I studied Japanese. I got good. I got fluent. Because of this, when I talk with Japanese people who don’t know me, I often get an inevitable 4-question barrage which I don’t particularly like answering. Here are those 4 questions and what to expect.
4. Why can you speak Japanese?
Umm… because I studied it? I ponder for a second whether this is rude. I realize that they probably want to ask “why you can speak Japanese well?” But then again, that would only slightly alter my answer to “umm… because I studied Japanese a lot?“
I (mostly) refrain from a playful and/or sarcastic “why can you?” and try to turn my obvious answer into a “because I studied reaaaaaaaaally (vowel emphasis >3 seconds) hard.”
3. How did you study Japanese?
But Adam, you have a blog with 1000+ articles spanning over 8 years explaining how you study Japanese. You must love talking about this? Not in a normal conversation. I kind of just want to link them to the site – but that’s not proper in-person conversation etiquette.
I suppose an appropriate sum-up answer would be something like:
I used a spaced repetition system of flash cards that works off the i+1 principle, introducing one new small piece of info at a time, leading me to J-J only, while all at the same time immersing myself in level appropriate material.– Adam’s most generous answer
But this kind of response would result in “you lost me at spaced repetition.” So I just tell them that I binged on more Japanese TV than should be humanly bingeable. This technically isn’t incorrect, because most of my time with Japanese in the past 14 years has been dedicated to TV (not sure if I should be proud of that).
2. How long have you studied Japanese?
This question implies that studying Japanese has never come to an end for me. While I’m always interested in learning new Japanese – this pursuit of knowledge is the equivalent of my native language. I like looking up things I don’t know so I can subsequently know. I wouldn’t call this studying English.
In reality, I studied for around 5 years. Saying this creates confusion because it sounds like I started 5 years ago. Saying I studied from 2005-2010 makes it sound like I studied for a number of years ago, but stopped, and haven’t touched Japanese stuff since (which is far from the truth). Saying I studied for 14 years is entirely incorrect because it makes it sound like it took 14 years to become fluent.
1. Why do you know … Japanese thing?
Because I’m a sentient being that is capable of acquiring knowledge – Like AI minus the “A.”
It feels like I’m being accused of knowing a secret that wasn’t intended for me. What makes this question so strange is that I often hear it after telling someone I’m a big fan of a popular Japanese TV show.
Q: How do you know this TV show (which 30 million other people know)?– How this conversation should play out.
A: Because I’m an esper.
Sometimes I feel like I’ve walked into the wrong dungeon room:
Any questions that bother you?
Maybe we can figure out a way to answer them together and free you of some frustration.
Founder of Jalup. iOS Software Engineer. Former attorney, translator, and interpreter. Still watching 月曜から夜ふかし weekly since 2013.