lump1 comments

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

Let me try to expand your horizons a little. Why should you learn Japanese really well?

First: Because it's good for your brain to master foreign languages, and the more different, the better. You get a slightly different way of thinking and of approaching problems.

Second: A culture is encoded in a language. You can't understand a culture without it.

Third: You might get a Japanese girlfriend, and unless you can switch languages back and forth, you'll always feel like you're the beta in the relationship. If you go out with her friends, they will always be humoring you with a switch to English, and they will become tired of this. If you meet her grandparents, you're going to want to have a normal conversation with them. They won't think you're serious if you didn't bother learning their language.

Fourth: Gaijin who can't speak Japanese are more likely to hit a glass ceiling at work. Language skills don't automatically take you through, but they do improve your chances.

Fifth: You have to climb out of the "contemptible valley" of your language skills. I made up that expression to be similar to the uncanny valley of animation. Here's the idea. When your Japanese is obviously a bunch of inadequate, strung-together phrases, the locals will like it. It looks like you're trying. When you become really fluent, they will also like it, because they can just speak to you effortlessly, and you sound as smart as you are. But in between these points, there is a contemptible valley, where your skills are good enough to converse, but you sound like kind of like an intellectually challenged Japanese person. Once your skills get good enough to where your mistakes sound like the mistakes of a Japanese child or moron - rather than an obvious foreigner - you've reached the depth of the contemptible valley. Whoever hears you can't help but suspect that you're shallow and stupid, even if they consciously realize that this is probably the result of a language barrier and not your stupidity. Once you're there, there's only one way out, and that's forward toward full fluency.

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