Immersion right now or wait..?

so, I have a question and that question is that should I start Japanese immersion right now as of rn I just started studying Japanese 3 weeks ago or should I wait? because I’ve heard that immersion is the best way to learn a language and become “fluent” in it. and if you think I should right how do I do that like do I watch stuff in Japanese whit Japanese subtitles and the words I don’t understand I put them in a anki deck or like what is the tips and tricks to that?

“Immersion” is overused in the Japanese community IMO, it lost a bit of its meaning.

If you mean engaging with native content, I do think you should start as soon as possible, but keep your expectations extremely low early on. At first you’ll mostly want to practice reading kana, understanding very simple grammar, decoding English words in katakana etc… Initially you’ll probably want to take very short sessions because looking everything up will be very taxing, then as you improve so will your Japanese “stamina”, so to speak.

If you actually mean real immersion, as in spending a huge portion of your time only dealing with Japanese content every day, then personally I was never sold on doing that early on. Some people vouch for it but I just don’t get how this is even supposed to work if you don’t have the very basics figured out first. Seems more frustrating than anything else.

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By the way I didn’t address this specific point: no I don’t recommend doing that early on. “Mining” content for Anki cards this way is a good idea, but I think at first it’s better to just memorize common vocabulary using premade decks for beginners.

The issue is that when you’re just starting every other word will be “words you don’t understand”, but you need to pick your battles and decide which words are worth learning first and which one are better left for later. Once you get a bit more advanced and you can read basic Japanese, it becomes easier to make these calls and decide if a word is worth learning or not. Early on it’s a lot more complicated because you’ll be overwhelmed with unknown vocabulary.

I actually have a “mining” deck that I’ve started when I was somewhere around WaniKani level 20 and frankly sometimes I get some of the early cards back in reviews and I wonder what I was thinking back then. I have a card for 山間部 (mountainous region). Sure, why not…

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I think the whole concept of “immersion” is given too much attention. I could sit in a room with Japanese people and have no clue what’s being said. I could stare at Japanese text without knowing how to read it. That’s not a very good use of my time. In my opinion, immersion is really just struggling to make headway in the current of information flowing your way, and I think it’s the struggling part that makes it useful. It’s not very pleasant and it is tiring.

I agree that it’s better to learn basic vocabulary and grammar, then try to use things like graded readers and other materials designed specifically for beginners before trying to tackle more advanced content.

I’ve been doing some form of “immersion” by trying to read a novel and I’ve only made it a couple paragraphs into the text after more than a month.

It’s boring and it takes a lot of effort.

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I feel like the immersion that actually works, and has worked for me, is through the comprehensible input style. ScorpioMartianus and Alpeh with Beth do this really well . There was also this Japanese series that was done pretty well when I was not invested in learning, but required a bit of subtitles on the first watchthrough (I should go find it).
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The reason why it worked for me is that it starts from nothing and you learn grammar and vocab just by listening and watching (good visuals were very important). And especially for aleph with beth it introduces you to alphabet later on and have grammar worksheets purely in the source language for the earlier episodes which you can understand at the point as it is primarily phonetic. I just think that method is very cool if executed right but of course difficult to produce especially for different languages :smiley:

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You’re probably going to get a lot of varied answers about people who feel strongly one way or another.

The short answer is that I’m very much of the opinion that full blown immersion from zero before you have at least a decent base is not very effective for most people. However, you can and should engage with appropriate level, reasonably comprehensible Japanese content as soon as possible. Eventually, your goal should be to get to full immersion once you can understand a fair bit of what is happening.


Now, the longer version.

The following is my opinion, based on the benefit of the hindsight of having previously learned a language to a level of proficiency that is nearly indistinguishable from my native language.

I’ll say that immersion (in the sense of spending a large portion of your study time in pure Japanese media every day) ultimately is effectively required if you truly want to attain mastery. However, the important part of that which is so often ignored is that immersion when you don’t understand basically anything at all really just isn’t that effective for most people.

I say most most people, because it’s also the case that people have varying levels of linguistic intuition. Thus, while I’m sure there are bound to be some people out that there with a super high level of linguistic intuition who can just watch a bunch of stuff where don’t really understand anything and eventually figure it all out intuitively, that most definitely was not the case for me nor any other language learners I’ve met in person. That seems to be the case for a large majority of adults too.

In other words, an important aspect is that you actually understand enough of what’s going on to be able to fill in the missing pieces from the surrounding context. That is really the point at which immersion becomes extremely beneficial.

Moreover, one of the things you’ll notice if you watch enough people discussing their immersion journey is there is a pretty common theme where they almost all first did the traditional methods and felt like they weren’t getting anywhere, but then they switched to an immersion method and their language skills took off. Then, seeing that success, they recommend that everyone should just immerse from the beginning while completely forgetting/ignoring all of the foundational work that they themselves put in to be able to immerse effectively!

So, putting it all together, my experience has been that what is most effective is to first build a foundation on which your immersion is reasonably understandable so that you can benefit from contextual learning.

A solid way to do that is to:

  1. Acquire a decent amount of high frequency vocabulary through an SRS system like Anki (~2000 of the highest frequency words or so)
  2. Learn the basic grammar points up through about an intermediate level
  3. Engage with appropriate level Japanese material alongside 1 and 2 (e.g. Graded readers, comprehensible input Youtube channels, etc)

At that point, switch gears to follow a more immersion heavy approach.

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I feel like it used to be the case when “immersion” was mentioned in language learning, it was in the context of super-expensive short-term classes, where you would spend like 3 weeks in something like a 3-teachers-1-student environment, as emergency preparation for some kind of trip to the foreign country.

Now when people say immersion, I can’t tell if they just mean they’re going to change their windows settings to 日本語 and continue to live like normal.

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I think there are different interpretations. I have always thought of it as an intensive program or just spending an extended time in an area where the language is used, which is fairly consistent with your idea. It’s always seemed like a very high-effort sort of thing to me.

I guess starting with graded readers and such is still technically immersion because you’re not really using your native language. Still, it feels a bit different because the content is designed for a beginner; it’s not an experience of being put into real-world situations with native speakers. I guess even Rosetta Stone would count as immersion by this sort of definition because it just shows you pictures instead of text.

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I mean technically you can do it now if you read Crystal Hunters manga and become a beta tester for the video game Wagotabi.