A language is a person.
Of course, it’s not a real person. You can’t see or touch Japanese.
But she exists.
She exists just like Harry Potter exists.
You don’t learn a language, you get used to it. When someone is used to something, what do we call them? We call them an “expert”, we say they’re “good at” it. We say they’re familiar with the object in question.
Familiar. Like family.
So not only is the Japanese language a person, not only is she a friend, she’s also family. Adoptive family, since she has no DNA of her own per se…but family nonetheless. Now, it turns out that most of her close friends and family were born and raised in Japan. And most of her close friends have known her since they were babies.
But that’s nothing more than a coincidence of convenience; those people just happened to be in places where it was cheap and easy to hang out with Japanese a lot. In no way does it mean that Japanese couldn’t become friends — family — with you. Plenty of her family members aren’t Japanese at all — see TV for details. In fact, because so many books and audiovisual recordings of Japanese have been produced – Japan’s is one of the most “media-productive” societies in the world – you don’t even need to know her other friends in order to become friends with her. Just like you don’t have to have met J. K. Rowling in order to like Harry Potter. The abundance of Japanese media is our very own coincidence of convenience. If you don’t believe me, try getting Hindi manga. More speakers, sure, but (despite the movie industry) less manga.
Remember, though — even family can become estranged; even friends can become strangers. So Japanese is your friend, Japanese is your family. But guess what? If you really want to get close…if you want her to tell you all her secrets…if you want to be finishing her sentences before she even starts saying them…then you’re going to need to hang out…a lot. A…lot. You’ll become each other’s shadow, as they say.
If you want Japanese to trust you, you’re going to have to trust her and treat her well. Would you let a close friend, a member of your family, stand out in the cold, starving to death while you ate dinner inside? As if you were some sort of wicked fairytale stepmother? No, you’d invite her to the table, wouldn’t you? Invite Japanese to your dinner table. Let her sleep in your bed (like the Herlihy boy…lol). Go on errands with her. Hang out together. Become tight.
You don’t learn a language. You get used to it. And you can’t get used to something you’re always avoiding. You can’t get used to something you’re barely ever around. You can’t get used to something you only see once in a while when the guilt hits, like some kind of deadbeat dad. What, you think you can just send Japanese $5 on her birthday and everything’ll be cool?
You can’t really become friends if you don’t play and do silly things together. You can’t do serious things together before you do fun things together. And you can’t reasonably expect Japanese to do you big economic favors if she barely knows who you are.
You cannot just start out being serious with Japanese. You have to earn the right by goofing around first. So hang out. Play. Enjoy your nth childhood together. She loves being with her friends and family: she lives through them. And she’s always looking to make another friend. She’d love to have another baby sibling or child or whatever. It would make her day. Go on. Do something stupid together.