A lot of people have strong opinions about AJATT. Most either love it or hate it. I’m kind of in the middle. On one hand there’s khatzumoto’s prose style and the sheer brute force nature of his method. On the other hand, khatz is is clearly an intelligent, well read person and there is some actual insight even if you don’t go in for the full AJATT method.
- The AJATT website is verbose and hard to navigate so it take a while to find what his method actually is, so you’ll spend a lot of time reading english instead of learning Japanese.
- Khatzumoto’s bombastic personality turns a lot of people off.
- Spending every moment of your life doing things in Japanese is probably effective, but not appropriate for everybody’s lifestyle.
- His method might be the most efficient for becoming fluent, but you will go months/years before you can even use the language if you aren’t studying all day, every day.
- The AJATT method is probably best for people who want to learn as fast as possible and don’t mind putting the rest of their life on hold to do it.
- If you can parse the website, he has some helpful insights everybody can use.
First off is the website. Maybe you should just click on it and go there to see what I’m talking about and then come back for my explanation. It’s impossible to find anything explaining his method. I guess people complained about this so now he has an overview, a table of contents, how to use this website, and “nutshell” trying to explain what the website is all about and it’s still hard to figure it out. If it wasn’t such a popular website, I might have gone there once and never came back.
Keep reading and eventually you’ll either leave in disgust or find something that actually makes a lot of sense. I can’t say what will make sense to you because a lot of what he says is controversial (like not studying grammar or vocabulary) but I found the not studying grammar part interesting, so I went with it. And that’s how I would recommend approaching this site. I believe it is worthwhile clicking around and reading and if you don’t agree with some things he says, nobody says you have to do it. But eventually, you might read something that changes what way you think about language learning or motivates you or whatever.
Key points of his method are:
- Always have Japanese going in the background (tv, music, talk shows…) for passive immersion.
- Learn all 2000+ general use kanji first using RTK and Anki.
- Learn kana after kanji
- Don’t learn kanji readings
- Mine 10,000 sentences, learn and practice reading them
- Don’t learn grammar rules
- Don’t learn individual words – learn sentences
- Don’t translate Japanese sentences into English (use native translations or monolingual J-J dictionary)
- Start here and here if you want to get a taste of what AJATT is all about and draw your own conclusions.
At the heart of AJATT, as the name implies is having something Japanese going “all the time”. In other words, passive immersion such as having Japanese TV, music, podcasts or whatever on in the background pretty much 24/7. People can split hairs about how well this works, but I can attest that it will work, but not very well. I have learned a few Japanese words by listening to Japanese music before I started studying he language and without even trying. Once I started studying, hearing occasional words that I know float past my consciousness served to reinforce the word in my memory. However, I only learned a few words over 100s of hours of listening which isn’t that efficient. But the point is that something is better than nothing if there’s no cost.
My feeling about this for my life is that there actually is a cost to me because I like to listen to podcasts and music and I get more enjoyment out of it than a bunch of what amounts to gibberish at this point in my study. Eventually when I get further along in my study however, I do plan on listening to more Japanese media and I expect I will learn more and it will be more enjoyable – changing the equation. However, if I was moving to Japan in a year and wanted to learn as much as possible, I would probably start listening immediately and often.
Another significant part of the method is learning all 2000+ kanji before anything else. Again, I believe this is prudent advice for some people, but not others. Since I only have about an hour per day to study, it would take me about a year to learn them all and I’m not sure if I would have the motivation to study an entire your without something that I could put to use sooner. Also, I am more interested in speaking and listening asap and feel that reading can wait even if that order is not the most efficient. However, I know that Japanese is very much related to kanji and knowing kanji from the get-go makes everything easier. So, again for the person who is moving to Japan in a year, learning kanji before anything else is the way to go and that’s not controversial.
One thing that IS controversial is not to study vocabulary or grammar. If you’ve read anything about how I am going about things, I’m all about vocabulary but I’m on board with the not studying grammar. I believe the reason for not studying vocabulary is that in khatz’s method, you are using the kanji as a key to the meaning of a word and you have readings as part of the answer section of your flashcard. In the context of the AJATT method, this makes a certain amount of sense but since I’m going about things in a different order, it’s hard for me to comment on this. I can say that I’ve been able to read some things based on the 400 or so kanji that I know with more ease than I would expect, however I also know a lot of vocabulary. I really can’t see how explicitly studying vocabulary would be harmful or inefficient.
Learning grammar by reading rather than studying grammar explicitly is something that I can comment on and actually it’s one of my strongest convictions. I’m not saying not to study grammar at all, don’t start out studying grammar. Rather do a bunch of reading and get a feel for how sentences are put together. It’s rather easy to understand simple sentences with a noun, verb and a particle and requires no explicit study. Later, when you get into sub-clauses and more compile grammar read the sentence a few times and then look up the grammar structures that are a bit confusing as needed. AJATT makes similar suggestions (if you can find them).
The bottom Line:
I imagine for some people, AJATT is more or less what they should do if they want to learn Japanese fast and don’t mind giving every moment of every day for 18 months over to Japanese. I, however have a life and I’m not in such a hurry to learn Japanese. I prefer to learn at a slow steady pace and have a good time doing it. I prefer to learn vocabulary immediately so that I can use it immediately and kanji can wait(even though I know that it’s probably more efficient to learn first). I would get discouraged and quit if I spent a year studying kanji and couldn’t understand a single Japanese word much less sentence. Even if you’re not ready to go full AJATT there’s probably something for everybody on the site if you don’t mid digging a bit and can get past the author’s tone. Personally I go there on occasion and read some of the most popular articles to get ideas and mix up my thinking a bit and that’s probably the best recommendation I can make.