Ideas in the Making

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Why the Reason for Learning a Language is as Important as the Method

Growing up in Puerto Rico allowed me the privilege to become fluent in both Spanish and English, arguably the 2 of best languages to become fluent in. Early in my teenage years, I became obsessed with Japan, it was a mix of video games, animation, film and cuisine.  Then a Japanese family transferred to my school, and I became even more enthralled with the customs, culture and gestures of Japanese society.

I started learning Japanese. I was easily putting in 5+ hrs a day into learning Japanese, albeit at the time, I was learning it highly inefficiently, using bad books, long podcast and overall taking baby steps instead of immersion. I took a break for a while, after progress seemed to slow and hard, and then took a class in Japanese that introduced me to some new books and ways of learning. Suddenly my knowledge in Japanese increased threefold in half the time. But little did I know even class was not the most efficient way to learn.

Due to a lack of Japanese people in my college, and also a waning interest in Japan due to their economic problems, the strong Yen, and the work culture there, I started learning Chinese. Chinese is a completely different languages: multiple tones, simple, short words, and a completely different grammar system. But Chinese didn't click with me. I am not particularly fond of anything Chinese, although I do wish to the travel the country some day,  I am not interested in working in China. Furthermore, China’s English education is leagues above Japan ( Japan, even tough arguably the most advanced and developed nation in Eastern Asia, scores really weak on English) with many of my Chinese friends learning conversational English at public schools. Needless to say, I dropped the class.

The day after I dropped the class, I started learning German. being only exposed to Asian languages for so long, I found German to be a breeze in comparison. Not only that, but my reasons for learning German are more solidly founded. For one, I've been to Germany and liked it, I like the young feel of Berlin, how close it is to home and elsewhere, and the lively people and atmosphere. Secondly, Germany is very economically sound and its political system is rock solid, albeit their income tax is insane,  making it a place I would consider staying in for an extended period of time. Last but not least, Germany offers probably the easiest, or at least most practical visa in the EU for staying longer in the Schengen area, a self employment visa.

In only a week I've made insane progress, putting in 4+ hrs a day, buying 2-3 books for reference and constantly etching in patterns into my brain. I am constantly setting goals and trying to reach them. Whether it be do X amount of anki cards or write 100 sentences in 20 minutes I've been churning out German.

Japanese: Learning One of the World's Toughest Languages

On Ideas

Every time someone sees me studying Japanese Kanji(漢字), characters the Japanese borrowed from the Chinese, and then used to represent Japanese ideas and pronunciation, I always get one or both of the following responses

1. Are you studying Chinese?

2. Is it hard?

In response to the first I always teach them and let them know that Chinese is significantly different than Japanese because Japanese people use three "alphabets" (they are in fact more like syllabaries), katakana, hiragana, and kanji, and because the grammar is substantially different.

The second though, is always a mixed bag. The U.S. Government states That Japanese, along with Arabic, and Chinese (and some other languages I forgot) are the languages that require the most time to learn for English speakers. But in my opinion, after having spent years studying on and off, Japanese is definitely one of the the World's toughest languages (at least considering it is actually spoken by over 100 million people) to become really fluent at (watch comedians, read adult-level literature, understand and differentiate slang and homonyms),but one of the easier languages to learn the basics to ( denoting location, modifiers, people, adjectives)

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