Getting from J-E to J-J can be quite tough at times. But once you make it, you never turn back. The further you go into J-J, the better the rewards. The thought of ever using English again is non-existent. You are proud of being in full on J-J mode and finally realize how powerful you can become with it.
Then you run into an English translation by mistake. Or a site you frequent (like Jalup) occasionally uses English definitions to reach a wider audience. That English you wanted nothing to do with and are trying to avoid has shown its ugly face. The result?
Annoyance and panic.
Here’s what goes through your head
Seeing the English meaning for a word you learned J-J will ruin the Japanese-only connection in your head, will destroy all the hard work it took to create that connection, and will take away its value. This thought process usually appears in the most intense of learners. I know this because I experienced this concern myself. But I can tell you, without hesitation:
It’s not something to worry about.
1. Exposure ratio is at an atom sized level
Assuming you are going J-J only, and are engaging in Japanese several hours a day, your accidental contact with English will represent such a small speck on your language scale.
Your memory places importance on what it sees often, not what it rarely ever sees.
2. Connections are stronger than you imagine
When you understand a Japanese meaning in Japanese, and finally get it, just because you see it in English doesn’t mean that you will now think of the word in English. Your Japanese connection with the word will be much stronger than your English connection, and it will be the one your brain processes first. In the process of learning Japanese internally, you are rewiring your brain. That rewiring won’t unravel so quickly.
3. You start to see the real weakness of English definitions
Many words defined into English are best estimations of the word. You’ll see the word and think “well it doesn’t really mean that. It is missing X nuance.” Sometimes you’ll even disagree with the English definition completely. This helps prevent any slight feeling of fondness towards the English definition. It won’t feel like the real Japanese to you.
4. It’s inevitable if you want to ever use Japanese for your job
If using Japanese is a goal of yours in the future for your career, you are most likely going to have to translate or interpret at some point and you will need to use English. Even when you go into full translation mode, which will require constant contact with English translations, it still won’t affect you. I’ve been translating and interpreting for years now, and it hasn’t been a negative influence on my Japanese connections with the words at all.
Yes. By making the decision to go J-J you are creating a divide between the English and Japanese portions of your brain. A temporary line between the two will not join them together. The Japanese language won’t betray you so easily no matter how hard English may try to tempt it.
Founder of Jalup. iOS Software Engineer. Former attorney, translator, and interpreter. Still watching 月曜から夜ふかし weekly since 2013.