A little while before lent, one of the other ALTs in my area was talking about what she’d give up for lent. I’ve never done lent in my life. My family are christian, but not a sect that ever really dealt with lent, and I am not really a man of the faith any longer. Despite all that I thought that this year, a year I am in Japan, would be the time to do it.
So, I did. From February 10th to March 26th I attempted “English Media lent.” One of my goals this year was to do much more in Japanese, and so this suited such goal nicely. The rules were simple
No podcasts, videos, books, comics or games in English for the 40 days.
This enabled me to cheat a little with using social media and reading some internet articles. (because giving up social media is an entirely different situation).
Needless to say I failed miserably. But I learned a good bit from the experience. Let’s go through a few things:
I listened to a lot more music again.
Music is something I love dearly and always have, although in a very different way to how most people enjoy it (no lyrics for me unless I plan on singing it). Being (mostly) without podcasts really got me listening to my music collection a lot more and exploring Amazon prime’s great array of music.
I can do an awful lot with Japanese with the right clues
That month 40 days or so, I read a decent bit of manga, played some video games with hefty voice acting, watched some simple Japanese shows. I impressed myself quite a bit. While each bit of media I took a different approach too in terms of effort to understand, I found myself following quite a bit even within Fire Emblem which does not have a lot of voice acting to guide you along. However,
While I can do a lot, I still really have my limits
With a local JET who is a lovely film buff I tried to watch a bizarre film called Taste of Tea and… Well it didn’t go well. While I could appreciate where jokes were, I couldn’t really follow its general understated bizarre comedy. I also tried to replace my podcast habit with Japanese ones and was unable to find something I could follow. And a number of games I tried were still out of my reach linguistically without just constantly consulting a dictionary. Not really surprising, but I was a little disappointed. (but then, you’ll never be where you really want with a second language I guess?)
I love podcasts
If I missed anything that month, it wasn’t games, it wasn’t films, it wasn’t guilt free watching of terrible youtube clips, it was my podcast collection. Podcasts were what made me break my pact the most. There is something special about this medium to me that nothing else really quite nails. This bizarre combination of being suited to amateur work, while also not being stuck in the fairly short form youtube and lends itself too, while also being an ideal passive multi tasking medium just suits me so well. I also deleted a lot of podcasts after lent too. So many shows I just didn’t care about revisiting. There was certainly a bit of the Marie Kondo approach to cleaning up my podcast app.
I spend a lot of time on social media and random internet articles
Not really a surprise, but since this whole affair made me more mindful about what I was consuming, I started to realize that actually, social media and random little pieces take up more of my time than I’d like. So hopefully I can maintain this mindfulness.
Reassessing my backlog
I have a huge media backlog. Impossibly long. But with 40 days mostly dealing with stuff outside what I consider my backlog made me think a decent bit about what I wanted to watch/play/read when I finished it. I’m optimistic I’ll be more focused when it comes to what I’ll push through with this stuff in the future, and to put the things I’ve really wanted to get through higher in my list.
I did a lot of things that weren’t media related
I would probably say I am a very media focused person. (which if you’ve chosen to give up English Media for lent, probably implies that). Always Japanese all the time is hard, and I am a lazy person. I ended up doing a lot more outside of consuming media than most months.
So, the common thread here was less about language acquisition, and more about mindful consumption of media, in any language. Which I think is a result with some merit. If you study Japanese at all and are looking for maybe a way to at least get a better idea of your skill level, give “English Media Lent” a try.