14 August 2015


Life as a Reading Challenge, Chapter 18

There's more than one way TO CLEAR a TBR Pile. I realised that recently, when I started getting serious about my language learning and decided to commit to the "AJATT method," which lets you simulate L2 immersion in an L1 environment. The first step to creating your own personal L2 bubble is TO CLEAR your room of all your L1 stuff. Yes, CLEAR it . . .

So where do you put the artifacts of your pre-immersion life? Where do you put your English-language stuff? In a closet somewhere? No. You get rid of it. Mp3s? Delete them. DVDs? Scratch, sell or slice them apart. Posters? Post them to someone else. Get rid of it. Delete, destroy, dispose. Suggestions: Sell that stuff on ebay and reinvest the funds in Japanese-language materials. Or, trade it with a kid from Japan who wants to learn English. I know it's hard to give it up. I know you were or are a huge "Self" fan, and you've been in love with their music ever since you heard "Stay Home" on the closing credits of the first Shrek, and you loved their music even more when you found out they'd made an album using only toy instruments. I know, okay? I know! But dang it, son! (and I mean "son" in the unisex sense). This is about learning Japanese. Japanese is your life now. Japanese is your future. And you're not about to give it up--you're not about to let it go--in a moment of nostalgic weakness that leads to an all-night marathon of playing Michael Jackson music going all the way to back to when he was black--not that I would know. This is too important for that. You want Japanese too much. So let go. Get rid of the "Self" albums. Put down the ranger, and become who you were born to be. Become Japanese.

-- from the "The Immersion Environment" by Khatzumoto

The first time I read the above post, I didn't pay much attention because I was being really literal: it didn't seem to apply to me, because I didn't have big collections of music and movies, nor any posters on my walls at all. As crazy as this sounds, I really did overlook the fact that I share a space with literally hundreds of English-language books! One of which I'm currently neglecting reading for my 2015 TBR Challenge. =P

Now that I have made the connection, I also have a new challenge: finding the right balance of English, German, and Italian. And have I mentioned that I also have a Filipino novel in there somewhere, and that August is "National Language Month" over here? So many languages, so little time . . .

But did you notice that there is a deeper level to Khatz's advice? He's not just telling you how to learn Japanese, but really how to be Japanese. Or German. Or Italian. Or whatever foreign language you want to make yours. For he knows that when you master another language, you truly become another person. But while most people think language learning is the cause and the personality change is the effect, Khatz insists that they happen simultaneously. So he's really not kidding when he says, further on in his post, that people who want to master Japanese should eat all their food with chopsticks and should replace their Western mattresses with tatami mats. What do food and furniture have to do with words? EVERYTHING. Or to quote another language learner whom Khatz has linked to . . .

It is not really possible to speak a different language while maintaining the same mannerisms, in insisting upon the same attitudes or adopting the same social strategies. This does not, however, mean that one is abandoning one's personality. In time one develops what might be described as a parallel personality in the new language--something that is recognisably oneself. But this does not happen overnight and that "new" personality needs to be developed in a manner consistent with the language one is speaking and with the culture it reflects. Initially it is inevitable (and also necessary) that one should feel that one is acting a part to some extent, playing the role of a person (one's parallel self to be) that does not yet exist.

-- from "The 'Golden Rules' of Language Learning" by David Bond

This is so much more than I thought I was signing up for when I decided to learn German. I wanted to remain myself, with an extra language in my toolkit that would let me read certain writers without resorting to translations. I didn't care about going to Germany, making German friends, or appreciating anything else about German culture. (In sharp contrast, I wouldn't mind becoming Italian [ROFLMAO!]--but never mind that now. I'm not abandoning this L2!)

Having become fascinated by the concept, however, I had some fun wondering about my parallel personality. I came up with a few possibilities: a) a German Italophile; b) an Italian with my goal of reading German YA and MG authors in their original language; c) a German Il Volo fanatic; d) a half-German, half-Italian Dawn Schafer. (What?) But this isn't simply a case of being the same person in a different language or two. It's something closer to meeting the identical twin you were separated from at birth, who was raised in an entirely different country. (Identical twins raised apart are more similar than fraternal twins raised together.) If I had never learned English or Filipino, what music would I be listening to? Which movies and television shows would I be nostalgic for? Who would my favourite YA/MG authors be? What kind of blog would I be writing? The challenge is to find the answers to these questions--and this time it's not just a reading challenge. In fact, I suspect the questions related to reading will be answered last.

Maybe I should start a new series called "Life as a Language Learning Challenge" . . .


Star Crunch said...

I was once informed, at a posada, that "you're Mexican now" on account of grabbing a tortilla to gather up some bits and pieces, rather than just use a fork. :)

That aside, I've done a rather miserable job of assimilation. I make video games and many of my fellows at the office are either artists or programmers who themselves are largely fans of the medium, which tends to mean they've already absorbed a lot of English and casually interject it among their speech, but also they trend young and their Spanish ends up being fairly slang-heavy. Many a time during discussions I've fumbled for a programming term, come up with some Spanish circumlocution, and then been told "Oh, we just use the English word". *sigh* And that's the bulk of what I hear.

Being mistaken for German is an odd thing. I can't deny the "accusation", as I supposedly have a sliver of it, but all the telltale signs owe much more to Scandinavian roots. It's occurred on at least three occasions, here in Mexico:

Once, in a supermarket, straight out some woman asked me "Are you German?". That was really weird!

Somebody approached me, after Mass I believe, and asked "Does your mom give German lessons?". I suspected the answer was no--thirty-odd years have given little indication of it and she's 1000 miles to the north anyway--and said so. However, I did later ask mom for good measure! :D (In hindsight, I have a guess regarding the identity of the family and "the son" with whom I was being confused.)

I also got a "you guys will be the winners", as a ("correct"!) prediction before the most recent World Cup.

I'm occasionally tempted to learn the language, mostly to slog through some math / computer science papers I see cited sometimes. (For what it's worth, I think I've picked up some grammar quirks just from reading bits of their English-as-second-language documentation.) That's a lot of work for a handful of 10-page white papers, though! :D

Enbrethiliel said...


Hmmmm. Well, if you can't be mistaken for a native-born programmer, do you think you might be mistaken for another sort of native who happened to enter programming a bit late in the game? The tortillas stand as your witnesses!

I suspect that learning a language just to get through a very specific set of documents will be much easier than learning it to speak to people, to read novels, to appreciate popular music, etc. You'll probably achieve a decent level of understanding with a vocabulary of 200 words. (Then again, I have no idea what white papers are like!) But it's worth your consideration that Khatz would say that you'd be starting German off on a better foot than I did. I relied for far too long on the "fake German" resources created for a language course, but you would be starting with "real German" documents. And I do think Khatz is on to something with his strategy because when I dove into Italian with nothing but Il Volo CD jackets, an Italian grammar guide, and YouTube tutorials to help me out, my progress was so much quicker. Basically, start with what you want to access and then language acquisition will follow.

As for being mistaken for a nationality I'm not . . . Nope, it has never happened. Though someone from Austria whom I met in New Zealand (I know, right?) once said, "You're Asian, right? And Muslim?" =P

Star Crunch said...

"The tortillas stand as your witnesses!" Okay, that phrase has to find its way into something.

I think I'd pass for "new programmer" about as well as you would for "clueless about 80's music" (or YA, blogging, etc.). :) Once ANYTHING mildly interesting came into the discussion, the jig would be up! Hour 10,000 is long past, at this point...

White papers can really run the gamut; some are surprisingly readable while others are total slogs. :D I imagine few of the authors really write for pleasure. (Now you've got me perusing some of our German and Italian translations. The latter is actually pretty smooth sailing, as you say.)

Was the Austrian fellow the encounter in the bookstore? I roughly recall an earlier post with three incidents, but they've probably mix-and-matched in my mind since then.

Enbrethiliel said...


"The tortillas stand as your witnesses!" could be a flash fiction prompt, perhaps? I wish I were better at that sort of thing . . .

The "encounter in the bookstore" was most likely the Muslim man, who was also Filipino--but who, strangely enough, tried "to pick me up" for Islam entirely in English!

The Austrian man was someone I met in New Zealand who had left the Catholic Church years earlier but still wanted to rant about Her. Recalling the encounter years later, I thought it was odd that he asked about religion immediately and that he aired his grievances against the Church as if I had given a strong hint that my feelings about Catholicism were also negative. (I would have been sending the opposite signal out!) What would he have said, I wonder, if I had called myself Muslim???