The problem with learning Japanese at University

For those that have been bitten by the Anime and Mange bug, or those who have fallen in love with the idea of Japan, studying Japanese at university and moving to Japan may be a no brainer but let me ask you one question- if your dream is to move to Japan, what will you do to live?

If you answer is a half-hearted teach or a depressed groan with translation escaping your lips, you may want to rethink your study plans- unless you want to be caught in the ALT/ English conversation school cycle.

Why do I say this? Because of one reason, I’ve seen it happen many times. Japan is interested in internationalisation, at least international communication- it is one reason why there are so many English conversation schools and why so much emphasis is put on English education in the school system. But understanding Japanese is not required for these jobs. All teaching is done via emersion with the Japanese teacher acting as a translator if needed.

Did you see the issue with that last paragraph? Japanese is not needed. This is further compounded with one issue- in order to acquire a visa, ANY degree is accepted.

Let’s say you want to escape the ALT cycle in Japan, and you have studied Japanese the problem when you look for jobs is that most jobs for foreigners in Japan are looking for a specific skill set. Did you degree include programming, engineering, biology, chemistry or anything scientific? No?! You are then looking at entry level jobs or office work.

But what about translation, you may ask. Most translation jobs in Japan require experience in the field you want to enter i.e. medical experience for medical translation, law experience for law translation etc.

What’s the solution? Another degree (this is the option I took)? Or perhaps (if you can) change your degree focus slightly (cultural anthropology or international relation and Japanese etc) to something that includes another skill set. If you don’t and translation doesn’t excite you and nor does being a pronunciation parrot, you’ll be heading back home within a year or be spending even more to fix a mistake.

What do you think? Any suggestions or advise?

As always happy exploring.

Crocks the new fashion trend?

The ‘unfashinable’ item from years past makes a comback?!?!

Think of any brand of shoes you know. There are the must haves, the sports shoes, the ‘I must be seen in these’ shoes, the ‘I need them for work shoes’ and crocs. The unspeakable item from years ago returns and is making a comeback.

The design has never turned many heads in the western worlds and to some extent it has never needed to. They are hardwearing, comfortable and extremly long lasting. There has been a line of chief crocs and it can been seen on many a person who spends hours on their feet each day.

Even for fashionistas, designers such as Pleasures, Christopher Kane and others have attempted to bring a new insight into the world of crocs- but to many it is still seen as a childish and ugly shoe.

But with Ariana Grande rocking a while pair with socks, there is a revival (finally) in the western world, but that’s never been a problem in Japan.

Japanese fashion has always been different- what may be fashionable in the UK and the USA, could be (and usually is) seen as fashion don’ts. But there is one thing to be aware of in Japan, fashion is usually prefectural and sometimes varies by city!

But crocs are worn by all across Japan for several reasons- with the most important being comfort. In Japan, you can go for a short walk to the shops (at least 30 minutes), walk to the bus stop (20-40 minutes one way), walk when you arrive at your destination and be required to remove shoes at school, the office, temples, clinics etc.

For these problems crocs are the answer and will always be the answer for many in Japan. (just don’t try and buy 30cm sized crocs- they don’t seem to exist)

As Always, enjoy exploring cultures.

Why Japanese people?

For anyone that is familiar with Japanese culture, “Why Japanese people” is a throwback to Atsugiri Jason who initially featured on the TV programme  ‘Sokuhou! Ariyoshi no o-warai daitouryousenkyo 2014,’ and is still being referenced today.

But when considering Japanese its self, why Japanese people is a good starting point.

Japanese is a mix of Chinese characters, naturally developed script (hiragana and katakana) and loanwords. Which makes it seem like a bit of a mess and it can be at times.

Kanji, the famous symbols from China and used by the Japanese for about 2000 years- which is nothing considering that Japanese far predates this date. The symbols use was changed to fit the Japanese language more effectively. So while Chinese is more like a western language in its construction (subject-verb-object language), Japanese is not. Japanese is a subject-object-verb language and traditional use of Kanji is remarkably hard to understand. Additionally, in early times, Kanji would often not fit with Japanese mora ( a sound used to denote a ‘letter’ in Japanese), so something had to change.

Japanese, therefore, had a need and hiragana (developed by women in the Hei-an period as they were not allowed to learn Kanji- or be allowed the same level of education as men) filled that gap. Hiragana is used to write okurigana, kana which allows various grammatical forms to be expressed- from particles to adjectival endings.

Next, the language of men- katakana and strangely the language of cultural divide. Katakana has to be split into pre- and postwar katakana. Modern katakana is used for transcription of load words into Japanese and also used to allow words to look more non-Japanese (used quite often in advertisements)- this is where modern Katakana’s use mostly ends.

Historical Katakana is slightly more interesting. In more recent times, it was used interchangeable with hiragana for okurigana, creating at times strange looking sentences and texts. But historically is more interesting still.

The change from a kanji-based system to a kana based, was more defied by the reduction in China’s influence on Japanese culture. One positive of this was the increase in literacy rates in Japan. The literacy rate further increased with the popularity of famous poems, one of them being “The Tosa Diary” (土佐日記) by Ki no Tsurayuki (紀貫之).

Lastly why not mention the origin of Katakana? Well there are 2 main theoires of its delelopment. One is by Buddhist scholars in the 9th centry as they helped transccribe texts from China- this theory is accepted by most. But some research does suggest that it may have orginiated from 8th centry Buddhist texts from Korea instead.

There is a lot more about the history of written Japanese, but this should give you an insight into the world of written Japanese.

As always, enjoy discovering more

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