When you start learning a language the most important thing is to make sure that you are learning it for purpose. Why is this important? I meet many foreigners in Japan who learn the language to spend their free time. In this case we can call it hobby. As most of you have already experienced, hobbies come and go. If you don't have a specific purpose to learn Japanese one day you will give up learning. In this article I will try to give you a few reasons why I would start learning Japanese in 2018.
Why would I start learning Japanese in 2018?
The most banal reason and probably the most acceptable one is that because the language itself is fascinating. Just think of the three writing systems, katakanas, hiraganas and kanjis. Mastering these characters is not an easy task. I have written an article with some practical advice on learning these characters. In addition to the writing system Japanese has a very special intonation that many learners find interesting.
While living in Japan, many times I am asked by locals if I started learning Japanese because of manga or anime. This was not the case for me, but I believe there are many learners who had watched anime before they started learning Japanese. Even today there are many Japanese movies that are not translated into English and it’s a great challenge to watch movies in a foreign language.
Another interesting fact that mine be considering when one wants to start learning is the phenomena of aging population in Japan.
As some of you might have heard about it, the population of the island will be decimated in the near future. And here we are not talking about a few thousands of people rather millions of people.
The effects of decreasing population in Japan are already palpable in many regions. Sometimes I have to go to the countryside and the empty streets I see there are astounding.
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By saying countryside I mean and hour train ride from the mostly populated areas. For example last time I was in Wakayama which is not very far from Osaka and I could hardly see people on the streets and even if I could see some they were mostly elderly people.
When you talk to young students living in the countryside of Japan they all want to leave and move to the large cities like Osaka or Tokyo because they think there are no opportunities left for them in the area where they reside.
The Japanese government is trying to find a solution for this severe problem but as of now the best way to solve this problem is two attract more people from the outside world to Japan.
There are already recruitment agencies dealing with the integration of newcomers. Obviously this won’t mean that the official language of Japan will be gradually changed from Japanese to English.
So while Japan offers great working opportunities for those who are willing to work hard and build their carrier path on the island they expect that you speak their native language and they usually list Japanese skills and among the recruitment criteria.
Even five years ago I found that there are more jobs here than people willing to fill the positions. By 2018 this got even more extreme which is unique for a country in the developed world. So no matter where you live or what you work you can consider learning Japanese and come to the worlds most advanced countries to build up your carrier.
I feel that, despite pessimistic opinions about the country’s future, there hasn't been that many opportunities here as now. If you’re the best fit for a given position the only barrier for you is language. In most of the situations you can find at least one person around you who can speak some English, however many employers will not consider your application unless you have intermediate Japanese knowledge.
The final thing I would like to mention here is the immigration and visa policy of Japan. A few days ago I went to the immigration office here in Kobe to check out the visas I can apply for after graduation. There are myriads of visa types so you need a few hours to go through them, but the officer at the immigration office will be glad to help you. The most important thing I would like to emphasize here is that in addition to several factors they take your Japanese knowledge into account. This means that the better you speak the language the more chances you have to get the visa you applied for.
In this article I tried to give you some practical advices because I find that the majority of the materials on this topic are too general. You can approach the question from many angels but for me having a specific purpose was extremely important. Without that I don't think I would have been able to endeavor throughout those long nights and early mornings. I have to admit that learning Japanese for the first few years was extremely challenging. Many times I had the feeling that I had no progress at all and I will never be able to speak the language. When such a disappointment struck me I always recalled my original of purpose and it helped me to overcome my difficulties. Another thing that I found very helpful was recalling Japanese speaking foreigners. By doing so I was able to ascertain myself that if they were able to learn the language, since I am no different to them, I'll be able to do the same thing.
I hope I could give you some useful advice and some motivation to start learning Japanese. Since everything is based on my personal observation, probably you have to find your own purpose and igniting fire. Although I try to listen to wise people as much as possible many times the most efficient way that works for me is really the way I find my myself.