In the past couple of weeks, I had something like an existential crisis. Ok, maybe not that bad actually, but again and again, I asked myself why I’m even studying Japanese – like is learning Japanese even worth it?
The thing is, I’ve been studying Japanese for almost three years now and achieved quite a lot. I can hold conversations in Japanese easily, understand pretty much everything when I watch Japanese YouTube videos and I am starting to become better at reading too. But what for? How is all the effort I’m putting in right now going to pay off? In simple terms, is learning Japanese worth it?
Learning Japanese Isn't Worth It
To be honest with you, learning Japanese isn’t worth it. The two main reasons are that learning Japanese takes a lot of time and secondly, that time you spend learning Japanese is wasted time because Japanese is fucking useless outside of Japan.
Learning Japanese Takes a Lot of Time
If you thought learning Japanese would be easy and fun, you’re wrong. When I first started I thought I’d be talking about rocket science in perfect Japanese. Well, that didn’t happen.
First, there are the 2,000+ Kanji that you’ve got to learn. If you’re smart and use Heisig’s Remembering the Kanji you can learn those in just three months but that are still three months which could have been spent otherwise. What is more, the only thing you’ll have achieved is learning some weird characters that some drunk Chinese farmer drew when he tried one of the leaves he found in his backyard.
But then there is still the Japanese language to be learned. Which if you ask me, will take at least five years. That is if you want to reach an actually useful level of Japanese and not some weird shit called conversational fluency which lazy Redditors over on r/learnJapanese made up to feel like they’ve actually achieved something.
Being able to talk about the weather in Japanese is cool and people will tell you how great your Japanese is. However, if you want you’re Japanese to be actually useful you’ve got to reach a level close to that of a native speaker. Otherwise, it’s just an expensive party trick.
Japanese Is Useless
My second argument is that unless you’re living in Japan, Japanese is fucking useless. Since I left Japan over a year ago, I’ve only spoken Japanese twice. Once when I got asked out by a half-Japanese girl and I wanted to impress her and a second time when I went back to Japan for vacation. So, in reality, I’ve only once used Japanese outside of Japan.
“But you can watch anime without subs”
This is another argument I often hear. But let’s be serious, why would anyone spend thousands of hours learning Japanese just to watch weird animated high school girls talk in a high-pitched voice? I personally don’t enjoy anime and other media Japan has to offer like normal TV-dramas aren’t that great either. Don’t get me wrong, they are interesting but they are not worth studying a whole language for.
The only thing I use Japanese for right now is to flex on others. I’ve switched my phone language to Japanese so that when a person sitting next to me peeks in on my secret messages he/she gets the impression that I’m a smart ass guy who can read Japanese (Although most people probably mistake it for Chinese but yeah…).
Learn Another Language Instead
Unless you’re really into Japan, live or plan to live there, you should probably learn another language instead.
How about Chinese? The characters are pretty similar so…
Jokes aside, China is the second-biggest economy in the world and I bet there are many companies out there looking for somebody how can speak Chinese. So, why even bother with Japanese which is only spoken in one single country whose economy is doing badly and the population is said to shrink by nearly 13% over the next 25 years. You’d be much better off with Chinese.
But I get it, you aren’t learning Japanese because of job prospects. And I understand you.
The Benefits of Learning Japanese
Were I to conclude my article now, I’d be in a pretty bad spot. All the effort I put into learning Japanese would be declared worth nothing. And somehow that’d be ture. But come on, you think I’ll just leave it here? Obviously knowing Japanese has its benefits – many in fact. I could write an entire article on that but I’ll leave it at a couple of sentences for now.
For example, people in Japan will always compliment you on how well you speak Japanese. Isn’t that just amazing? Ok, jokes aside now, let’s be serious.
Hadn’t I learned Japanese I’d have never made so many new friends, I’d have never learned so much about another country’s culture, food and history, I’d have never found a new way of looking at the world, I’d have never tried to eat raw egg (which tastes fucking amazing), and I would have never become able to hide my disgust for people behind a nice smile that lets them think I like them.
Because that’s what Japanese actually teaches you 🙂
Thanks for Reading
Thanks for reading. I hope the last two sentences weren’t too dark 🙂 In case you didn’t really understand what I wanted to say there read this article.
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