Why do you need to study Japanese?

6 Nov

I’ve noticed that many of my blog readers are studying Japanese in some ways. At the same time I always wanted to ask them why they need to study Japanese. So today, my question is this: Why do you need to study Japanese?

I was only a school kid in the 80’s when Japan was enjoying the bubble economy and I hear that it was when Japan was even considered “menace” to the U.S. and was strictly criticized by Europe that we were working too hard as working bee. Without working experience at that time, there’s no way for me to know how our economy was actually good then, which was only before 1989 when burst of the economic bubble occurred and that led us to the longest deflation up until today, except for IT bubble in early 2000. When I talk with those who were working at that era, my father for example, I can find many many big differences from the days I started to work after graduation from university. They were hard working as much as we are now (as mentioned here and there). But the difference was they knew their income was soaring every year, or even every month! While today, unfortunately the truth is that we work so hard not to be fired or replaced by someone else because of downsizing.

When I was graduating from university before year 2000, it’s called “ice period for recruiting” and unlike those who entered blue chip companies 5 or more year ago, many of us, including myself had hard time finding jobs after graduating from university.

Well, apart from that, first of all I didn’t like to wear “recruit suit” just like anyone else to become less outstanding so that general Japanese companies like to hire. (Japanese companies are more likely to love hiring new graduates who they can educate any ways as they like, and employees are considered to work for the company until they retire from it. But these days bad economy changed that completely and Japanese companies do not have any extra money or time allowance to raise such workers with no working experiences just fresh out from school. Changing jobs used to be considered bad habit in Japan and the best thing was to keep working for a single company from start to the end. But that has changed since our economy went bad and it’s common for workers to change companies or jobs more often than before. )

New graduates without working experience usually have no achievement or performance to promote to the companies they want to work for. (Internship in Japan is not as hot as in the U.S for example. Most of new graduates are hired for his potential, personality, cooperativeness, endurance, school record, and so on.) Hence one of the most important points they cannot miss is to be liked by the interviewers of the company. Job interviews are usually 2 or 3 times with different people: HR, their future boss, people from related department, etc.

So how the new graduates try to be liked by them? They wear simple and neat suit called “recruit suit” with color options only from navy blue, black or gray and a collared shirt inside of it. Every new graduate wears one of them, with less makeup and less or no hair color. They read manual how to answer properly to impress themselves nicely to the interviewers and practice as often as possible with role playing or something.

I was so bad at all these things. I really hated to dress like everyone else! I felt like being sick or crazy at the first glance of the manual or the “test” before the interview. (This is a test to check the basic personality and basic knowledge of the applicants, and I often failed them because of my unique (!?) personality! LOL ) After all I didn’t buy the “recruit suit” and put on general suit as I liked, and I answered as honestly as I thought at the interviews. I saw some interviewers apparently made faces to me, until finally I settled at an exporting company where they needed someone who could speak English at work. I however knew that other workers called me “alien” behind me because of my strange actions such as playing guitar at lunch time, wearing a long hair wig and bright colored pants at work besides I expressed my opinions to my superiors…yes, I was wrong I should not have dressed like that at other industries but fashion. The company was dealing with transceivers, and I was the only one who dressed as if I were in fashion industry. (LOL)

o.O I’m sorry I was not intended to explain how new graduates get jobs in Japan. Let me get back on the track now, and so Japan is not as economically successful as it used to be in the 80’s. But then what do you learn Japanese for? What motivated you to study Japanese and how do you keep the motivation? Because you want to read manga as they are? Because you want to live in Japan? Because that’s required for your current job? It’s good for me to know such backgrounds of yours when I make my Japanese videos for you. ๐Ÿ˜€

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39 Responses to “Why do you need to study Japanese?”

  1. mintz November 6, 2009 at 2:30 pm #

    Personally, I think that Japan has an interesting culture. Of course, I like the anime too (especially studio Ghibli). Japan is innovative and I think that's one reason why I want to know more about your country ๐Ÿ™‚ and why I wanna learn the language.

  2. jessy November 6, 2009 at 2:42 pm #

    WEll, for me i am studying japanese for many reasons.
    — is good to know multiple languages for work (will be my 3rd language)
    and looks good if a person is well-rounded (for applying to anything)
    — yes. manga is a small part of it. c'mon! how can you not know about manga? xD
    i went to a japanese market (Mitsuwa) and they had a HUGE senction of manga,
    most which are not translated to english.
    — is fun to learn of other languages and culture (even when there is
    some things you dont agree with)

    i guess i am motivated by listening to music in japanese and seeing movies/dramas.
    like anyone, it gets irritating to use subtitles all the time,
    or not be able to read magazines/books, or watch the news……might as well learn
    the language right?

  3. Galenor November 6, 2009 at 2:47 pm #

    There are a lot of reasons I learn Japanese!

    One reason is because I find the language fun to learn. It has simple and hard moments in it, which means I can study according to what I feel like studying ๐Ÿ˜›

    I also really like Japanese people. I have two Japanese people as penpals, and it's really great to be able to talk to them in their language, and get advice.

    Finally, I just love Japan. The more of the language I learn, the more of the country I feel is accessable to me. ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. Patty November 6, 2009 at 2:48 pm #

    I'm not a current student of the Japanese language, but I took it on and off growing up. My mom knew some and she'll teach me phrases here and there. Personally, I'm Chinese, so I can read the Kanji already, and even though I can't pronounce things, I can understand 80% of the meaning whenever I visit websites.

    I want to learn Japanese is mostly because of the strong culture it has, and the traditions and not to mention all the neat, smart, and unique things Japan has to offer. I know you're there at ground zero, but there's so much of your culture that America doesn't have. Chinese does have alot of culture to its own merit, but you know I take that for granted because I live with it. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  5. Karolina November 6, 2009 at 7:22 pm #

    Hi!
    nice to meet you, I'm Karolina from Sweden! ^__^
    I've read your blog for a while and I thought that I would make my first comment on this post ^^
    first I just want to say thank you for posting Kawaii TV videos and update me and everyone else who reads this blog, you're great! ๐Ÿ˜€

    I've studied Japanese in school for a bit more than 2 months now and before that I studied at my own. To study a language at your own is difficult and you definately need motivation. I guess I got my motivation from the love I have to many Japanese things, fashion, music, drama, manga and lots of other things. I also think that the Japanese language is a very interesting language. I plan to live in Japan in the future and then offcourse I'll need to know Japanese or atleast it'll make everything so much easier x) …

  6. Karolina November 6, 2009 at 7:23 pm #

    and then I have 2 more reasons, the first is that I admire people who sub Japanese videoclips, interviews, dramas and I would love to one day help other people so that they can understand what their favourite artist say etc ^^ then the last thing is that among my friends I've always been the one who knows most japanese but since three of them are going to study in Japan next year ( I chose not to go since I don't feel ready yet) and when they get home, I want to be able to speak as much japanese as possible since they're probably going to learn alot Japanese when they're there ^^

    sorry if my english is bad ^^' but I hope that you'll maby find some of it useful! ^__^

    ( the whole comment didn't fit in the first post)

    • kirin November 7, 2009 at 12:54 pm #

      Thank you for spliting your comments. You're doing right, the system just doesn't accept long comments from the beginning, due to spam control purposes. ^ ^; Thank you for your first comment, and please feel free to do that here any time. ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. Marie November 6, 2009 at 9:08 pm #

    I dont styúdy japanese, but if i had the chance to, i would. why? because i want to learn an asian language, and i love the japanese culture, anime, manga and stuff like that. so thats why japanese ^_^

    • Galenor November 7, 2009 at 9:45 pm #

      The only thing stopping you is yourself, Marie! Pick up a beginners book and get your benkyou on! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • jessy November 9, 2009 at 12:43 am #

      agree with –Galenor–!!!!!!!

  8. megan November 6, 2009 at 9:31 pm #

    I'm thinking about using my knowledge of Japanese to do translating. Not my dream job, but I do have an interest in Japan, so I thought Japanese would be a good thing to study in school. I don't really want to live in Japan for extended amounts of time either–I like Japan, but I don't think I would like the work environment. So I think I could try getting a translating job here in the US.

    • Orchid64 November 7, 2009 at 7:34 am #

      Most translating jobs are better done by a Japanese person who speaks English rather than a native speaker of English (or another language) who knows Japanese. The most effective Japanese to English translations are done by a Japanese person then the English is edited by a native speaker.

      Many people study Japanese and talk about becoming translators, but such jobs are not common and will become less in demand as time goes by and software translation algorithms get better and better. I'm not trying to say you shouldn't study Japanese for other purposes, but it isn't going to get you much if your goal is a job in translation, particularly in the poor economic climate Japan is currently experiencing. They're always going to employ Japanese staff before hiring a foreigner, particularly since foreigners cost more in salaries and most foreigners won't work unpaid overtime (which is illegal, but it happens all of the time anyway).

      • megan November 8, 2009 at 9:44 pm #

        That makes sense. But like I said, it isn't my dream job. So if it doesn't work out, no big deal. ๐Ÿ™‚ There are other things I can (and would prefer to) do.

      • kirin November 9, 2009 at 1:58 pm #

        It can be one of the options. It's good you have several options of job. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  9. cinnamon_girl November 6, 2009 at 10:35 pm #

    "playing guitar at lunch time, wearing a long hair wig and bright colored pants at work" it's so cool Kirin! ๐Ÿ˜€
    I also had the same feeling when I went to take my entrance exam to high-school. Everyone wore black or navy blue – white combination clothes, but I went there wearing black jeans and a VERY colourful shirt! ๐Ÿ˜€
    About studying Japanese:
    I've been interested in Japanese culture for a long time ago, so that's the reason. Some people ask me, that isn't it too difficult? I really enjoy studying it, so it makes the process easier. Kanjis are difficult for me, because I don't use them every day, so I forget them easily, but words and the grammar are easier, because sometimes I find similarities with my own language!
    In addition, through the language we can recognize cultural aspects, which also interests me.

    • kirin November 7, 2009 at 1:11 pm #

      ^_^; Those days most of my interests were somewhere outside work, while many other people started to think of career development. After work, I went to a sports gym everyday because I strongly believed I had to get rid of the stress from work within the day. So…it was 23:00 or later than that when I arrived at home every weekday, because I had to spend 90 minutes for commuting (one way). As time passed I lost my health and finally I couldn't go to work because my fever and cold never ended for days or months! I was reckless.

  10. Suzu November 7, 2009 at 2:11 am #

    there are so many reasons why I am studying Japanese ! one of the biggest reasons is because one of my dreams is to be able to live in japan in the future after participating in a Japanese exchange program maybe later on when i get into college to see if i like living there first. the reason for this is, for some strange reason, i feel more at home with the Japanese culture than with the American culture. my parents have always joked that maybe in my past life i was a Japanese person ! xD (I am a Chinese person born and raised in America, by the way :)) Japanese fashion, entertainment, music, and way of living also seem to appeal to me a lot more. For one thing, Japanese streets are always so clean and everyone is courteous to keep public facilities clean in Japan ! it isn't like that here in America, unfortunately ;__; i understand that my dream to live in Japan will bring me many problems in the future, so I want to at least eliminate the communication problem by giving it the best of my ability to learn as much Japanese as i can ! I have currently studied Japanese for about 3 years and i hope to continue with it when i go on to college. ๐Ÿ™‚ i watched your videos from your last entry and i'm really happy that i was able to understand most of it ! i hope you continue writing in your wonderful blog ~ โค

    • kirin November 7, 2009 at 1:39 pm #

      Wow, you understood most of what I was speaking in the video the other day? That's wonderful! Do you want me to keep publishing that kind of rambling video series?

      Speaking of cleanliness in Japan, it's yes and no. One thing I can say is that we can rarely find any dust boxes at public spaces. This is the big difference from the U.S or Europe where I could easily find them, and I've been wondering why we don't have them. Because of no dust boxes, people (especially young people) throw away rubbish or trash into the small trees, on the streets, at the beaches, and so on. Sometimes I have to carry an empty bottle for hours and finally I throw away at my house.

  11. Cath November 7, 2009 at 2:49 am #

    Haha… Yes, you're indeed an unusual Japanese! My friend is visiting Tokyo next week. Would you like to meet her? Anyway, I'd really like to take proper lessons to learn Japanese. I will be able to converse better when I visit Japan. And of course, I'll be able to understand the fashion mags better! Haha… ^_^

    • kirin November 7, 2009 at 1:25 pm #

      Ahaha…an unusual Japanese!? Yeah, I think so, too. ^_^;
      If only she was a friend from this blog. I think I need certain period to contact each other before I see the person directly. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  12. Walter November 7, 2009 at 9:13 am #

    Ah, yes, the suit , the tie, the clean not so colourful shirt you wear to interviews. It's so familiar. It's the same here. You fit in during the interview and afterwards when you're an apprentice and when you're settled in the company you can reveal a bit more of your true nature.
    It feels like you're playing a role , but as long as you don't have to do things against your nature , it's OK. After all , you work to live you don't live to work.
    When I started working, economy was tight too, so we had many engineers applying for the same job. I met a lot of people that were in my class when I graduated a lot of times during soliciting for jobs.
    It's strange meeting someone you studied with ( and were friends with) at a job interview , knowing that he wants the job you also want. Suddenly you're like enemies ๐Ÿ™‚

    • kirin November 7, 2009 at 1:28 pm #

      That sounds very awkward…your friends suddenly turn to be like enemies at a job interview! I've never had such an experience.

  13. Walter November 7, 2009 at 9:19 am #

    I want to study Japanese because I want to travel there for a longer period and because I think it would help me during my travels.
    Also, it would open up a new world of experience ( I'm already a fan of anime and manga )
    So , your blogs with vieos showing us everyday Japanese and formal Japanese expressions is great. When learning you learn to speak word by word, but you need conversation to pick up the natural flow of a sentence.
    Keep posting videos , please ๐Ÿ™‚
    Ofcourse , when we finally learn Japanese and come to Japan, we might get comments like : " Oh, your Japanese is good, but you sound like that girl from Tokyo Kawaii, you know ?" but that's OK , hahaha !

    • kirin November 7, 2009 at 1:14 pm #

      Oh your comment reminds me of something very important to mention to my blog readers! Thanks, I'll mention that at next post. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  14. Patrick Lim November 7, 2009 at 1:42 pm #

    Because it's an interesting language! Lots of my friends wanted to learn it but never really go for it. It'll be great to be able to speak fluently in it, especially since I'm very much interested in Japan-related-stuff. =D

  15. G... November 8, 2009 at 12:01 am #

    I study Japanese as a hobby. I've had an interest in Japanese culture and such since childhood, so when I had the opportunity, I started studying it, and never stopped. There are a lot of fascinating aspects to Japan and Japanese culture, and I always enjoy discovering them.

  16. Amanda ๆ„›ๆบ€ๅฆฅ November 8, 2009 at 2:27 pm #

    Well, I have had many different reasons over the years and to begin with my reasons were simple. However, I find the question harder to answer these days. I guess I continue learning Japanese language and culture because it's who I am. I can't imagine my life without Japan anymore. I feel like it's my "calling" and spending time communicating with people in Japanese, sharing my culture and learning about Japanese culture makes me truly happy. I'm only 23 but I've tried many different jobs and volunteer work etc and a lot of things didn't work out. However, when I focus on Japan, doors just seem to open for me.
    Sorry, I'm rambling a little. ^_^ In summary, it just feels right.

    • kirin November 9, 2009 at 1:53 pm #

      That sounds so cool, you have found something clicked with Japan-related things. I want to have something like that, too. ใ„ใ„ใชใใƒผใ€็งใ‚‚ใใ†ใ„ใ†ๆ„Ÿ่ฆšๅ‘ณใ‚ใฃใฆใฟใŸใ„ใ€‚็งใฏ้€†ใซๆ—ฅๆœฌใฏใ‚ใพใ‚Šใ—ใฃใใ‚Šใ“ใชใ„้ƒจๅˆ†ใŒๅคšใ„ใ‹ใ‚‚ใ€‚ใงใ‚‚ใ€ใ ใ‹ใ‚‰ใจใ„ใฃใฆใ˜ใ‚ƒใ‚ใฉใ“ใฎๅ›ฝใ‚„ๆ–‡ๅŒ–๏ผŸใจ่จ€ใ‚ใ‚Œใฆใ‚‚ใ€ใใ‚Œใ‚‚ใƒใƒƒใ‚ญใƒชใฏๅˆ†ใ‹ใ‚‰ใชใ„ใ€‚ใ€‚ใ€‚ใฟใŸใ„ใช๏ผŸ๏ผพ๏ผพ๏ผ›

  17. Junnina November 8, 2009 at 3:45 pm #

    i'm studying because i love Japan and i want to live there in the near future โค

  18. Lisa November 10, 2009 at 8:12 pm #

    Good question!
    I wish I had a straightforward answer, hehe. I first started taking a part time course while at university, because many of my friends were Japanese. (I was in Australia, it's very popular to learn English there!). Then I visited Japan…then I moved there… so it was more out of necessity and usefulness initially. But along the way I've really enjoyed solving little 'mysteries' of words, kanji radicals, proverbs and cultural quirks that can often only be discovered through language.
    Now of course I study because I want to be able to work in Japan again, but with a job more suited to my degree and other studies. ….and then of course because I like watching shows like Tokyo Kawaii TV, Ai Nori (though they stopped airing ๐Ÿ˜ฆ ), drama series and some anime as well. Fashion magazines are of course a giant plus too. ^^
    But my main motivator that keeps me going is to be ableto communicate with my friends, former students and make new friends using Japanese. ๐Ÿ™‚
    (I just need to start studying more regularly… JLPT is creeping up too fast!!!)

    • kirin November 12, 2009 at 3:22 pm #

      In your case I know you had to use it to live in Japan! ^__^
      Do you enjoy Japanese dramas, TV shows, magazines, etc. so much? You don't have those in the U.S or where you live now or before? (You've lived in so many different places, that's so interesting.) Compared with them, Japanese magazines or TV are more fun to you? Anyway it's good you can enjoy both!

  19. Troo November 13, 2009 at 4:13 pm #

    I like Japan, and I think it's terribly rude to visit other countries without being able to speak even just a handful of words from the language. Having been to Japan three times, I'd like to have a far better grasp of the language before I return so that I can go on a hiking holiday and have the ability to stop in at minshuku and ask for a room, or phone ahead and book a place.
    The countryside is beautiful, the people are polite and friendly, the culture is significantly different from European (yet startlingly similar to English in so many ways), the language is intriguing (having developed essentially in isolation), and I enjoy the ease with which one can travel around.

    It would be nice to be able to read newspapers, signs (you never know if that one you just passed was important!), books (especially cookery books!), and magazines. Japan has a vast wealth of written material just begging to be read, from craft magazines to manga, and I do love to read ๐Ÿ˜€

    And, of course, I'd like to buy all those books of ใ‚ซใ‚คใ‚ฏใƒณ posing around Tokyo ๐Ÿฑ

    • kirin November 14, 2009 at 12:53 pm #

      Wow, I respect your attitude! But it's definitely fun if you can speak the local language while you are travelling there. ๐Ÿ™‚

      >I think it's terribly rude to visit other countries without being able to speak even just a handful of words from the >language

      ใ‚ซใ‚คใ‚ฏใƒณ๏ผYou mean the dog modelling for Softbank cell phone? ^_^;

  20. Becca November 15, 2009 at 2:52 am #

    this is one of the things we talked about in anthropology class, the stress for Japanese mothers to raise their children to do well in entrance exams/get into good schools/get good job with a good company for life.

    I took this course I am taking now on Japanese anthropology, honestly, because it fit my school schedule =P I found the material interesting and stayed in the class.

    I am so glad for your unique personality =) because now I get to read about the culture from an insider's view! I would not like to wear those recruiter suits and go through those manuals either =( maybe that is why I am an arts student and not in business or science haha

    • kirin November 16, 2009 at 2:08 am #

      Hi Becca,
      It's very strange even our economy situation changed from good old days, moms still have this idea, good school = good job = stable in the future. I think that's out-of-date, and if one wants to be really stable financially, then he or she should learn how to invest in real estate or something besides 9-5 jobs. Who knows good companies are still good 30 years later? I'm still wondering how I can write about Uchi/Soto…this is the hard one! Really!! ^ ^; Stay tuned!

  21. isabelle November 17, 2009 at 1:32 pm #

    For me i study because i love japan and want to go there because of this ^_^

    • kirin December 18, 2009 at 12:38 am #

      Oh ^ ^ Thanks for sharing. You like Visual-kei?

  22. Julia December 17, 2009 at 8:54 pm #

    ใ‚ญใƒชใƒณใ•ใ‚“ใ€ใ“ใ‚“ใซใกใฏ๏ผพ๏ผพใƒ–ใƒญใ‚ฐๆœฌๅฝ“ใซใ€ใ‚ใ‚ŠใŒใจใ†ใ”ใ–ใ„ใพใ™ใ€‚
    ็งใฏ๏ผ”ใƒถๆœˆๅ‰ใซๆ—ฅๆœฌ่ชžใฎๅ‹‰ๅผทใ‚’ๅง‹ใ‚ใพใ—ใŸใ€‚ใงใ‚‚ใ€ใพใ ไธŠๆ‰‹ใ˜ใ‚ƒใ‚ใ‚Šใพใ›ใ‚“ใ€‚ๆ—ฅๆœฌใฎใ™ในใฆใŒๅคงๅฅฝใใ€‚
    Well, I'm new to this blog,but once I discovered it,I fell in love ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks Kirin for the hard work!! And your tutorials are certainly useful in both cultural and linguistic way ( even if it's just rambling,its still good to tune our foreign ears to japanese conversation xD) My relationship with japanese is fresh and new.I'm trying to grasp the basics of grammar,kanji and to expand my vocabulary as much as possible. Sometimes it's easy,but sometimes I'm confused to the point of crying! Anyway,I do agree with the above comment that its a shame to travel without the attempt of learning a language and its culture. No doubt,japanese culture is unique and mysterious.( ใƒžใƒณใ‚ฌใ€ใ‚ขใƒ‹ใƒก,่Œถ้“ใ€ๆ›ธ้“ใ€ๆธฉๆณ‰ใ€ๅคงๆฒณใƒ‰ใƒฉใƒžใƒปใƒปใƒปใƒป๏ผ‰ Well,it may sound wierd to someone,but I like the shyness of japanese people and the interesting division in a language ( polite/casual and kid/woman/man style of talking) But there is still much more to Japan,which I'm going to find out :p
    ๅ‹้”ใซใชใ‚Šใพใ—ใ‚‡ใ†ใญ๏ผพ๏ผพ

    • kirin December 18, 2009 at 12:44 am #

      Thank you, Julia for your comment! ๏ผ”ใƒถๆœˆใงใใ‚“ใชใซๆ—ฅๆœฌ่ชžใŒไธŠๆ‰‹ใซใชใ‚‹ใฎ๏ผŸ๏ผŸใ™ใ”ใ„ใƒผใ€‚ๆผขๅญ—ใ‚‚ๆ›ธใ‘ใ‚‹ใชใ‚“ใฆ๏ผ๏ผ็งใฏ่‹ฑ่ชžใŒใ‚ใ‹ใ‚‹ใ‚ˆใ†ใซใชใ‚‹ใพใงใ™ใ”ใ„ๆ™‚้–“ใ‹ใ‹ใฃใŸใ‚ˆใ€ไฝ•ๅนดใ‚‚๏ผ๏ผˆ็ˆ†=LOL๏ผ‰I'll refer to the difference of speech between men and women, adults and children, as well as polite and casual sometime on Youtube. So…you liked my rambling in Japanese? I'll make more of them in the future. Stay tuned! ๐Ÿ˜€

      I'd be happy to be friends with you! ๐Ÿ™‚ If you ever come to Japan (Tokyo) contact me. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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