This is what a good friend said to me the other day, and it’s been stuck in my head all week. The thing is, is he wasn’t even talking about Japanese, but practising the guitar.
It also reminds me of a guest lecture at the beginning of this year. The lecture was about the original Street Fighter and the level to which gamers would get to from practising so much that their moves came naturally. They fought without thinking.
This is what I try to achieve with Japanese: To be able to do something without thinking about it; that’s what fluency is. Which is why 15 minutes a day is better than an hour every 3 days. You’re technically doing less time over the span of 3 days, but 15 minutes every day is more effective because it’s repetitive, regular study.
Brains are funny things and each person’s brain is different. I know someone who learnt Japanese to JLPT 1 (before it was N1) in 3 years. He has a very logical brain and applies himself to his work a lot. I have a very flaky brain. I get distracted easily and enjoy seeing people, and due to lack of repetition it has taken me almost 3 times the time it took my friend to get to the same level.
I’ve said a number of times before that if it takes 40 hours to get to a certain level and you study an hour a week it will take you about 10 months to reach that level. If you study an hour a day it will take you 6 weeks. It’s basic maths that the more often you study the faster you will reach your goal.
However, although your brain might absorb information like a sponge at first, it’ll also loose some of it as it moves onto other things (like the water leaking out of a sponge). This is especially true if you overload your brain with too much information and it can’t take in any more. This is why 1 hour every 3 days might not be as effective, because you could be overloading your brain rather than giving it bite-sized chunks to work with.
It’s not only a matter of studying as often as you can, but doing as much repetitive study as possible. You might pick up some information, but as mentioned it will likely get leaked somewhere or be over-written by something else. Just because you’ve read something once doesn’t mean you know it. Repeating items you’ve already learnt regularly helps your brain build the neurons needed to recall those items easier. You practice so much that you no longer need to think to come up with what you need. Just like the Street Fighter gamers.