Nick comments

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

Laughably bad reasoning. If you are planning to live in Japan, learn Japanese. Unless you don't care about making deeper friendships or love with Japanese people who might not know much or any English, being limited in your employment opportunities and your career upside, understanding the culture, being limited to living only in major cities, etc. In which case, why are you here in the first place? In that case, I agree, don't start learning Japanese and don't move here either.

Even as an English teacher, having an adept grasp of Japanese will open more doors for your career and probably help your students learn English better if you can actually explain things in Japanese. You can always speak English only too if they want that, you know? And sure, you always can find gaijin chasers for a superficial fling, but you are greatly limiting your pool of people who might have been a partner for a lifetime if you can't communicate with 95% of people here effectively.

Nobody says you have to be fluent or anything, but if you're making the effort to meet Japanese people more than halfway (which you should, as you're the one who chose to live here), most Japanese people certainly do appreciate your effort. I'm far from fluent, but I can talk to any Japanese person about just about anything semi-competently and get my point across in most cases. I can read signs and labels and fill out forms. I can read books (slowly, with a dictionary at hand) about niche subjects and people of interest, books which will never be translated into English. I can understand the lyrics of my favorite bands and watch TV and movies without subtitles and get 90% of the dialogue. Having this skill makes a huge, huge difference in how much I enjoy Japan. I'm still lost a lot of the time, but getting better and better every month.

By the way, my job is in English -- I work for an American company in IT, and my wife speaks perfect English, so I really could legitimately get away with the bare minimum Japanese if I wanted to, but I live in Sendai where there aren't many foreigners and most Japanese people have little to no English experience. If I want to make friends and be involved in things here, Japanese is an absolute must. So I set aside hours every day to study and talk with Japanese people. Maybe it's different in Tokyo...

Maybe the reason people don't stay in Japan is primarily because their lack of Japanese leaves them isolated and lost, feeling like they don't fit in, running around with a limited pool of other English speakers and Japanese people who primarily care to learn English or explicitly want to hang out with foreigners who can't communicate with them? Maybe their career as an English teacher is something of a dead end? Seems like a chicken-and-egg situation there, and the way out of it is to learn Japanese. You don't think it opens so many worthwhile doors of opportunity and relationships, and can make a massive difference between living here for a year and living here for a lifetime?

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