How To Create A Japanese Master
I was reading an interesting novel called 小説家の作り方 (How To Create A Novelist), where the protagonist novelist is in pursuit to create the most interesting novel in the world. While realizing the near impossibility of the task he is told a top-secret piece of advice from his editor.
If you want to write the greatest novel ever:
“All you need to do is read 100,000 novels, and write 10,000”
While these numbers are obviously ridiculous, the editor goes on to say that reading books will give you everything you need to prepare and writing novels will give you the practice you need.
While the protagonist pushes off this advice as merely silly, the editor follows up:
“Well how many novels have you read? Have you read 5000? 1000?”
Realizing the answer was no to both, he is left with something to think about.
Read a lot and write a lot
It’s this type of basic advice that you often need to be reminded of. Yes, there is method, structure, format, and technique to creating a novel, but that’s only a minuscule fraction of the time needed to be spent on reading and writing.
The parallel to Japanese?
To become the greatest master of Japanese in existence you need 100,000 hours of input and 10,000 hours of output
Combined that’s 11 times greater than the popular “10,000 hours needed to master anything.” At 8 hours a day that would only take you 37 years!
Okay, you aren’t trying to be the greatest Japanese master in existence, and these numbers are just as far fetched and ridiculous as the novel number. But there are two important ideas to be gleaned from this.
1. Input is extremely important (the 10:1 ratio sounds about right)
2. Mastery requires time
It’s just that easy…
Luckily you love Japanese, and your love of Japanese will grow as the obstacles get torn down one at a time. And it won’t take you 37 years (I promise).
Founder of Jalup. iOS Software Engineer. Former attorney, translator, and interpreter. Still watching 月曜から夜ふかし weekly since 2013.
I’m pretty good with input but my output is pathetic haha. I need to star using Lang 8 or something again I guess.
I’ve read a few different things. Some people say with enough input you will naturally receive output.
For me, I’m not waiting till 10000 cards and 10000 hours of input to do the thing I want most (speak).
Input is king, but output has a role that slowly grows. And while input is what has the most major influence on your output, output also needs to be practiced as well.
Output isn’t just having conversations though. It includes reading something out loud (ex. On Anki or a book or elsewhere), shadowing/mimicking, writing/typing, something, etc.
But go out there and enjoy some conversations!
I totally agree. But do you think it’s possible to have naturally flowing conversations without ever having conversations? Reading outloud and other output practice allowed. I guess that after that much input you’d probably be able to, and I’m only half way there card count wise. I just wonder if enough input would create spoken conversation without ever having one. Personally I’ve been conversing recently anyway. I’m just curious to whether people think that is possible or not.
I’m a bit of a fence sitter between the input only school of thought and ‘speak from day 1’ benny approach.
I still think it’s stupid to speak from day one, but I don’t think you’d ever get good at speaking without speaking. I think it takes real conversation to make you better at conversing.
But then I think that after 10000 hours of input and 10000 cards, I wonder if you’d have nearly error free, nAturally flowing Japanese. I guess my ratio on conversations to input is absolutely tiny in comparison, so I’ll sort of be able to answer this myself. But I’d love to see someone like Christine, who is purely input based, try to speak after that much mass input, without any real conversation at all.
No I agree with you. If you don’t have conversations, you won’t be able to have conversations, just like even if you read 100,000 books you wouldn’t suddenly be able to write a novel. Input just creates a much easier and excellent output when you actually start to output.
Reading out loud alone won’t make you have excellent conversations. Conversation is a skill, that while overlapping with other skills, has specific elements that must be practiced to get good at.
In the walkthrough, I put the conversation world fairly late. This wasn’t meant to imply you should not have conversations until you are level 40, but that it should take a backseat (not be the major focus of your studies) till later.
However, speaking from day 1, day 30, day 100, or day 300, I think will vary and be beneficial depending on the type of learner you are.
Just like there are learners who learn better in classes, there are also learners who learn better from speaking immediately and in great abundance.
Thanks Adam! That was a great answer and really hit the nail on the head for me. This also reaffirmed some of my actions as of recent, it’s hard to know when the ‘right’ time is for beginning conversations. Though I really appreciate the guideline regardless.
I don’t regret holding off till level 40 at all, and it’s so funny to watch my teachers freak out as my conversation level jumps overnight. Though I can’t imagine how much longer these freaky bursts in conversational ability are going to last.
It’s very satisfying to have conversations, though it was very frustrating at the start, and even now. Knowing so much, but only being able to put so little into action. But in the matter of weeks I have unlocked a much larger pool of vocabulary and grammar to use as I will. It’s quite satisfying I must admit :P I can’t wait for what the future holds. And for that, I once again thank JALUP and this absolute wonderful learning system that it introduced me to :)
PS. I think what’s helping my skill jump so drastically (besides reading my anki cards) is shadowing anime while I watch it. I didn’t expect shadowing to have such a profound effect considering there being only a handful of articles on the site about it.
Pps. (LOL) I finally understood the plot in an actual novel last night ! I found the secret was to look up every unknown word (J-J of course) in ibooks as I was reading, and they were much fewer than I thought they’d be, before attempting the task. I totally understood in that 4 clover book how the dragon came and the train and took him a way to special class for spirits where he was instructed by a skeleton teacher until he objected about something. Obviously I’m still missing a lot of specifics, BUT I HAVE A PLOT! This is a first for me, so I’m running with it haha!
Now’s the best time to get started on that output. You have a lot of options, so just doing something is important.
Thanks for your reply ^.^
If output includes reading out loud I’ll try to do that more often I guess.
I’ll mostly be avoiding conversations though because I’m no good at them even in English haha.
I think another interesting facet there is the editor doesn’t tell the novelist to read a bunch of books on how to learn about writing novels, but to read novels themselves. Similarly, reading a lot on how to learn Japanese doesn’t teach you Japanese itself, as I often end up doing. Getting caught up in theory can teach you about process and structure, but practice is where you get results.
Well said, and something most learners have to watch out for.