Passive Immersion, or surrounding yourself with Japanese while doing other things, is simple. It’s like putting on music. You can do it pretty much anywhere at any time, without much thought. Just press the play button. You can put hours into it daily without much effort at all.
Since it’s so simple to make immersion ever-present, you may sometimes think to yourself, “I’m not even paying attention! What’s the point?” It’s like listening to music without ever knowing the lyrics. Or just pure white noise. You know it’s there, but that’s about it.
No need to worry. Immersion doesn’t need to be efficient.
In the game of quantity vs quality, quality usually wins. For example, it’s better to use high quality textbooks, flashcards, and study methods, then to just increase the amount of them. In the game of immersion, quantity wins. The more the better.
This isn’t to say you can’t improve the quality of immersion. You can in a variety of ways, such as making sure it is material you’ve watched actively, is appropriate to your level, is without distracting noises, and keeps your interest. But quantity is just as important.
Immersion doesn’t need to be efficient because of its quantity. You aren’t going to be paying attention to it all the time. That’s the whole point of it. There will be times when literally 0% enters your mind while you are focusing on other things. I remember many times when I was so busy doing something else, I realized that when I finished, despite having headphones in my ears, I wasn’t actually listening to anything (my iPod was off).
This is fine. Despite all the time where only the absolute minimal (or even nothing) is even being processed, because of the abundant quantity, there will always be time when something is entering your mind.
Why immersion is so special
What makes immersion so special is it removes the hardest part of studying from the equation: starting. Sitting down and beginning can take willpower. Once you start, you are good. Getting to that start is met with resistance. Even if you love studying Japanese, that love doesn’t kick in until you start.
Immersion removes the entire resistance process. While you technically have to start the immersion every day, it’s as simple as pressing a button. Once that button is pressed, there is no starting or stopping. It’s always on in continuous mode, allowing you to naturally phase in and out without requiring a start or stop. Long periods of time with no stress or unnecessary thought.
Let’s break down some numbers.
1. You passively listen to Japanese for 4 hours today
2. You actually only process 45 minutes (spread out over those 4 hours)
You gained 45 minutes that weren’t there. 45 minutes daily over a year is close to 275 hours. That’s a lot. And your original assessment of 45 minutes is probably underestimated. Your mind unconsciously shifts in and out of immersion without you realizing it. You won’t be paying attention for 15 minutes, and then all of a sudden for the next 2-3 minutes you are engaged. It’s like when you aren’t paying attention to someone’s conversation near you, and then before you even know it you start picking up what they are saying.
This site talks a lot about study efficiency. Immersion is strange. It’s efficient because it doesn’t need to be efficient. It works because it doesn’t need to work all the time. That’s what you should focus on.
Your immersion efficiency
Have you noticed when you listen to passive immersion it enters in and out of your mind without much thought? Have you noticed the benefits despite its lack of “efficiency?”