I lived and worked in Japan for three years and I do agree with a few points in this article that you can definitely get by with only knowing a few words and phrases and that Japanese people do like using you to practice their English. What I don't agree though is that being more fluent wouldn't have mattered. I saw my more fluent friends order pizzas with ease, get things ordered and delivered to their homes and having conversations with people on the street. Their experience in Japan was much richer than mine. I lived in an ex-pat bubble only speaking to fellow gaijin and at home my apartment was a mini America watching TV shows in English and listening to American music. I missed out on so much and it still bothers me to this day. I now take Japanese lessons with no intention of living in Japan and while a lot of people think that might be crazy I find it fun and enjoyable. I love watching J-Dramas and I'm getting to the point where I don't need the subtitles. I pick up a lot more culturally than I ever have and wished I would had been this fluent when I was in Japan. I know full well though that when I go back to Japan for a trip in a year or so I will use what I have learned and although I might not have anywhere near native level conversation I think my trip will be better off. Yes there are some Japanese that will only speak English to me and yes I won't have profound deep conversations but I will get around a lot better and have a much more enjoyable trip and probably speak to some Japanese that would rather speak in their native tongue to me than struggle with remembering their English they probably learned years ago in High School that they probably never spoke anyway. Japanese when they learn English in schools don't really speak a lot but write a lot of it so unless they went to a language school they probably won't talk to you in English. That is what I personally encountered anyway. So with that said... I'm going to keep on keeping on learning and studying Japanese and having fun with it.
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Posted in: The art of moving