If you’ve read any Japanese learning blogs or forums, you probably know by now that there are a lot of armchair educators out there who are certain that they know exactly how you should learn Japanese. You are doing everything completely wrong, but they can show you the one true way, and you will be fluent in no time!
Everyone’s got an opinion, and I’m no different. But I’m going to tell you straight up, just because I write something on this blog, that doesn’t mean its correct! In fact, you would have to be kinda ditzy to want to actually follow advice from a blog called “Nihongo no Baka” anyways, wouldn’t you?
But here’s the thing. While it might seem obvious to you while you are reading this post that you might not want to follow all of my advice, how many times have you followed someone else’s advice just because it was written on their website or on a forum? I am guilty of falling into way too many traps, and wasting tons of time on ineffective study methods, just because that’s what everyone else seemed to be doing.
Well sometimes even the largest crowds are wrong. And sometimes the people evangelizing about the great method that you have to follow are wrong. What makes someone qualified to tell you how to learn a language? Most people who are writing about how to learn Japanese have not yet been successful in becoming fluent. And so what if they did successfully become fluent in Japanese? Does learning a single language make someone an expert in the field of language study?
What about polyglots? If they have learned a ton of languages, surely they know what they are talking about, right? Well, maybe they do! But then again, what does fluency even mean? A lot of polyglots may be quite fluent in just a small subset of a language. They don’t necessarily have a broad knowledge of the language, but they may just know how to use a small part of it really well.
What about researchers? They do studies to find out what works and what doesn’t! Well, the thing about studying human minds, is that its not always black and white. There are many shades of grey. The brain is a terribly difficult thing to understand. And even though one study might find a certain result, other studies might seem to contradict it. And even if people are doing research, do you really know what that research says? Many prominent language learning sites talk about methods based on research that was done in the 1970’s and 80’s. That’s a long time ago! Some other researchers have found different results and come up with different ideas since then. Now don’t get me wrong, I believe in science. But are you looking at the research itself, or are you just taking the word of Joe blogger, who is giving his spin on it?
And then on top of that, we are all different. Many people like to think that if something works for them, then surely it would work for everyone else too. And if it doesn’t work for everyone else, then that’s because they are doing it wrong. If we all learned the same way, then our public education systems would be able mass produce armies of well educated children. Everyone’s making straight A’s after all, right?
So, what can we believe about learning languages? Honestly, I think you will have to sort that out for yourself. It certainly doesn’t hurt to read people’s opinions, see what has worked for them, check out research, try out cool new ideas, and so on. But, don’t just blindly follow something that’s not working for you, just because you thought that’s the way you are supposed to do it, or because someone told you that this is what you should do. Keep a log of what you are doing, so you know what works and what doesn’t work for you.
And for the love of God, take what’s written here with a grain of salt.