Reading Japan Today’s article legitimately destroyed parts of my motivation to learn Japanese.
Why? While there are a few morsels of useful info it mostly drowns in cynicism. As I mentioned above, why aren’t these same people also writing articles about ‘why you shouldn’t learn to paint’ or anything else that people do merely for fun but aren’t expecting to become professionals at or that it will make them millionaires? Why ever do anything by that standard?
Edit to add:
Yeah, if your motivation for learning Japanese is some super weeb thing like thinking you’re going to become famous as an anime translator or something, yeah, that article is likely going to be a good splash of cold water in the face. But not all of us have such silly or superficial motivations.
And even if your motivation is something like that. So what? I simply don’t understand why someone has to be Cynicism Man and try to s–t on other people’s motives for doing something because the person views it as a waste of time.
That sucks, man. But like most things, it is what you make of it. if you want to learn, I’m sure you can find other things to motivate you.
I didn’t know that Japan Today piece either (and I don’t think it’s very good), but the author definitely makes a couple of odd points.
Of the roughly 20 countries I’ve been to, Japan is probably the most set up to accommodate people who don’t speak the local language.
I don’t know what those 20 countries are that the author went to, but Japan is not famous for the level of English spoken by the general population, and if you’re a run-of-the-mill traveler, you really won’t have a hard time finding countries that are easier to navigate than Japan without knowing the local language.
I think the angle is supposed to be mostly shtick (at least I hope so…), but it’s just too over-the-top. It comes off like it’s supposed to be a tough love type thing, but the cynicism is just turned up way too high. As you mention, because of this overwrought shtick, some of the points are just too absurd.
The whole table of times seems a bit off.
- Kanji apparently takes 23 days with WaniKani. I don’t think it’s possible to get to level 40 in only 23 days of WaniKani. Even if you just converted the hours you calculated into days, that’s still kind of a misleading statement. According to this WaniKani thread, it takes closer to 280 days to get to level 40, but only if you can do a level a week.
- Again, basic phrases is 69 days with Rosetta and 137 days without. There aren’t really that many basic phrases to go around in Japanese, and I don’t think simple sentences are usually a separate category of study from grammar and vocabulary.
- Why does grammar only take 6 hours? I guess you could probably learn about a lot of grammar points in 6 hours, but that doesn’t seem to factor in any time for practicing those grammar points. If you don’t practice, you forget. I don’t think 6 hours gets someone that far on Bunpo, either. For reference, the Nihongo no Mori playlists for N1 + N3 grammar take 9 hours, and that’s only a fraction of the grammar out there.
- Why are app games listed as a waste of time? WaniKani and Rosetta Stone are both available as what are essentially app games.
- What does the formula 2x + time mean? What is x and what is time? How did you determine either of them?
Yeah I was planning to join you guys once i caught up
I’m almost done with the second one now
So, after coming back to this thread since a day has gone by I think I realized one of the main reasons why it seems like a lot of people aren’t pleased by it.
It reads like an article written by someone who has spent more time reading about how to study Japanese than actually studying Japanese.
This is given form in the article by blanket statements and generalizations. If and when you choose to re-write this article, or to write a follow-up piece, I’d highly recommend you couch a lot of your statements with “This is what I found worked best for me” and juxtapose it with “Some people might prefer this style” or “here’s some pros and cons of writing our kanji when learning them.” When it comes to language learning there is nothing worse than someone telling you exactly how to learn it (we’ve all heard it and we’ve all done it) and it really rubs people the wrong way. Ask friends or people on this forum, do some research and stay away from blanket statements in articles, especially for language learning, as it opens you up to easy criticism. (its also good for creating clickbait though).
Upon further reflection, the ‘jap’ used throughout is even more of an issue than I first felt it was, as it shows a lack of general understanding of what is considered common knowledge for English speakers, and makes me put less faith in the author and their recommendations.
You clearly worked hard on this article and I applaud your effort, there are numerous things that I like about the article, too. Nevertheless, I really think you should take the article down, fix it (at least the racial slur part) and re-upload it.
I agree. I don’t want to be “that guy” but sometimes it sounds very… privileged when one touts about how learning Japanese is unnecessary.
For relatively wealthy English teachers who are able to afford translators or work with foreigner friendly businesses than it’s great I’m happy for you.
But poorer foreigners or non Western foreigners don’t get those benefits. I can’t afford private English hospitals. I can’t afford private American daycares. I can’t have someone shop for me/shop at foreign goods store. My city office doesn’t have regular translators and often they are inexperienced and frankly not good at their job.
So it was/is necessary for me to study Japanese.
I won’t berate someone for not studying since in certain situations it isn’t necessary or difficult. That being said I don’t appreciate having wealthy tokyoites look down their nose because I’m the wrong kind of foreigner.
Study Japanese or don’t study. Just don’t be a jerk.
- The article is visually appealing. The balance of text, images, bold titles and all is pleasant to my eye.
- It’s full of very useful references
- Total clickbait title. If you don’t mean it, don’t write it.
- The opening image (the woman slicing a grapefruit) makes absolutely no sense to me in this context, am I missing something?
- The title and the content type are unrelated. It seems like you’re going to give your opinion on (not) learning japanese, but then you give structured guides about how to learn it. In short, people clicking on your article and people interested by what’s in it are two different audiences that don’t necessarily overlap.
- It’s very personal, but I don’t like the “don’t learn this” vibe.
- Last but not least, it’s hard to take the content seriously when you start with “I’m not the sharpest shovel in the shed and especially struggle with dry and complicated topics or memorizing in general. I’m also easily bored, impatient and cheap.” It gives off a pretty bad impression right off the bat.
All in all, I think you certainly have talent for writing compelling articles, but you could benefit from taking a more constructive and positive point of view. This feels like a hybrid between the classic cynical approach to learning japanese (that’s already been done many times) and a step by step guide on how to learn it. And I don’t know what to make of it.
lol not op idk
I read your post and it made me curious. I just read that article and… yup, another compilation of sort-of-truth-but-not-really viewed through a very personal prism with cynicism on top. Learning japanese is now way easier and funnier than it was in 2013 when this article was written. I’m not gonna tell you that learning japanese is easy or a must in one’s life, but just don’t let a random stranger from 2013 decide if you’re having fun or not.
It was fun in 2010 too. I took the original article to be a parody of sorts. It lists the common complaints western foreigners have about Japanese for justification to not learn. Is some of it accurate? Sure. But is it sufficient enough that I think it’s a waste of time? Not for me. But to each their own. It’s definitely big city specific though. Tokyo Osaka Kyoto and a handful of other big cities.
And even in big cities, it’s not hard to have a real conversation in japanese. I don’t like how the 2013 article describes the japanese view of the foreigner as an english-speaking clown because it’s just not true.
As a long time resident I definitely get some if the points the article made. I’ve had the casual sting of speaking Japanese competently (if not hundred percent correct) and being looked at like a space alien. Or while considering my answer having the other person hurriedly throw English (and sometimes Spanish?!) words at me.
And I even got the Japanese only treatment. A rarity these days (thanks Okinawa!)
But as weird and disheartening these encounters are the ability to use Japanese has helped me in so many ways.
From a writer’s perspective, your writing feels choppy. It feels like you’re trying to copy the writing style of most tabloid writers, but you’re going for the insta-kill “got em” sort of impact for pretty much every line. Way too many one-line paragraphs. They’re useful every once in a while, but they get repetitive fast. Don’t overuse bolding and italics. And use complete sentences, even during lists. If you use sentence fragments or skip certain words. It stands out and undercuts the tone of the article.
Combine your paragraphs, and expand upon your ideas. You seem to just assert a claim and then, as if it proves itself, just move on to the next item of the list. It’s jarring, like the reader is being jerked around, and you usually haven’t really proven anything yet. It was especially jarring with your last point about Japanese being SOV and difficult to pick up with just subtitles, in that there are plenty of reasons why Japanese grammar is difficult for English speakers to understand, SOV being the least of our problems, so why not expand? Your last point in an article needs to be one of your most impactful or convincing. (ok is an adjective by the way, and “this is ok” in japanese would be formatted more like “this okay is” “kore wa daijoubu desu” but I think some other commenters mentioned that)
There’s usually a counterargument to the things you’re saying, but you never addressed any of them (like how a lot of people like learning how to write the kanji and how there are tons of uses for Japanese in the business world, and how there are free learning tools that are helpful to a lot of people). They need to be addressed. Your word is not necessarily trustworthy, so your readers need to be convinced, especially if they frequently use some of those free resources or like writing kanji. If you explain that there are multiple sides and give stronger reasons why new learners should do it your way, your article will sound better founded and supported.
There are some issues with the article that have to do with the actual content, but I think some of the other replies captured that much better than I could with my Genki I understanding of grammar. None of this is meant to sound overly critical, although I understand it might come across this way. I’ve just written a lot of newspaper articles and those were the things that stuck out to me. If I’m wrong about any of it feel free to call me out though.
I see what you did there.
Yeah, it’s pretty bizarre to have this view of Japanese people that they wouldn’t even try to interact with you if you don’t speak English like a party trick or something. Haven’t experienced anything like that at social gatherings.
Theres also a Katakana one but you have to know the hiragana first
Pretty good. Got some useful info in there, and some good advice, too.
Personally, though, I dislike the discouragement at the very beginning not to learn Japanese. Even if it’s just intended as a joke, or a friendly-but-in-your-face caution, it still feels out of place to me. Presumably, anyone (or at least vast majority) interested in reading such an article would already be interested in learning Japanese by default.
It’s fair to warn people of the potential for unexpected difficulty. On the other hand, if the person has already considered this and wants to try anyway, the initial ‘negativity’ of that kind of intro might simply discourage them from continuing reading the article – rather than discourage them from pursuing a potential waste of time.
For myself, for example, I’m not learning Japanese for work, to live in Japan, or even to visit (I wish, but I won’t be in a position to do so for a long time, if ever). I just want to be able to understand some of the tons and tons of great Japanese cultural products like anime, manga, music lyrics, novels, etc. etc.
And it’s not ‘just for fun’ either, like, it’s not just as a diversion for me. I don’t read books as a ‘diversion’, for instance, there’s always some meaningful (to me) purpose to reading a book. Particularly when there are so many books to choose from, if I just wanted a diversion, I’d just pick a random book. But I don’t. I pick books I’m likely to enjoy (for whatever personal preferential reasons; the details aren’t actually important to my point here) and ‘get something out of’.
Life is short. Even if it’s not ‘useful’ in some career or even day-to-day-living way, finding cultural (I mean ‘something that requires understanding language’, but can’t think of a better word) stuff that is personally rewarding is still very useful for the simple fact that life is short, we only get one shot at life, and there’s simply no way to ‘experience’ everything that is possible to experience. You still have to prioritize. You still have to have the ability to do whatever it is you want to do.
E.g. Learning martial arts is hard. I don’t have any particular use for martial arts personally (I’m not in law enforcement or security; I’m not a competitive athlete, etc.), and in fact at this stage in my life I’m not actually even interested in learning martial arts. But I think most people would agree that it doesn’t really make sense for me or anyone else to try to discourage anyone from learning martial arts (unless perhaps it was a doctor giving advice on appropriate physical activity for one’s health). If someone wants to learn a martial art purely for the fulfillment of learning a martial art, IMHO, more power to them!
To me, it’s the same with learning Japanese. If someone has a desire to learn it, or simply just to try learning it, just to see if they like learning it, who am I to discourage them? It’s their life; I prefer to leave people to decide their own priorities. (Of course, straightforward info on the potential difficulty level is fine and appropriate. I’m talking about active discouragement.)
But really, that’s my only real critique of your article. Honestly, it’s a pretty minor point. Just some feedback, since you were asking for some.