Culture

What is Japanese used for? Here are 5 Things!

Why learn Japanese?

It’s hard work to learn any language. Even when you study it with the help of accelerated learning techniques, it can still take hundreds of hours depending upon which language it is you’ve chosen to learn.

This blog is devoted to the study of the Japanese language. So I wanted to answer the question: what is Japanese used for?

It’s something that I’ve been asked before, since most other Americans who are learning a second language are learning either Spanish or French.

There are of course my own personal reasons which you can read about on my Bio Page, but beyond that I wanted to give some general reasons that could apply to anyone, and maybe even you too.

1) – Entertainment

How many people here like to have some fun? Hopefully everyone!

There’s a lot of entertainment that you can experience when you learn Japanese. If you learn to speak it, then you can watch lots of anime and Japanese films in the original language. Some of the more popular ones get translated into English, but the vast majority of them remain in Japanese for forever.

When you experience them in the native language, you get to fully enjoy all the nuances that get lost in translation. For example, the other day I was watching an anime called Danmachi and one of the main girls in that show would always refer to herself by saying 僕 (boku).

This get’s translated into the pronoun “I” normally, which is correct, but what gets lost in translation is that 僕 (boku) is almost exclusively used by men. So when a girl uses it, it gives her a tomboyish quality. This little insight into the character is something that you would only pick up on by knowing Japanese. Here are some other fantastic things you can fully enjoy when you know Japanese:

  • Manga
  • Anime
  • Japanese video games
  • Japanese music
  • Kabuki theater
  • Japanese game shows

How many of these have you enjoyed before? They are even more fun when you do then in Japanese!

Some of these things can only be fully enjoyed when you can both speak and read Japanese. So for maximum fun you’ll have to learn them both! But most people want to know the spoken part of the language AND the written part anyway when they choose to study it. So it’s not that big a deal.

2) – Work

The Japanese culture is notorious for having lots of people who are overworked at their corporate jobs. In fact, the Japanese have even created a word to describe it: 過労死 (karōshi) which means “death by work.” The major cause of this is heart attacks due to major stress. Trust me, this is not the reason to learn Japanese! >.<

There are lots of positive reasons to learn Japanese that are still work related. The most common one is to teach English to Japanese students. If you’re a native English speaker, then you’re in luck! There are lots of programs and tons of Japanese schools looking for native English speakers to come over for a school year and help teach language lessons. Of course, the better you are at Japanese then the better you will be able to communicate with the Japanese students and explain new concepts to them.

Other ways that you can earn some ¥ yen with your Japanese skills are things such as translation work for companies, selling your own products to Japan if you’re an entrepreneur, or if you’re an employee you could even help out your company to expand internationally. Japan is #3 in the world economy.

But here’s a way to earn some $ dollars with your Japanese without even using it: list it on your résumé that you speak multiple languages! It’s been shown that often times a person who knows more than one language gets paid more than their monolingual counterparts, even when they don’t use their second language at their job. Pretty interesting!

3) – Travel

One of the most common desires that people have is to travel the world. And Asian countries like Japan are especially exciting for native English speakers since it’s so totally foreign to Western culture.

You look around and see symbols on all the street signs that are totally alien from English. You see the ancient castles that are a very different design from the medieval ones in English history. And even the types of food and the utensils they use to eat them are really unique!

So what are the different ways that you can visit Japan? Well of course there is the typical way that most people choose to do which is to take a week or two off from work and go on a vacation to Japan. You can just go on over and plan your own trip, or you can sign up for a package deal that has a planned out schedule to show you the sights and have a great time!

Or you could go over there for work. I mentioned that before, so I’ll keep this part to a minimum. You can work for a Japanese company in their international department (very cool) or another popular choice is to have a location independence job/business that allows you to make money anywhere in the world. And that anywhere could definitely be Japan! What jobs/business let you travel like that? It usually something internet based like:

  • Being an online blogger
  • Being a securities trader
  • Being an author
  • Being a teacher who only does online classes

Speaking of classes, you can also go to Japan to get an education! You could do either a student exchange program where you spend a year like a normal student (but in Japan), or you could go to one of Japan’s language schools that teaches you how to speak and read Japanese. Either way, don’t forget to call your teacher 先生 (sensei)!

4) – Health

I bet you didn’t expect that learning Japanese could make you healthier! There’s a brain related way that you’ll definitely get, and a body related way that you might get depending on a few things.

When you learn a new language, it actual opens up a new part of your brain to store the new language. Considering just how much information is included in the Japanese language, you get a considerable boost in brain power each time you learn more Japanese. In addition to this, there have been studies that show people who are bilingual have stronger brains that are able to hold off diseases like Alzheimer better than people who only know one language.

People who know and think in more that one language are usually better able to understand concepts from more that one viewpoint since they have studied alternative ways of thinking when acquiring a new language. Plus they are usually better at empathizing with others, especially with people who speak their second language, because they understand the culture and the mindset of the people.

Switching over to the body side of things, if you decide to live in Japan, then chances are that your body is going to get at least a little bit healthier! When you compare Japan to America you can see two main reasons for this:

  1. Japan’s food has a lot less sugar and other harmful things in it.
  2. People move their bodies a lot more since most people walk to and from places a lot.

Japan’s food has a lot of fish and rice in it, which is much better for your body than deep fried foods like french fries and hamburgers. Of course you can find food that’s unhealthy for you in Japan too, but generally speaking the food there is easier on your internal systems.

As for walking everywhere, most people in America own their own car (and maybe more than one!), but Japan is a lot smaller than America and is packed full of people. The most common modes of transportation are public transports like the bus and the train. But there’s a lot of walking to and from your residence to the bus/train stations.

Who knew learning Japanese could also help improve your total health?!

5) – Love

It’s been said that the most powerful force in all the universe is love.

When most people hear the word love, they think of the romantic love that is often portrayed in the movies and in fantasy stories, but there are many types of love. The kind you have for a best friend, the kind you have for your kids, and of course the kind you have with your soul mate. How can you use Japanese to give love and to get love? There’s lots of ways!

When you learn Japanese, you gain access to 124-million new friends who are natives to the language. Most people really like having friends from different countries. And if you want to, you can be that different-country friend! When you visit Japan, be sure to use the Japanese you know to make lots of great friendships that will last you for the rest of your life!

If you have any family that is from Japan, then learning the language is a great way to connect with them and to strengthen your family bonds. I’ve got two cousins that are half-Japanese who live in America, but they go to Japan once each year to visit with their Japanese grandparents.

And of course, knowing Japanese can help you to meet your soul-mate. There are lots of single Japanese women AND men over in Japan and a lot of them are totally cool with international relationships and marriages.

The two most common concerns I’ve heard are potential difficulties with the differences in the cultures and the languages. But when you know and understand Japanese, then you eliminate one of those concerns. And since culture is closely linked to language, you minimize any cultural clashes that you might run into.

Who knows, your true love might be one こんにちは (konnichi wa) away!!!

What are YOUR reasons for learning Japanese?

So these are just a few great reasons to learn Japanese. But at the end of the day, learning a new language is a very personal decision. It doesn’t really matter what I say is a good reason to learn Japanese, it only matters what YOU say!

I created this list to help you find several different reasons that might resonate with you. You see, a goal is like a table and the reasons for achieving the goal are like the legs of that table. If you have lots of table legs (reasons) then it will be a very sturdy table and it will continue to stand even if one leg falls off for any reason. But if you only have a single reason for learning Japanese and that reason goes away, then you’ll probably stop working on it altogether and end up not completing the journey to fluency.

So, if you want to learn Japanese, then you’re homework for today is to come up with 4-6 personal reasons for you to learn it. Make them something that’s meaningful to you and write them down so that you can look at them each and every day to motivate yourself.

If you are interested, then check out the post I wrote for beginners.

Finally, if you enjoyed this post then leave me a comment and let me know! Thanks!

 

4 Comments

  • Dana

    Nick – I always appreciate your site and the helpful articles. They are insightful and packed with great information. Having a son who is interested in Japan and all things Japanese, this is a great site to get to know inside his head and world a little bit. I was most surprised by the “LOVE” category, not realizing some of those things. So thank you!

  • locksleyu

    Nice post, I think the mental health benefits (#4) is an especially good point that is underrated.

    Though I am not sure if some of the bilingual stuff applies to people who have started learning when they are older, I like to think it does (:

    If nothing else, it is really great to be able to have two totally different ways to express something.

    • Nick Hoyt

      Yeah I totally agree! It is especially cool when you learn words and phrases that exist in one language, but not in another because then you actually have a way to express it. Kind of like the Japanese word komorebi (木漏れ日) for “sunshine filtered through the leaves of trees.”

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