Learning any language requires commitment, but Japanese is harder than most. It is widely accepted that for people who do not have an East Asian language background, Japanese is one of the hardest languages to learn. The U.S. Foreign Service Institute (FSI) actually puts Japanese in a “Super Hard” category along with Arabic, Korean, and Mandarin, and they calculate that to reach professional working proficiency a student will need 2,200 class hours over 88 weeks.
So to study Japanese, and to keep studying it, you are going to need some serious motivation. And to stay motivated you need to know exactly why you got started in the first place. Here to inspire you are seven seriously good reasons why you should to study Japanese.
1. Career Benefits.
From a purely pragmatic perspective Japanese language proficiency looks good on any resume. Although, Japanese is the 9th most spoken language in the world and has around 128 million speakers, there aren’t that many people who can speak it as a 2nd language. The very fact that Japanese is so difficult immediately puts you in a linguistic elite. Acquiring Japanese language proficiency also shows to potential employers that you have qualities of organization, self-discipline, and determination that would be advantageous to any company. And as Japanese is also the language of the world’s 3rd largest economy, it’s not hard to see that it will increase your employment prospects and possibilities for advancement.
2. A Deeper Understanding of Japanese Culture
Japan is an island nation that went through a period of official isolation from the world between 1639 and 1853. This period, called Sakoku (鎖国), had a profound effect on Japanese society, and played a large part in shaping the unique modern culture of Japan. To this day, the majority of Japanese people can only speak Japanese. So whether you are interested in Japanese arts, literature, history, spirituality, economic and social structures, family or community life, you can only properly understand these cultural aspects through the medium of the Japanese language.
3. A Personal Interest
Many people learn Japanese in pursuit of a personal interest. Whether you are a martial arts enthusiast, a shakuhachi player, a fan of Japanese ceramics, or a would-be sushi chef, at some point you are going to want to take your interest to the next level. That means learning Japanese.
4. Broadening Your Mind
Through the study of Japanese you can encounter a new way of thinking. Japanese has an array of special terms that reach into all aspects of life, such as ikigai (your purpose in life), kaizen (a philosophy of continuous improvement), mono-no-aware (the appreciation of transcendent beauty), and wabi-sabi (a sense of beauty in the imperfect and incomplete). Language is key to understanding the Japanese outlook on life, and that in turn may broaden your own outlook.
5. A Head Start with Chinese & Korean
If you ever study Japanese in Japan, you will notice your Chinese and Korean classmates racing ahead of you in general comprehension. There are reasons for that. The Japanese writing system uses Chinese characters, so although the languages are quite different, if you can read Japanese, learning Chinese is going to be a lot easier. Japanese and Korean are also quite different, but they do share a very similar grammatical structure. Knowing Japanese grammar will definitely give you an advantage if you want to study Korean.
6. The Best Exercise for Your Brain
Scores of peer-reviewed studies have shown that language study is good for the brain. Some of the benefits include improved concentration and cognitive skills, more flexible and creative thinking, and better planning and organizational skills. It has even been shown that learning a second language can help slow mental decline as we age. So clearly, if you choose to study one of the world’s hardest languages, you are giving your mental muscles the best possible workout. Japanese is good for your brain.
7. Making the Most of Your Time in Japan
If you want to live and work in Japan then you are going to need some Japanese language ability. Very few Japanese people can actually understand spoken English or hold an English conversation. Whether you want to network for business reasons, develop a healthy social life, or simply make yourself understood in a shop or a restaurant, a few words of Japanese will go a long way to enhancing your experience of life in Japan.