Mass Immersion Approach

Glossary

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A

Accent

The manner in which one pronounces a language. Can be broken down into pronunciation of vowels and consonants, stress accent/ pitch accent/ tones (depending on the language in question), and intonation. As an L2 speaker, accent is arguably the most difficult aspect of language to fully master. The term “native accent” is vague, as native speakers of a language will pronounce the language differently depending on their generation, social class, specific area, and personality. That said, talking to an unsuspecting native speaker on the phone and seeing if they notice that you are an L2 speaker or not is a practical way to test how native-like your accent is. It is extremely rare for adult learners to achieve the level of accent authenticity required to pass this test, but people such as Dashan and Julien Gaudfroy have proved that it is indeed possible.

Developing a native-like accent hinges on the ability to accurately perceive and notice the subtleties of spoken language. Many factors go into the development of accent, but waiting to output and prioritizing listening over reading in the early stages seem to consistently lead to developing a more native-like accent. Age and motivation also seem to play a large role. Consciously studying the phonetic system of the target language may allow one to become able to perceive and notice greater levels of subtlety when getting input, leading to acquiring a more native-like accent. Techniques such as adopting a parent and shadowing can also help one obtain a more native-like accent, but require a basic level of proficiency in the language to be effective.


Acquisition (as opposed to Learning)

The distinction between acquisition and learning was proposed by Stephen Krashen in his acquisition–learning hypothesis, one of the five hypotheses that constitute the input hypothesis. The acquisition–learning hypothesis claims that people can develop linguistic skills in two distinctly different ways: acquisition, and learning.

Acquisition is the natural, automatic and effortless process through which children become proficient in their native language. Krashen claimed that this ability to pick-up language naturally is not lost after childhood, and given the right conditions (sufficient quality and quantity of linguistic input), adults will acquire language as well.

Acquisition occurs subconsciously through comprehending linguistic input that contains new vocabulary or grammatical structures. Because the process is subconscious, one is not aware when it is happening, and is unlikely to recognize that anything has changed immediately after the fact. Acquisition is most likely to occur when one is meaningfully engaged in the message (rather than the form) of linguistic input, e.g., when engrossed in a TV show or deep in a thought-provoking conversation. While “you” are busy following the plot or formulating arguments, a deeper part of the mind is working hard to decode the nuances of language.

Subjectively, acquisition manifests itself in the form of linguistic intuitions you can’t logically explain, or realizing that you know the meaning of words you never learned. For example, if you are a native speaker of English, you likely find “the big red dog” much more natural than “the red big dog.” There is a complicated grammatical rule dictating why this is the case, but unless you have formally studied English grammar, you most likely have no idea what it is. Notice how you didn’t have to “think” about anything to know which of the two phrases is most natural; you just knew. In this way, accessing what one has acquired is, in most cases, instantaneous, effortless and direct.


Active Immersion

Active Immersion is one of the three main categories of Immersion, along with Passive Immersion and Background Immersion. Any time that one’s full and undivided attention is being directed towards an activity that is directly mediated by the target language, one is getting Active Immersion. Some examples include sitting down and reading a book, watching a movie or TV show without multitasking, or having a conversation with a native speaker. Whether one is simply getting lost in the content of input (e.g., enjoying the plot of a novel like a native speaker would) or heavily focusing on the form of input (e.g., analyzing intonation patterns while listening to an audiobook), as long as one is fully engaged in a linguistically-mediated activity, one is actively immersing.

Fundamentally, all true linguistic ability is cultivated through immersion; knowledge gained through Active Study can improve the efficiency at which language is acquired through immersion, but can’t directly cause acquisition on its own. Passive and Background Immersion can be extremely beneficial, but tend to only bring results to the extent that one is regularly getting significant doses of Active Immersion. This is why Active Immersion is the linchpin of MIA and language acquisition as a whole. Without Active Immersion, one will get nowhere; if one did only Active Immersion and nothing else, they would eventually achieve fluency in the language.


Active Study

Active Study refers to conscious, directed effort made to increase one’s knowledge of the target language. Active Study corresponds to learning in the learning/acquisition dichotomy, and in the context of MIA, is usually contrasted with Immersion. Examples of Active Study include reading a grammar guide, watching a pronunciation tutorial on YouTube, or looking words up in a dictionary and creating Sentence Cards. In MIA, Active Study mostly revolves around making and reviewing SRS cards, although this is not always the case.

Mastering a language without Active Study is possible, and there are examples of people successfully acquiring foreign languages through Immersion alone. That said, MIA’s stance is that Active Study, when properly combined with Immersion, greatly accelerates the acquisition process. It is also worth noting that the value of Active Study decreases as one becomes more advanced in the language.


AJATT

AJATT, short for “All Japanese All the Time,” is a language learning blog created by Khatzumoto in 2006. The goal of AJATT was to document and improve upon the methods Khatzumoto used to become fluent in Japanese in the short span of 18 months.

The method that he described (later known as “The AJATT Method”) was very similar to the Antimoon method, with the addition of James Heisig’s Remembering the Kanji and an emphasis on mindset and the psychology of success. Khatzumoto stressed the importance of being self-directed, creative, and willing to experiment. He argued that extraordinary results can’t be achieved with ordinary action, and encouraged people not to be held back by the desire for social acceptance. Above all, the bedrock of AJATT was the assertion that enjoying the process is an absolutely essential ingredient for success. Unfortunately, this greater message was lost on many, which resulted in AJATT becoming polarizing and controversial. Nevertheless, AJATT had a large impact on late 00’s Japanese learning community, popularizing the SRS and Remembering the Kanji, and spreading awareness of Stephen Krashen’s Input Hypothesis.

Although AJATT began as a free blog, around 2010, Khatzumoto shifted his focus to creating questionable language learning products, which he sold with sleezy marketing techniques at unreasonably high prices. This aggressive marketing led many to mistakenly assume that all of AJATT, including the original free content, was nothing more than a scam, severely damaging AJATT’s reputation. Khatzumoto became increasingly less active, and eventually complete disappeared from the internet in 2014. He resurfaced in 2017 with the announcement that he had created a Patreon, and will be writing articles on self-help and language learning for to those who subscribe. These new articles don’t seem to have attracted very much attention.

MIA is heavily inspired by AJATT. Although there are areas in which they disagree, MIA and AJATT are much more alike than different. MIA’s stance is that AJATT’s biggest weakness is not its ideas, but the way it communicates those ideas. One could say that, fundamentally, MIA was founded with the goal of bringing Khatzumoto’s insights to a larger audience.


Anki

Anki is a free open-source SRS. It was created by Damien Elmes in 2006, and is regularly updated to this day. The spaced repetition algorithm Anki uses is a modified version of SM2, an algorithm created for SuperMemo in the late 1980s.

Anki’s greatest strength is its flexibility and customizability. It runs on all major platforms (desktop and mobile, online and local), allows for easy importing and exporting, and has built-in syncing. Anki gives users the freedom to fully customize the design and organization of their cards, and even allows for modifications to the program itself in the form of add-ons. Add-ons and pre-made decks created by other users can be found on the Anki website. Anki’s other advantage is that, with the exception of Anki Mobile for iOS, it’s 100% free.

Anki’s downside is that it requires a large amount of learning and modification to be used optimally. The extensive customizability can be overwhelming for new users, causing many to become frustrated and give up before fully adjusting to the program. Furthermore, Anki’s algorithm is simplistic and counterintuitive, and this leads many users to improperly grade cards and greatly hurt the effectiveness of the algorithm. This is exacerbated by the default algorithm settings being borderline nonsensical (Maximum reviews/day set to 200, New Interval set to 0%, etc.)

Anki is MIA’s recommended SRS. The main reasons for this are the accessibility (it’s free and runs on all platforms), customizability (cards can be designed to fit the precise needs of the individual), and the many useful language-learning tools that have been created specifically for Anki, such as subs2srs and Yomichan. MIA seeks to remedy Anki’s flaws by helping learners gain an in-depth understanding of the program such that they can use it optimally.


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