Should you study Japanese in college? Why you shouldn't take Japanese

You've already come up with reasons for why you should study Japanese: Japan has a thriving economy, they produce reliable cars, they produce all the best video games, they have anime and manga. From a business and entertainment perspective, you figure Japanese is where it's at.

However, if you're taking a foreign language class only because your college mandates it and Japanese seems like the most tolerable way to pass the time because you like anime and video games, then think again. I am entering my third semester of Japanese, and can understand only simple conversations; so by this point in your studies, you will still have to rely heavily on subtitles to enjoy your favorite Japanese shows and games. Knowing this, a passing interest in Japanese will not sustain you through tens of hours a week needed for memorizing characters, vocabulary, and grammar, none of which share a remote similarity to English (except for loan words). If you wouldn't consider taking Japanese in the absence of a foreign language requirement, you shouldn't take Japanese period; you will become resentful when the class consumes more of your time than any other, so do yourself a favor and opt for something related to English.

That said, Japanese does have its benefits for a language learner. While vocabulary and Kanji are notoriously difficult to master, the grammar is straightforward compared to English. There are no plurals or genders, adjectives conjugate in two groups, and verbs basically conjugate in two groups, with very few irregulars and exceptions. (There are, however, two distinct modes of speaking, casual and formal.) Unlike Chinese, you don't have to worry about intonation.

It goes without saying that for the dedicated learner, Japanese is a very rewarding, though challenging, study. Just make sure that before you dive in, you are sure of your motivations and aware of the problems facing English speakers learning Japanese.

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