The Japanese internet forum: communities where people who share a common interest are free to engage in discussion, exchange advice, and meet others who are on the same path. What better way of gaining an added push towards Japanese greatness. I know a lot of you use forums in some capacity. But let me start with a strong statement:
Run. Now. Further. Keep going. Good, you’re safe.
The forum goes beyond the troublesome in-about ratio, where reading about Japanese makes you think you are actually studying Japanese. It has some bigger lingering problems that need to be overcome.
Japanese forums are time-sucking black holes
They become a place that is comfortable to you at a time when you may having some serious down and discouraging moments. This comfort grows stronger every day. You end up checking for news and updates on the forum every day. Once you get into the habit, even if you don’t participate and are merely a lurker, you don’t realize how much time you are actually spending.
Let’s break down the numbers for mere viewing. Let’s say that the average person on a forum will spend 10 minutes daily viewing it, at around 300 days out of the year.
10 minutes X 300 days = 3000 minutes = 50 hours
That is a lot of hours. 50 hours is not a small number. Multiply that times 2-4 years and you have over 100-200 hours. These are all hours that could be utilized to making your Japanese that much better.
Heavy poster syndrome
Viewing is one thing, posting is another. The average poster I think contributes around 200 posts to a forum over the lifespan of interest that that person has in the forum. Let’s call heavy posters those with over 500 posts, and ultra heavy posters at over 1000+. Let’s give an average post a time frame of around 10 minutes to make. And again, let’s do the numbers.
Average poster (200) = 33 hours
Heavy Poster (500) = 83 hours
Ultra Heavy Poster (1000) = 167 hours
And remember, these hourly figures are in addition to the daily reviewing time numbers above.
Prepare to be criticized, argued with, and dealt a dose of negativity
Some forum members, especially those with a high # of posts, often have a habit of belittling others (unintentionally or intentionally). They will judge your methods and approach. If they disagree with how you are doing things, they won’t hesitate to let you know. They will pounce on your naivety. And naive you will be. You are starting a brand new journey. Naivety is expected.
Questions you ask may result in arguments between other members. There will be constant debate over what is the best method and what methods are good or bad. Use a method that doesn’t match what members believe in or use a controversial method and watch out.
Some people love to spread negativity. They inject their negativity into posts, spreading it to others, leading to a general bad vibe all around.
Divergence of Topics
Topics that start off relevant to Japanese studies often turn into completely unrelated discussions.
Are all forums bad?
Now that I’ve gotten all the forum users riled up, I need to point out that I am not trying to put down forums as a whole. I used to use some Japanese forums (which is where I observed all of the above), and still occasionally look at some today. Not all forums are like this. Not all people who use forums are like this.
There are plenty of nice and helpful people waiting for you (as I’m sure some of you using them fall into this category). Even people that come off negatively sometimes have good, but misguided intentions.
So if you still want to continue using forums, which I think many of you do, let’s focus on some things you can do to ensure you don’t fall prey to the forum dangers.
1. Limit yourself. Going to a Japanese forum is not studying Japanese. It is the same thing as watching a Japanese anime dubbed into English. Decrease your time. Decrease your posts. If you absolutely love Japanese forums, have friends on them, and love the interactions, this is completely fine. But this isn’t Japanese. You are engaging in another hobby (foruming?)
2. Don’t argue. Arguing about Japanese on forums serves no purpose. You aren’t going to convince anyone of anything. They aren’t going to convince you. Stay away from these topics.
3. Stick with relevant topics. If you are there to learn Japanese, choose topics that are relevant to you. Any topics that diverge from what is relevant should get a swift click of the X button.
4. Don’t go overboard asking for opinions on what you are currently doing. People like to get some reassurance that how they are studying is correct. That the method they use will work. If you need this, make sure to get it early on. Once you are already into a method, use the method and judge this for yourself. Don’t get into the habit of reading and exploring dozens of methods on a never-ending search to find the perfect match for you.
5. Find friends/competitors. The greatest asset that a forum has is the ability to make friends with other people studying Japanese. Finding a friend and/or someone you can be competitive with who is at your Japanese level is one of the greatest roads to success.
Finding your way
What are some of the positives and negatives you have found in Japanese learner forums? Do you stay away from them, or are they your best friend? If you are a forum goer, do you have any specific forum recommendations that present the least of the dangers discussed above? And if you could create the perfect Japanese forum world, what would it be like?