Just curious why you decided to learn Japanese if you don’t live in Japan or have a Japanese background. The latter applies to me and the former did for a couple of years and my Japanese is still pretty poor. I’ve met people who speak and (especially) read/write much better Japanese than me and yet who have no Japanese in their families and have only visited Japan for short periods. If you’re (more or less) like that, what motivates you? Why Japanese and not an easier language or one likely more used in your community? Spanish? Indonesian? ASL?
Hmm, honestly, I don’t know why I chose to learn Japanese. I don’t have any Japanese people in my family, and I’ve never been to Japan before. I guess if I’m honest, it’s probably because of anime. I grew up watching anime with my dad and later on fell in love with Japanese culture as a whole. I do want to live in Japan in the future, but I don’t even know if I’ll be able to do that. I live in America, so Spanish would probably be a lot more useful, but I was just never really interested in learning it. I really just took up learning Japanese as a hobby, and then had way too much fun with it. Anyway, that’s just why I’m learning it, not a very noble reason, but it’s the truth.
It’s said that writing is a reflection of one’s soul. In that case, then, through the study of the language, I hope to better understand the spirit of the Japanese people, who I find to have a very unique and beautiful way of looking at the world. I want to understand the Japanese and what they have to say about themselves, in their own words.
Also, I took French a long time ago in school and hated it.
I’ve previously studied German, which is considered pretty easy as far as foreign languages go for native English speakers. Japanese on the other hand is considered one of the hardest, and I thought it had an interesting writing system. I started learning as a simple challenge to myself.
Took some classes in college, and then I went on a graduation trip to Japan, and loved the experience. As a result, my reasons now are less and less a ‘look what i can do’ type of challenge, and more focused on being able to understand and experience a country and culture that I’ve come to truly appreciate.
I’m Canadian so I took French in school too and always found it much easier than Japanese, though I grew up speaking Japanese with my mother. I always found kanji such a slog. Le francais, par contre? Facile!
The Spanish don’t make much anime.
My people’s language is recently dead and only extant in a very incomplete, reconstructed form, and in my country you only need to know English. So it might as well be any language that’s enjoyable or opens up more experiences and understanding, and Japanese is decently relevant here (although I would have an easier time finding speakers of Mandarin, Vietnamese?). I enjoy learning languages and I became interested in Japanese literature many years ago (my manga and jpop interest faded fast), plus I just enjoy Japanese in part because it’s so different to English and forces relearning how to express your thoughts. I do also think it’s very pleasant to listen to.
I also studied French but didn’t enjoy it as much for some of those reasons, especially when I lost professional interest in it.
Just out of curiosity, what’s your people’s language? How sad that it’s dead or effectively so.
I know a bunch of words, but one would never really be able to use it to meaningfully talk about the world around them without hybridising in English.
Yeah, it’s always sad when a language dies, I think the associated cultural loss made me want to know languages other than English even if English is good enough in the anglophone world.
I know I’m preaching to the choir at WK, but I very strongly believe everyone who has the practical means to should try to pick up at least part of another non closely related language because it teaches you that people conceptualise even seemingly innate things in varying ways!
And thank you for asking
Yeah, lots of folks say the European languages are much easier for English speakers, but I think a lot of that has to do with shared alphabets. I personally dislike the masculine/feminine forms and large variety of additional sounds one needs to perfect in things like French, Spanish, Italian, etc. They’re beautiful languages to listen to, but I just don’t find them easy to learn!
I find Japanese grammar to be more straightforward and overall more easily pronounceable. I used to think Kanji was a drag, too, until I started to use WaniKani and I saw it all really clicking into place. For example, learning about the word emoji, 絵文字. Learning that just blew my mind. I love how Japanese wears its etymology on its sleeve. Like @somatophobia said, learning these unique ways of conceptualizing just opens up a whole new way of looking at the world.
Also, coming into the language while being functionally illiterate, and then uncovering it piece by piece–I feel like a little kid learning to read for the first time. Capturing that feeling again in adulthood is magical, and what motivates me to keep studying this challenging, yet incredibly rewarding language.
A good chunk of videogames I like are from there so why not? For the other portion, English is good enough.
I am learning kanji and vocabulary, because I like how it all fits together, and how words depend on each other and have connections. In most other languages those connections are long gone after millennia of evolution.
I am not especially interested in parts of Japanese that contain loanwords from other languages, especially from English - they just sound ugly and I don’t want to hear them, ever.
So, I don’t think I am learning Japanese. I don’t plan to speak or visit, and I don’t really like Japanese culture. I watched a lot of anime in the past decades, but after I learned all the unique tropes anime brought to the table, it rarely happens anymore than any new show is any less dumb than old He-Man cartoons. I probably might like to read an original Japanese novel, like 銀河英雄伝説, to experience the original work, or to read something I know well translated to Japanese, like 指輪物語, to experience how the known concepts were translated and presented in a very different language, but that’s it.
I also might someday make an app that would present all the connections between kanji and radicals and words much more clearly than anything available today. If I feel motivated. It’s a lot of work to get it done well.
I played an totally Japan-loving character in a pen-n-paper roleplay game (Shadowrun), so i leanred some Japanese phrases.
[Nil, my Shadowrun character in Accumented Reality and Virtual Reality]
I put some flashy vocaloid-songs on my mp3 player and listend to them all day long, to get a feeling for this character.
After about a week i started to understand single words, and soon I wanted more.
After two weeks of preperation (HOW THE HECK DO I LEARN JAPANESE?) I started WK, an I soon felt in love with Japanese. It has an absolute beautiful grammar! It’s all SO LOGIC! You really feel, how an ancient monk sat in his scriptorium and how he was thinking:“How can I structure things, so that they are clear, but easy?”
Yes, the language is very different from English (and my mother language German), but the technique of particles is just great!
Now I’m thinkig about taking an internship in Japan after my master study (chemical engineering). One year abroad is almost always a requirement for a job. And Japan sticks out of the mass of candidates.
Greetings from Germany,
I think the key thing that makes European languages easier is that the way you go about constructing a sentence is much more similar, since they all derive from the same root and had extensive language contact for as long as they existed. Even word-by-word translations make sense, if done carefully enough, surprisingly often (if you exclude things like proverbs and idioms), whereas Japanese often just gives you a complete mush of random words if you don’t understand how things like relative clauses, conjunctions using the masu-stem or te-form, etc. work.
luckily i smashed Tae Kim’s Guide (up to essential grammar) in my head, before i was level 10. It was really hard, yeah, but it does help very much if you think Japanese from the beginning
And about this “easier”: Yes, for a german person it’s not that hard to learn english, BUT even at an advanced level you must learn single vocabs. Latin helps, but even if I understand all everyday conversations, there are words I don’t know. In Japanese the kanji will help you to understand unknown words. I look up a word, which WK doesn’t teach, see the kanji and know the meaning. Remembering this word will be very easy, because the kanji are a good remainder!!
I’ve never been interested in learning a language just to learn a language, so it’s not a matter of picking a language to learn. If I wasn’t interested in learning Japanese, I probably wouldn’t have studied another language in its stead. I had some French in school, but I wasn’t really interested in learning it. Languages are not really my strong suit.
I’ve been watching anime for over 15 years now, and it has developed into a general interest in Japan. Over the years I have picked up a lot of words and I can often understand the gist of a casual conversation. Most of my friends (and my husband) shares an interest in Japan to some degree (some a lot more than me, many already know Japanese). So I actually see Japanese more often in my life than any other language I don’t know. My goal is not to get fluent in Japanese, but mainly just to be able to read manga/visual novels etc. that have not been translated, and reading signs and instructions if I’m on vacation in Japan.
The claim that Japanese is particularly “logical” is common among learners but I don’t really think it’s true.
A linguist friend remarked how it’s similar to similar claims made about Latin.
But I found that once you dig deeper that Japanese is no more and no less logical than a European language.
E.g. わたしは 猫が すきです
which is often explained by saying that すき is kinda like passive and really means “likable” and that 猫 really is the subject.
This also explains why some other things can take a に-marked agent, just like the passive.
But then what is the subject in
だれが 猫が すきですか？
Of course the traditional explanation is that it’s really a nested structure of the form
だれが (猫が すきです)か？
But then why does this subject not behave like a subject w.r.t. to things like subject honorification or the exclusive meaning of が?
Kuno explains this by positing that が can be an object marker (Imabi uses the same explanation), which is great (and something I personally apply), but this removes the similarity to other nested structures like
私が 頭が いたい。(It is me that has a headache)
To add confusion to the matter, some modern speakers now use を to mark the object with すき sometimes.
Not to mention that が and の have bizarre and complex overlap.
I love languages in general and Japanese is my favorite language. I might not live there (only visited once) but I have Japanese friends and I love Japanese music, culture and food among other things.
Also, I really dislike when people pull the ‘why not learn an easier language instead?’ -card. You can learn a language even if it’s perceived as hard. Any language can be hard. Your success in language learning depends entirely on your passion, mindset and motivation to learn. Languages are not just languages and it takes a LOT of effort to become proficient in one.
Because it’s a beautiful language that I really enjoyed hearing, so I thought to myself, wouldn’t this language be even more fun if I could actually speak and understand it? Well, turns out ‘yes’.
The fact that it’s a quite difficult language just made me even more interested in it, I like challenges because they help me grow as a person.
“We choose to go to the Moon! We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win, and the others, too.” JFK
one of my favourite quotes