Acquire Japanese

This guy is amazing: How to acquire any language NOT learn it! - YouTube

How to do what he did, with Japanese?
Just learn a lot of vocubalary?

I really want to bring my Japanese to the next level, really focusing on making sure that I can speak it, ofcourse I love WaniKani, but is it still a good approach to learn vocab this way to use it in real world, same for textbook approach.


I don’t have an hour to watch the whole thing, but I tried to skim it in a way that allowed me to get a good gist and the gist I get is this:

This seems to be advocating a kind of immersion based technique and seems to require a lot of 1 on 1 time with speakers of your target language. I don’t know how reasonable an expectation that is for most language learners. He talks about finding language ‘parents’ who can help you and, judging by the hours he gives, expects that this be doable for 10 hours a week.

I’m certain that this approach works for some lucky people, but unless you’re fortunate enough to have a several very willing friends who talk that language OR are able to pay for regular private tutoring, I don’t see how this approach is doable to for most people.

I get the logic behind it, that our brains learn that way as babies. In terms of neuroscience though, our brains are fundamentally different in how they process language as children, which is why there is a golden period for teaching language and it becomes progressively harder and harder as we grow up. So while this approach may have benefits, I don’t know how much of a benefit it has over any other kind of learning that allows for immersion and conversation.


I haven’t watched the video, but in general I would be weary of trusting YouTube polyglot, because often:

  1. They actually only have A1/A2 levels in the languages they speak (think N5 in Japanese) and will call that “fluent”.

  2. Their experiences are biased towards learning Proto-Indo-European languages.

  3. They exagerate or outright lie in order to build their niche.

As for the content itself, “How do I learn without putting in effort to study” is a a bit of a meme in the language learning community. As @Joeni said, learning via “submersion” or whatever isn’t practical for most people and doesn’t have research behind it, to the best of my knowledge.

Even native speakers study grammar. For example, they learn the subtleties behind そうだ vs ~そうだ vs ようだ vs らしい vs でしょう in school (my friend mentioned in junior high). They also learn the kanji through lots of rote memorization. Any actually comprehensive approach really needs some level of formal studying, even though it may not be fun or sell to gullible people that don’t want to to put in the effort to learn a language. Any approach is going to require 1000s of hours of effort that isn’t fun, and this is something one must accept.


I was also only skipping through because I’m more than wary of videos that claim to have found the be-all-end-all solution to the arduous process that is language learning, but it definitively lost me at the suggestion to do exactly what babies do.

The whole reason why we’re all here sharing our Japanese learning experience is because acquiring a language at a later stage is exactly what babies don’t do, and I don’t wish to be taken for a fool.


This is the idea behind Rosetta Stone as well. I have no idea if Rosetta Stone is truly effective, but speaking from my limited experience of it, it’s really slow. The only praise I can offer them is that their speech recognition engine seems to be good.

It’s true that immersion will accelerate your learning. However, really, if you don’t have friendly native speakers who are willing to engage and instruct you, you won’t get anywhere fast. You need native input to be understandable (which will help you add it to your knowledge base) or easily applicable (e.g. native speakers pointing out common structures or broad-ranging patterns that may not be covered in textbooks). Otherwise, you’re better off immersing yourself in books and other media that are close to your level while progressively levelling up.

PS: a few final thoughts:

  1. Does that guy actually demonstrate any language proficiency in the video? You know that the linguistics professor he interviewed is Stephen Krashen, the guy behind the input hypothesis? He’s hardly an unbiased source when it comes to recommending immersion.
  2. If you need a reason to trust me… uh, I’m not brilliantly fluent in all the languages I speak, but if Professor Brown has studied 7 languages… well, I’ve done 6
    Fluent – English, Chinese (deteriorating due to lack of use), French (my French classmates in university often say my French is better than theirs)
    Semi-fluent (i.e. I’ve studied them seriously and I can form long sentences, understand some of the news) – Japanese, German, Spanish (in decreasing order of fluency)
    Languages I’ve dabbled in without becoming fluent – Latin (I use French and Spanish to help me work things out), Arabic (just a tiny bit)

After 11 months his comprehension still seems pretty terrible


I shouldn’t be laughing at him, but…
tenor (38)
I’m sorry, but these “No study! Only drown dive into the sea of language!” people crack me up.


I agree with all you’ve said but i’d like to add that people that say grammar isnt neccesary, they do it for views. But grammar is super useful, especially if you are a polyglot. It takes less time to learn something when you see the common structure, and the common vocabulary most languages have.


I’ll agree that he seems to keep messing up the day of the week, which you’d think is basic knowledge, but I think it would be best to have someone who can actually speak Arabic judge how far he had got at that point in the video. (PS: Perhaps you do speak Arabic, and I don’t want to make any assumptions, but I’m just saying that an Arabic speaker would probably have an easier time making an accurate assessment since even the subtitles might be biased, honestly.)

Anyway… ok, first of all, I’m sorry for being too lazy to look it up myself, but I’m pretty sure that people like @nclbk have cited newer research on these forums that state that the input hypothesis is an incomplete theory about language acquisition, and that it’s been found that input alone isn’t sufficient, or that at the very least, it’s not the only determining factor in the speed at which someone acquires a language.

Aside: LOL. I just read something in another video by this Jeff Brown. On one of his presentation slides were the words ‘Reading and writing a level 5 language (Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Arabic) too early (first 100 hours) is a waste of time’. Wow. I really wonder what the heck I did as a native speaker of Chinese (even if it is my secondary language, given that I use English all the time). Meanwhile, only a few slides later, he cites something from Krashen that states how reading leads to faster vocabulary acquisition than intensive vocabulary instruction. What’s a learner to do then? :roll_eyes: With no offence being meant to anyone on the WK forums, as much as learning to write is very much a personal choice when learning a foreign language that you may not even use regularly in its written form, I really feel that not knowing how to write a new language is a huge handicap. That means you have one less way of remembering the words you learn.

Returning to the main topic though, really… I think what he’s not realising is that ‘learning’ and ‘acquisition’ are not separate. I mean, by all means, someone, please, cite some contradictory research if I’m wrong, but I think the keyword here is ‘repetition’. What moves knowledge from the ‘conscious’ part of your mind to the ‘subconscious’ part of your mind is the force of habit. It’s the same thing with mathematics or physics: if you know a problem-solving method works, and you use it over and over again, sooner or later, it’s going to become fluid and natural to use it without thinking about how to do so. He talks about how he keeps repeating certain things in his classes. Well, I mean, the only reason having more input than output is helpful is because new learners usually aren’t proficient enough to construct sentences rapidly. However, at higher levels, repetition through output works well as well: I would certainly remember certain French expressions better if I had heard them more often, but the reason I have certain literary French expressions on the tip of my tongue, even though I typically only see them in the dictionary or in rare texts, is because I used them again and again in my own essays.

Well, my answer to you is this: if you can easily get into contact with a lot of helpful native speakers, possibly by paying for tutors, then by all means, go ahead and try his method out. I honestly think that the best proof of the fact that his emphasis on input doesn’t work is the fact that he can’t even keep the days of the week straight in Egyptian Arabic (look at @Kumirei’s example at 51:30). However, my personal experience is that you can acquire a ton of vocabulary by massively immersing yourself, with the help of a dictionary, in media that you enjoy, be they pop science articles, anime, dramas, documentaries or magazines. Thereafter, however, effort must be made to use the expressions learnt or noticed. This will accelerate retention, even if it’s fully possible to retain new words due to endless repetition, which you are unlikely to get from native media (unless you’re like me and enjoy re-watching the same anime series 3-4 times in a row). Otherwise, it’s very likely that these new expressions will become things you only understand but can’t use. There’s somebody on these forums who is a counter-example to my points, because he (or she) did manage to maintain his English ability as a child simply by reading consistently, even if he didn’t speak English for years. However, my response to that is that you can only rely on pure input if you’re able to get a huge amount of it at regular intervals (e.g. by reading novels). Otherwise, it’s probably easier (and more efficient) to mix large amounts of input (for rapid knowledge acquisition and pattern recognition) with regular output practice (in order to fluidify new knowledge and make it easy to recall). These things work for other forms of knowledge (e.g. musical skill, mathematical prowess, scientific knowhow), so I don’t see why languages should be any different.


I agree. 10 characters. 10 characters.
Edit: 2 minutes after that he tried to speak. It was painful to hear unfortunately. Using wrong letters
P.s: his shirt says cream


Unlike babies adults can use a variety of study methods, have access to various resources and prior knowledge, and generally have life experience.

If you actually count the hours, children spend so much time learning their first language. And adult could become pretty fluent in a foreign language in 2-3 years given focused study and regular practice. And that would be adult level language.

I am always surprised when people are saying that babies learn so much faster compared to adults. I just don’t see it. Personally, I’m becoming better at learning new things with experience. There are patterns and similarities between the things I am trying to learn and the things I already know. In addition I know which learning methods worked best for me in the past and which pitfalls to avoid.


I think the impression that children learn language better is justified by their starting point of zero knowledge of anything at all. Unless the neuroscience understanding of it has changed since I studied last (which is very likely, it was a long time ago) the human brain is adapted at that age due to the plasticity of the brain to adapt to stimulus and create pathways to deal with all the acquired language. The brain changes over time and this “sensitive period” only lasts until you hit your teens, after which point your language learning becomes solidified and acquisition ability slows down, making it harder to learn as you grow older.

Aside from the scientific understanding, I see it in action with my son, who at 3 will learn a new word after hearing it once. There’s a reason they say not to swear around kids, because they pick up words so, so easily. So this is why they say kids learn faster than adults; because it’s true - they have an easier time, entirely due to how their brains work at that age. They’re blank slates for acquisition, whereas we have all this stuff already. It means we’re better equipped to understand from sources of knowledge, whereas they’re better equipped to quire from the world around them, in my opinion.


I don’t think it’s particularly helpful for kind to judge a person’s progress, regardless of how long they’ve been learning. I’m a language teacher of multicultural groups of students and some of them can speak well and write poorly after a year, some are the opposite, depending on their past experience and personality. Judging another person’s progress doesn’t make you better at your language acquisition journey and doesn’t help beginners who overhear the conversation, because now they’re too self conscious of being judged themselves to try. Really disappointed with some of the commentary here.


The point here is this is someone that is grandstanding about how they learned language faster and easier by not studying. Here, clearly, there is evidence that maybe their super magical language learning method isn’t all it is cracked up to be.


I haven’t read any studies comparing a child’s vs an adult’s ability to learn. I’d be curious to check them out if you have anything to share.

To make a fair comparison though you would need to take an adult and put them into a foreign language environment as a member of a family-like group for a few years (pretty much like Tom Cruise in The Last Samurai). However, I am not sure this will pass the ethics committee :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

Adults might have a harder time learning pure words but they wouldn’t need to learn a new concept with each word. They can just attach another label to an existing one. I guess it’s like creating a neural passway. Plus, learning the grammar can be much more structured.

Certainly. It’s late here, so I’m going to resist going down a research rabbit hole when Wikipedia has already got people doing all the citations for me, hehe:


Where does he say he’s not studying? He spends like 500 hours with tutors/language exchange partners essentially just asking about what things are in pictures and then listens to all of those recordings. If anything it sounds like a lot more effort than SRSing vocab/grammar which is a very common strategy here (but I personally find SRSing pretty low effort).

1 Like

It depends on your definition of studying. What he’s doing is interacting, by my understanding. He’s undergoing tutoring, certainly, but that doesn’t equate to studying. You can say that he’s studying the language, but I didn’t see much of what we’d define in academia as study.

The point I made, and stick by, is that his process isn’t attainable to most language learners. Most people don’t have access to language partners who can spend that much time talking to them. Therefore, his method (while it may be effective for him) is not necessarily accessible nor prescribable to the average learner. I would love to be able to spend ten hours a week being tutored on Japanese and talking to another speaker, but you have to either be rich or lucky to be in that situation.


Oh yeah, I totally agree. I just think ashkey’s point stands that he put a lot of effort into it and he’s being judged pretty harshly on his progress


No, you misunderstood why people are judging him. This guy isn’t just a beginner, he’s actively trying to convince people that his no study method or whatever is the best way to learn a language, when clearly he could use a bit of help with language himself. It’s like him being a brand-new blacksmith and claiming that his knives are the sharpest ever, when they can’t even cut.

I’m a foreigner who’s had to completely learn a new language from the ground up alongside my family, so I’d never knock someone’s honest, genuine attempt to learn a complicated language. If that person makes some wild claims like that the best way to learn a language is by, for example, not studying grammar, and they later show that they’re lacking proficiency, then yes, I’m going to raise eyebrows.