It is often said that globalization opens international markets, which is one of the reasons why learning Japanese is important. Japan is the third largest economy in the world after the United States and China. The Japanese economy is larger than those of Germany and the United Kingdom, which are ranked fourth and fifth largest.
The Japanese language is the ninth most spoken language is the world, with 128 million people speaking it as their first language in only two countries. Globally, Japanese is spoken by 128.3 million speakers.
It might be more difficult to find a Japantown than a Chinatown, but Japanese diaspora can be found in several countries. Brazil has the largest Japanese community, followed by the United States, the Philippines, China, the United Kingdom, Peru and Canada. Japanese communities are also found in Europe, South America, Central America, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, East Asia, Southeast Asia, South Pacific Islands, Qatar, Pakistan and Russia.
Embodiment of national character
Japanese historians say that each language has its own background. Few offensive words exist in the Japanese language that pertains to the bodies of animals and humans compared to other languages. The fact is that an agricultural country like Japan is more focused on plants and rice than animals such as cattle. The Japanese do know bad words and can use them although they are too polite to use such words in public.
Japanese linguist Haruhiko Kindaichi believes that a country’s national character is reflected in the language. For the Japanese, they try to avoid speaking directly. It’s because they care for and are sensitive to other people’s feelings. The downside of this is that it creates mistakes in using honorifics.
Haruhiko Kindaichi, who creates dictionaries of the Japanese language, said that people should think about how they use the Japanese language, although he said that as languages change, he could tolerate how the younger Japanese generation often speaks new words.
The ”spirit of words” or Kotodama in Japanese, makes the language important to the people. Kindaichi believes that the local accents are important in shaping the language, making it richer, since the accents and dialects fill up the gaps that the standard language cannot fill.
In the United States, more and more students realize that being able to communicate in another language is a vital feature of a well-rounded U.S. education. Communication and language are the core of human experience and it is important for the U.S. to educate its students to make them culturally and linguistically equipped to communicate with the local multiethnic society and global audiences.
Because English is no longer the exclusive language of business, it is critical that people start learning other languages in order to communicate in the language of the customer.
Benefits of learning Japanese
Among the large number of foreign languages, learning Japanese creates a variety of benefits for American and other students.
1. Provides more opportunities for international understanding
The Pacific Rim and Asia continue to increase their global importance. The relationships between the U.S. and Japan have strategic and economic significance. Thus, it is critical that more Americans should be proficient in Japanese. It’s common knowledge that the Japanese are very nationalistic and even if they can speak and write in another language they would prefer to have their written texts in Japanese. Thus, access to information could be easier if people know the language. Fluency in Japanese allows people to improve communication and gain deeper knowledge and higher understanding of Japan as a nation and as a culture.
2. Prepares you for a better future
As the Asian economy rises, more opportunities for work would be available. Japanese is a language that is not commonly taught or studied, like French, German or Spanish. Learning Japanese will boost your professional value. When you learn Japanese, you’ll have less competition in opportunities available in different fields, such as business, social sciences, humanities, technology, science, journalism and tourism. If you want to be a translator for the government or a language services provider, your competition is lower when you speak Japanese compared to other more commonly taught languages.
You could also have better chances of promotion. If you’re working of an international corporation, speaking a foreign language like Japanese creates more opportunities for you to be assigned to an overseas branch.
3. Makes you understand Japanese culture
The Japanese culture is unique. It’s a combination of traditional and modern practices. Typically, the social conducts are not something you will see in the West. Their cultural traditions are ingrained in the people, young and old, and these traditions dictate the way they react, interact and behave. These are also manifested in the way they write, read, hear and talk. The younger generation could exhibit very modern behaviors, talk and dress differently but they still follow traditions their elders have taught them.
Understanding the Japanese language will open your eyes to Japanese history, martial arts, entertainment, culture and fashion.
4. Makes you appreciate your own culture and language
Learning Japanese will help you to appreciate your own culture as well as your own language because it improves your communication and cognitive skills. Accessing a culture that is very different from yours will heighten your awareness that cultures and languages vary.
5. Improves your skills in studying your other academic lessons
As a student, learning Japanese helps you gain broader perspectives, higher thinking skills and new learning strategies that you can apply to your other academic subjects.
6. You can qualify as an English teacher in Japan
Your proficiency in Japanese can be your stepping-stone to teach English in Japanese high schools or even work in some local Japanese organizations of the government. The Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme (JET) is an annual program where foreign students who pass the criteria and review process can stay and teach in Japan for one full year. It is a program to promote internationalization through the development of mutual understanding between Japan and other countries. Its aim is to increase Japanese education in foreign languages. You can continue to study the Japanese language during your stay.
7. It’s your gateway to more Asian cultures and languages
Other Asian nations, such as Korea, China and India exerted influence over Japanese history. Although the Asian cultures are different, they also share some similarities, which you’ll be able to recognize when you study the language. You’ll see the values they share with the country, including aesthetics, ethics and religious beliefs.
It will likewise help you learn other languages in Asia. Japanese grammar is quite similar to Korean grammar. Both have advanced honorifics system to show respect to persons of higher stature, older family members and strangers. Their writing system has similarities with the Chinese writing system, therefore, it would be easier for you to learn and understand either Chinese or Korean.
8. You’ll have access to advanced technology
Japan is a nation that is geographically isolated. Considering the devastation of the country during WWII and the fact that natural resources are scarce in the island, it’s impressive how the Japanese were able to turn things around. It is astonishing how the Japanese were able to rely on their scientific knowledge and creativity to make their country economically successful. They are leaders in various fields of technology such as fermentation processes, industrial robotics, semiconductor manufacturing, electronics and optical media. They are great innovators, attested by their being on top of the list of patent filings in the world. Each year, around 420,000 patent applications are filed by Japanese inventors.
If you work in the technology field, especially robotics, learning Japanese will be very advantageous for you. You’ll be able to understand Japanese cutting-edge technology. Aside from the robotic tools that help the manufacturing and other labor-intensive industries, Japan has created various robots, including animals and humanoids for various applications.
Do you still remember the Aibo robot dogs? They are being utilized in facilities that care for the elderly. Other robots including the Tree, humanoid Pepper and Paro, the furry seal often coach and lead the elderly through their daily exercises. Palro is a small humanoid conversational robot used in elderly care facilities to guide them in their daily routines or conduct conversations with them. Another version of Pepper has become important in filling the lack of workers in the food service industry. Japanese inventors have successfully created human-like robots as well that are able to conduct normal conversation.
Globalization has opened new markets and allowed countries to engage in trade faster. However, there is always the problem of communication because nations speak different languages, which is why learning new languages is increasingly encouraged. Being able to speak other languages improves economic ties because communication is facilitated and understanding is enhanced.
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