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The Compromise Technique – A Language Learning Hack

Lots of people are looking for shortcuts to learning a new language, and to be perfectly honest I’m one of those people. The cold hard truth is that learning any new language takes a lot of time and effort, but there’s a language learning hack that can help reduce the time.

Just so that we are all on the same page definition-wise, when I say a “hack” I simply mean a method of technique that can help you to achieve your goals quicker and more easily than if you didn’t use it. It’s also something that most people overlook or don’t really talk about all that often.

So without further ado, let’s hop into The Compromise Technique to see what it is and then take a look at a couple of real world examples of it that I’ve used to help improve my Japanese, and you can therefore use to help improve the language of your choice.

What Is The Compromise Technique?

One of the most powerful, and time tested ways to learn a new language is to use immersion. I’ve talked before about a couple different types of immersion, such as focused immersion, but the main point that I’m trying to make here is that most people know that surrounding yourself with your target language is a powerful way to learn the language.

The problem is that sometimes you just don’t want to do it!

Maybe it’s because you’ve reached a point where you’re sick of the language and just need a break. Or perhaps you still pretty new to the language and all immersion does is cause you to be confused and frustrated. Usually when this happens all you want to do is to play a game or watch a show in your native language so that you can relax and have some fun.

But this is actually where you have an opportunity to “have your cake and eat it too!”

How The Compromise Technique works is that you play your video game (or watch your show) in the language that you’re learning (audio) but with subtitles on of your native language.

Now before I have a bunch of purists attack me in the comments about how this isn’t an effective way to learn the language, let me make a couple of things clear:

The first thing you have to understand is that this technique is not intended to be your primary method of learning.

This is important to note because (even I agree that) watching an anime, for example, in Japanese with English subtitles on has a tendency to make people ignore what they are hearing and focus entirely on what they are reading.

But here’s why this technique is powerful: because it keeps you involved in your target language when you normally wouldn’t be!

The reality of life is that most people are going to watch anime or play a video in their native language when they want to have fun. However, if you utilize The Compromise Technique it will allow you to still connect with the language you’re learning (at least auditorily) and it will also allow you to enjoy the show/game that you’ve got on since you’re reading it in your native language.

What this means is that you still get to have fun, which was your original intention when you started it up, but you also have an opportunity to improve your listening comprehension and your understanding of the language that you’re trying to learn.

If you do this technique one time, you probably won’t notice a difference.

If you do this technique ten times, you still won’t notice a difference, most likely.

But if you use this technique every time you decide to watch an anime or play a video game, then what will happen is that certain words and phrases that the characters say will pop out at you (the words you’ve previously learned) and you will be drawn into the language you’re learning.

Eventually, once you’ve learning enough of the language, you will actually listen to the dialog from the characters first and then only look down at the subtitles as a reference for those times when you encounter a word or a grammar structure that you’re unfamiliar with.

Here’s how I think this method can best be used: as a supplement to your primary language learning routine.

Keep doing whatever it is that you normally do to learn a new language, and then when you are “taking a break” from learning and you just want to have some fun, consider having fun using The Compromise Technique (CT) so that you can stay connected to that language you’re learning, but at the same time you can fully enjoy the content you’re consuming since you’ve got those subtitles ready to fall back on for when you need them.

How Is CT Used In Anime?

I’ve explained what The Compromise Technique is and now I’d like to give you a couple examples of how I’ve used it so that you know how to use it yourself. Keep in mind that this list isn’t extensive, it only has the primary three that I’ve used. If you can think of some additional ways to use it yourself, then by all means go for it!

The first and perhaps most obvious, way to use The Compromise Technique is when you are watching anime.

There is an eternal battle between the “subbers” and the “dubbers” but when it comes to you, as a language learner, your team is pre-selected for you: you are on Team SUBs!

This simply means that you watch all of the anime (or any movie/TV show) you want to with Japanese audio and English subtitles. By they way, if you’re learning another language, or if your native language isn’t English, then simply substitute those for the appropriate languages. I simply use them because this is a blog devoted to helping English natives learn Japanese.

There are a lot of anime shows on streaming sites such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, Crunchyroll, and Funimation. There are actually a lot more than just these, but I figured that I would only list the big boys that everyone seems to have access to through a friend or family member.

Crunchyroll and Netflix actually have a lot of additional subtitles options available besides English, so they may be your best bet if you’re learning Japanese and your native language is Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, etc. However, it’s really only for the super popular shows.

When I first mentioned The Compromise Technique, using anime is probably the first thing that came to your mind. Since there isn’t really a large need to expand on if further, let’s move on to video games.

How Is CT Used in Video Games?

I play a lot of Japanese Role Playing Games (JRPG). In fact, it was one of the main reasons that I started learning Japanese in the first place.

I think that a lot of people who learn Japanese enjoy video games, and one of the best parts about Japanese games that have been translated into English (these days at least) is that you can change the audio of the character dialog to Japanese.

When you combine this with the fact that most conversations require you to press a button before progressing on to the next line, you actually have a golden opportunity to listen to a Japanese native speaking naturally (OK, mostly naturally depending on the context!) and once they are done speaking, if you missed a word or two, you’ve got English words at the bottom of the screen that tell you what the character said.

Now something to keep in mind is that the English subtitles aren’t always a direct translation of the Japanese audio. This is because translation is more about expressing the character’s meaning, rather than what they literally said.

The point I’m trying to make is that you have to take a “sentence-by-sentence” approach when listening to the Japanese and then seeing what the English says, rather than a “word-by-word” approach that is more appropriate when you are deliberately studying and learning the language.

Again, keep in mind that The Compromise Technique isn’t intended to be a primary language learning technique. It simply looks at your free time (when you want to have fun) and says, “Hey, you’re going to play a video game for fun? Why not change the audio to Japanese so that you can continue to get language exposure?”

Again, at first you might now get much out of it, but after several months or perhaps a year, you will start to pick up on stuff that you’ve previously leaned while studying and then this works as a “reinforcement” of said materials.

How Is CT Used In Livestreams?

Something that has been on the rise lately is livestreams. Most people know about Twitch and YouTube streaming, but there are others such as DLive where you can find PewDiePie occasionally, and Mixer which is Ninja’s new streaming home.

The thing about streaming is that it is twofold: You watch gameplay and listen to the people streaming the channel.

So for those situations where you’re more interested in the game than the person playing it, you can choose to watch a Japanese streamer so that you can still enjoy the game and also listen to Japanese at the same time.

For me, the game of choice is Rainbow Six Siege. I play it with my friends online, and I also enjoy watching the professional players go at it. In fact, as of this writing there is a Major tournament going on with a prize pool of $500,000!

Normally I would watch it with the shoutcasting done in English, but as it turns out there is a Japanese channel as well for all of the great 日本人 fans of the game.

So I watch the stream on the Japanese channel. It lets me watch the pros that I like play the game I enjoy, and I get to listen to all of the shoutcasting in Japanese.

A win-win!

How Do You Use This Technique?

I know I’ve said it before, but I think it’s worth mentioned again here at the end of the post: this technique is a supplemental technique, not a primary one.

I figure it’s better to get a little extra listening practice in, instead of not.

I’ve given you my personal top three methods for using it, and now I’d like to hear from you.

How do you use The Compromise Technique in your language learning? Let me know with a comment below!

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