As a continuation to the first Learning Japanese post, I decided to take a look at some common questions I came across while procrastinating spending time on forums and websites that deal with learning the Japanese language.
I try to answer them based on how I feel about them and my own experience. Hopefully it will be of some use of you.
Why learn Japanese?
You might run into people saying that because I want to play Japanese games or because I want to watch anime without subs aren’t “valid” reasons for learning the language. Don’t listen to them. There are no less or more valid reasons for learning a foreign language. Just because you don’t intend on ever going to Japan or don’t want to get a job related to Japanese doesn’t mean learning it is meaningless. Plus, if you’re learning because there’s something that you’re passionate about that also happens to be connected to the language, you’re going to have a much easier time, compared to if you were learning simply out of necessity, or for economic reason.
(Not to say the latter two aren’t good reasons to learn, either! As I said – there are no “less or more valid reasons”.)
For me, personally, my reason for learning wasn’t even any of the above. It was literally because I heard Japanese one day and went “this sounds cool”. Of course, I became interested in Japan in general over time, but that was what started it all. Thinking that Japanese sounded cool as hell. So don’t ever feel like your reason for learning is “stupid”, because it doesn’t get much more “stupid” than that!
Can I still learn Japanese if I’m not young/not good with languages?
Sure. I’m probably not the best person to answer this questions, since I started learning relatively young, but still well past the supposed “prime time” for learning languages (I was about 18/19 when I started, for reference).
You don’t need some sort of ~special talent~ for learning Japanese, or any other language, as long as you are consistent. That means putting in some time to learn every day, or at least most of the days, even if it’s just for a 15 minutes at a time. Keep that up for a few years, and you’re going to learn yourself a language.
Okay, I admit that still sounds pretty daunting. But there really is no way around that. That’s why it’s a good thing to have a fun reason for learning Japanese – it’ll make the whole process much less of a slog.
What about classes?
I used to be one the side of “classes suuuuck” for a long time, but not so much anymore.
Ok, I still think classes kind of suck. If they’re your only source for learning.
Still, the thing many self-learners (myself included) struggle with is, you guessed it – consistency. When you’re the only person holding you accountable, it’s easy to fall into the trap of “oh, I’ll skip studying today, no big deal, I’ll just make it up tomorrow” and before you know it, you haven’t learned anything in months and you end up feeling terrible. Classes are a great way to keep yourself accountable, plus they allow you to get feedback from somebody with a (hopefully) good grasp on Japanese or, even better, a native speaker.
In short, I’d recommend singing up for classes if you can. Just keep in mind that you’ll still have to do most of the work yourself. Also, if you do decide to take classes, keep one thing in mind – don’t fall into the trap of comparing yourself with the other students too much. Some healthy competition is good, but beating yourself up because you’re not advancing as fast as that one other guy won’t get you anywhere.
How long will it take?
If I say “it depends on how much time you’re going to put in daily”, will it sound like a cop-out?
People give a lot of timelines and estimates, but it’s so hard to classify fluency in the first place, it’s almost impossible to give a good estimate. Also, keep in mind that just because you’re not fluent yet doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a manga or a game, even if you have to look up some words in a dictionary. It’s not an all-or-nothing thing.
That’s all I have for now! If you’ve got any more questions related to learning Japanese, feel free to ask – I’ll do my best to answer them!