can do things with your eyes and ears and lips that don’t seem easy to people; it seems to you like things should be alike, like the path should at least feel like the destination 1. Well, no. You will feel dry the whole time, but you’ll be dripping wet when you get there — when you get (to your new) home. And that’s weird, I know.

And I’ve told you nothing new, but hopefully I’ve told you something old in a new enough way to be of help. I don’t know. But I’ll keep writing anyway and one of these days one of these won’t suck ;) .


  1. (there’s lots of self-similarity (scale invariance) in nature, so this intuition is not always unwarranted)

  5 comments for “Quantity Time is Quality Time

  1. Tom
    January 15, 2014 at 00:10

    “The things that are easy to do, are also easy not to do”
    What about sex? That’s easy to do, but hard not to do…

  2. Lazysan
    January 15, 2014 at 10:40

    Funny thing is, I always thought for the longest time that Quality is waaaay better than Quantity.

    Thanks to this site and recently RTK, I have a little fluency and might have lots more soon(this year).

  3. Amir
    July 11, 2014 at 05:32

    Learning languages is like growing hair, if you kind of look at it this way.

    We just make sure that we eat and our hair grows ‘x’ mm daily, without us noticing anything.

    We just make sure we show up to Japanese and our skill gets better daily, without us noticing anything.

    And before we know it, we have to get our hair cut .
    Before we know it, we start swearing in Japanese.
    Before we know it, we start laughing at a joke in Gintama.
    Before we know it, girls leave the room, because they want to talk about their period and they know that we’ll understand.

    I know it’s not the best example but it sure gave me a clear image. All we’ve basically got to do is water the plants, boil the water. Nature will take care of the rest. That’s why I love the new Dragon Ash song ‘Lily’, it kind of sings about this haha. The process of how a flower gets to bloom. Learning Japanese is in big actually the same.

    「届けるように 絶えぬように 水を注ぐよ ねぇリリィー」

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