So You Want To Learn Japanese Essay

So You Want To Learn Japanese Essay

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So you really want to learn Japanese?

For the last nine months (as of this writing) I have been spending a large amount of my spare time learning the Japanese language. I’ve discovered that Japanese seems to be a pretty popular language to learn. Although I’m still only a beginner, I’ve recently found myself making recommendations and suggestions to other beginners.

Why? I think that it might be difficult to move beyond the “completely raw beginner” stage in to the “plain old beginner” stage; the job of “Japanese language beginner” seems to have a very high turnover rate. I see it all the time at the local Japanese conversation group and on Japanese learners’ forums on the internet: people are interested in learning Japanese but quickly disappear after a little exposure to the task of actually learning it.

And it really is a task. It takes real work and effort to learn Japanese (or any new language or skill, for that matter). Time and time again I see comments such as, “It shouldn’t be too difficult just to pick up enough Japanese to play a video game”, or “What’s a quick and easy way to learn Japanese but still remember everything?” Well, there is no “quick and easy way”. However, the right tools can make learning Japanese “quicker and easier”, and even fun.

A few years ago someone named “Dan” wrote an essay titled So you want to learn Japanese. It was an amusing satire which has become more amusing as I’ve become more familiar with the world of learning Japanese. However, finding really useful beginner-level information is a little more difficult, so I’ve put together a few of my own observations here.

So, you really want to learn Japanese? Let me give you a few tips and show you some of the tools and tricks which have worked for me. Occasional Japanese words and phrases will appear in romaji rather than in kana; if you’re advanced enough to expect kana, you’ll be advanced enough to forgive the use of romaji for the beginners’ sake.

Someone pointed out that the best way to learn Japanese is to go to Japan, become immersed in the language and culture, and either sink or swim. Great idea. if you can do it. These tips are for the rest of us.

Figure out why you’re learning the language (general interest, want to visit Japan, etc) and be able to summarize it in 20 seconds or less. If you stick with the language long enough to start meeting other people (both learners and native speakers), you WILL be asked why you’re learning it. You’ll get bonus points if your reasons don’t center on video games and/or anime. Keep this purpose in mind to encourage and motivate yourself when you need encouragement and motivation.

Track down and read How to Learn Any Language by Barry Farber (lots of Barnes & Noble stores have it on the clearance rack for $6.98). This is a fairly short and chatty book by an accomplished language learner which is very fun and interesting to read. You’ll be inspired and motivated to get learning and you’ll get some valuable tips on how to learn a language. I found this book almost by chance and it has quickly become one of my favorites; every few weeks I’ll take it out and reread parts of it.
Although Farber’s book isn’t specific to one language, some of his advice will really give you an advantage in learning Japanese. His suggestions for making use of “hidden moments” (i.e. time otherwise wasted) alone are worth the price of the entire book.

You should get an audio course. Although Japanese pronunciation is not necessarily difficult, in order to learn a language conversationally you must hear native speakers of the language. You must do your best to imitate their pronunciation and rhythm. Modern technology has led to a boom in the number of language courses available. You can get courses in a surprising variety of languages.

For a Japanese audio course, I have used and enjoyed the Pimsleur Comprehensive Japanese program. It’s not perfect and it certainly has its limitations, but if you really work at the lessons you’ll be speaking some decent Japanese in a short time. It’s expensive, but lots of libraries do have it. My library has all 3 levels, so I’ve been able to go through the course for free. Tough to beat that.

  • Learn the kana (hiragana and katakana) as soon as possible, or sooner. I used James Heisig’s Remembering the Kana and learned both sets in a weekend. The concept is simple: rather than rote memorization of the kana by endless written repetition, you create a little story about each kana, learning to recognize and write the kana based on the little story. The story is just a memory hook and drops away once you learn to recognize, read and write the kana automatically. However, in the meantime you’ll need to use them as much and as quickly as possible to cement them in your brain, which leads to:
  • Get a good textbook which uses kana rather than romaji. In fact, get 2 or 3 if you can afford them. I’m using Japanese for Everyone which begins with both and pretty well eliminates romaji by lesson 5 or 6. It’s a fast-paced book with a lot of content crammed in. At $20 it’s a steal.

    Other people like the Japanese for Busy People textbook series, the Genki series, or others. If you have the opportunity, you should really take some time to examine different textbooks to see which match your learning style and goals. Or maybe you’ll be taking a class, in which case the choice will be made for you.

    For more textbook fun, see my (forthcoming) page of textbook reviews.

    If your goal is to read (and it should be), you’ll need to come to terms with the kanji. Unless you’re only planning to read children’s books, you’ll need to be able to read them. If Heisig’s “Remembering the Kana” worked for you, check out his Remembering the Kanji series. You can read the entire first section for free online (google for “Heisig Remembering Kanji”). I’m currently working my way through the first book of the series and am enjoying it a lot. It’s fun to be able to make sense of characters which were once nothing but chicken stratches. Learning the kanji will probably also help you when you learn Chinese.

  • You’ll eventually want/need to try out your Japanese on real people. Our small town has a Japanese conversation group (through the Sister Cities organization) which meets monthly. Through that group I met a local Japanese teacher who managed to talk me into taking a class (using “Japanese for Everyone”) which turned into private lessons when everyone else dropped out. Also I strongly recommend getting Skype and tracking down some native speakers for some regular spoken language practice sessions. You might find some at the Skype forums, but I’ve had far better results at The Mixxer. a site set up to match language exchange partners. You register your name, email and Skype ID, fill out a brief profile (you’ll get better results if you write a few details about yourself), and indicate your native language and the language(s) you want to practice. You can then search for native speakers of any language you want, contact them and set up Skype appointments. Highly recommended.

    If you’ve worked faithfully at attempting to imitate the Pimsleur speakers, be prepared for a fun time. Barry Farber talks about lighting up the faces of native speakers when you speak their language. Just wait till you surprise a Japanese with words and phrases he/she didn’t expect you to know. It really gives you a boost to keep working away at learning the language.

    Several months ago, for example, I visited the local Japanese conversation group. The Japanese woman who runs the group decided to test my greeting skills: instead of “Konnichi-wa” she asked, “Joe-san, o-genki desu-ka?” (Roughly: “Are you healthy/well?”) My mind clicked away for a second while I pulled up one of the early Pimsleur lessons, then instead of saying “huh?” or giving the more frequent response, “Hai, genki desu” (“Yes, I am well”) I was able to reply, “Hai, okagesama de” (“Yes, thanks”) in my best Japanese enunciation. She wasn’t expecting to hear that response, and the look on her face was priceless. I’m no Japanese expert, but I was one that evening. After the culture hour came the conversation hour, and she would not allow me to sneak into the beginners’ group: I got to sit with the advanced group and practice saying, “Sumimasen, wakarimasen” (“Sorry, I don’t understand”) for the rest of the evening.

    Set goals for yourself so that you know what you’re working toward (speaking with a Japanese person; visiting a Japanese restaurant and using Japanese; reading a children’s book) and can keep pushing your study forward. Write them down so that you don’t forget. Figure out how you’re going to achieve those goals and set a schedule for yourself.

  • Practice and study every day. It’s very important to make some progress every day. Learning new things about the language will become addictive; you won’t want to end the day without adding to your knowledge. And on the days when you DO want to end your day without adding to your knowledge, drag yourself out of bed, open up a textbook and at least memorize a few new words.
  • Last but not least, don’t forget to have fun! At first learning Japanese may very well seem like a gigantic mountain you’ll never be able to climb. However, if you work at it steadily you will be surprised at how quickly you learn and progress.

    I still have a long way to go, but I’m having fun and enjoying myself. Keep learning, even on the days when it doesn’t seem fun, and you’ll enjoy yourself and reach those goals too.

    How to Learn Japanese

    Konnichiwa (こんにちは)! Japanese is a great language to learn, whether you plan to use it to conduct business, absorb your favorite Japanese media, such as manga, or to talk to a friend in Japanese. At first, learning Japanese can seem intimidating, since it’s not related to western languages like English. The writing system and formalities are complicated, but grammar, pronunciation and basic conversation are actually quite straightforward. Start by learning some useful phrases, then dive into Japanese sounds and writing systems.

    Steps Edit

    Method One of Three:
    The Basics Edit

    Learn the Japanese writing systems. Japanese language has four writing systems, each of which is composed of different characters. This may sound like a lot to learn, but every word in Japanese, regardless of which writing system it comes from, is pronounced with some combination of only 46 basic sounds. [1] Sorting out the different writing systems and their uses is an important part of learning Japanese. Here’s a brief overview:

    • Hiragana is a Japanese syllabary, phonetic characters that make up one Japanese writing system. Unlike the English alphabet, each character stands for one syllable, which may include a vowel and a consonant sound.
    • Katakana is also a syllabary, most often used for foreign words or onomatopoeic sounds (like bang or squeak). Together, hiragana and katakana account for the entire range of sounds in the Japanese language.
    • Kanji are Chinese characters that were adopted as a Japanese writing system. Whereas hiragana and katakana are simply phonetic letters, kanji are ideograms, characters which have meaning. There are thousands of kanji characters, with about 2000 in common use. Hiragana and katakana were derived from these characters. The same 46 sounds that are used to pronounce hiragana and katakana are also used to pronounce kanji.
    • The Latin alphabet is used in Japanese to write acronyms, company names, and other words for aesthetic reasons. Called Romaji (“Roman letters”), Japanese can also be written in Latin letters. This is not done in Japan, but it is used by beginning Japanese speakers to “spell out” Japanese characters. However, there are many sounds in Japanese which are difficult to express in Latin letters, and many homonyms (many more than English) which become confusing. Therefore, students of Japanese are encouraged to begin learning Japanese characters as soon as possible, and avoid using Latin letters as a crutch.

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    Practice Japanese pronunciation. The 46 sounds in the Japanese language are composed of one of five vowel sounds or a combination of a vowel and a consonant, with the exception of one sound composed of only a consonant. Vowel sounds are not inflected (unlike in English, where “a” in apple vs ace are different). You can start practicing pronunciation by learning how to pronounce each character in hiragana and katakana. See this site for examples of how to pronounce the sounds.

    • Focus on the intonation of the different sounds. Variations on the sounds change the meaning of the words you speak. A long syllable may have a completely different meaning from the same sound made shorter (“o” vs. “oo”).

    Learn variations on the basic sounds. Japanese characters may add marks to indicate that they should be pronounced slightly differently, sometimes changing the meaning of the words they make up. This similar to “s” sometimes sounding like “z” in English.

    • Hard consonant sounds are pronounced with a hard stop in between two sounds.
    • Long vowel sounds, pronounced by holding the vowel sound for an extra beat, are distinguished from short sounds, indicating a different word.

    Get to know Japanese grammar. Knowing a few basic grammatical rules will help you start understanding Japanese and creating your own sentences. Japanese grammar is simple and flexible, so it’s easy to string words together in a way that makes sense. [2]

    • The subject is optional and may be omitted.
    • The predicate is always at the end of the sentence.
    • Nouns do not have gender. Most also don’t have separate plural forms.
    • Verbs do not change according to the subject (he/she/it). They also don’t change according to number (singular/plural, like I/we or he/they). [3]
    • Particles, which mark words as subject, object, etc, always follow the word to which they relate.
    • Personal pronouns (I, you, etc) differ according to the level of politeness and formality that is needed in each situation.

    Method Two of Three:
    Guided Instruction Edit

    Get audio learning software. After learning the basics, it’s time to get some outside instruction so you can improve your skills. If you are learning Japanese for fun because you like Japanese culture such as manga and anime or for travel, an audio learning CD might be all you need. Just spending an hour a day can build up grammar usage and teach you simple stock phrases and useful vocabulary.

    • Listen to the software during your commute to work or have it ready on your portable music player for lunch and breaks or walks in the park.
    • It isn’t necessary to learn the reading and writing to enjoy the language and culture, so if you plan on taking a short trip to Japan, knowing a few useful phrases will be more practical than cramming obscure characters into your brain.

    Sign up for classes. If you are learning for business or you want to live in Japan, consider enrolling in a college level course, an intensive language program, or online classes. Learning to read and write will be crucial to your long term success, and having a mentor during the early stages is ideal for developing good study habits and asking all the questions you will have about Japanese language and culture.

    • Study the writing systems. Begin studying all four writing styles early on if literacy is important for your purpose of learning the language. Hiragana and katakana can be learned in a few weeks, and you can use them to write anything you want in Japanese. Around 2,000 kanji are currently in common use in Japanese, so it typically takes several years to learn, but it’s worth it if you want to actually be able to understand and speak Japanese.
    • Use flashcards to learn vocabulary and simple phrases. They can be used while waiting for a meeting, on a train, and so on. Some free cards can be found on the web to get you started, or you can buy higher quality cards at most college bookstores or online.
      • To practice kanji, look for cards that show stroke order (how to write the character) represented in calligraphy on one side and have example compound words on the other side. You can pick up a pack of blank 3×5 cards to make your own flash cards with exactly what you want to learn.
    • Participate in class discussions and activities. Do all of your homework, raise your hand a lot, and be as involved as you can to make the most of language classes. If you don’t, your skills will not improve.

    Tips Edit

    Learn from context. If the person next to you is bowing or replies to a set greeting in a particular way, follow their example the next chance you get. The best people to observe are those of your own age group and gender. What is appropriate for an older man is likely not correct for a younger woman.

    Any language is easy to forget if not practiced, so keep practicing. If you study for several months and then stop studying for a year, you WILL forget all of the Kanji you learned and most of the grammar. Japanese is a hard language to absorb all at once. Even Japanese people will tell you that when they live abroad for a long time they begin to forget Kanji. A little bit over a long period of time will prove more effective than cramming once every few months.

    If you go to Japan and attempt to speak Japanese outside of a formal or business setting you may, on occasion, be brushed off. Some people simply don’t want to bother with what they assume you will speak judging by your appearance- slow, incorrect, awkward Japanese. Don’t let this put you off learning the language. The number of people who will kindly and patiently listen to whatever you are trying to say far outnumbers those who don’t want to deal with you at all.

    Beware of gadgets. You should not buy an electronic dictionary too early. They are expensive, and most of the functions are useless if your Japanese reading skills aren’t at a reasonable level to begin with. Ideally you should be able to recognize at least 300-500 kanji prior to making such a purchase.

    Try to steer clear of language exchanges. Studies have shown that when you learn a new language your brain is making an entirely new route. When you go back to English, your fluency can drop about 16%.

    Watch anime without English subtitles, especially one that you have already seen in your native language. That way you already know what they should be talking about.

    Consider learning writing and kanji last, not with hiragana, katakana, or any other words. This way when you do get to kanji, you can apply the Japanese meaning only and not have to worry about translating it back and forth to fully understand it. However, some say that it is better to learn to write at the same time you learn words, so it depends on your learning style.

    Understand that expressions and responses to situations used in animation and comic books are often inappropriate for everyday situations. Try to learn how real people use the language, rather than picking up bad habits or trends from pop-culture characters.

    Make sure you say the vowel/consonants correctly, even if you think you sound silly.

    When speaking Japanese, try not to say words too fast or too slow. Always make sure to practice with someone who speaks Japanese.

    How to Enjoy a Cup Of Japanese Green Tea

    How to Choose a School in Japan to Teach English

    How to Find an Apartment in Japan

    How to Sound Natural While Speaking Japanese

    How to Read Hiragana and Katakana

    How to Become More Fluent in English (Simple)

    How to Write A in Katakana

    How to Say Hello in Japanese

    How to Say Happy Birthday in Japanese

    How to Count to Ten in Japanese

    So You Want To Learn Japanese.

    You’ve eaten at a few Japanese restaurants, seen some anime, hosted an exchange student, and had a Japanese girlfriend. And now, somewhere in the back of your tiny brain, you think that Japanese would be a good language to learn. Hey, you could translate video games! Or Manga! Or even Anime! Pick up Japanese girls, impress your friends! Maybe you’ll even go to Japan and become an anime artist! Yeah! Sounds like a great idea!

    So you head down to the library, pick up some books with titles like “How To Teach Yourself Japanese In Just 5 Seconds A Day While Driving Your Car To And From The Post Office” and “Japanese For Complete And Total, Utter Fools Who Should Never Procreate”. Hey, you already know a few words from your manga collection/girlfriend/anime. Excited and impressed with your new knowledge, you begin to think: “Hey. Maybe, just maybe. I could do this for a living! Or even major in Japanese! Great Idea, Right?

    WRONG.

    I don’t care how many anime tapes you’ve watched, how many Japanese girlfriends you’ve had, or books you’ve read, you don’t know Japanese. Not only that, majoring in the godforsaken language is NOT fun or even remotely sensible. Iraqi war prisoners are often forced to major in Japanese. The term “Holocaust” comes from the Latin roots “Holi” and “Causem”, meaning “to major in Japanese”. You get the idea.

    And so, sick of seeing so many lambs run eagerly to the slaughter, I have created This Guide to REAL TIPS for Studying Japanese. Or, as is actually the case, NOT studying it.

    This should be obvious.

    Despite what many language books, friends, or online tutorials may have told you, Japanese is NOT simple, easy, or even sensical (Japanese vocabulary is determined by throwing tiny pieces of sushi at a dart board with several random syllables attatched to it). The Japanese spread these rumours to draw foolish Gaijin into their clutches.

    Not only is it not simple, it’s probably one of the hardest languages you could ever want to learn. With THREE completely different written languages (none of which make sense), a multitude of useless, confusing politeness levels, and an absolutely insane grammatical structure, Japanese has been crushing the souls of the pathetic Gaijin since it’s conception. Let’s go over some of these elements mentioned above so you can get a better idea of what I mean.

    The Japanese Writing System

    The Japanese writing system is broken down into three separate, complete, and insane, parts: Hiragana (“those squiggly letters”), Katakana (“those boxy letters”) and Kanji (“roughly 4 million embodiments of your worst nightmares”).

    Hiragana is used to spell out Japanese words using syllables. It consist of many letters, all of which look completely different and bear absolutely no resemblance to each other whatsoever. Hiragana were developed by having a bunch of completely blind, deaf, and dumb Japanese people scribble things on pieces of paper while having no idea why they were doing so. The resulting designs were then called “hiragana”. The prince who invented these characters, Yorimushi (“stinking monkey-bush-donkey”), was promptly bludgeoned to death. But don’t worry, because you’ll hardly use hiragana in “real life”.

    Katakana are used only to spell out foreign words in a thick, crippling Japanese accent, so that you’ll have no idea what you’re saying even though it’s in English. However, if you remember one simple rule for katakana, you’ll find reading Japanese much easier: whenever something is written in katakana, it’s an English word! (note: Katakana is also used for non-English foreign words. And sound effects, and Japanese words). Katakana all look exactly the same, and it’s impossible, even for Japanese people, to tell them apart. No need to worry, because you’ll hardly ever have to read katakana in “real life”.

    Kanji are letters that were stolen from China. Every time the Japanese invaded China (which was very often) they’d just take a few more letters, so now they have an estimated 400 gazillion of them. Kanji each consist of several “strokes”, which must be written in a specific order, and convey a specific meaning, like “horse”, or “girl”. Not only that, but Kanji can be combined to form new words. For example, if you combine the Kanji for “small” and “woman”, you get the word “carburetor”. Kanji also have different pronounciations depending on where they are in the word, how old you are, and what day it is. When European settlers first came upon Japan, the Japanese scholars suggested that Europe adopt the Japanese written language as a “universal” language understood by all parties. This was the cause of World War 2 several years later. Don’t worry, however, since you’ll never have to use kanji in “real life”, since most Japanese gave up on reading a long, long time ago, and now spend most of their time playing Pokemon.

    Politness Levels have their root in an ancient Japanese tradition of absolute obedience and conformity, a social caste system, and complete respect for arbitrary hierarchical authority, which many American companies believe will be very helpful when applied as managerial techniques. They’re right, of course, but no one is very happy about it.

    Depending on who you are speaking to your politeness level will be very different. Politeness depends on many things, such as age of the speaker, age of the person being spoken to, time of day, zodiac sign, blood type, sex, whether they are Grass or Rock Pokemon type, color of pants, and so on. For an example of Politeness Levels in action, see the example below.

    Japanese Teacher: Good morning, Harry.
    Harry. Good Morning.
    Japanese Classmates: (gasps of horror and shock)

    The bottom line is that Politeness Levels are completely beyond your understanding, so don’t even try. Just resign yourself to talking like a little girl for the rest of your life and hope to God that no one beats you up.

    The Japanese have what could be called an “interesting” grammatical structure, but could also be called “confusing”, “random”, “bogus” or “evil”. To truly understand this, let’s examine the differences between Japanese and English grammar.

    English Sentence:
    Jane went to the school.

    Same Sentence In Japanese:
    School Jane To Went Monkey Apple Carburetor.

    Japanese grammar is not for the faint of heart or weak of mind. What’s more, the Japanese also do not have any words for “me”, “them”, “him, or “her” that anyone could use without being incredibly insulting (the Japanese word for “you”, for example, when written in kanji, translates to”I hope a monkey scratches your face off”). Because of this, the sentences “He just killed her!” and “I just killed her!” sound exactly the same, meaning that most people in Japan have no idea what is going on around them at any given moment. You are supposed to figure these things out from the “context”, which is a German word meaning “you’re screwed”.

    When most Americans think of Japanese people, they think: polite, respectful, accomodating. (They could also possibly think: Chinese). However, it is important to learn where the truth ends and our Western stereotyping begins.

    Of course, it would be irresponsible of me to make any sweeping generalizations about such a large group of people, but ALL Japanese people have three characteristics: they “speak” English, they dress very nicely, and they’re short.

    The Japanese school system is controlled by Japan’s central government which, of course, is not biased in any way (recent Japanese history textbook title: “White Demons Attempt To Take Away Our Holy Motherland, But Great And Powerful Father-Emperor Deflects Them With Winds From God: The Story Of WW2″). Because of this, all Japanese have been taught the same English-language course, which consists of reading The Canterbury Tales, watching several episodes of M*A*S*H and reading the English dictionary from cover to cover. Armed with this extensive language knowledge, the children of Japan emerge from school ready to take part in international business and affairs, uttering such remarkable and memorable sentences as “You have no chance to survive make your time”, and adding to their own products by inscribing English slogans, such as “Just give this a Paul. It may be the Paul of your life” on the side of a slot machine.

    Secondly, all Japanese people dress extremely well. This fits in with the larger Japanese attitude of neatness and order. Everything has to be in its correct place with the Japanese, or a small section in the right lobe of their brain begins to have seizures and they exhibit erratic violent behavior until the messiness is eradicated. The Japanese even FOLD THEIR DIRTY CLOTHES. Sloppiness is not tolerated in Japanese society, and someone with a small wrinkle in their shirt, which they thought they could hide by wearing a hooded sweatshirt over it (possibly emblazoned with a catchy English phrase like “Spread Beaver, Violence Jack-Off!”), will be promptly beaten to death with tiny cellular phones.

    Lastly, the Japanese are all short. Really, really short. It’s kind of funny. Not ones to leave being tall to the Europeans or Africans, however, the Japanese have singlehandedly brought shoes with incredibly gigantic soles into style, so that they can finally appear to be of actual human height, when in reality their height suggests that they may indeed be closer in relation to the race of dwarves or hobbits.

    Japanese culture is also very “interesting”, by which we mean “confusing” and in several cases “dangerous”. Their culture is based on the concept of “In Group/Out Group”, in which all Japanese people are one big “In” group, and YOU are the “Out” group. Besides this sense of alienation, Japan also produces cartoons, and a wide variety of other consumer products which are crammed into your face 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The Japanese also like cock fighting monsters that live in your pants, taking baths with the elderly, and killing themselves.

    Japanese food is what some people would call “exotic”, but what most people call “disgusting”, or perhaps, in some areas, “whack”. Japanese food evolved in ancient days, when the main staple of the diet was rice. People got so sick and tired of eating rice, in fact, that they ate just about anything else they could find, from seaweed to other Japanese people. This has led to the creation of such wonderful foods as “natto”, which I believe is a kind of bean but tastes like battery acid, and “Pocky”, which is a stick with different frostings on it, the flavors of which include Sawdust and Strawberry.

    Despite this variety of foods, however, the Japanese have succeeded in making every single thing they eat, from tea to plums, taste like smokey beef.

    As if learning the language wasn’t hard enough, Japanese classes in America tend to attract the kind of student who makes you wish that a large comet would strike the earth. There are a few basic types of students that you’ll always find yourself running into. These include The Anime Freak, The Know It All, and the Deer Caught In Headlights.

    The Anime Freak is probably the most common, and one of the most annoying. You can usually spot a few warning signs to let you identify them before it’s too late: they wear the same exact Evangelion shirt every day, they have more than one anime key chain on their person, they wear glasses, they say phrases in Japanese that they obviously don’t understand (such as “Yes! I will never forgive you!”), they refer to you as “-chan”, make obscure Japanese culture references during class, and usually fail class. You have to be extremely careful not to let them smell pity or fear on you, because if they do they will immediately latch onto you and suck up both your time and patience, leaving only a lifeless husk. Desperate for human companionship, they will invite you to club meetings, anime showings, conventions, and all other sorts of various things you don’t care about.

    The Know It All typically has a Japanese girlfriend or boyfriend, and because of this “inside source” on Japanese culture, has suddenly become an academic expert on all things Japanese, without ever having read a single book on Japan in their entire lives. You can usually spot Know It All’s by keeping an eye out for these warning signs: a cocky smile, answering more than their share of questions, getting most questions wrong, questioning the teacher on various subjects and then arguing about the answers (a typical exchange: Student: What does “ohayoo” mean?,Teacher: It means “good morning”, Student: That’s not what my girlfriend said. ), being wrong, talking alot about Japanese food and being wrong, giving long, unnecessarily detailed answers which are wrong, and failing class.

    The Deer Caught In Headlights are those students who took Japanese because either a.) they thought it sounded like fun, b.) they thought it would be easy, or c.) they just need a couple more credits to graduate. These students wear a mask of terror and panic from the moment they walk into class till the moment they leave, because all they can hear inside their heads is the high pitched scream their future is making as it is flushed down the toilet. They are usually failing.

    Although many of Japanese-language students are smart, funny, hard working people, none of them will be in your class.

    If you can get past the difficulty, society, and classmates, you will probably find Japanese to be a fun, rewarding language to learn. We wouldn’t know, however, since no one has ever gotten that far. But hey, I’m sure you’re different.

    Author’s Note: This whole essay, although sprinkled with truisms here and there, is a joke and should be taken as one. I’m actually a Japanese major myself, and even if I’ve given it a bit of a hard time, I love the Japanese language, and I think everyone should give it a try.

    You should just be ready for a whole lot of pain.

    HAPPY LANGUAGE LEARNING!

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