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October 11, 2007

If you need some inspiration today…. 

Here is another one of those stories about the benighted gaijin who learns Japanese, makes some connections, and hits the big time (or semi-big time) in the Japanese business world.


Nurses need to learn Japanese too 

Japan is apparently a popular destination for Filipino nurses. Here is an article from one of Manila’s English-language newspapers about Filipino nurses, the Japanese language, and the challenges faced by foreign workers in Japan. This is not a strictly language-related article, but it is interesting nonetheless.


October 10, 2007


"How long will it take me to learn Japanese?" 

This is a question that I often hear from people who have just picked up a beginner’s Japanese textbook, or enrolled in a Japanese language class at their local university.  

This is a perfectly reasonable inquiry. The study of a foreign language requires a substantial investment of time and effort, and a moderate amount of money. Before taking the leap, most people want to know what sort of return they can expect on their investment, and about how long it will take to realize that return. 

Before I answer, let me clarify my beginning assumptions. First of all, I am going to assume that the study of Japanese isn’t your fulltime job. (continue...)


October 9, 2007

Kindergarten students in Connecticut studying Japanese 

If you are college student or a working professional, I don’t want to hear you complain that Japanese is "too difficult" for you.  As this article in the New Haven Register explains, kindergarten students at an academy in Connecticut will begin studying Japanese in January. (And the school’s first graders are already studying Japanese.) 

Articles like this demonstrate a point that I am constantly harping on, both here and at EdwardTrimnell.com: We Americans could learn languages just as well as anyone, if only we would make it more of a national priority. This means that we must stop relying on the rest of the world’s English skills, and realize that foreign language skills are ultimately about our global competitiveness.  

As the New Haven Register reminds us

President Bush declared Japanese, Chinese, Russian, Arabic, Hindi and Korean critical needs languages in 2006 because the United States has a shortage of foreign language speakers fluent enough to meet the nation’s business, diplomatic and security needs.

So go learn your Japanese folks, and then tackle Chinese, Russian, or Arabic…


October 8, 2007

More fears about cultural decline from the Japanese press

Does electronic media promote or hinder literacy? Well, the jury is still out on that one. According to a recent study, most Americans read only a small number of books each year. The culprits, of course, are television and the internet. People are tuning in and logging on---rather than opening books.

There is similar hand-wringing to be found in the Japanese press. According to this article, contemporary Japanese lack skills in writing kanji (word processing software makes this unnecessary for many) and a knowledge of literary proverbs.

I think that the article is overly pessimistic. But it's food for thought nonetheless.


October 7, 2007

Curious about sushi?

From the Guardian Unlimited

Of all the mysteries of Japanese culture, the art of how to make perfect sushi is the most cherished. Master chefs jealously conceal the secrets of their craft from all but the most faithful of acolytes, and then only spill the beans after years of patient apprenticeship. (continue reading..

One interesting tidbit from the article is the fact that sushi originated in China---not Japan: 

Sushi was invented in China more than 2,000 years ago to preserve fish for up to a year using fermented rice. Known as narezushi, the rice was thrown away and only the fish was eaten. A later variant, called namanarezushi, was invented in the 16th century when vinegared rice was introduced and consumed alongside the fish, instead of being thrown away. (Complete article here…)