Can Money or a Job Motivate you to Learn Japanese?
You most likely are not learning Japanese for the money. If you don’t enjoy the language, you aren’t going to want to study it, and you aren’t going to ever get fluent. But can money be an influencer? Even just a little?
A few years ago, the giant Japanese communications company SoftBank decided that in order to make its presence stronger abroad, it needed more fluent English speakers. So it decided to offer $10,000 to any worker who scored over 900 (which is a very high score) on the worldwide English exam standard, TOEIC. Those over 800 could also earn $3,000.
That’s a lot of money for anyone. And at the same time it is adding a valuable lifelong skill, and is setting you up for a nice promotion path within the company.
But is this a good idea?
When it comes to tasks that require creativity, passion, or purpose, it has been shown that monetary incentives often either have no effect or actually even make things worse.
Monetary incentives for language learning should be problematic then.
I feel this is often relevant to Japanese learners, because while money probably has never been your focus, you may have considered how Japanese will help your current and/or future career. It’s a strange situation because while money is not a goal, fluent Japanese will most likely have a positive result on your career in some form or another (and thus bring in more money).
I never thought about getting money out of Japanese as a reason for studying, but when I was living in Japan, getting a good job using Japanese became a major incentive.
What do you think?
If you were offered $10,000 if you scored 90% or higher on the JLPT N1, do you think that would that encourage you to learn faster? Even if your answer is no, do you have any major career incentives that rely on Japanese? Do you think this is pushing your speed at all?
Founder of Jalup. iOS Software Engineer. Former attorney, translator, and interpreter. Still watching 月曜から夜ふかし weekly since 2013.
I don’t think it would motivate me much more than I already am. It sounds like a lot, but it would disappear pretty quickly. The amount of effort I’m putting into this, is way beyond a shot at 10k
My firm does a lot of business with Japan. We often have Japanese people visit the office. I like to daydream about how in the future I will be able to dazzle them with my Japanese. But there will be no monetary advantage to me.
I think what motivates me is the thought of opening up the possibility of new experiences (e.g. an extended visit or even living in Japan), and the opportunity of building relationships with Japanese people.
I went into this thinking it was going to be a completely different topic. I thought it was going to be if you had $10,000 with which to help you learn Japanese, would you learn it faster than you are now? That’s a really interesting thought experiment.
That’s what I thought, too. Actually I thought this would be a link to a contest elsewhere… If I had 10,000 to buy all the nessessary equipment and textbooks (which I can’t now, we’re in a rough spot financially) I would definetely be learning at a faster pace.
I really want an article about this!
I would go for it because I’m from Pakistan. Not really for the money, well… But to show everyone that what I’ve been doing until now is worthwhile. Trying to pass the JLPT can take a lot of time you see.
I don’t think the money would make me more enthusiastic about it, but I love the thought of turning a fun hobby into something you can do for work.
My previous hobby has already become my current job, but making Japanese useful there as well (if only a little bit so far) has really upped my motivation to get better, faster.
My future career relies of me having fluency in Japanese and German, but I still don’t find myself studying any faster than normal. I’m still motivated by my purpose, which is to be able to consume native material, communicate on a high level with Japanese natives, and to learn more about the land and people through the culture. Having a job that deals with Japanese (and later German) is just a neat path available to me.
I do find myself more eager to keep studying or to study more because I want to ladder down to German through Japanese.
I think if I were the plan and execute sort of person, that kind of financial incentive would at least help keep my enthusiasm going during rougher patches of learning. But as I am currently, it would probably just frustrate me whenever I thought of it and I’d go even slower.
I do not know that the money would motivate me with respect to learning Japanese as I am doing it now, which is as much about re-raising myself in Japanese as anything else. Heee…I think right now I am at about an elementary school level, with a much lower vocabulary. I am now starting to be able to read children’s novels and discovering the joys of reading all over again! I am also able to really play video games in Japanese, and to understand them enough to play and to even strategize a little!
The money might motivate me to prepare for and take the JLPT though, which would change my focus quite a bit. For example, I would have to learn a lot more つまらない単語 than I do now.
Although, actually, in thinking through it, it might have the effect of reducing my motivation as suggested above. Right now, I am mostly learning from material I enjoy and about things I am interested in, although I am working through Kanzen Master N2 for grammar, which has lots and lots of つまらない vocabulary and sentences. If I were to take the JLPT, I would have to focus a lot more of my energy on test preparation.
Aside from making Japanese a chore, I do not know that re-focusing my studies in the direction of test preparation would make for better learning, really. My approach has been more in the direction of growing my Japanese from the ground up, as much as is possible under the circumstances.
Heck yes, it would motivate me!
I just took the N2 and am pretty sure I passed, so passing the N1 for $10,000 seems like an amazing deal. I do plenty of things that waste my time even though I enjoy studying Japanese, and the thought of $10,000 would definitely push me to spend a few extra hours studying instead of watching TV shows.
If I were currently at N5 level, I’m sure my answer would be different, as I’d need a lot more hours of study to get that $10,000.