Because of the internet and completely out-of-context gifs that bombard our social media feeds, many kids, and even some adults, have formed inaccurate and exaggerated perceptions about the Japanese culture. For some reason, these snippets of what people have imagined the Japanese culture to be like even shows up in reputable news sources. So, now many people perceive and stereotype Japanese people as pervs that all dress alike and are part of strange subcultures. However, it all comes down to the simple fact that we don’t fully understand their culture, and as the website references an old bit of wisdom, “to even begin to understand a culture, you have to understand the language.” But, it goes on to state even further that, “to understand the language, you must understand the history.”
The history of Japan is obviously unique from our own which is ultimately what has molded us into having the perceptions of it that we do. Japan, being a very mountainous and secluded island, detached itself and closed off its culture from the outside world for 200 years–blocking any western conceptions to ever form. And, because there is so much cultural context to sort through, we mindlessly form our own contexts about Japan and its culture. If we were to think about it from their perspective, our culture would seem just as insane–as the website puts it, with our Honey Boo and Jersey Shore. If we’re going to analyze weird gifs, then how are theirs really that different from our own incredibly weird ones.
Along with the Japanese culture as a whole, we also have formed many stereotypes about the language as well. The most common stereotype for all Asian languages is that they’re too intimidating to try and learn, or even flat-out impossible to learn. Obviously, this is not true, but it just comes down to the simple fact that it’s entirely different than our own, and we have no references to interpret the phonetic pronunciations. Because their language uses pictures rather than the familiar Roman lettering, it seems intimidating to us, but all it takes is just a little bit of time and effort to familiarize with it. Japanese Kanji doesn’t have just one phonetic pronunciation per character like the Chinese language does, but fortunately, the phonetic sounds are essentially all within the familiar range of sounds that we make in English, without much tone variation. So, now you may be asking the questions, “who should learn Japanese?” Or, “will learning Japanese help me?” Hopefully, these questions will be answered for you later in the article, along with being able to answer the ultimate question of “how will learning Japanese help you in the future.”
With learning any language, there is a certain amount of persistence and discipline one has to put forth with learning Japanese. However, it’s something that you shouldn’t give up at when you feel confused, or as though you aren’t catching on to it, because, many people simply give up, but you are not here to give up. As the website states, “Japanese teaches you that although it’s tricky, there is value in improving yourself continuously.” If you truly put forth the effort to learn Japanese, then you can learn anything, that’s what makes it all worth it.
There is so much more depth and subtle nuances to the Japanese language that free translation software, such as Google translate, cannot provide. Such software completely fails to translate the nuances because they aren’t directly translatable to English, so often times, what comes out is nonsensical gibberish. However, if you would manage to take the time to independently learn Japanese on your own, even manipulating it into a completely different syntax like English, then you could apply to any translation company in the world. Second, since Japan has typically been known to be a very challenging place to do business, from film to fast-food, then fully learning the language would break those barriers, and allow you to successfully work in Japan.
Another major benefit to learning Japanese, is that it teaches you to think differently. For instance, people who are fluent in several different languages understand that there are thoughts and feelings in other languages that are expressed better in those languages than in English. You will discover that there are words in the Japanese language that have there own specific meanings, words with meanings that aren’t even fully expressed in English. The website presents a few classic examples of this by showing what the phrase looks like in Japanese, and then interprets its meaning. One word in Japanese means something that causes nostalgia/ “brings back memories.” Apparently, this is a word that is very common in the Japanese language, and it is used as a simple way to describe something that is precious to you, or when reminiscing about the “good old days.” Another unique, and a little bit crude, word in Japanese is one that describes someone or something being a pain, or to express annoyance. So, instead of saying the phrase, “you’re being such a pain in the butt,” you can just use one word to say what you mean!
Imagine yourself and the way your mind has always had a precise way it made sense of the world before learning Japanese– how it had always made connections with familiar things. Now, imagine that you become fluent in Japanese one day, and suddenly, you have learned to say new words that you didn’t know existed; and new information on how to process things that you had known your entire life, but had never processed them in that way. All of a sudden, your words, thoughts, opinions, perspectives, and whole world has expanded! You will discover that, along with the different elements in language and customs, Japanese people have differing personality traits. In North America, we predominantly exhibit extroverted, loud, and dominating personality traits, however, in Japan, they are the mostly the opposite. They exhibit introverted, quiet, and cooperative personalities.
Finally, if having a good night out drinking with your friends is something you enjoy, then you would definitely agree that one major benefit of learning Japanese is their all-in culture of drinking. You would also enjoy getting to try out the new slang you learned, as opposed to the professional, work talk. Similar to our customs here, drinking is a ritual to release the tension of the work day.
Hopefully, these reasons were enough to answer your previous questions of, who should learn Japanese, will learning Japanese help me, and how will learning Japanese help you in the future.