Did you know that the Japanese writing system can trace its origins all the way back to Chinese Buddhist monks in the 4th century?
Learning a foreign language is never easy.
If you find that learning Spanish, French, or German is difficult, studying a complicated syntactic language such as Japanese is even more challenging!
However, you should remember that the Japanese language is not just a language; it is a passport to all of Japanese culture! There are subsequently many reasons to learn Japanese.
Since your childhood, Japanese culture has been all around you, probably without you even really noticing it.
Japan's international influence has seeped into your sub-conscience via cartoons, cinema, sports, and gastronomy, but to name a few.
You might already be aware of the influence that Japanese culture has on our lives, and because of this you have decided to enrol on to a Japanese language course:
- in high school,
- via private lessons at home,
- in a language school,
- or in university, with a BA in Japanese Language and Literature.
Or maybe you like Japan because it's part of the Far East, an exotic destination which makes you feel like you are in another world!
Learning the Japanese language allows you to not only get closer to one of the world's most unique cultures, it could also help you to teach Japanese in your country, or even work and live in the land of the rising sun.
Superprof will now list the aspects of Japanese culture you will better understand by becoming a Japanese speaker.
Your Japanese Lessons Will Teach You About One of the Most Interesting Cultures in the World
The history of Japan is ancient, dating back to the first settlements of the Korean Peninsula 100,000 years ago.
Under the feudal dictatorships of the Shogunate - from 1603 to 1867 - Japan was isolated from the outside world before its culture spread, in a form of the Renaissance, during the Meiji era (1868-1912).
When you were a child, did you watch the manga Nicky Larson on television?
Then, as a teenager, did you discover the world of video games thanks to Genki and Nintendo?
Was that the same time you fell in love with Japanese gastronomy such as sushi, which has now been found across the world for a very long time?
Perhaps Japanese culture had already lured you in. Then a high school trip to Japan decided things for you:
- the beauty of the landscapes,
- the respect and "zenitude" of the Japanese,
- Japanese spirituality - Shintoism and Buddhism - meant you had fallen in love with Japan.
Who has not been seduced by one of these forms of Japanese culture? In the West it is colossal, and we feel its energy on an almost daily basis...
Japan's economy is highly dependent on exports to Asia, North America, and Europe.
In fact, the land of the rising sun exports manufactured goods and services almost everywhere, meaning that speaking Japanese is useful in business. But Japan also exports its own culture.
Learning Japanese language with a native Japanese teacher will allow you to:
- learn to read and write Japanese,
- understand Japanese writing: the Japanese alphabet, hiragana katakana, kanji,
- understand Japanese television,
- know Japanese grammar,
- speak Japanese (nihongo) and progress with your pronunciation: say hello in Japanese (ohayo), thanks in Japanese (arigato),
- memorize Japanese vocabulary words by heart,
- study for your JLPT,
- become a bilingual English-Japanese speaker.
In doing so you will be able to see and understand more about Japanese cultural exports such as:
- mangas and their universe,
- Japanese movies without English subtitles,
- dozens of Japanese video games,
- the values of Japanese sports and martial arts (respect, order, and discipline),
- the origins of Buddhism and Shintoism
And if you decide to take Japanese lessons online or in a language school, you will have the same benefits. For example, these are countless Japanese online classes (to learn to count in Japanese, grammar, writing, politeness) to accelerate your learning! The most important thing is that you see the benefits of learning Japanese and begin your learning experience as soon as you can!
Japanese Courses Can Show You Manga and Japanese Cinema
Manga is imported from Japan all over the world.
A black and white Japanese comic strip which reads from right to left (the same direction as the Japanese language), manga was born in 1902 from the sharpened pencils of caricaturist (mangaka) Rakuten Kitazawa (1876-1955).
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Manga is a Symbol of Japan
It first appeared in the daily Japanese satirical, the Tokyo Puck. Manga is famous for vehemently criticising power, and it has subsequently been censored many times.
R. Kitazawa started off by drawing for children, and this is what he is now remembered for.
Between 1982 and 2007, the number of manga magazines in circulation went up by a whopping 250%
This increase is reflected in the fact that more than 120 million mangas are sold per week in Japan today.
Here is a list of the top ten mangas and their most famous authors:
- Nausicaä from Hayao Miyazaki's Wind Valley
- Akira by Katsuhiro Otomo
- Dragon Ball by Akira Toriyama
- Evangelion by Yoshiyuki Sadamoto
- Naruto by Masashi Kishimoto
- One piece by Eichiro Oda
- Golgo 13 from Takao Saito
- Slam Dunk by Takeiko Inoue
- Ken The Survivor from Testsuo Hara and Buronson
- Ranma 1/2 by Rumiko Takahashi
You could read manga in the original thanks to lessons from your Japanese tutor - for example through Japanese courses London!
Understanding Japanese Cinema
Knowing how to speak Japanese will obviously make it possible for you to understand Japanese films without the subtitles.
Japanese film production is the 3rd largest in the world.
Japanese cinema appeared at the same time as French and American cinema: around 1896-1897.
In order to fully understand Japanese cinema, it is essential to know the Japanese language, as well as Japanese culture, because films reflect Japanese society at any given moment.
Japanese cinema can help you:
- understand the history of Japan,
- see what life is like in Japan,
- learn Japanese for free,
- memorize the dialogues,
- repeat the words heard in a conversation, without going through a Japanese school,
- stimulate your understanding of the language.
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Playing Hundreds of Video Games
The video game was basically born in Japan.
The Japanese giant Nintendo and NES console flooded the world with video games.
How can your Japanese classes help you with video games?
Because they can speed up your learning and help you to learn Japanese for free.
Playing Japanese video games can stimulate your listening comprehension. By listening to the characters' dialogue, you will acquire more basic vocabulary.
And finally, playing Japanese video games can help you get to know the local culture.
The advantage of video games is that they require active participation and maximum concentration.
Playing a video game helps to memorize Japanese words and vocabulary. It's as simple as that!
And there are plenty Japanese video games! You will have definitely heard of these:
- Mario Bros,
- Final Fantasy,
- Resident Evil,
- Metal Gear Solid
You can study kanji while playing as well!
If you can read and understand the kanji subtitles then you're doing pretty good for yourself! Now switch to listening without the help of subtitles to better memorize the dialogue!
You can therefore see the importance of Japanese culture in the western world, and it is partly thanks to this that Japan's relations with the western world are what they are today.
Understanding Religion and Japanese Spirituality
Have you always wished you knew more about Buddhism?
Every time you visit Japan you are amazed by the calmness, respect, and zen-like attitude prevailing in the countryside...
It may be connected to the country's religious culture...
Japan's religious make up is primarily composed of Buddhism and Shintoism, the latter representing a set of very ancient polytheistic beliefs, still widespread in Japan.
During the Meiji era, successive emperors from 1868 to 1945 galvanized national sentiment and established plans for territorial expansion of the Japanese Empire by imposing Shintoism as a state religion.
Shintoism, however, is not a proven religion:
- There is an absence of founder: no prophet, only the spirit counts
- Non-existence of a dogma,
- There is no code of ethics,
- There is no border between the sacred and the profane.
- There is no supreme creator God in Japanese mythology.
Japanese people tend to worship Buddha representations and Shinto deities through many rituals and traditions.
The Shinto gods are mythological characters. They are born, they live, they die and they are reborn.
They are called the Kami, a Japanese term for "what is above men" or "superior to the human condition."
These are references to natural phenomena or agricultural activities and are venerated in shrines.
The Shinto Japanese people call the souls of the Gods tamashii.
A Shinto shrine--jinja in Japanese--is the place where matsuri, the popular festivals of village communities, take place.
To honor the kami, the adepts enter the sanctuary via the torii, a portal which is often red and majestic in the form of the number pi.
In Japan, there are more than 150,000 Shinto shrines on Japan's national treasure list.
Shintoism is a true philosophy of life based on respect and salvation of the spirit, which values love and respect towards nature's strength and beauty.
For this reason, the Kami possess musubi, the vital energy that is produced and systematically regenerated by the bonds between living beings.
Other Reasons Why You Should Learn Japanese
1. Speaking Japanese will set you apart.
Unlike those who choose a European language like Spanish, French, German, or Italian, choosing Japanese will immediately make your CV stand out when potential employers are scouring for new recruits.
2. The Japanese are international tourists.
The Japanese infamously have a low level of English, which has recently even been acknowledged by the Japanese government. But almost 18 million Japanese left the country in 2017, spending money on clothes, food, and tourist activities. The importance of Japanese tourists to economies around the world cannot be understated, and speaking Japanese will enhance your ability to communicate with them which would give you an entry into the Japanese tourist market.
Speaking Japanese will make their stay more pleasant, as well as making your life easier, whilst all the while giving you that sense of satisfaction of being able to communicate with someone in their native language.
This is also a reason for you to learn Japanese before you travel to Japan, because trying to get by with just English might be tricky at times!
3. It's not as hard as you think!
Learning Japanese is not as hard as you have probably heard. Yes it has a different writing system which is different to the Japanese alphabet, but foreigners can get by with learning only the 44 hiragana or katakana that represent the same sounds that the English alphabet utilises.
But besides the writing system, Japanese grammar is a lot easier than most European languages. There are no genders or plural forms for the nouns, and they don't need an article to accompany them. What's more, there are no verb conjugations in Japanese, and the language only has 2 tense; past and present.
With all these reasons in mind, how could you not want to learn Japanese?