Japanese Is Simple – We Make It More Difficult

Japanese is simple? Yes. Japanese is made up of sounds and squiggles. Those sounds and squiggles make up kana and kanji. Those kana and kanji make up words. Those words connect to other words. Those words and their connections have meaning. That’s it. Done. 5 principles to explain all of Japanese. You can go home now.

Japanese Is Simple - We Make It More Difficult

But then each of these 5 principles has a hundred opinions and explanations. Each of those opinions and explanations have a hundred sub-opinions and sub-explanations. And each of those sub-opinions and sub-explanations have a hundred sub-sub-opinions and sub-sub-explanations. All of these mix and conflict, create discussion and argument, and are a giant cloud of confusion.

Everyone starts with the 5 principles, but then head towards the cloud. We over-analyze, over-question, over-doubt, over-stress every step along the way. When in truth, as long as you learn the 5 principles, there is no way you won’t arrive at the other side, which is meaning (fluency).

Ideal vs. Reality

Japanese Is Simple - We Make It More Difficult 2

The ideal: 5 principles. Japanese is simple

The reality: Learning Japanese is difficult.

2 important messages I want you to take away.

1. How difficult learning Japanese will be for you will be based on how deep you decide to go into that confusion cloud.

2. Whenever you get caught up in it, so deep you can’t see forward in any direction and are completely lost, try to think back to the 5 principles for guidance. As long as you are following them, you are fine. There is no way they can steer you wrong. Sometimes all you need is a basic compass.

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Founder of Jalup. Spends most of his time absorbing and spreading thrilling information about learning Japanese. On a quest to become 日本語王 (king of the Japanese language).


Japanese Is Simple – We Make It More Difficult — 10 Comments

  1. Good stuff, it’s amazing how we over complicate things sometimes. It is really simple when you think about it. The only thing I care about is if I’m going to quit or not. If I don’t quit, I’ll become fluent. If I do quit, I won’t. Easy Peasy.

  2. I couldn’t agree more, a year into my studies I found JLUP and started to relax a bit and I’ve been going upwards ever since.. I can be a perfectionist, and that can cause problems when learning a language.. みんあ、心配しないで ^_^

  3. Part of the problem is how many (or how much, in the sense that we are talking about something so inordinately massive and intricate, it becomes impossible to count) words and grammatical nuances there are that we need to not only understand but actively use as well. We are perfectly aware of the process of how to achieve it, but that alone does not lead us straight to fluency. It is the long, winding, treacherous and exasperatingly slow and trudging journey towards fluency that gets to the nerves of people. That being said, it is always those who find enjoyment and inspiration along the way who succeed in the end with their sanity and humanity intact. :)

    • True, there are are endless and infinite complexities that arise. But it is useful to keep in mind that they all develop from simple pillar principles.

  4. One of my favorite four-character sayings is「不言実行・ふげんじっこう・action before words; work before talk」— a good mantra against cloud-wandering. Be more busy actually doing than thinking/talking about doing.

    Related to this, not everything has to be a dichotomy (mutually exclusive A vs B; all-or-nothing). You can explore some of ABC method and some of XYZ method, experiment, and make up your own C$!W recipe (a pinch of this, a splash of that, plus your own secret ingredients)…and change your mind / shake things up later — whatever suits your brain, lifestyle, goals, etc.

    & You don’t need permission from your 先生(teachers), your 先輩(seniors), your 同僚(colleague/work peers), or anyone else you might view as a potential authority figure. What matters is your brain and what lights up the cells in your brain, which nobody but you can sense. (Protect your personal space. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z30Y572EmCk hehe)

    “Don’t bend; don’t water it down; don’t try to make it logical; don’t edit your own soul according to the fashion. Rather, follow your most intense obsessions mercilessly.” ~Franz Kafka

    • Excellent advice. I think everyone could practice a good amount of 不言実行. And as you said, mixing and matching is what it’s really all about.

  5. Good point, I’ve been over complicating things really. I’m currently learning japanese using a free trial for commonjargon.com and I spent a good 30 minutes trying to understand how が is supposed to be used. But its really not that difficult.

    • Also many times on the first few tries something won’t make sense, but it comes around with time and experience.

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