Is early output a sin? (Matt vs Japan video)

Hey guys,

I recently watched the latest Matt vs Japan video: Is Early Output a Sin? - YouTube

I started thinking to myself whether I’ve made a bad decision starting to speak after eight months of lots of input. I basically did not speak at all in this timeframe (except twice at the mall for five minutes), so I did not influence my output at all.

I practised pronunciation of individual words, but that was it.

What I found was that after eight months, I could not construct many sentences because I’d never practised doing so, but I could pronounce things quite well (according to my Chinese tutor).

However, I’ve now gotten in the habit of talking to my Chinese tutor multiple times a week. I am still only at around 3,600 words in Chinese and I don’t study grammar too often, so I know when I speak that I am saying things that are incorrect.

After about five weeks of talking to a tutor (I think I had a total of about 25 tutor sessions in these five weeks), I am now at a point where I can much more comfortably speak Chinese and I can get creative with constructing sentences on the fly using my limited vocabulary. So much so that my friend’s Chinese parents (who don’t speak English) were able to understand probably 80-90% of what I was saying, which is something that blew me away.

Watching Matt’s video scared me because I LOVE speaking Chinese, it’s one of my favourite feelings in life to be honest, but I don’t want to get ahead of myself and create bad habits early on. I am now considering a silent period since I have accomplished my goal of conversing with my friend’s Chinese parents.

What do you guys think of a silent period for getting rid of bad speaking habits?

Do you have any other strategies for getting rid of bad speaking habits?

Thanks for all your thoughts!


I have only a limited experience of acquiring English, but I believe you should not limit your language practices in any way.

As of “bad habits”, I don’t think it works like this - first I “learned” English by reading and translating texts, almost no listening and zero speaking. Result was that I horribly mispronounced most of the words and hardly understood any human speech.

It somehow fixed itself once I got audio input and speaking practice. I think there are no “speaking habits”, the way you speak changes all the time.


No offence intended, but his video scared you? Mate, the video was kinda creepy, (odd zen guru vibe going from a young guy with limited life experience, lol… Edit: Okay, limited from my perspective) I’m not a fan of the idea you have to wait months before you speak… Not to mention I strive for communication and ‘excellence,’ as opposed to that YouTube community’s damaging ‘perfectionism’ AJATT vibe philosophy.

At least he conceded speaking a few times a month with people you run into can be motivating. Whenever I speak Japanese or Mandarin on the fly, I find speaking incredibly exhilarating.

But the idea of a silent period in order ‘to get rid of bad habits’ is kinda rubbish. I think the more we speak - even early on - the better muscle memory, speed, ability to hear ourselves, hone our pronunciation, and notice our mistakes. If you were really enjoying speaking with your tutor, why stop now? It was something you really loved to do. Cult-like mentality groups tend to be legalistic, restrictive, make people second-guess themselves… just sayin’ :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

I don’t want to be a boorish person striving for native-like pronunciation/zero accent. Heck, some accents are sexy. I’d rather befriend foreigners and make them feel welcome and comfortable around me. I’d rather have experiences like the other day when a Japanese lady clapped her hands with excitement saying “I feel so happy!” after I befriended her and spoke Japanese. Or when I’ve connected with Iranians or Chinese Buddhists by showing an interest in their language, then finding our common ground of motherhood and life experience. Not bonding because I knew every swearword and could pass for a native on the phone…

I say do what you enjoy, and don’t let people put a yoke on your back. My 3 cents‘ worth :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:


The absolutely worst thing you can do is second-guess yourself. Just relax. Absolutely anything you do relating to your target language will help you progress and if it’s something you enjoy, doubly so.
We could discuss to death which approach (late output, early output, grammar-intensive, …) is more time/effort effective but nothing is detrimental. There are no “bad speaking” habits: you either communicate or not and you have to accept that you’ll make lots of mistakes, never mind how early/late you begin speaking.

I completely agree with you. I tend to hold off speaking for a long time, but not necessarily because im afraid i’ll build bad habits. In my opinion (for whatever thats worth) Do whatever you enjoy doing. Speaking early, speaking late, doesn’t matter a whole lot


I find that speaking along with listening, such as answering the questions in the LingQ Mini Stories, gives me valuable feedback and improves my listening. I keep repeating, until I can say it with a steady flow. I found that trying too hard to roll my R’s (in Italian) often broke the flow of speech, so I only roll my R’s now when it doesn’t interfere with the flow.

Accents are okay. In Italian, there are many regional accents. So why not add my Americanized accent to the mix?

As long as you are understood correctly, it’s okay.

Pronunciation improves over time. Just because we don’t get it right the first time, we are not doomed.

I just watched the video and it confirms what I thought: Matt begins stating a correct and interesting idea: that it pays to concentrate on understanding in the beginning because it’s actually more important and more cost-effective and then goes on to totally overstate his case and he ends up insinuating that early output is detrimental because “mistakes get ingrained”. That’s just wrong and unsupported by research. It assumes that you won’t make mistakes (or much fewer) when you begin speaking after a protracted period of just input. That is simply not the case.
To Matt’s credit , he insists on not taking this piece of advice too seriously. Anyway, even his contention about limiting conversation to avoid bad habits, is unwarranted.
IMO, this tendency to take valid points beyond what’s reasonable is typical with youtubers.
I appreciate very much Steve’s explanations, which, even thoiugh clear and even opinionated, are also nuanced. For example, he’s a strong proponent of input-first learning but I’ve never heard you tell people to avoid speaking if they enjoy it.

Another example is a video linked to not long ago in another thread, in which the youtuber took the idea that explicit grammar learning is neither indispensable nor particularly useful to the extreme that it is actually harmful and, even if you like it, you should abstain from it for whatever arbitrary period said youtuber decided was safe.
Beware of people who (as Siths in Star Wars) “deal in absolutes”

Talk, don’t talk, both are fine. If you like speaking Chinese, then by all means do it. The idea that you’ll get bad habits you can’t overcome is absurd. Children don’t worry about that and they all end up with correct grammar (assuming their input is good). In English, the different between first and third person verbs is one of the last things learned by children. But they all learn it eventually.


Thank you very much for your reply, I’ve got a lot to say so I’m going to break it into sections to make it easier to digest lol.

Where I was

First off, one thing I’ve learnt in life is that everybody’s emotions are true for them, whether or not I may understand why they feel that way. So yes, I was scared by Matt’s video. Why’s that?

  • I’m a full-time language learner: it’s literally my job, and I don’t want to be doing my job wrong
  • I really like my Chinese tutor and don’t want to more or less cut ties with her by not speaking to her
  • I get a lot of motivation out of speaking and I don’t want to lose that
  • When I originally wrote the post, I was quite scared about having had created bad habits that I would carry forward into the future with me
    Hopefully this clarifies a little more as to why I was scared after first watching the video. In any case, I didn’t take offence towards your post, I just wanted to clarify it for you :slight_smile:

Matt’s opinion

I personally don’t agree with discarding what Matt has to say just because he’s young and he may not have as much life experience as someone who is older. I’m 21 and I’ve seen some shit in my life, a lot more than most people my age, but is my perspective to be discarded because I’m not 40? 50? 60? I don’t think so.

I’ve found everyone has something to share if I am willing to listen to them, and although he may be a perfectionist, I believe Matt has a lot to share, whether or not I agree with it.

Cult groups

I can definitely see how Matt’s followers can come across as slightly “cultish” and I really appreciated your perspective here. A lot of Matt’s videos can feel restrictive/rigid. I am a more analytical person and do like a certain amount of structure, but not so much so that the fun of the process is stripped out completely.

Some people might get a kick out of being so rigid, but personally, I don’t. What I’ve taken from your post (and others’) on this thread is that since I really enjoy speaking Chinese, I should keep doing it as that will be something to keep me motivated. Not sticking to a rigid rule of not speaking in desperate hopes that it will “pay off in the future”.

Where I’m at now

I see now that keeping myself motivated one day at a time will allow me to continue my language learning into the future. I need to stay present and enjoy the process in the moment without being anxious about what might happen to my grammar in the future :wink:

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Thanks for your reply. Yeh, sometimes I come off sounding over-the-top/intense in my comments, and that’s not my intention. What seems okay to me one day can sound really bad later, so it’s not unusual for me to edit or delete myself. I hate the comments that I don’t pick up on.

Anyhoo, I think it’s really cool you’re learning full-time, and you’re gonna be amazing because of your passion and time spent with the language, you’ll see :blush:

How is language learning your Job? May I ask what your job is? :slight_smile:


Unfortunately I’m not allowed to talk about the specifics, but a few months ago I was presented with an opportunity to learn Mandarin Chinese full-time, which I took because my heart screamed at me “DO IT!”

I’m at about five or six hours of solid studying a day right now, but I’m looking to get that up to seven or eight per day once the first few weeks of summer are over.

It’s been a blast so far, and I’m immensely grateful for the opportunity :slight_smile:


That sounds really great! How much of that time are you spending here at LingQ?


wow! i’m jealous. Getting paid for this hobby would sweet. Sounds similar to what Steve did for the Canadian govt. and chinese


I´m curious as of what these bad speaking habits would look like. Seems like they would only form out of years of speaking with insufficient listening. But in that case the person was probably not interested in improving anyway.

Eight months is already a good amount of time. I started speaking after three months, and only stopped because I could not understand people´s response. With a tutor that understands your level it´s a much better situation though.

If you LOVE speaking Chinese then you´re already ahead of the game! I´m not very talkative but do love the pronunciation of Chinese and find the concept of tones really fun, making it all a lot easier. Listening still comes before speaking, but feeling the difference between sounds in your mouth also makes them easier to hear. So, start your own youtube channel and make up your own rules :wink:


I’m retired and and now I made learning French my full time job and I love it :slight_smile: It gives me so much joy and I do spend like 6 or 8 hours on it. But it seems that I don’t retain information like i did 40 years ago. These days I have to work much harder than I used to many moons ago :slight_smile:


Oh, you lucky thing. I‘m so jealous, but excited for you! You have a dream job :blush:

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Yo Edwin - good to see your Chinese is coming along…we both started our new languages at the same time but I think your kanji recognition is far higher than mine (I’ve been speaking more than trying to remember characters).

Anyways, here’s my opinion.

I do believe input is key to good output but at some point you will have to start speaking because the only way to get good at speaking is…speaking.

I follow Matt and watched his video. I understand the main point he is making but the problem I have with this video (and the majority of his videos) is that Matt tends to go a bit ‘extreme’.

Regardless of how much “input” you do, you’re going to make a ton of mistakes when you start speaking, it’s natural. Embrace the flaws and keep on going. Nothing is worse than getting discouraged when it comes to learning a new language.

Also, one thing to consider… just because you can speak well, doesn’t mean you can communicate/interact with others well. What I mean is, I believe it’s 10X more important to be likeable, interesting, respectful etc. when talking to others. That’s why I think speaking early on with native speakers is important, not just for speaking sake, but to get comfortable and understand how communication works in your target language.

I prefer Steve’s approach, staying curious, having fun, and not worrying. Sure, maybe if one wants to become “native” in their target language, Matt’s advice may be more suitable.