NOTE: This interview was originally recorded in 2010 as part of a collection of expert interviews included with my Japanese learning guide Master Japanese. This version includes excerpts from the complete interview, which is available as part of the Master Japanese Digital Package available at JapaneseMastery.com.
Khatzumoto is the man behind the popular Japanese learner blog All Japanese All the Time (or AJATT for short). While attending university in the United States, he figured out a way to immerse himself in Japanese language and culture nearly 24 hours a day. In an extremely short amount of time, he managed to reach an impressive level of fluency despite not living where the language was spoken and even without many of the learning tools and resources now readily available (he began his journey in 2004). In his words:
“I learned Japanese in 18 months by having fun. In June 2004, at the ripe old age of 21, all post-pubescent and supposedly past my mental/linguistic prime, I started learning Japanese. By September 2005, I had learned enough to read technical material, conduct business correspondence and job interviews in Japanese. By the next month, I landed a job as a software engineer at a gigantic Japanese corporation in Tokyo.”
Though Khatzumoto is no longer active in the language blogosphere, his approach remains a big inspiration for my own methods and philosophies. He showed that it’s truly possible to reach a high level of fluency anywhere in the world; that learning a language is more about doing the right things than happening to live in the right place. His example forced me to rethink some of the “facts” I had been taught while studying Linguistics in university, and showed me the many ways I had been wasting my time and effort learning about Japanese instead of immersing myself in Japanese. Wherever you are now, thank you for everything, Khatz!
- The advantages of “beginner’s mind,” and how learning a new language is like a laboratory that can give you ideas for better mastering previously learned languages.
- The dangers of following orthodoxies, fearing getting things wrong, and thinking there is one right way to learn a language that works for every single person.
- A detailed rundown of the daily habits, routines, activities, and resources Khatzumoto used during his 18 months of intensive 24-7 Japanese immersion.
- Khatzumoto’s advice to a new Japanese students, the power of learning a language through television, some of his favorite Japanese shows, and the benefit of watching corny, predictable movies dubbed into Japanese.
- The lessons Khatzumoto has learned, the mistakes he’s made, and the critical importance of being pragmatic, not dogmatic in one’s views and methods.
Concepts, People, Resources & Terms Mentioned
- SRS (spaced repetition systems)
- Cloze-deletion cards
- Jarod from The Pretender TV series
- Bakusho Mondai no Nippon no Kyouyou (爆笑問題のニッポンの教養)
- Enta no Kamisama (エンタの神様, “The God of Entertainment”)
- Antimoon: How to learn English effectively
- Kijou no kuuron (机上の空論, “armchair theory”)