Give J-J And Immersion A Little More Time

When you come across something that you find isn’t working for you, or you stop believing in, or is bringing you too far out of your comfort zones, your inclination is to drop it (off a mountain into a fiery abyss). This could be media, textbooks, methods, techniques or anything else. There is nothing wrong with dropping what you hate doing, and I often encourage it. Studying shouldn’t cause pain.

But there is one danger that comes with this: not giving what you are trying enough time.

Give It A Little More Time 1

I occasionally get e-mails telling me the following:

“J-J is just too hard. I don’t get it.”
“I can’t understand anything I’m listening to with immersion, so I’ve decided to stick with English subtitles for now.”
“I can’t work with Japanese dictionaries, so I’m going to use an English one as well.”

Everyone will study differently, so I understand where people are coming from when they say things like this. Except… when they say it after only a few days of trying it. J-J and immersion are titan-level game changers in your studies. It’s like running up to a giant ogre and throwing rocks at its feet for a few days, expecting to vanquish it.

Give It A Little More Time 2

There is no way you will get it in a few days, or a few weeks (and sometimes not even in a few months). If you aren’t ready for this, then you are better off not challenging it at all, because it won’t work. You’ll just end up frustrated because you’ll wonder why it doesn’t work for you.

Not everyone uses immersion or J-J. You don’t have to and that’s completely fine. But if you are planning to, you need to mentally prepare yourself. I’ve repeatedly spelled out everywhere that J-J and immersion take months to finally get used to. Most people on Jalup Intermediate don’t start to get into the hang of it till around Stage 3. You will start off understanding 1% of what you hear on immersion. To achieve greatness, this is a path you choose.

Give It A Little More Time 3

I’m not here to condemn people who give up these things easily, because I understand the feeling all too well. I can say “give it more time!” to you endlessly, but you can respond with “that’s easy for you to say.”

Of course it’s easy for me to say with where I’m at now. So I wanted to use this post to get feedback from some people who had not given J-J or immersion enough time, and were ready to throw in the towel (or did temporarily). But when they stuck through it, and actually gave it the time required, they realized how important a decision it was to see it to the end. Some people don’t got through this (and go straight through without ever stopping or self-questioning). But many do.

Two questions for you:

1. How long after starting J-J did you feel like giving it up? When you decided to give it more time, how long did it take you to finally start getting it and glad you continued?

2. How long after starting immersion did you feel like giving it up? When you decided to give it more time, how long did it take you to finally start getting it and glad you continued?

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


Give J-J And Immersion A Little More Time — 10 Comments

  1. When I started J-J it felt like I was starting all over again, like I didn’t know any Japanese at all. I couldn’t even understand the definition of 物事, which I think it was one of the first if not the first card in intermediate stage 1. It was so difficult and frustrating and because I was going so fast on J-E I was more that once tempted to search for the English definition at first. I remember there was a little rule about using J-E-J for the first 100, so I tried my best to use that rule only when it was absolutely necessary. I ended up using J-E-J about 70% of the time, but after that point I got better on J-J and kept going (not without some flaws). Today I’m mid-stage 2 and I feel I got used to J-J, sometimes I get a new card I may have to give more thinking time but it is not so bad and I can keep a good pace every day.
    Regarding immersion, I think it’s a matter of “when” you use it and “what” you use. For me I couldn’t see anything without subtitles until I watched “最高の離婚” while on intermediate stage 1, I understood many sentences and learned many new words and it showed me that I just had to keep looking for the right material.

  2. If there’s one single aspect of Japanese learning that I’d say is crucial, regardless of method, is immersion. Whether that encompasses monolingual classes, tv, movies, etc, is completely irrelevant. You need to be hearing and reading real natives output to get to fluency. At whatever point you decide to incorporate this into your Japanese learning journey is completely individual. However, it is essential that at some point, if fluency is your goal, you do so.

    I’m not saying it’s easy, but it’s definitely the absolute best thing you can do to improve your Japanese level by far.

  3. In the beggining, J-J is reaaally difficult.However, it might be the most important step I took in japanese study. Definitely do it.

  4. 1. So I came into the Jalup Intermediate deck with about 2300 words learned from iknow, so I thought I could skip the Beginner deck. After brute forcing my way through 100 frustrating cards, I gave up on that, went back and did the Beginner deck in a month, then restarted. It became easier, but there were still some grammar points I felt like I had insufficient experience with that left many definitions a bit impenetrable. So I kept doing the J-J deck, but started mining some cards from Tae Kim. Things got a bit easier, but it was still extremely challenging. About 750 cards in, I felt things starting to click. All those difficult dictionary words you have to learn up front were finally sinking in, from repeated exposure to them in nearly every definition, which meant that definitions themselves were becoming more clear. After finishing Intermediate, I gave reviews a few weeks to settle down and sink and then started into Advanced and now I definitely no longer feel like it’s any more of a struggle than J-E cards. In fact, the extra exposure to the new words as they show up in the definitions of other words makes picking the new words up easier than with a J-E deck.

    2. Immersion. So, this is my second attempt at learning japanese. My first attempt, I believed in immersion almost too much, so I’d listen, listen, listen nearly 24 hours a day, but do little in the way of active study. While this was unproductive, it primed me for this second attempt, so I’ve done tons of immersion from nearly day one and found it pretty painless. My advice: Immersion, besides its inherent power to reinforce and improve your Japanese, has another powerful feature: it can motivate and power your active study. Let all that frustration at not understanding push you to add five more anki cards. Conversely, every time you understand something, a single word, a sentence, the gist of a story, celebrate that. That’s a constant reminder that your study is paying off. It’s working. You’re getting better. Keep up the hard work.

  5. 1. Never. I enjoyed every single moment of J-J Jalup decks. Partly because I enjoy a good challenge, and partly because I paid for the decks with 1 year worth of pocket money. Every time I even remotely felt like quitting, I just took a look at my empty wallet xD. I was also busy with other stuff during my initial stages, so I didn’t have time to worry about whether I am getting it or not.

    2. Immersion : This is tricky. Started immersion for 3 days while doing equivalent of beginner, less than 1% comprehension, gave up. I then again started immersion after completing Advanced Stage 2….kids shows (Anpanman, Doraemon, Shinchan, Maruko-chan), because of which, I was always able to understand at least 60%, and organically pick up words. These shows were not boring because there was nostalgia involved. I just increased the level of the media slowly, and before you know it, 90-100% comprehension of what I want to watch.

  6. 1. Never, but I had an extremely long transition. Having to do all of the branching alone was time consuming so it took me over six months to get to a full J-J setup. Now I find myself wanting to edit older cards to get rid of the English glosses because they can be jarring.

    2. This is a tricky one because immersion is the only reason I ever wanted to learn Japanese. What ended up working best for me is keeping all Japanese media entirely in Japanese and just resting and relaxing with English media. Thus for me immersion and studying were synonymous for a very long time. I also did quite a bit of passive immersion which was just having the TV on and not caring much if I was or wasn’t listening and did or didn’t understand it. After a while I started to be able to hear more individual words and then picked up the meaning of bits of sentences. One day I understood enough of things to start looking up unknown words just by having heard them and now I still occasionally pick up random words that are repeated several times.

    One thing I think that is important to remember is that there are many words and phrases in Japanese that cannot be completely described by the simple word glosses given by J-E dictionaries. In addition slang, terms from pop-culture, and other specialty words generally never appear in these dictionaries or only give the older, original meanings of words. At some point everything becomes so much easier to do only in J-J that you will feel like ditching all of your J-E dictionaries for everything but the simplest of nouns.

  7. Re immersion: I found it frustrating at really low level, but having a reasonable basic vocabulary and grammar plus repeated listening has helped a lot. For a while I ditched unsubbed anime and drama CDs for music while I worked on my Japanese more, because at least then I could sing along and enjoy the music even if I didn’t understand the words.

    I came across a drama CD that I really loved, though, with amazing voice actors and the day I got the first joke in that was the day I was able to get the immersion going again, because I had the thrill of: what will I be able to understand? I still prefer light-hearted or comedy listening for that reason, because jokes are much funnier when you’re on a high of “I understood that!!!”

    But yes, basically I had to change and back off on immersion for a few months. It turned out fine, and now I’m able I enjoy anime unsubbed if I’ve already seen it in Japanese or if it’s something that doesn’t require much content once you have the basic idea, like “Sakamoto desu ga”

    The J-J mountain is still in front of me. I have to go back and make sure I don’t have any gaping grammar holes first and finish up RTK.

  8. Immersion has never been too much a problem for me. I’ve had moments where I questioned why am I watching something that’s so hard I can’t understand anything. But since my time is limited for immersion anyway (currently studying a non-Japanese topic and have English lectures to watch), I actively seek out stuff that is more comprehensible or high quality and can be enjoyed even if I don’t understand everything.

    J-J is something I’ve struggled with for many years. I all but gave up, until edubkendo suggested the jalup decks to me. Currently working my way through the Advanced deck. These decks are a godsend. I also started to add words from books I’m reading. It does get overwhelming though with endless branches. I started to branch cut like crazy even just going back to English if the first definition had words I didn’t know. I figured that this would just be temporary. However I started to feel guilty thinking “if you would just have faith, you’ll get there don’t go back to English.” So I only resort to English if one of the branch words’ definition is incomprehensible and there is no way to reword or rephrase it to make sense to me right now. Then I just use English for that secondary word. So I’d have something like j-word1: english def, j-word2: english def, original j-word that started it all: j-def that contains j-word1 and j-word2. I hate doing this, so I really try to avoid it unless it’s absolutely necessary to get that original j-word’s definition.

    Another thing I’ve done with J-J is that I started to ‘triage’ my words, basically I save every word I look up in a giant spreadsheet with the example sentences from the books I’m reading, then I just sort it for duplicates and I only add words that I’ve inadvertently looked up 2-3 times. I figure those words are the words I NEED to learn. The rest may be so rare it’s not worth the effort just yet. Coincidentally these words (at least so far) seem to be easier to understand and have simpler definitions. If a word is hard though or the definition looks like a massive branch, I’ll just push it back in favor of an easier word.

  9. J-J: I thought it was going to be smooth because I’m already bilingual. Hahaha. I thought I didn’t need the j-e-j. Hahaha. Embarrassingly, intermediate stage 1 and stage 2, about 30-40% of all the words in those decks were looked up just once in a je dictionary. Stage 3 was only 50 words that I allowed myself. Stage 4 was only 5 words that I allowed myself. I think for me this weaning off approach instead of cold turkey worked best for me. On advanced I let myself look up 5 words for all 4 stages combined but found out that I didn’t need to because j-j finally clicked. After finished advanced and halfway through expert right now, I started some of my own branching just to see how it is and I got to say, when it is only 1-2 unknowns in the definition, it is SO MUCH FUN. It is like an Easter egg hunt, my mentality is gather as many words as you can from each word you look up so you don’t need to look up as much next time! I kind of go overboard by also branching unknowns in the example sentence of each unknown I branch so I end up with 50+ branches for 宝物 when in reality it should only be 2.

    Immersion: this was harder than j-j by a long shot. If you ask anyone on the line group chat, all I do is complain about my lack of comprehension. As some other commenters have said, KEEP SEARCHING FOR THE ONE! It’s like trying to find your soul mate haha, I kept getting frustrated with my stupidly low comprehension but kept searching and finally found the one that made me binge all 40 episodes in 2 days. Then the next one I found was amazing too! Now I’m searching for the next one cause so far all of the ones after the second one were not for me comprehension wise. The biggest tip I can give: keep searching for the one and KEEP ON STUDYING! The combination of both will provide the fastest route to unlocking the gates of immersion

  10. I’m only near the end of the Beginner deck so I haven’t had to contend with J-J yet, but immersion is definitely a weird one. I don’t feel like giving it up because I know how important it is, but at the moment I feel like I’m either 1) not listening/understanding (ie, staring blankly thinking “This Is Fine”); or 2) “understanding” but unintentionally vastly overthinking things (eg, translating into English, “oh heck we’d better dissect and analyse that conjugation”). And of course, once you start doing the latter you stop understanding!

    I hope the J-J switch will help me to become more comfortable with simply understanding Japanese in Japanese. People seem to love sub2srs but I don’t want to have to resort to it — the amount of work it takes and the additional Anki load would be a bit much for me at the moment.

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