Deanna Winterbottom comments

Posted in: Why you shouldn’t learn Japanese See in context

I've got to admit, having just passed the JLPT N2 and been living here for 2 years, I basically agree with this article.

Sure, I've made some friends and made many situations easier with my Japanese skills, but I could have done that with a lot less language skill than I have. I've gotten some opportunities at work, but because of the convoluted Japanese work dynamics and the problem of keigo, it's not generally advisable for me to use it in the office, since many native speakers even have trouble with the appropriate level of formality. My Japanese is better than many of my coworker's' English, but it's just less likely to offend people if I let them stumble along. (I'm making headway at keigo, but I think I'm years away from feeling confident enough to try it on my boss.)

Besides, nobody is going to expect you to learn or speak Japanese. Ever. Some language study institute once declared Japanese the hardest language to learn, and the Japanese have never, ever forgotten it. Your ability to speak will be a perpetual novelty to every single person you meet, which will be fun for the first couple months and vaguely insulting ever after.

Don't get me wrong - I'm ultimately glad I learned Japanese, because I loved the process, I'm passably bilingual now, I like being able to consume Japanese media, and I've made a few relationships with people for whom I'm not a novelty or a walking English lesson. Also, it's helping me learn Chinese, which is a hell of a lot more useful. But Japan is basically the only country I've heard of that offers you almost no incentives to learn the language and in some cases actively discourages it.

Learn Japanese if you want to, but understand that there is essentially no situation in which you will HAVE to.

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