Why you should learn Japanese

So you're thinking about learning Japanese? Awesome! There are a lot of great reasons to learn another language, especially so for Japanese. The popularity of Japanese culture and media mean that there are a wide range of hobbies and interests that can be enhanced by knowing Japanese.

Travelling to Japan

From visiting the shrines in Kyoto to sampling the world renowned ramen of Osaka, a trip to Japan is a bucket list item for a lot of people. Japan's long and rich history and varied natural environments mean that there is something there for everyone, while it's easy to use and comprehensive public transport ensures that everything is easily accessible.

In the big cities and popular tourist destinations, English speaking staff and signage is very common. A lot of businesses have multilingual staff, and restaurant menus often come with pictures and names in multiple languages so you can easily point out what you want. However, this isn't always the case.

While no one expects tourists to be fluent in the local language, and staff will generally try to be accommodating, knowing some basic phrases will help you out a lot. It only takes a week or two to learn how to pronounce Japanese characters, how to say "Please" and "Thank you", and how to point to items and ask the price. Doing this will not only make staff more receptive and helpful, it will also make your trip more memorable and enjoyable for you.

Manga, anime, video games and more

Japanese media is popular all around the world and you'd be hard pressed to find someone who isn't familiar with Pokemon, Dragonball Z, Mario or Studio Ghibli. Because of their popularity, a lot of the big and popular titles will have English friendly versions available (subtitles or dubbed audio), but sometimes they can take a while to come out. Japanese video games, manga, and anime can sometimes take years to finally get English versions, if they ever get them at all.

On top of the availability issues, the quality of the English versions can often times be worse. A lot of anime and video game fans prefer to listen to the Japanese audio and use subtitles rather than the English dubs.

To fully understand Japanese media, a high level of Japanese will be required. It will take months or years of study before you get to the stage where you can watch anime without subtitles, but it doesn't have to be all or nothing. Because of the way languages work, a small amount of Japanese words are used very often and the majority of Japanese words are only used occasionally. This means that even with only a small amount of study, you'll very quickly get to the stage where you can start recognising individual words and sometimes being able to understand entire sentences. Getting to this stage is really motivating, and genuinely just feels good.

Consuming Japanese media is also a great way to measure your progress. As you continue to study you'll find yourself understanding more and more which will then motivate you to study even harder. If you go back and watch the same shows or play the same games that you played at the start of your journey, you'll surprise yourself with just how far you've come.

Moving to Japan

The idea of just packing everything up and moving overseas is a very appealing concept to a lot of us. Spending a year or two living in a foreign country can be a memory you spend the rest of your life fondly looking back on. If English is your native language, teaching English in Japan is a very accessible option that doesn't even require you to be fluent in Japanese. Working holidays or just working a 'regular' job are also options available for foreigners who wish to move to Japan.

Although you don't need to be fluent in Japanese to get a job teaching English, living in a country where you don't speak the language is going to be very difficult. While it's true that you will pick up some of the language by just living there, you will still need to put in active effort if you want to actually get good. A lot of people spend years living in a foreign country without ever becoming more than a beginner because they just don't bother to put in the work and assume that it will all come automatically.

Spending some time studying Japanese before you move there will help you out tremendously in the long run. Having a base level of knowledge will allow you to pick up the language through immersion much quicker than not having it at all.

Wrapping up

It's very common today to view learning, and self improvement in general, as a means towards an end. You want to join the gym because you want to get stronger, learn to play the guitar because you want to join a band, and learn Japanese because you want to live in Japan. But not everything needs a greater purpose, and not every activity needs to be moving you closer to a goal or helping you with your career. You're allowed to go the gym because you enjoy going to the gym, you're allowed to learn to play the guitar because you just enjoy playing the guitar. You're also allowed to learn Japanese because you just think it sounds cool and the kanji are a unique and novel experience for you.

Learning a language can feel overwhelming at times and it's easy to become demotivated with how long the road ahead is. But it doesn't have to be this way. You don't need to be fluent in a language before you can find it useful. As I've shown above, it's very possible to make use of your Japanese ability long before you become fluent.

There's a ton of resources out there that all focus on different aspects of Japanese with the two most popular being Duolingo and Genki. Duolingo is a web/mobile app that aims to make learning languages (not just Japanese) fun and like a game, and Genki is a traditional textbook that is widely used in universities around the world. While these resources are great, we've always felt like something was missing in the world of learning Japanese, so we created Yomimono. Yomimono is an online textbook which combines the fun, gamified practice of Duolingo with the in-depth lessons of a traditional textbooks like Genki. Yomimono's curriculum starts off at the beginner level, and is a great place to begin your Japanese learning journey. Check it out now.

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