Matt is the creator of the popular Matt vs. Japan YouTube channel and the co-founder of Refold: The Roadmap to True Fluency, where he shares the methods he used to reach near native-like fluency in Japanese in just 5 years. I am a big fan of his immersion-based approach to language learning (which aligns well with the approach I share in Master Japanese), his mission to create a more streamlined path to fluency, and his commitment to giving Japanese language learners the tips and tools they need to succeed.

Topics Discussed

  • How anime first piqued Matt’s interest in Japanese as a teenager.
  • How Khatzumoto’s AJATT (All Japanese All the Time) method inspired Matt to learn Japanese through extensive immersion and “comprehensible input.”
  • Why languages are “acquired,” not “learned.”

“You don’t learn a language. You get used to a language.” ―Khatzumoto

  • The pros and cons of high standards and the importance of having realistic expectations (e.g. appreciating that native-like fluency will likely take 10+ years of dedicated effort).
  • Why fluency is not a switch that gets flipped one day, but rather a never-ending journey of refinement.
  • The dangers of putting a culture on a pedestal and the importance of seeing a culture honestly as it is (not how you want it to be).
  • How Matt immerses himself in Japanese throughout his day via YouTube, music, books, etc.
  • When you start practicing speaking, especially if your ultimate goal is native-like fluency.
  • The pros and cons of adapting your English “factory” to create Japanese, or creating a new factory dedicated to Japanese.
  • The power of developing a high tolerance for ambiguity and uncertainty.
  • Matt’s views on using subtitles when watching Japanese anime, shows, movies, etc.
  • The power of creating learning habits, minimizing choices, and not relying on willpower.
  • How Matt’s views on learning kanji evolved over time, the critical difference between kanji recognition and production, and the advantages of the “quick and dirty” approach.
  • What Matt would do differently if he started learning Japanese from scratch today.
  • The importance of learning accurate “pitch accent” in Japanese.
  • The difference between “tone” and “pitch accent.”
  • Why consistency, patience, and mindset are the truly difficult part of learning a language.
  • Why learning about the mistakes of others doesn’t guarantee avoiding them yourself.

Concepts, People, Resources & Terms Mentioned

“As to methods there may be a million and then some, but principles are few. The man who grasps principles can successfully select his own methods. The man who tries methods, ignoring principles, is sure to have trouble.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson

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