Immersion Isn’t Easy – But That’s Okay

Immersion. Watch TV, listen to music, read manga, and you’ll be fluent. Sounds like the ultimate fun shortcut that you’d be foolish not to pursue. People that aren’t fond of immersion, or those that outright shun it, don’t really grasp what it actually promises. They think that it is just some false ploy to make you think that listening to incomprehensible Japanese all day is going to magically make you a master.

Let’s make it clear.

Immersion Isnt Easy - But Thats Okay

Immersion is not easy.

It is not some miracle solution. It just appears easy. It is simple after all. You don’t have to do anything special except do what you normally do in your own language just this time in Japanese. How hard could that be?

Very hard.

Merely listening to a language long enough to “get used to it” and “acquire it naturally” is not what immersion is about.

Immersion has 2 factors and it doesn’t work unless you do both.

Immersion Isnt Easy - But Thats Okay 2

1. Study Japanese with language learning materials. Textbooks, flashcards, apps, classes, conversations, or anything where you are directly learning something.
2. Immerse in real native Japanese material

What happens here isn’t magic. It isn’t cheating. And it definitely isn’t a shortcut. Everything you learn from your study materials is what fuels immersion’s source of power.

By immersing, you:

1. Learn how to take the Japanese you acquired in learner materials, and then use/understand it in a natural context.
2. Reinforce what you know by seeing/hearing it in an infinite number of variations.
3. Pick up new things you didn’t learn with study materials through natural context.

Learning materials are what makes the immersion machine actually get moving. This is why in the walkthrough, immersion comes after you are already using study materials for a number of months. If your knowledge base is zero, immersion will produce minimal results.

Immersion is a big challenge camouflaged by its seemingly friendly appeal. People expect J-J to be a huge deal, but they often underestimate immersion. You will struggle.

So why do immersion then?

Immersion Isnt Easy - But Thats Okay 3

Your learning materials create the base. They will eventually get boring and can only take you so far. You can practice all you want but if you don’t actually ever have a match, how do you expect to be a pro?

Easy? No. Worthwhile? Yes. Yes. Yes.



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Adam

Adam

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

Comments

Immersion Isn’t Easy – But That’s Okay — 21 Comments

  1. I’m not going to lie, I’m struggling mightily at actually getting myself to use immersion as much as the walk through recommends. I’m just beginning JALUP advanced. I watch maybe an hour a day and read for about as long, but that’s all I squeeze in. I’ve still only got 2 episodes of GTO on my phone to listen to passively, and I’m having a hard time finding the motivation to get more set up because the benefits feel so incredibly gradual.

    I know actually doing this is important, but… And that’s it, the ever present “but…” I thought that feeling was going to kick in with J-J, but apparently listening to stuff is my boss battle! 仕方ねぇなー。

    • It is very gradual, but remember that the sooner you start, the quicker the results come. And then you start to see exponential gains.

      It is definitely a boss battle.

  2. Think of it more in terms of, “I’m watching/listening to this because I enjoy it” rather than “I’m watching/listening to this because it will improve my Japanese”. When it comes to immersion, improving your Japanese is the result of watching but not the reason you are watching it. You do it because it’s enjoyable content in the first place.

    I used to listen to Jpop all the time in my car until I got tired of that. Then I started looking for podcasts and I went through a ton before I finally settled on 4 that I find very enjoyable to listen too. I don’t listen to them because I have to do immersion. I like them and I’m lucky if I can understand 30%.

    I pretty much watch any variety show that has to do with idols, not because it will improve my Japanese but because I love watching them.

    My latest obsession is watching people play games on twitch. Last week was the first time I went an entire work week with my earbuds glued in. I simply could not stop listening to people playing games on twitch (I have the twitch app on my phone but switched to audio only), anyway this wasn’t a decision on my part, it was a result of it being so enjoyable. I didn’t say “Ok Kevin you’ve got to immerse all day at work”, it was more like “God I can’t stop listening to these people play my favorite computer games I wish I knew more Japanese so I could play too!!”

    The hard part is finding stuff that’s so enjoyable you can’t help yourself. And then you have to deal with your own tastes changing, what you love today you might hate next week and then you have to keep searching for more stuff to consume, but it’s out there somewhere, just go look for it ^^

    • I feel you really hit what makes immersion work for me here. Last month I had just finished watching DN Angel and two of the episodes really got to me. I loved them and added them to my immersion playlist and I felt like listening again and again and again because I enjoyed it. Now I have listened enough to those two episodes and so far this month I have only done a few of hours passive listening since I haven’t gotten around to updating my playlist yet and the things on it I just don’t enjoy listening to anymore.

      I really need to prioritize time to update my playlist so that I keep wanting to listen to the stuff on it, otherwise I simply won’t do the passive immersion.

    • Very true about the enjoyment factor, and making sure that you are focusing on that as well. It’s not just about doing study time. Actually enjoying immersion is what sparks that learning energy.

  3. I’ve tried immersion a few times and have never really been able to stick with it for long. It’s something that I have been wanting to do though and actually planned on starting doing it again tomorrow, so this came at the perfect time to get me motivated to actually do it!!

    The main issue I have had with sticking to immersion in the past is cutting out the things I do in English (mostly wasting time on YouTube) but this month I have been feeling motivated, so I am going to attempt to cut down on the time I spend watching YouTube vids (at least in English) and always have my ipod going with Japanese podcasts.

    • Maybe this calls for a Jalup immersion month challenge…

      Usually it is the easiest (and hardest) to remove your daily English viewing and turn it into Japanese.

      • An immersion challenge would be really fun, i’m always better at getting things done when I feel like its something I have to do, so challenges work really nice for me.

        Today I started doing a bit of immersion, wasn’t able to make it all day like I wanted, but I had a lot better progress in doing it just after getting motivated by this.

        I ended up doing my Anki reviews which took around 30 minutes, then watched some New Japan Pro Wrestling for around 45 minutes, then listened to 4 and a half hours of Japanese podcasts while doing other stuff.

        I still need to read a bit for tonight, and maybe watch an episode or two of anime, and while I couldn’t do the full immersion from time I woke up until time I went to bed today, it was nice going over that much Japanese material in 1 day.

  4. The one issue I find myself having with immersion is that I can’t constantly be listening to something for long stretches of time or my brain gets overstimulated and I start getting tired. It’s also difficult to fit the optimal amount of immersion into my schedule as I’m doing things where I can’t be using earbuds from about 8:00 to 5:00 every weekday, and even longer on Tuesdays and Thursdays. On weekends I’m constantly listening to or watching something in Japanese, but it’s very difficult during the week to immerse for more than two or three hours per day.

    • I have the same problem, to such a severe extent that I can’t do “Passive” immersion at all (which is a bummer, because it’s powerful stuff!). I try to make up for it by upping my Active immersion time as much as possible (~2-4 hrs a day or more), which has worked pretty well for me so far.

    • Everyone is different when it comes to immersion, so any is better than nothing. Some people need peace and quiet when they do other activities. So just get in as much as you can and still enjoy it and you’ll be fine.

  5. i have trouble listening to some drama or anime… but i found myself comfortable of reading maybe 3-4 hours straight,so what i’ve been doing is just reading all days…
    it should be fine right? i dont particularly like watching anime or drama anyway

    • Reading immersion will affect your reading skills which is good. Especially if that is the skill you are primarily focusing on. However listening immersion does wonders for your listening skills which you simply can’t get any other way.
      I know this from learning English. I was terrible at understanding spoken English for years until I started watching TV shows and series without subtitles.
      I never did any passive listening for English except for listening to music (a lot), which probably is one of the reasons why my listening skills are still far from on par with my reading skills (I probably have spent at least 4-6 hours reading English almost every day for the past 5 years).

    • It doesn’t have to be anime or drama, but you should find some source of listening practice. Youtube videos, podcasts, movies…video games with voice acting are an excellent option as well. Simply talking to people is also an option, but that can be a lot more intimidating and tiring, especially at earlier levels.

    • mmm k i will give it a try…. i dont have anything to listen when i do Anki and making cards anyway,i dont think i would mind listening japanese for hours either i would just let it flow i think

  6. I just finished watching the first season of Honey and Clover, and I understood the story and most of the dialogs without subtitles! I feel that immersion got easier for me once I got over my obsession of collecting EACH AND EVERY unknown word that I stumble upon, and just sort of trust my gut that I’ll understand what words mean through context. Most of the time, I do end up grasping the meaning of words just by context! I wish I could have gotten rid of my word obsession before, but as of the moment, I have collected nearly 9000 words post-JLPT N1.

  7. An interesting thing about passive immersion I realized today: if I am listening while doing another task that requires some degree of concentration, such as work (I’m a programmer), the task siphons off just enough of my attention from the story that I stop trying to translate to English as I listen and just comprehend. I wonder if this may actually be an enormous part of it’s power.

    • I’m a programmer too. At first I found it really distracting listening while working but now it’s pretty easy. And I think you described it perfectly, your brain just stops translating because it’s trying to do other things, and that just lets the understanding in without the translation. At first I don’t think it’s very noticeable because there are so few words we can understand when we first start to study. But it gets really powerful later on. My favorite is listening while doing reps, when you are deep in concentration on a JJ sentence and that audio is going on in the background and it just hits you like “oh my god I just stopped doing my reps for a few minutes so I could listen to this person talk and I understood everything and didn’t even think about it????” <3

    • Yes, I think this is definitely a part of why it works. Especially because in your brain these areas are separate, so while your English brain is doing something, and you are listening to Japanese in the background, your English part can’t be taken away from its task, so only the Japanese part tunes in. Or something like that.

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