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Sep 10, 2013

So you want to learn Japanese (Part 2)

Many of the people that I talk to about learning Japanese are in the earliest steps of the process. Unfortunately, most of them have some interesting notions for what is required in order to learn Japanese, and clearing up some of those excuses misconceptions will help the people that really want to learn. This was originally going to be a single post, but it's turned into a series. This is the second post in the series, click here for the first post.

I want to learn Japanese, but don't you need to be in Japan for immersion?

I love hearing this. Okay, no, I don't love it, but I do find it amusing. It's just like the idea that you need to take language classes in order to learn a language. Sure, it's helpful to be surrounded by people speaking the language that you're learning, but that's really just an immersion environment. Immersion just means that you are in frequent contact with the language (surrounded by it). Think about it this way, do you really need to be living in Japan to encounter Japanese frequently?

If all you are gaining from being in Japan is increased contact with the Japanese language, then couldn't you just swap out English media for Japanese media? Reading comics and watching TV in Japanese would provide the same benefits as living in Japan, but it would be a whole lot easier to do. You don't have to drop everything and run to Japan in order to be surrounded by the language.

These are your new Japanese friends.

If you have access to the internet, then you have a way of building your own immersion environment. You can download media and order products from Japanese websites to create a little piece of Japan inside your own home. There are even language exchange sites where you can make friends and get help with your studies from native-speakers.

Have native speakers critique your writing!

Essentially, this is another case of misinterpreting a helpful tool as something that is necessary for success. Just like having a class of peers and a mentor can be helpful while learning the language, having native-speakers in your daily life would be great – but you don't need them (especially when you're just starting). You can get all of the benefits of living in Japan without ever leaving home, so don't let living in another country stop you from achieving your goal.

You can learn a lot about Japanese life just by watching movies.

Now, some of you you might be thinking, "Whoa Tigoris! The reason I want to learn Japanese is because I plan on living in Japan! Why not just wait until I get there and then start learning?" Which is certainly a valid question, but in the end it really just comes down to this: learning another language takes a long time, so it's best to start as soon as possible. Sure, you can wait until you're in Japan to begin, but you haven't really gained anything by doing so.

Living in Japan will definitely test and improve your knowledge of Japanese, but you don't need to be in Japan to start learning. Use media and the internet to create a Japanese bubble around you, and then if/when you do find yourself in Japan you'll already have the basics covered.


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