Just keep listening until you understand! How is this possible? Khatzumoto explains himself: “One of the more apparently “controversial” pieces of advice I've offered is to simply immerse in audio keep listening whether or not you understand the target language. It'll all just start to make sense. No doubt I am not the first person to have suggested this. At best I simply pushed the idea to its logical extreme…”
The secret is to use things or do things that you already like. Khatzumoto gives more detail: “If you lack certain strengths or have a lot of weaknesses, then exploit your weaknesses for the purpose of learning Japanese. If you like playing video games, watching movies or even playing sports, simply make sure you do all those things in Japanese and/or with Japanese people (I played with a soccer team made up entirely of Japanese students plus me; too bad I don't like soccer). You could go running and play Japanese music while you do it…there's enough stuff out there for all your tastes.”
Instead, bombard yourself with as much reading material as possible. Tae Kim says: “I personally recommend the “deluge” method of dumping your brain with TONS of interesting content. This means ploughing through pages of books and manga, hours of dialogue, and conversation practice forgetting more words than remembering them. Don't sit around wasting time entering and reviewing what you've already seen, just get more, more, and MORE STUFF!!! You'll be surprised at how much just seems to stick somehow like osmosis. Some people feel this is not effective because they end up forgetting so much stuff. They don't realise that the fact that they even remember forgetting it means they're learning it.”
Japanese Lingualift says: “The first pillar of intensive language learning is an SRS system such as Anki or Kleio and a good deck of sentences. Learning from sentences instead of individual words or characters will let you learn more efficiently, force you to learn in balanced manner, and motivate you as the additional context often makes the process more interesting and many of the sentences are readily usable. What's good about sentences is that you not only learn new words and Kanji, but also understand how to use them in context, and what their nuance is depending on how they are used.” He goes on to say: “As you have no time to waste, it's probably best to use a precompiled sentence deck shared by other users.” Interesting – do you agree?
Instead of having single words on your flashcards, or even complete sentences, challenge yourself by having the target language as a blank in the middle of a sentence. Khatzumoto gives this example. He goes on to talk about monolingual or bilingual flashcards: “Bilingual [flashcards] are good for when you lack the knowledge — or the context — to happily handle monolingual cards. Beginners, noobs and nervous nellies should focus just on bilingual cards. Just as with old skool sentence cards, don't go writing your own translations. If you're noob enough to need a translation, ya shouldn't be rolling your own.”
Lindie Botes is a brave woman: “My tips are quite odd and daring but they work for me. I use a phone application called Saito San (also known as “Mr and Mrs Smith”) to literally phone random people. It connects you via a phone call to someone in Japan. Through this I force myself to practice conversational Japanese and put myself in a situation where I can't use English. After all, immersion and speaking the language is how a child learns to speak, right?” See a video of her trying out this app here.
Learn phrases to keep the conversation in Japanese during a language exchange. You could do a lot worse than this list, courtesy of guidetojapanese.org. Alternatively, check out my guide to the 73 basic Japanese phrases you'll need to survive your first conversation with a native speaker. And if you're still looking for a native speaker to talk to, discover how to find a language partner in Japan.
Benny describes his recent experience looking for a tutor on iTalki.com: “Another thing I've been doing this week is alternating between different teachers on iTalki to decide who I would learn the most with. Sometimes they use way too much English, despite me insisting on Japanese, and if they keep it up then I don't request future sessions. One or two teachers showed good initiative and themselves were insisting on Japanese only before I could mention that I'd prefer this, so I'll be sticking with them, even though (and precisely because) those are the sessions that absolutely exhaust me the most.” Benny's got very specific criteria for choosing a tutor. What would be yours?
“If you are learning Japanese outside of Japan, finding an online tutor or a language partner that you enjoy learning and speaking Japanese with makes a huge difference and can also be a lot more fun,” says Brian Kwong. “You can also find a free language partner with this step by step video, or if you want to save time, you can get quality and affordable tutor from iTalki.com.”
“I dove straight into learning Kana [and] I found the system on Memrise to present it very well,” explains Benny Lewis.