When it comes to acquiring amazing Japanese, immersion is a given. Whether you go all out like this site recommends, or just enjoy some form of Japanese media on a frequent basis, you will be immersing yourself to some extent in Japanese. But while the basic concept behind immersion is simple at its core (filling up your day with as much background Japanese as possible), it is deeper than you may imagine.
Immersion is an act of focus points distribution
You start with 100 focus points. At any moment, focus points are distributed on what you are doing, your environment, your health, your stress levels, etc.
Example: Reading a book (85 points) while tired (5 points) and hungry (5 points) and worried about your job (5 points).
Different tasks require different focus points to be effective
If your required focus points aren’t met, you run into problems.
Example: walking (40 points) and talking (55 points) with a friend while paying attention to traffic (5 points). However paying attention to traffic actually required 10 points. Oops, you got hit by a car.
Complaints about Japanese immersion
Whenever you are passively immersing while doing something else, you are distributing your focus points. And since Japanese is the passive part, it usually gets a minimal distribution. However, what happens with most people starting immersion is that they feel:
– They aren’t learning anything,
– Nothing actually sticks (it just gets tuned out).
– They can’t focus with the Japanese on.
This usually results in an abrupt stop and banishment of the method.
Japanese immersion must be learned
The most successful passive listening immersion takes around 10-30 focus points. Go less than that and you are too focused on another activity. Go more than that and it distracts the main activity you are doing.
People who are new to immersion require more focus points for the Japanese passive side. It may be double or triple what a veteran immersion expert requires. This means that a beginner immersioner is much more likely to feel the above complaints.
Example: Doing Anki reviews take 80 focus points. Because you are a novice your passive immersion listening to a J-drama takes 40 focus points. One of two results awaits.
Result 1: You will not meet your immersion point requirement, and you will not gain that much out of your passive listening.
You feel: “I’m too focused on Anki, and the Japanese immersion just gets tuned out.”
Result 2: You will not meet your main activity point requirement, and you will not gain that much out of your Anki.
You feel: “I’m distracted by the Japanese in the background. I can’t focus on Anki.”
Immersion is a trained skill, not a given
It may take several months, but you will eventually be able to bring down the required focus points for immersion. You are training your brain to require less focus points.
When you start off in an RPG, it may cost you 20 spell/magic/mana points to cast a spell. But as your training increases and skill improves, that same spell will require less to cast. This is immersion.
The final piece
While your focus point consumption will significantly decrease over months and years, there are some activities that require too many focus points, both on the immersion side and the active Japanese side. Combine these and you end up in one of the two bad results above.
To avoid this, we must cover the major immersion pitfalls. What types of immersion falls into the bad category?
1. Putting items on your immersion Ipod without ever having actively watched them first
People tend to throw a lot onto their device without ever having touched it before. Everything from dramas to movies to anime to comedy sketches. There are a number of reasons why you want to first actively watch something before converting it.
– It will require less focus to listen to later on.
– You don’t have to worry about missing out on parts.
– You don’t have to worry about not understanding everything.
– You can fade in and out of listening since you already know the story and can pick up on it at any moment.
– All the visual imagery (including the actors’/actresses’ voices) stays in your mind allowing you to enjoy massive repeat listens.
2. Listening to music or the news with even minor focus required activities
Music (sound) is easy to listen to. You don’t need me to tell that to you. But it isn’t easy listening to the lyrics. Hearing and processing the lyrics, and not just the sound, requires an incredibly high level of concentration.
News contains mostly complex Japanese that you aren’t used to hearing and requires higher concentration.
Best Use: use while exercising or doing mindless routine chores.
3. Listening to things with low replay value
Certain items just don’t do well when repeatedly played over and over again. The less replay value an item has, the more likely you are to tune it out and no longer give it any focus.
Items I’ve found with the lowest replay values:
– News (its very essence is only meant to be interesting once)
– Audio lessons (unless they are incredibly entertaining)
4. Reading anything with immersion
Reading in Japanese (novels, manga, magazines) takes high concentration regardless of your level. Even material you’ve listened to over and over may get in the way. Reading is normally a non-immersion moment for most people. However, there are the exception of people who have gotten used to this. I’m not one of them and need to turn off my Ipod for regular reading.
5. High volume when required focus is high
Raising the volume increases your concentration on the immersion item at the expense of the active focus item.
Immersion while exercising or doing mindless routine chores: medium to high volume.
Immersion while doing other active focus required activities (ex. Anki reviews): low to medium volume.
Other good and bad immersion?
I know I’ve left out some things, and this is an area that a lot of people want to know in depth to make sure they are doing it right. What have you found to be a bad combination when it comes to immersion and focus? What has worked for you? What is your best immersion combo for success? Leave it in the comments!
Founder of Jalup. iOS Software Engineer. Former attorney, translator, and interpreter. Still watching 月曜から夜ふかし weekly since 2013.