We’ve all run into them on local websites, message boards, and anime mailing lists (wow, how long ago was this?!). You know what I’m talking about: those “Nihongo experts” who think they’re hot shit because they’ve watched a couple of fansubbed anime eps, changed their last names to their favorite anime character’s surname, and claim that they are 1/4th of 1/8th of 1/16th Japanese.
What these poor saps don’t know is that the phrases they are spouting out are pretty much nonsense, and that they are the farthest thing you can get from real Japanese that normal people use in everyday conversation. Yeah, sure — it may sound cute in anime, but nobody actually goes around ending their sentences in “-dattebayo”, “-desuwa” or “-desudesudesudesudesudesu”.
If you are serious about learning the language and not just trying to impress your clueless weaboo pals, here are five ways not to go about it:
Memorizing a phrase book.
A phrase book is something you pick up to learn basic sentences that may help with a short-term trip to a foreign country — these trips usually do not go beyond a single week. Although it is a good way to pick up polite phrases like “Please.”, “Thank you.”, and “Excuse me.”, it is not extensive enough to cover even the basics of a language as complicated as Japanese.
Instead, use a basic learners book since the text will help you build up your vocabulary bit by bit, as opposed to spouting off set words with very little explanation like in a phrase book.
Subscribing to “Learn Japanese Online” programs.
A large part if learning Japanese is to hear it being pronounced correctly by a native. There are a lot of subtleties that will be difficult to convey with mere text, the way these programs are usually conducted. One of the key examples illustrating this difficulty is the difference of the “n” and “nn” sound in Nihongo — to Filipino ears they are one and the same, but to the Japanese they are two distinct sounds.
Online Japanese programs are great for building up reading vocabulary and getting used to the Japanese kana system, just don’t expect it to take the place of a real teacher who will be able to illustrate the subtleties of pronunciation.
Hooboy, here we go. If you guys take away one thing out of this post, I hope it is this: anime is not a Nihongo teacher. The kind of Japanese you hear from most shows are liberally sprinkled with mannerisms and personal inflections and other random bullshit that make it “sound more interesting” rather than “sound more correct” — hence, completely useless in daily life.
So unless you are a blonde, orange-bedecked teenage ninja hiding up in the branches of trees (how orange blends in with green, I will never know), you will never actually say to your department colleagues in the middle of a business lunch on a company trip to Tokyo, “Would you like more wine, dattebayo?”.
Getting lessons from self-styled “sensei” on the internet.
Find me twenty “Nihongo sensei” on local message boards, fansites, or even on Youtube, and I will tell you that only one or two of them is an actual sensei. All the other yahoos are self-styled Japanese experts who think they are qualified to teach other people Nihongo just because they finished the first module of Minna no Nihongo — which is like saying they don’t know anything beyond “Good morning.”, “Good evening.”, and “Good night.”.
Also steer clear of people who claim to be 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, or even 1/16th Japanese — they know as much Japanese as a bushman in the Kalahari. Blood is not an indicator of language skills — otherwise, none of us would’ve been able to understand the tiniest bit of English, since we are mostly Malay and not Caucasian.
Looking for a Japanese GF/BF to be your tutor.
Some weaboos are actually crass enough to try to score a Japanese boy or girlfriend for the purpose of improving their language skills. This is s double-edged sword they are playing with, because even if they do find someone who is willing to teach them the language on top of being their significant other, the kind of Japanese you will learn will be completely inappropriate.
Can you imagine a big, burly basketball player kinda guy talking like a teenage Japanese gyaru from the deepest underbelly of Shibuya, because he picked up the mannerisms and language quirks of his girlfriend? Yikes! Stick with a real teacher — preferably someone of your own gender, so that you can learn the subtleties of male and female Japanese. That way you don’t embarrass yourself ordering a beer at your favorite izakaya going, “Beer ippon kudasai ne *kira kira eyes* <3<3<3”.
This post was inspired by Tofugu’s Top 10 Reasons a Japanese Girlfriend Won’t Help Your Japanese. Thanks to Khursten of Otaku Champloo for the link!