Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Japanese and your dirty apartment

The Foreign Service Institute (FSI) of the US Department of State did a study of 63 different languages to discover which are the most difficult to learn for a native English speaker. Arabic, Cantonese, Mandarin, Japanese, and Korean were the top five with Japanese being #1. I don't agree, but they forgot to ask me before they published their results. Because of that oversight, the world is stuck with this: a misleading and disheartening bit of paper and ink. Their claim is almost solely based on how it takes almost three times as long to learn Japanese than some other languages, such as Spanish. That sounds pretty damning, but it's all an illusion. I'll explain it to you in a way you'll understand, figure skating and your filthy apartment.

What is the most difficult figure skating jump? Quad Salchow, right? As if I had to tell you. That is truly difficult. That's defending gold medalist Evgeni Plushenko level difficult. In the FSI way of thinking, it's not that much different from cleaning your disgusting hovel. They both take time to accomplish, right? The difference is cleaning your sticky two-room pad takes time because you're cleaning a bunch of small things which all add up. First the grimy kitchen sink, then your strangely sooty bathroom, then you have to find your bed and hose it down. No one part is difficult though. That means the whole can't be difficult. Same as Japanese. It takes a long time because in addition to all the vocab and grammar you get with any language, you're also spending time memorizing kanji and Japanese's 3+ spoken languages (normal, polite, and super polite). It adds up to a lot of time, but no one part is difficult. Unlike the Quad Salchow, where you just practice the Salchow for like 9 years, and then you only get a silver because the judges are biased jerks.

The feeling you should have after reading this is motivation. Yes, you can learn Japanese! All you have to do is dedicate 4 years of your life to it. And, you'll probably want to move to Japan. Maybe take some classes as well. It'd be a good idea to get a private tutor too... And that's it! I regret nothing!

1 comment:

  1. Hahaha! "I regret nothing!"

    Yeah, I agree that a lot of Japanese is just learning a crap ton of ways to express the same ideas in different ways.