Learn Japanese Without Caring what Other People Think — 8 Comments

  1. I . . . didn’t get any of that, actually. I started studying Japanese a little bit here and there for fun during college when the common interest in my group of friends was anime. Then after graduating I moved to Japan for six years. Obviously, no one in Japan is going to say “studying Japanese is a waste of time,” and since moving back Japanese has continued to be central to my career.

    However, I did have a college roommate who mentioned that her parents were a bit discouraging of the idea of studying Japanese because they considered Japanese to be a language that hardly anyone spoke except a few people on a tiny island on the other side of the world, so they thought she wouldn’t ever have an opportunity to use it.

    It seems there are still people who have that same misconception, so these are some things that can be said in reply:

    -Depending on what numbers you are looking at, it is the language with around the 9th to 12th most native speakers in the world. (A lot of people don’t realize that it is this high.)
    -It has the third largest GDP in the world. (Unless you count the EU all as one entity, in which case the 4th largest.)
    -Japan has a large number of expatriates living in places like Brazil and the US.
    -Demand compared to supply is much higher for Japanese-English bilingual speakers than for, say, Spanish-English, French-English, or Hindi-English, because while those other language pairs have a large number (large supply) of fluently bilingual speakers, there are a lot less people who are fluently bilingual in Japanese and English.

    Specifically for people in the States:
    -Japan is one of the United States’ biggest economic partners and there are tons of opportunities to use Japanese in one’s career. For example, in my state alone, which is not one that people usually first think of as having a Japanese population, there are over 200 companies that are members of the state’s Japan-America society.

    Although these are all sensible/practical reasons that hopefully have some persuasive power for people who need or want to convince someone that Japanese isn’t useless, I completely agree that as long as it’s not something harmful, it is totally fine to want to study Japanese for the sake of a hobby, like video games for example. Plenty of people started out studying Japanese that way and became fluent because they were doing something they loved.

    • Thanks for sharing these replies. I’m sure they will help someone who needs to convince a stubborn person close to them.

  2. I haven’t gotten that with Japanese yet, but I once betrayed my interest when in high school that I wanted to learn Hungarian because I had family who came from there. One of the people who I told asked, “Why would you want to learn that language? Only 5 million people speak it and only in Hungary. It won’t help you get a job or anything.”

    I was like (to myself), “What?! Since when did wanting a job have anything to do with wanting to get closer to your cultural heritage?”


    • Yeah. People that only consider the monetary value of a language don’t really understand what foreign languages are actually about.

  3. Haven’t been told this kind of things actually. It seems kinda common where I am to learn a foreign language with some (usually low) level of commitment, usually German or Spanish. But when I hear someone saying he’s studying Japanese I do feel like asking “Are you sure that’s a good idea?”, but I have the sense not to actually do it.

    Before learning Japanese I learned Arabic. It took me 5 months of actual learning plus a year or so of immersion to be able to read native material with a negligible number of dictionary look-ups. Most of the people I started learning with never made it this far, and the ones who did took a year or two more to make it. At this point I felt like some sort of language learning genius, because Arabic is considered the same tier of difficulty as Japanese, that is, the highest (along with Chinese and Korean). So I decided to go for Japanese next. Now I’m two years into a pretty intense Japanese learning regime, and what can I say. It’s nothing like the previous language quest. I’m not anywhere near the level I expected to be, despite putting more time and effort into it and having the experience advantage, that is knowing what works and doesn’t work for me and all the many methods and tricks to master a language.

    My point is, I can’t help but pity the fool who tries to master Japanese because Japanese is an order of magnitude harder than other languages, so your ambition should be an order of magnitude stronger or you will be overwhelmed.

  4. I just recently was told that learning Japanese seems a bit like I’m out of it. Fleeing into surreal made-up other worlds or something and secluding myself.

    Honestly I didn’t have a good retort, but I feel like it’s a bit ironic they basically said I’m narrowing down my world when really it’s more like I’m expanding into other cultures and broadening my view and the variety of people I can talk to. *shrug*

    I guess my advice is just: Don’t let other people downtalk you. If it’s what you want to do, be strong and do it!

    • The strangest thing is if you tell someone you are learning French, Spanish, or Italian you get praise. What a great thing to do! But Japanese? You sure you’re okay?

      It’s silly misconceptions combined with little knowledge about the powerhouse Japan is both on an economic and cultural scale.

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