Is Speaking English in Japan Unavoidable?

A reader named mintyroll recently commented:

The “Japanese People Don’t Want you to Speak Japanese” part is one of those minor things I’ve always been afraid of whenever I think of how my first trip to Japan will be . . . Consequently, it’s made me want to reach at least fluent level of Japanese before I ever make the trip.

So mintyroll—-is that a Spanish name?—-well, I can’t say what Your Japan will be like, but I can tell you about My Japan. And maybe we can extrapolate a bit.

Life in Japan as a Foreigner

Take yesterday, for example. It was a hot, gray day, and I finished work early then hustled to the station. Running up the stairs, I found myself surrounded by school kids, who immediately began yelling, “Hello! Hello!” in English. That warms my heart. Or maybe it’s just the humidity, I never can tell. Continue reading “Is Speaking English in Japan Unavoidable?”

Why no one Helps you Learn Japanese

I have a lot of great ideas. Really, just a ton. Oh sure, to the untrained eye, I’m kicking it on the balcony drinking Asahi beer and watching sardine trains packed with commuters ride into the sunset, but really, I’m thinking. Hard. Like about my tiny Japanese apartment, and how to make it more livable. So, first I bought a sofa-bed. It’s a little lumpy. Then a lamp. That came from Ikea, so actually it’s great. They really understand furniture, those Swedes. And meatballs. Then I thought, Hey, how about a little hydroelectric power plant? That’d be a nice addition.

Surprisingly, there aren’t many YouTube videos about doing this at home. But I figured, Well, how hard can it be? I mean, I’ve got a sink, and what am I gonna use it for? Washing dishes? Heh, that’d be the day. Continue reading “Why no one Helps you Learn Japanese”

Why You Shouldn’t Learn Japanese

Anyone with an interest in Japan should learn a little Japanese, I really believe.  Daily life is much better when you know a few key phrases:  Hello.  My name is.  Please.  May I?  No really, please.  Why not?  Oh come on, please.  You sure?  Last chance.  Well fine, be that way.  Sorry for causing a scene.  Even if I pay you?  No?  Hmph, well I didn’t want to anyway.

But when I say “a little” of the language, I mean it.  Beyond a handful of survival sentences, you should give a really good think to whether or not you want to continue learning Japanese. Continue reading “Why You Shouldn’t Learn Japanese”

How to Start Learning Japanese

Someone on Facebook recently asked me:  What’s the best way to begin learning Japanese, for someone starting from zero?  Never one to shirk authorial duties, I did the responsible thing by jumping up, slamming my laptop closed, and running to the convenience store for a bottle of cheap white wine and a bag of spicy dried corn snacks.  They’re super salty, but man, are they ever good.  But then at the store I ran into this girl I know and she invited me over for some tea, and then we drank the bottle of wine, and then a bottle of red she had, and then I woke up and it was 3 a.m. and I didn’t know where I was, and by the time I got home I’d forgotten all about the question.  But I really meant to answer it.  Sometimes Japan just gets in the way like that. So anyway. Continue reading “How to Start Learning Japanese”