Unintentionally Seeing English Definitions When You Are Doing J-J

Getting from J-E to J-J can be quite tough at times. But once you make it, you never turn back. The further you go into J-J, the better the rewards. The thought of ever using English again is non-existent. You are proud of being in full on J-J mode and finally realize how powerful you can become with it.

Unintentionally Seeing English Definitions When You Are Doing J-J

Then you run into an English translation by mistake. Or a site you frequent (like Jalup) occasionally uses English definitions to reach a wider audience. That English you wanted nothing to do with and are trying to avoid has shown its ugly face. The result?

Annoyance and panic.

Here’s what goes through your head

Seeing the English meaning for a word you learned J-J will ruin the Japanese-only connection in your head, will destroy all the hard work it took to create that connection, and will take away its value. This thought process usually appears in the most intense of learners. I know this because I experienced this concern myself. But I can tell you, without hesitation:

It’s not something to worry about.

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Here’s why:

1. Exposure ratio is at an atom sized level

Assuming you are going J-J only, and are engaging in Japanese several hours a day, your accidental contact with English will represent such a small speck on your language scale.

Your memory places importance on what it sees often, not what it rarely ever sees.

2. Connections are stronger than you imagine

When you understand a Japanese meaning in Japanese, and finally get it, just because you see it in English doesn’t mean that you will now think of the word in English. Your Japanese connection with the word will be much stronger than your English connection, and it will be the one your brain processes first. In the process of learning Japanese internally, you are rewiring your brain. That rewiring won’t unravel so quickly.

3. You start to see the real weakness of English definitions

Many words defined into English are best estimations of the word. You’ll see the word and think “well it doesn’t really mean that. It is missing X nuance.” Sometimes you’ll even disagree with the English definition completely. This helps prevent any slight feeling of fondness towards the English definition. It won’t feel like the real Japanese to you.

4. It’s inevitable if you want to ever use Japanese for your job

If using Japanese is a goal of yours in the future for your career, you are most likely going to have to translate or interpret at some point and you will need to use English. Even when you go into full translation mode, which will require constant contact with English translations, it still won’t affect you. I’ve been translating and interpreting for years now, and it hasn’t been a negative influence on my Japanese connections with the words at all.

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You sure?

Yes. By making the decision to go J-J you are creating a divide between the English and Japanese portions of your brain. A temporary line between the two will not join them together. The Japanese language won’t betray you so easily no matter how hard English may try to tempt it.

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


Unintentionally Seeing English Definitions When You Are Doing J-J — 6 Comments

  1. One other thought: if you did RTK, you’re going to have the English keywords floating in your head as you learn new words anyway (at least I definitely do), so I don’t think it’s realistic to think English will be so removed from the process (at least until the kanji are super-internalized, which seems way off for me).

  2. “well it doesn’t really mean that. It is missing X nuance.”

    I think this one is key to what J-J really is. It is all about realizing that words have different nuances between languages even if they have the same basic meaning. This is why most bilingual dictionaries are so terrible – they pretend that there is a perfect 1:1 translation of every word. It just doesn’t work that way. A monolingual dictionary will explain words instead. If the bilingual dictionaries did the same thing, they would be almost as good, but they are dumbed down to simple word translations. Sentences can be translated – words most often cannot.

    • So true. Once I finally actually started understanding J-J definitions, I came to the same conclusion.

      Of course there are some cases where this over-complicates things, like when the word refers to some concrete thing. For example, if I look up 猫 and find like 10 sentences of impenetrable Japanese scientific jargon describing what a cat is in biological terms — I would probably be content to simply see the word “cat” in that case :D

      But then, luckily, Jalup J-J cards come to the rescue, with definitions like:


      • It has been bugging me , so I’ll say it, I have a problem with the Japanese definition, and I completely disagree with the above. I know I might get some hate for saying this, but at least listen to me. Feel free to correct me.

        I have seen many cats which are outgoing and active. And they are not that selfish as people make them out to be. For example, when a cat brings you a dead rodent, it’s its way to say “Thank You” by giving it food. Does a dog do that? NO! I’ve also seen many cat-dog friend pairs too. I don’t think it’s correct to generalize animal nature…oh yeah, I agree with the J-J part though. One of the most important leaps you’ll ever make. The earlier, the better. No problems there.

        • Haha, it is a little bit — racist isn’t the right word — cat-ist? Species-ist? Hopefully there are no dog-loving, outdoors-venturing, go-getter cats who are studying with the Jalup intermediate deck, since they would probably get offended by the definition… I could definitely see them objecting: “そんなことにゃあいよ!”

  3. On the subject of dog-cat relations, I learned an interesting thing from my 少年生のことわざ crossword puzzle book. It seems that in Japanese, it is dogs and monkeys that have trouble getting along, not dogs and cats. 犬猿の仲, dog/monkey relations seem to be particularly bad. Heee…I have met many dogs, but I can not say to have met many monkeys. I wonder why they do not get along with dogs.

    My cats seem to like learning Japanese. They seem particularly good at understanding things like 可愛い, いい子, and 美しい. On the other hand, things like ダメ and やめて, they do not seem to understand at all. Then again, the same goes for English, I think.

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