Why Programmers like Japanese & Japanese Learners like Programming — 39 Comments

  1. LOL this is awesome. I love the images, especially the Summer Wars one. I started learning Japanese long before programming. Programming is more of a recent endeavor. Both are fascinating and insanely difficult/ tedious. I love learning both. As with Japanese, I find programming to be very time consuming and a methodical process is a must. Also, yes, I got into both because of videogames. Programming more so to leave my job though. Thanks for the article!

  2. I think Japanese language is exactly the *opposite* of programming: you have to
    memorize *a lot*, writing system is so complex that it takes months to get used
    to, and Japanese is a lot harder to test and debug!

    Programming languages, on the other hand, tend to have a lot simpler grammar,
    and do not require you to memorize anything, since you always can (and actually
    should) check a documentation.
    When programming language have clear and unambiguous specification (in a perfect
    world), natural language have a good amount of exceptions and context dependent

    Still, learning Japanese can be quite beneficial to a programmer, since it helps
    training your memory and improves communication skills.

    Slightly off-topic question: how do you look for a programming job in Japan?

        • I also got my first programming job in Japan using wantedly about 4 years ago.
          While I got it directly applying to positions, I’ve since been contacted by headhunters several times since then just for having a profile on there.

    • I disagree. While you do have to memorize a lot for Japanese, most of what you have to memorize are the various symbols that represent different things. I think the idea of encoding meaning in symbols are just how operators work. Actually, I think the grammar of Japanese is straightforward, and particles act exactly as operators. More basic characters are combined to create more complex meanings in the same way that systems are put together to be more advanced.

  3. As a programmer studying Japanese (for unrelated reasons – I really like reading and some Japanese books I want to read haven’t been and will never be translated to English), Japanese is a very logical language. It makes my programming heart warm when I parse a Japanese sentence and see how it all fits together. :D
    The way a particle modifies a word it belongs with, the way you can use parentheses to separate a complicated sentence into several simpler ones, the way verbs can be changed depending on their suffix… It’s all awesomely regular.

    And yes, the way you get used to learning new languages as a programmer definitely helps.

    Thanks for the article!

  4. My interest for Japanese started way before I knew what programming was. But yes, I did start learning Japanese and coding because of video games and anime. I believe I started Programming and self studying Japanese around the same time. I still want to use my Japanese at work. Im hoping to get there someday.

  5. Just leaving my “checks out” comment in regards to interests: programmer and mathematician in the makings, and video games being my greatest motivation :)

    (followed by anime and manga but that’s almost a given in this site haha)

  6. I too started studying Japanese way before programming, but I’m a CS major now—which was completely unexpected. I’m finding that I can apply a lot of the same principles of Japanese learning to computer programming, and I appreciate the logic and structure of both.

  7. In terms of actually how to learn a programming language, has anyone got any experience or thoughts on using Anki or even applying the Jalup method?

    • I don’t think you can apply that correctly. The best thing you can do to learn a new programming language is grabbing a good book and code in that language. There’s not much to memorize or things you can SRS there.

      • While it is no substitute for experience, one could learn basic CS knowledge, best practices, and design patterns through Anki if they so desired.

        • Yeah, I though for a while and maybe it wouldn’t be really useful for memorizing things in that regard, but you could quiz yourself periodically about various CS topics (including particularities from given programming languages).

    • I’ll just use the keyword of “Janki Method” here. :D It’s easy enough to google, if it is applicable one has to decide for themselves

      • This comment is appearing and disappearing in my browser back and forth, how he likes it – sorry for the double post. :<

    • Once I read a blog about a guy who made his own Method (Janki-Method) for his work with different programming languages – where he uses anki and small pieces of code to study

    • I created a massive Anki deck/applied the Jalup method while learning a few programming languages, and found it really worked well. Not only in the learning process, but when reviewing, it constantly refreshes me of new/old ideas, and different ways I can handle a task I’m currently working on.

      Maybe I’ll talk about the experience one day here if people are interested.

      • That would be great! I definitely would like to see how you set up your cards. I have tried using anki many times in the past for college work and interview questions but I feel like after a while it just became busy work.

      • I’d be up for that; I’m always interested in learning about other people’s studying methodologies, let alone if they’re yours!

      • This sounds super interesting Adam. I’m totally keen to hear about your experiences.

        On another note, if anyone is looking for a Japanese resource for learning programming, I’m finding to be really good. There are a whole bunch of different languages, the explanations are quite clear, it’s very interactive, and it even has a game-like element with levels.
        I’m working through the python lessons and making Anki cards as I go.

        • It didn’t, because I never really decided if/where I want to write about my “programming adventure.” There is so much to write about (enough to start an entirely different blog), and I’m not sure if that’s something I want to do or not.

          Condensing it down to one article would be too hard, so it’s a pending future possible project.

          • I see, programming is quite the vast field. I think it’d almost be possible to make a similar site like ‘programminglevelup’ haha.

            I think it will fit pretty well in the ‘World 9’, for those interested in using their Japanese/ working in Japan for a non-translation/technical field.

  8. Yep! I first tried it in 84, and loved it ever since, and now professionally since 96. I suppose I should be fluent in Japanese then, but nooooo.

    I’d be curious if there was a correlation between people who liked learning real languages, and programmers who prefer functional programming, since functions compose so similarly to natural grammar. Also idiomatic FP often involves devising your own languages, or writing parsers. 超楽しいですよ!

    FP FTW!

  9. I am a programmer :) and I love the Japanese syntax. Something about it feels very efficient. I hope that as I learn more complex grammar, I won’t find too many “exceptions” the way English does. I love writing/reading but I have such a love-hate relationship with English… my favorite writers make it look like pure art, but the programmer in me has like 0 respect for the exception-riddled English language…

    Woops, ranting :) Nice article.

  10. I find programming and learning Japanese to be incredibly similar. I remember when I first started programming, I had a very hard time putting together the sequence of steps to accomplish what I was trying to do. I had a friend who was really good at programming, and he would list out the steps one after the other and I would translate those into code. It reminds me of trying to come up with a sentence in Japanese. I know what I want to say but I have to try to piece everything together and hope it all comes out correctly. I know sometimes programmers are uncomfortable with comparing language learning and programming but I really think they are similar and probably use the same areas of the brain.

    • For sure I believe there are many similarities! The one large difference I can see though, is logic. Computer programming logic with its loops,variables, conditionals , returns and so on, feels completely different from learning a human language. What a pain ;)

  11. I’ve always had some kind of connection with both Japan and programming. I did some programming course as I was only 8 at school, at the same time I purchased my first pc and I loved playing games, specially martial arts games which involved Asian scenarios and such. I soon started knowing names of game companies like Konami or SEGA.

    But it was two years ago when this became much more intensive. I actually wanted to became a graphic designer or architect, but the job market wasn’t that good for those professions in my country so I ended up learning the current programming languages and now I work as a software developer. At the same time my interest for Japanese culture growed and I started learning Japanese one and a half year ago.

    I also learned other languages in the past, Russian, Swedish, German… and I can tell Japanese is a much more logical language than most of them. I just love it and I regret not having started learning Japanese before.

  12. Since this thread has been woken back up, I’ll toss my hat in the ring. I’ve been a professional programmer my whole career.

    Video games definitely came first, way back in the NES days when I was a kid. That got me interested in programming which I started dabbling with when I was around 12 or so. Anime got thrown into the mix somewhere in there, not sure exactly when…

    Zoom forward to age 19 where I was working as a physics research assistant (doing scientific programming), and the job took me on a couple trips to facilities in Japan. This is where I really fell in love with the culture and decided I’d like to learn Japanese.

    I went on several trips to Japan since (even living there for a short while). On those trips and through on-and-off studying I picked up a bit of the language, enough to be somewhere in lower-intermediate. (I could read Yotsuba& at ~70% comprehension)

    Time went past as it does and about a year ago I decided enough is enough, I’m not getting any younger and I just want to really be able to use this language. I started a serious organized studying effort. And that’s what lead me here trying JALUP the Anki path.

  13. Keeo it up! It’s interesting how many aspects overlap for Japanese learners.
    I started with videogames as well, dabbled into programming when I was 10 but decided I didn’t want to ‘get too deep’.(I was told to and was hence was trying to reduce my ‘computer obsession’). Looking back, it was likely an excuse and I missed the chance of mastering a high-in-demand skill today.

    Time passed and as I realized most people have no idea about their whereabouts in life, I began focusing on improving at my true interests. I started with Japanese. It has been about a year now and recently, I managed to read through こころ and 傷物語 with 90% comprehension.This was of course after tons of native reading/ immersion and plenty of anki-ing.

    Any tips on where to get started for programming? I’m having somewhat troubles finding a similar form of fun/challenge- like, even though it may suck looking words in yotsuba- it feels awesome after finishing a story.

    • If you have an interest in video games, then I think that’s a natural place to start. I’d say a good way to begin would be to pick a game engine in a language that interests you – PyGame (python), or Unity in (C#) would be good candidates.

      Then go to YouTube and find video tutorials of people making simple games in that engine and follow along. Learning by example is a great way to learn, and it’s very rewarding when you manage to put together a simple working game. Keep doing that and you’ll begin to pick up on patterns and be able to start making your own little projects.

      After you have knocked a few little projects out it wouldn’t hurt to get a book on your language of choice to learn the syntax a bit more academically.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

HTML tags allowed in your comment: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>