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Top10 reasons why expats who live in Japan don't know Japanese
Submitted by Anonymous on Wed, 2008/05/07 - 14:08.
Hey folks, I stumbled upon this site and its a good kick in the butt and encouraging, while still incredibly useful. This is all about self learning, not book learnin if you know what I mean. This guy ltaught himself Japanese in about 18 months. Read on for the preview and a link to the site.
A lot of people from foreign countries — including people of Japanese descent — come to Japan without a lick of Japanese. And stay that way. For years. Here’s why. I just made this list up based on personal observations, so it’s not complete or definitive. If you have any ideas, feel free to add or whatever.
1. Bad Company
2. Getting By
4. Condescending Japanese People
5. Well-Meaning, Do-Gooder Native Speakers
Apparently, after WW2, the day they were going to decide the new kanji policy, they locked all the smart people out of the Monbugakusho/文部科学省 (Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology=MEXT) building, and by coincidence the village idiot was left locked inside the ministry building — and so he wrote the kanji policy — and when the smart people finally got the spare keys for the building, they didn’t have time to change the policy because the US military occupation government had set a firm deadline, so they just handed in the document that was there (the one the village idiot wrote), with the result that kids in 5th grade learn “幹”, “版”, “導”, “刊” and “容” BUT HAVE TO WAIT UNTIL 6TH GRADE to learn “干”, “片”, “寸” and “穴”.
Now, the initiated will have realized that kids in Japanese government schools are routinely learning structural-composite kanji before learning their structural components; like building a skyscraper and then building its foundations, or eating a banana and then attempting to peel it, or attempting to run a program before turning your computer on. It’s as if the village idiot wrote the school policy — oh, wait, he did! The village idiot was like “hmm…what is the most illogical, inconsistent, ridiculous way I can do this so that it makes kanji seem difficult?”; he was one malicious motherlover of a village idiot. Fortunately, the Japanese kids who were and are victims of this policy were just that — kids. And as we all know, kids know how to be resilient even when presented with bad logic; they’re persistent like that. And so, the Japanese school system takes it’s sweet-as-poundcake time teaching 1-2 years’ worth of kanji in 10-12 years; all because of one village idiot. The system stays alive because most kids do make it through — they may not understand how the kanji system actually works, but they can read and write and function. Hey, it’s good enough for government work, right? Besides, neither the kids nor the teachers have anything better to do than, oh, take the longest, hardest, most confusing possible road to literacy, do they?
Now, take this idea and try it on an adult. Try to teach an adult an illogical method of reading a logical writing system; try to teach her to peel a banana, throw away the fruit and eat the peel. It will only work if you can get her to keep doing it for 10-12 years, which you won’t — the adult will break.
There is a big bright side: many Japanese people realize the way kanji-learning is being handled by state schools is bunk — I’ve seen private schools on TV that politely ignore the village idiot list. Smart people in the government are working even as we speak, trying to fix the village idiot’s mistakes in various ways. Plus, there’s the Heisig Method.
Anyway, where was I — yeah, so if a native speaker tries to help you with the method of learning Japanese, she’ll probably try to school you. This is NG. Do what she does — watch Japanese shows, spend time with Japanese people, read Japanese books, eat Japanese food. Talk like she does, or her brother does or mother does or her father does, as appropriate for age and gender. But, generally, do not do what she tells you to do; she knows what she’s saying, but she doesn’t know what she’s talking about.
6. Well It’s Too Late Now Syndrome
7. Discouragement + Lack of Persistence
8. Bad Learning Methods…Lots of Bad Learning Methods
9. English-language forums/fora about Japanese
You’re not going to see a forum on this site until we can work out a way to make it truly useful, not just a hang-out trap.
10. Low-A$$ Expectations
Remember, friends: Japanese is a human language — a learned behavior. It is not carried by blood, it is carried by environment, behavior and lifestyle. Millions of people of Japanese descent — Japanese-Latin-Americans, Japanese-Americans, Japanese returnees abandoned as children in China after WW2 — have zero Japanese skills or awkward, heavily-accented Japanese. Conversely, millions of non-Japanese people have native-level written and spoken Japanese. Zainichis, foreigners on TV, and cetera. There is no magic to it. Change your environment, behavior and lifestyle, and you will change with them.
I'll add my two cents now, for what its worth: I guess you have to want to do it. Its easy and its hard. It's easy because it can be done, its hard, because nothing easy is really worth doing. SO if after a year or so your still not even a little tiny bit nihongolicious, its because of a year of copping out, while expecting your students to magically gain English form your mere presence...
Feel free to respond and start a big argument woohoo let 'er rip