Yo. There’s a lot of misconception out there about the supposed difficulty of Japanese. There’s a lot of misconception about Japan itself. And here I am preaching to you about misconception, but I grew up with kung-fu movies, too, just like you. I thought all East Asians knew martial arts, ate rice (wait, this one’s true!), meditated daily on the Analects, and were just generally superhuman. But Japan is, at the end of the day, a country of human beings, just like you and me. Lazy, candy-eating, comic-reading people who wish their parents would just can it so they could play some more PlayStation; who learn their own language like we all do — because it’s there. As Oscar Wilde once put it:
“The actual people who live in Japan are not unlike the general run of English people; that is to say, they are extremely commonplace, and have nothing curious or extraordinary about them.”
Way to bring us back to reality, Oscar Wilde. You go, boyyy.
Back on topic. Everyone loves a success story. They inspire us; they drive us; they let us know that our dreams are possible because someone’s gone done already done it. So here are links to stories of people who have had success learning Japanese.
- His Excellency James W. Heisig, Prince of the Kanji Realms himself. A lot of people give me guff and accuse me of making up all this Japanese fluency crap. But it doesn’t compare to the guff that Heisig has been getting ever since the very inception of his method. You go, boyyy. Speaking of which, there are two quotes from Heisig in this interview that I really love: “the only languages that should be learned in school are dead languages” — although, if this is anything to go by (thanks, quendidil!), maybe not even dead languages fit that rubric; I certainly don’t think they do. And then there was his thing about going to: “live in the mountains of Nagano Prefecture, where he ‘played with the children there and learned how to speak.'” Good stuff.
- Manny Sultan, an architect from Egypt. In his own words, he turned his room/apartment: “into a Japanese language camp. There were kanji cards on the ceiling, the walls, all over the floor. It was a challenge. I had put myself into a corner; I had to perform or sink. I believe in that sort of situation, the human mind has no limits.” You go, boyyy.
- Arudou Debito (formerly David Aldwinckle), a naturalized Japanese citizen and political activist. Also a published author in Japanese. I love his, to paraphrase: “get the heck fluent before coming to Japan” advice. If you’re already in Japan but not yet fluent, don’t worry — just hurry up.
- Dr. Mary Sisk Noguchi, university professor and head of KanjiClinic. She learned kanji using the Heisig method, and then learned readings by reading (duplication duplication woo!) furigana books. You go…boyyy.
- Chris Houser, the guy who told me to use SuperMemo (an SRS) for learning kanji. I pestered the poor man with emails for weeks thereafter. He doesn’t actually have his success story up there, not in full anyway. Maybe you can pester him for it.
Your Success Story
But enough about other people. Now it’s your time to shine. I want to hear your success story, partly out of curiosity for myself, but more importantly, to help those like you who will come afterward. I’m going to put them up on this site, and people will read them and feel all warm and fuzzy inside. So, if you’ve been using the methods discussed on this site, and you’ve had success and you’re willing to share (you’d better be!), email me right now! Operators are standing by! “What operators?”, you say? — Shut up and start typing!