Disclaimer: I realize this topic is very controversial, so I would like to start by saying that I do not propose this as the fastest or the best way to learn Japanese, and everything I give are suggestions that you could consider. Ultimately all our schedules and goals are different and that calls for different study methods. I respect that. If this is your first time hearing about it and become interested, google it, it’s a pretty cool concept.
Firstly, I want to explain the basis behind AJATT, or at least how I see it. The more times a word is encountered, the better you can understand the meaning, nuance, usage, etc. Based on this fact, AJATT tries to get you to encounter as many words as much as possible in the time you have. Consider a word that you encountered once after looking it up in the dictionary. Compare this to another word that you have encountered six times in the wild. Of course, a word encountered six times (which basically means you’ve seen the word used in six different examples) would give you a much better sense of the nuance/meaning of the word. Your vocabulary is constantly building, and AJATT tries to get you to encounter as much as possible.
So what do you actually do? Listen to as much Japanese as possible. For me, I put podcasts on my phone and computer dock. Whenever I have free time (pretty much whenever I am not in class for me as a college student), listen to something. Sometimes I’m feeling music, that’s fine too but perhaps not as good because its always the same words/lyrics, it’s harder to understand and you get more distracted with the rhythm. On a plane and watching movies you’ve watched before? Watch them in Japanese (they have language options in a lot of airlines). If you feel confident enough, watch movies you haven’t watched in Japanese. Need something to read? Read some articles in Japanese. Try your best to create an environment similar to what it would be like if you were actually living in Japan. = Maximum exposure (side note: the type of exposure matters too, if you constantly surround yourself with words you already know and easy grammar, it’s not going to improve your ability much, is it? Too difficult and you’ve got the problem with burnout, which I will explain later)
How does Anki come in? Most AJATTers use anki to write down these examples of wild encounters. And try to memorize them. What good does that do? Well the more deep in your memory an example is, the better it is for recall. In short, you need fewer encounters to know a word better. I mean, there’s no way that you will remember that word just from seeing it once right? How much you use Anki is up to your schedule and rate of burnout. More is definitely better, but you’ve got to balance it in so that you continue doing it and not just give up.
What about burnout? This I think is a big misconception. The only enemy that we are constantly fighting while doing AJATT is burnout. That’s why we choose to listen to things we are interested about, easy enough to understand without wanting to hang yourself, and minimize the difficult of task as much as possible. The only goal is to encounter as much as possible, what source material you choose should be what burns you out the least. If you find yourself burning out, think of ways to overcome it: should I change what I am reading/watching/listening to, or is there something else I can do?
Is AJATT for everyone? This is where some people trip up: AJATT is not for all stages, at least I don’t think it is. A foundation is necessary to be able to at least understand the word in its context. If you can’t even understand the context, then AJATT is not for you, because you are not gaining anything from seeing that word in the wild at that time. Some AJATTers say you don’t need to formally learn grammar, or even go as far as to avoid grammar books like the plague. I don’t support that, I believe you should learn grammar and on top of that, solidify every thing you learn with a ton of exposure to Japanese.
Should I look things up in the dictionary? YES, whenever you can. However, keep in mind that there is burnout and constantly going to the dictionary for everything you don’t understand will definitely burn you out. If you can deduce what the word means from context (with high certainty) then you are also gaining the benefits of AJATT and you don’t need to look it up.
Can I use other things with AJATT? Heck yeah, I use wanikani, italki and dictionary of __ grammar. How much time you devote to AJATT depends on you, your burnout rate, your level, etc.
In conclusion, even if you don’t end up filling each day with 15 hours of Japanese listening, AJATT has a lot to teach in terms of a way of looking at language learning in general. In the end of the day, each word’s meaning is just derived from our experiences with that word. Since we encounter some words in English so much, we have so much experience to draw from, the process happens subconsciously. AJATT is just a mindset. 頑張ろう！
I know there’s usually a lot of toxicity around AJATT and a lot of pompous gloaters out there too, but I would really like to know how it went if you gave it a shot. Let’s make this discussion insightful, what are you tips/tricks? Do you agree with this way of looking at things?