The Faster you get to Immersion the Better

Every Japanese learner starts with similar beginner materials and uses them in a similar way. Textbooks, flash cards, learner videos/podcasts, apps, etc. to teach you beginner level Japanese. What most people don’t realize is that all of this type of material will play only the tiniest of roles on your path to fluency. It’s immersion and native material that will blow up your language ability, not Anki and textbooks.

The Faster You Can Get To Immersion The Better

Everything up till immersion are just the tools that allow you access that immersion.

Immersion changes everything

There is nothing more powerful than using the material you already love and is the actual reason behind you wanting to learn Japanese in the first place. The secret then to Japanese success is really about how fast you can get to, and enjoy immersion. You want to spend all your time efficiently in the beginning to get to this phase in as little time as possible.

It’s a race against time.

The Faster You Can Get To Immersion The Better 2

This one-two step from “study material” to “immersion material” isn’t simple and has one big thing standing in your way. You need to reach immersion before you burn out on the Japanese learner study materials. I don’t care how much motivation you think you have, if you only worked with textbooks you would perish. Native material is the ultimate fountain of motivation, and you need to get there before you run out of energy.

It can feel a little conflicting since Anki and textbooks play the major (and mostly only) role from the start. But there is a percentage shift where it becomes the complete opposite.

If you want to win the race, then remember this:

Get to immersion and you will get to fluency.

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Founder of Jalup. Spends most of his time absorbing and spreading thrilling information about learning Japanese.


The Faster you get to Immersion the Better — 18 Comments

  1. Yeah, I’ve been starting to notice that percentage shift lately. Even though I always keep up with Anki, I’m at a point where it’s really necessary to back it up with immersion. Studying is all well and good, but there’s a certain magical learning power behind immersion that regular studying just doesn’t have. Anki is learning a dozen new words and reviewing a hundred. But immersion has become “reviewing” thousands of words and learning their nuance from more natural native sources.

  2. “Everything up till immersion are just the tools that allow you access that immersion.”


  3. Thanks for posting. Hopefully I’ll be able to get to the point where I can enjoy immersion more. I’m right over 500 cards in JAL intermediate and it is very frustrating and painful adding new cards (occasionally get an easy streak of definitions I can get right away, but sometimes like with the ones I’m trying to learn now that feel impossible). Need to get to more fun in learning Japanese so looking forward to being able to enjoy more native material.

    • You absolutely will. Immersion of course isn’t instantly enjoyable, but give it a little time and let it work wonders on you.

  4. I started immersion quite early in my studies, after about 2 months of study. I watched Anime with Japanese subtitles, and painstakingly looked up the words and grammar I did not know. I still continued with textbooks, and indeed still am continuing with textbooks. The textbooks became more of a checklist to fill in the gaps. I was able to breeze through Genki I and II for this reason; I had already learned about 80% from immersion before I came across it in the textbook. I am now working with the JLPT N2 Kanzen Master textbook, and it was only until about halfway through that it became necessary to slow down, because of the number of new grammar points. Interestingly enough, after I learn a new grammar point, I am much, much more likely to recognize it in the wild.

    I use Anki as a support for my immersion, as a gathering place for what I have learned, and to make my immersion more efficient. The more I understand and the less I have to look up, the better I think. Also, Anki helps to correct my understanding of words in the wild. Every now and then, I start to get misconceptions about what something means in the wild…and then it may come back up again in my Anki, and I think “Oh! Oops! That is what that meant!”

    • Sounds like immersion has worked quite well for you and you’ve figured out how to balance it properly with all the other “support” roles of study materials.

  5. I personally feel like immersion can be equally disheartening as it can be rewarding. Currently ploughing through intermediate and immersing at least 6 hours a day (active and passive) I often find myself with a real sense of dread as I watch my J-drama, movie whatever and realising that all know I recognise what I have learned when I hear it, I can’t understand it unless it’s in front of me in my Anki decks.
    Having said that, the reward of understanding even one complete sentence far outweighs the latter.

    • Yep, agreed. I am at 7600 cards and I still feel that dread. I am currently watching Hunter X Hunter with Japanese subtitles, and I think I’d not be able to understand much completely Raw.

    • In the beginning immersion is just as big of a challenge as anything else (like J-J). Enjoy the small rewards like you said (a word/sentence here or there), and watch as those rewards slowly increase over time.

      • 賛成です。

        I think that this is one of the reasons that it is so important to start immersion as early as possible, even if only a little. As a beginner, I had the energy and motivation to take 8 hours watch a 24 minute Anime, and to painstakingly look up almost every word. It felt like a treasure hunt rather than a chore.

        Then when I was starting to break the Intermediate barrier, I was actually able to enjoy Anime somewhat. I also had a bank of already watched and studied Anime to use for repeat listening and more relaxed watching. This really helped when I was breaking into talking and reading books, because I had an immersion activity in Japanese that had become more fun.

  6. One thing I find really difficult with immersion is choosing what to watch/listen to/etc. I have the problem of abundance. Like, I have some downtime, let’s watch some Japanese Netflix. Then I’m faced by this gigantic wall of choices and I just freeze up. I’ve ended up just looping Dark Knight Rises and GTO over and over again until I’m sick of them (which is the saddest thing ever because GTO <3).

    • I have this problem, too. One solution I’ve found is to use this site: to keep a queue of what shows I want to watch (you just plug in whatever links you want it to shuffle). The site gives you a personal URL that you save as a bookmark. When you want to watch something, click on your bookmark and it will randomly select one of your queue (e.g. one link) for you to watch.

      I also like to select one or two shows to keep as a bookmark. I usually keep one anime and one drama that I’m currently watching.

    • I’ve found myself absolutely addicted to Solitary Gourmet (孤独のグルメ). Something very therapeutic about watching a man devour various different meals day in and out.

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