Why You Really Really Really Shouldn’t Learn Japanese — 51 Comments

  1. This quote will forever be a part of my motivational repertoire: “Anyone who tries, but doesn’t do, doesn’t wear Nike shoes.”

    I would have hated to come across that article at the beginning of my Japanese studies. I’m really glad I was forwarded to this site and others at the very beginning, else I would not have come so far.

    • I read that article when I was first starting and it did feel like a punch to the gut. I saw other articles on that site and decided it was generally skewed towards the pessimistic side and decided to block it on the off chance I happened across a future article. I didn’t want any future punches to the gut to occur. One of these days I may unblock the website once I have a sturdier grip on my Japanese studies. Until then…

  2. This post was hysterical! Best laugh I’ve had all week! Now I have to go and read that other article, just for curiosity. That Ken guy should pay you.

  3. So I just had an encounter today with a cynic in Japan, so reading this parody was very timely. Everyone has their opinions but there are tons of foreigners that I’ve met with this attitude. It can be quite annoying to hear this because I continue to question why there are even in Japan. I do learn a few new things here and there from them but I generally come to the conclusion that I am the opposite. Why does anyone learn a language? Who gives a rats flippin ass if it’s not used 1000% worldwide. Learn what you wanna learn. And flip the bird to those who try to put you down for it. That should be my motto I guess.

    By the way I did have a ‘WTF is this dude talking about?’ moment for a minute. Glad you had a disclaimer cuz I was going to ask why the change of heat all of a sudden.

    • That’s why I usually ignore this type of stuff. There are cynics everywhere who will complain about Japan at every chance they can get, yet decide to live there for years. You just for the most part have to laugh and ignore.

      C’mon, would I actually ever seriously write an article like this!?

  4. I read Ken’s blog regularly (he’s pretty hilarious, you have to say) and about half way through this post, I had to scroll up and make sure he wasn’t doing a guest post on here or something, haha.
    But I do agree with you. His article is quite pessimistic and exaggerating – but then again all of his posts are, lol.
    Keep up the good work.

    • Yea I haven’t read any of his posts before. It’s hard to tell if he’s just trying to be funny or if he seriously believes this.

      This is where he confuses readers with his article. Because I checked out his blog and he seems to give plenty of regular advice on studying Japanese which would show he isn’t against it at all.

  5. Although I just love the idea behind of this, I’m weary about tweeting something that’s titled “Why You Really…Shouldn’t Be learning Japanese”. I’ll wait for the motivational post on why one should <(^_^)

    I couldn't even read his article… I don't understand his writing style enough to give it any time. Yours was much better, but it was a parody after all. I just hate anything that promotes "Japanese is such a difficult language! Don't learn it!" Not exactly my kind of comedy. (Referring to his article, not your parody, which was very well written!)

    I was waiting for the, “Well, are you still motivated to learn? Then go for it! Don’t let any talk like this get in your way. Every step of Japanese you go through is an experience worth while and an adventure,” kind of turn. I didn’t know of Ken’s article.

    • I think that anyone who knows Jalup will know that there wouldn’t actually be a real article telling people not to study Japanese.

      You aren’t alone. Anyone who seriously studies Japanese won’t find it funny. The people that like it are the “I’m frustrated, want to vent, and have someone else show my anger.”

  6. “You speaking English is like spitting ecstasy pills into their eyeballs.” that seriously had me laughing out loud!
    Good job on the article Adshap, both in terms of writing and standpoint.
    Personally I don’t have the time a day to spend on people who talk Japanese down.

    • Thanks!

      Agreed. It’s never worth it to pay attention or argue with people who have negative energy towards Japanese.

      I was tempted not to write this because of this reason. But I figured as a complete outlandish parody, it would be fun and helpful to the readers of this site.

  7. Anyone that reads Japan Today, and even more so the horde of misinformed orcs that comment there, deserve to be fed that mound of self-perpetuating rectal prolapse.

    But great work on the parody! I had to check back to the title to confirm it was written by Adshap! I exploded in laughter at the ecstasy in the eyeballs bit, too.

    • I had never heard about Japan Today until seeing this article, but does most of it contain these negative and false/exaggerated stereotypes of Japan related things?

      And thanks! I got a little wild with the writing.

  8. Actually, World of Warcraft may have had more positive effects on my life than the Japanese study that I replaced it with. But learning Japanese is more fun.

    I think the important point that’s being missed is that for someone who’s genuinely interested in either language learning or Japan, the process itself is worthwhile.

    • Haha, please do tell. While most people have fun with WOW, they curse the time drain that it is.

      And you said it perfectly. It’s not just the destination. It’s the journey as well.

      • WoW was really excellent practice in the important and subtle skill of working together with both with people I liked (my friends and guild) and the occasional person I didn’t (a few in the random dungeon finder.)

        Writing WoW addons was what got me back into programming, which I’m now making a career out of. Having the experience of being solely responsible for my users’ experience was very valuable. (Japanese has also provided this because of anki addons, but a smaller portion of my Japanese time is spent on programming than was of my WoW time.)

  9. This would make a much needed replacement. I remember reading Ken’s article a while back, but by then I was far enough along my studies to be able to roll my eyes. I couldn’t tell if he was serious or not, but even if he wasn’t most of the people were taking it the other way. This was really funny, though. Thanks for the laugh. :) You couldn’t fool me, though. ;)

    • Yeah, I think his article should’ve ended in a more positive way, or at least show the point of what he was really trying to say.

      Thanks. My goal now is to fool you in a future article.

  10. I think his blog is pretty entertaining and it’s simply that…observations about life in Japan that are meant to be humorous and entertaining. Japanese Language study also happens to just be one part of his experience in Japan. From reading some of the articles on his blog, it seems he actually studies Japanese actively and has invested a lot of time trying to learn the language just like everyone that probably reads this website. I lived in Osaka for 5 years and I think a lot of what he writes about is an accurate depiction of life there. Again it is humor and it is supposed to be entertaining. I wouldn’t take it too seriously.

    Regarding the specific article, I think what he is trying to convey is that learning Japanese really does take a long time. I also have witnessed that very few people are actually successful in becoming proficient and many do give up or start and stop over and over again. I am one of them. During the 5 years I lived there I also only encountered 2 non-native people (I mean westerners) that were truly fluent. This may be demoralizing for some but if you do actually become one of the few, you have truly achieved something that most people have not and for some that is also part of the allure.

    Another point of the original article is that nowadays we have all these guys (most of them are guys) on youtube claiming they became fluent in a year or two and you can too if you just play dramas or manga in the background all the time and use an SRS or pay them 3000 dollars to be spoon fed their special program. Maybe it worked for them or maybe they are full of it. The article is satirical and points out the silliness of these claims that these people make that it took them ’18 months’ to do it. How could they possibly prove it and what difference does make anyway?

    Many of his other language related articles provide another perspective on the prevailing recent views that many espouse that ‘classes suck’ or the sudden prevalence that SRS systems and creating ‘an immersion environment’ are the best way to go vs. the traditional classroom teacher / student learning model that has been around for many years and I can see his point of view. Where are the studies that one of these methods has a better rate of producing fluent speakers?

    Ultimately, I think if there is something in the Japanese culture that you really love, whether is manga, dramas, connecting with people, tea ceremony, cooking or whatever, then studying Japanese isn’t a chore or a pain but ultimately it becomes something you do because you enjoy it. It brings you closer to whatever it is that you love, you are working toward whatever your goal happens to be and your world becomes richer and broader as result.

    Anyway, the guy is just the same as you and me. He obviously loves Japan, he’s a Japanese language learner and his writing is entertaining. I recommend you take a break from your immersion environment (not too long) and check out his blog and have a laugh.

    • Nice bitter cheap-shots towards Khatzumoto. No one will ever know you’re talking about him.

      “and you can too if you just play dramas or manga in the background all the time and use an SRS ”

      …isn’t that the M.O. of this site? Immersion in conjunction with SRS repetition? Why are you here if you find the method so ridiculous?

  11. Sadly, this article had the opposite intended effect. I got here by reading other items on your site and was starting to respect and trust your writing. I read through this entire thing thinking “Oh no! This guy feels he wasted his life studying Japanese. Maybe I’m wasting my time too!” It was actually pretty discouraging, and the explanation at the end that this is parody wasn’t much of an uplift. The feeling lingers of being so thoroughly discouraged, and you didn’t follow up in your afterword with much positivity.

    You believe Ken “wrote it over the top for laughs,” and “the fact that this came up as the number one article for people who are searching [why they should learn Japanese] bothered me.” But then you parodied his parody in response. In my case it only perpetuated the problem.

    • Sorry to discourage you. This really parodies every “Japanese is impossible” type article. The original article made it seem like there was truth to what he was saying (which there wasn’t). This was a problem to me.

      This article is supposed to be so incredibly far fetched and unrealistic that it shows that there really is no truth to these type of negative articles.

      Every other article on this site is filled to the brim with positivity towards learning Japanese. So I hope some of those will lift you up!

      • May I suggest placing a “This is a work of satire” or some light disclaimer at the top of this article for your new readers? I had only read two or three articles before I got to this one and had no previous experience with the article you intended to parody. When a new reader who doesn’t know your writing or Ken’s article comes across this, it’s very difficult for them to interpret the exaggerated bits here as parody. Your concern over Ken’s discouraging article being the first thing someone needing a boost comes across was legitimate. Sadly, I think without a disclaimer at the top your article can have the exact same issues. Maybe it’s just me, a lot of your other commenters seemed to get it. But like you, I don’t want the over-the-top writing of your parody to accidentally discourage others.

        • Fair point. And I appreciate your feedback. I see no harm in adding a disclaimer at the beginning as well. So it’s up there at the top now also.

          • You’re ultra cool! Thank you for taking my feedback into consideration! I think I’d rather read this site than japantoday any day.

  12. I’ve been considering learning Japanese for fun. After finding a tutor I googled, ‘why you should learn Japanese’ and was extremely disappointed when the first article was ‘why you shouldn’t learn Japanese’. And after reading that article I was concerned I’d made a mistake. But then after a little more research I found this article and after reading it I am definitely ready to hit the books. I knew immediately where this parody came from and was very relieved to see this point of view. This was extraordinarily encouraging. For me personally it really hit home that if learning Japanese is something I enjoy I should go ahead and do it regardless of the nay-sayers. Your points were well written and easy to understand. Thank you for putting the hope back into learning Japanese for me.

    • This makes me very happy to hear, as this accomplishes the purpose of this post. Focus on the positive side, and you will completely enjoy and be thankful that you started studying Japanese.

      • Adam I googled Why you should learn Japanese and now yours is the sixth result :) Yes, the first one is Ken’s, but all the others below are positive, with the second being 10 Excellent Reasons :)

  13. I actually searched for “How to say I shouldn’t do something in Japanese”, and lots of “why you shouldn’t learn Japanese” met my eyes. Luckily I clicked this one.

  14. Unfortunately for me the article you made a parody of was actually one of the very first Japanese related posts I read. Yesterday as it was, the article really discouraged me and I was actually looking for a written piece such as yours to bring back my motivation. Thank you very much for this, I can’t believe I was actually considering not learning Japanese.

    I’m learning the language as of today

    Oh and nice job on the article :)

    • Good luck on the start of your Japanese. It would’ve been terrible if one article prevented it all from happening.

  15. I am studying Japanese very hard in preparation to being able to promote some control products from the U.S. to Japan. I am a long term China hand but now want to do what I do in China in Japan. I may have some perspectives that may be helpful to others:

    1. I think it is a positive that Japanese is so complicated. Why? Because I am willing to do the work of studying Japanese, enjoy the work and profit from the work. Remember that if it is very difficult for Western people to study Japanese, the reverse is also true.

    2. If you know Chinese, Japanese is in many ways just cool. So many homophones, so many characters, so many pronunciations for the same character. Just interesting. You might say complicated, yep, but think of the reward of being able to speak Japanese really well.

    3. People like to stand out. Okay Japanese learners, here’s your chance. Do you want to stay in obscurity forever? Evidently in at least America, fame rather than accomplishment is increasingly valued, not a good thing in my opinion, but if you want to stand out here’s a way.

    About a month ago I was walking down a backstreet in Beijing and I saw a women that would have looked totally ordinary in say Des Moines, take a phone call from someone on her mobile phone and said in completely fluent Mandarin “哎呀,我老公不在-Oh, wow my husband isn’t in.” She was talking about anything complicated but her fluency and totally all-American looks were shocking. For someone like myself living in China for 10 years, 7 of those years in Beijing which has the highest percentage of foreigners that speak Chinese (embassies) you just don’t see that kind of thing very often. Think about how special it is for a western person to be really fluent in Japanese.

    4. In my study of Japanese I have really focused on having a massive vocabulary and being able to read. I did this on top of about 6 years of university Japanese. (Do the math, Japanese takes a lot of time.) I did this because in the last year (2014) I had a slow year for the business (i.e. no money) and spent a lot of time traveling for work. So I have concentrated on building up a massive, largely passive vocabulary. I have about 10,000 flashcards which in my case are mostly example sentences I take from my Casio electronic dictionary and sometimes from web dictionaries.

    Money from the business is now on the way so the next thing for me will be to do online classes with native Japanese. Particularly what I want to do is make my largely passive vocabulary into active use by engaging the teacher to help me talk about things of professional and personal interest. Ideally we will also construct some dialogue that encapsulate some of the most challenging material, which I will use for further study and yes more flash cards.

    5. One thing I find more challenging about Japanese than Chinese are the multiple syllable native Japanese phrases. Also many of the non-Chinese verbs. (In Japanese these would typically end with suru する。)I never had trouble memorizing Chinese, which is typically just one or two syllables but I have had this problem with Japanese. What I have found is that I need to make not 1 but say 10 flash cards with the term. An example is いきおい aka
    勢い or ikioi, power, momentum. Wherever possible I try to memorize the Kanji and use the kana on the back of the card just to indicate pronunciation. Not sure that is what others should do. And of course I never ever use romaji for anything.

    If anyone wants to recommend an online tutorially site I would appreciate it.

    I don’t think most people would want to study Japanese the way I did, but for me knowing Mandarin, Cantonese and Taiwanese very fluently means I have a lot of confidence in my ability to put my thoughts together if I have ample tools (vocabulary, patterns etc) to communicate with. The Chinese language experience also has influenced me to aim for a very high level of fluency. I have noticed with Chinese that many people who are quite good at Chinese at some point cut their study short when they could in fact get quite a bit better.

    • Thanks for sharing your ideas on the subject. I agree that the fact that it is such a challenge attracts many people to the language. If you are going to dream, dream big, right?

      Overall it sounds like you’ve had a great experience with Japanese over the years, and you are filled with motivation. Best of luck! 応援しています。

  16. This is going to sound pretty harsh but I honestly think that anybody Googling “why should you learn Japanese” probably shouldn’t learn Japanese at all.
    Learning any language, whether it’s Japanese, Spanish, Swahili or whatever, takes a lot of time and effort. A huge percentage of people who start learning a language will give up fairly quickly.
    The one thing every successful language learner has is a reason for learning. Everyone’s reason is different: some people want to move to a country that speaks the language, some people want to embrace their cultural heritage, whatever. Maybe their reason seems stupid to you – I know a guy, friend of a friend, who learned Italian *just* so he could enjoy certain operas in their original language – but the point is they have a reason that is important to them.
    Anybody who is looking for someone else to give them a reason is probably going to fail quickly.
    If you want to learn Japanese, then go for it, don’t let anybody discourage you. But if you’re not sure whether you should be learning it, then you probably shouldn’t be, don’t waste your time.

    • To be fair, a lot of the reasons I started learning Japanese for have been replaced by others, or joined by a lot of other motivating factors. I think it’s good for people to fully understand the scope of possibilities for what their embarking upon. There’s always more to learn about your interests, including why people find them so interesting in the first place! I wouldn’t want to miss out on learning language that I might end up loving, just because I didn’t understand its worth. Nothing wrong with being informed, even if you already have your reasons :)

    • Like James said, I think it’s not about needed to find a reason to study (I can’t imagine anyone starting to study Japanese without at least one good reason). It’s about giving you new motivation. You start with one reason, but reasons evolve, and as you see more and more reasons, it reaffirms you of all the great things you are getting of your studying and why you should keep moving forward.

  17. Thank you very much for posting this article. It helped un-demotivate me after reading that extremely demotivating article prior to this one. I honestly don’t need to learn japanese university requires a language and I wanted to try Japanese.

  18. Thanks for posting this. I just happened upon kens article after looking up how to say a certain phrase in Japanese. I just switched my minor to Japanese language. So that article stirred up some annoyed emotions.

    Yours gave me a good laugh and settled me down a bit. Thanks a bunch for writing it. I feel like if i ever start to lose motivation, ill keep chugging on just to spite cynical Japanese students haha.

  19. As many have said before me, thank you for posting this!! I am about to start studying Japanese at university this year and was beginning to question myself when I read the original article. Needless to say, I felt much better about my decision to learn the language after reading this and I can only hope that others get the chance to hear both sides of the story before giving up without even starting. Thank you!

  20. The article by Ken Seeroi mainly got me annoyed because it fails to mention that someone might actually get an intrinsic reward from learning a foreign language!

  21. I am proud of having studied English so I can understand all of your article, what was not possible 2 years ago. As soon as I started reading this article I recalled the original text so I laughed a lot.

    I like Japanese culture but the reason I’m researching reasons not to study is due to the time it takes, I went through the same process in other languages, and considering my 1 year experience with Japanese I realized that It isn’t something easy and will take more than two years than english and spanish to get to fluency…

    • Yes, Japanese definitely takes more time than other romance languages! There is some variety in time that depends on your native language (for example, if you were a Korean or Chinese person studying Japanese).

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