Some people think about money… a lot. Okay everyone thinks about money a lot, and those thoughts occasionally find their way into the language learning world. Have you ever thought to yourself what is the monetary value of learning a language? What is the monetary value of learning Japanese? You can find some interesting articles that break down how your salary would improve if you have a foreign language ability.
Spending a little time thinking about it can be fun. And it absolutely may be an extra little boost of motivation. On top of all the reasons you are studying, it never hurts to be able to think it’ll give you a nice financial boost over the long term to whatever career you choose. This is a positive. This is why Softbank tried to pay its workers $10,000 to learn English a few years back.
The warning comes for one very specific type of learner. If this is you, you need to read this carefully.
Are you trying to learn Japanese solely for work or money?
This type of goal doesn’t sound so bad. Your career is a major part of your life. Money is a major part of your life. What could be more motivating than trying to make both of them so much better with a little bit of language study. If you can study for years for merely hobby reasons, imagine how hard you can study to make your life financially secure.
So you make this major goal as your foundation of study: “I am learning Japanese to accomplish X career goal.”
You probably already see this coming, but this is bad. Real bad. I’ve met a few people who tried this, and burned out faster than you can imagine. Studying Japanese solely for the promise of a better job, or money, will work… for several weeks, maybe months if you are lucky. However, it is not enough to get you through the entirety of the hardships to master Japanese. And since you probably need to go beyond mere conversational ability for a career goal, what’s going to guide you in the long run?
When you are in those inevitable moments of study darkness, what do you think is going to pull you out into the light? Thoughts of money? Or thoughts of all the things that you love about Japanese? All the happiness Japanese brings to you. All the sense of wonder, and adventure and fun that you’ve experienced. Money won’t do it. It won’t even come close.
Maybe there are some rare outliers. But odds are that’s not you. Your chance of failure is too high. If that’s the game you want to play, go for it, but tread extremely carefully. Money and career prospects are good as one small piece of motivation. But make sure you have the rest of the motivation pie as well.
Founder of Jalup. iOS Software Engineer. Former attorney, translator, and interpreter. Still watching 月曜から夜ふかし weekly since 2013.