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xinoxanu

"Doing Japan" after 5 years dedicated to "Doing China"

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xinoxanu

It's Monday morning so my apologies if the title is not that inspiring.

 

I've been focusing on China for the past 5 years or so. Lived, studied, worked (and nearly got married) there until very recently. I am currently doing a BA in International Relations and one of my ideas for doing that was to make progress inside my company (with close ties to China) and eventually jump ship to something more related to that field of study (international development, think tanks, NGO's, etc). Once finished (around 2022), my original plan was to do a Master's to expand my prospects in China/Taiwan/Hong Kong/Singapore.

 

Now, the thing is that I've always been interested in Japan (gotta blame anime running 24/7 on National TV - basically all my generation could say the same), but due to circumstances I ended up in China and unexpectedly had a blast while there (the marrying part is serious, albeit she wasn't the one). I still believe that "doing China" is what I want to do, since I've seen with my own eyes the power of change that country has (for better or worst, won't get into that here)... but I can't seem to shake the notion that I also want to "do Japan". 

 

Now mind me when I say that I realise that the Japan I saw through a kid's eyes is not the real Japan, and that relationships and work in that country are definitely something different to the West's. But no so different to China, nevertheless, which I've already done and found ok to live with... and besides, if you have survived the China of lately I don't think one should have trouble surviving anywhere else.

 

I guess what I am trying to ask is if someone in a similar situation has felt this "pull" before (not only towards Japan, but idk, studying French and "doing France") and has managed to not throw away countless hours of Chinese Language down the drain once one has to inevitably start studying Japanese. Is it really possible to maintain both languages? Is it really possible to get focused on any? And, with both cultures being somewhat antagonistic, is it possible to love them both... or eventually you have to choose?

 

Yes, 'rona is definitely taking a toll.

 

谢谢啊

 

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Tomsima

I would guess many of us have. I have always had a massive desire to learn canto since I was a kid, but jumped at the chance to learn mandarin when I had it. I went down the canto route for a good six months a while back, alongside my mandarin. Had a blast, but the pull to keep honing my mandarin beat out the desire to learn canto, and I ultimately went back to devoting myself to mandarin. You might find the same with Japanese, try it out for a while and see how you feel. What with it being lockdown and all, now seems like quite a good time to try out something like this

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xinoxanu

Thanks @Tomsima!

 

Thing is that I don't have the immediate need to start learning Japanese right now. In fact, between work & school full-time I am only maintaining my Chinese (fun fact: I don't need subtitles anymore... but every time I open my mouth to talk to someone only a 嗯 comes out).

 

At the time I learned Chinese because after 1 year living in the country + being on a serious relationship I felt I had to adapt. So I did. Therefore my idea is to learn Japanese once there or on the way there if I finally decide on that... which will be in about 2 years time. I still need to go for a master degree related to Asian politics taught in English, so anywhere in Japan or China/Taiwan/etc will do for me. It would be a suicide to start learning Japanese right now.

 

I also forgot to mention that I've been practising karate for a while now, to the point that it's part of me now and I don't see myself stopping anytime soon. Japanese universities are famous for their martial art clubs, so it's something to consider.

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NinjaTurtle
2 hours ago, xinoxanu said:

Is it really possible to maintain both languages?

 

Yes. I have lived in both countries, I speak Japanese and I am learning Chinese. If your Chinese is good enough (and it seems to be), there will be no interference from Chinese as you learn Japanese. The main thing about learning Japanese is don't learn Japanese grammar or vocabulary until you have mastered the two writing systems called hiragana and katakana.

 

There are a lot of Chinese people in Japan, so you should have no problem finding Chinese people to talk to (unless you end up way out in the countryside).

 

Here is a video on hiragana.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=174&v=yXwHenj-tkU&feature=emb_logo

 

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杰.克
2 hours ago, xinoxanu said:

Is it really possible to maintain both languages?

 

I'm only guessing at this but I would say no, not credibly. 

 

Reason I say this is I've been doing "china" for 7 years. Masters there, language programme, working for 3 years, then moved home and now working in an all Chinese language environment. Including consuming Chinese media , and studying in spare time. And i still feel like I've only got to the bottom ring of being useful to anyone in an actual work capacity (ie my knowledge is useful to someone or something other than my own pride and achievement sense).

 

Essentially you are gonna achieve a level in both, where you can chat in both languages socially, which will be cool. But work wise, which you mention your company, you will be nowhere near good enough, it will just be a cool hobby! (that i would hugely respect- but socially. It would be of little economic value). Your not going to be hired for being able to speak half good Japanese and Mandarin. You may be hired for being good at one. Or for having a good understanding of the region and doing business in it, but no, not for being okay at both.

 

TLDR - Assuming a statisicaly normal adult learner with no family background in either - Big fat No - respect how hard they are. 

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889

I think starting out with Japanese then moving to Chinese would be a lot easier.

 

The problem moving in the opposite direction is that Chinese, and China, spoil you. If you hated learning those European languages with their tenses and cases and genders and such, then fell in love with Chinese because the grammar seemed so easy by comparison, you'll be really unhappy getting into the morass of Japanese grammar. And for whatever reason, Westerners and Chinese hit it off pretty well. But in Japan, you'll always find a wall. That is, in terms of both language and culture, Japan is a chore compared with China.

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haveheart
2 hours ago, xinoxanu said:

Is it really possible to maintain both languages?

I pretty much did the opposite, but I'm still struggling to stay motivated to continue improving my Chinese. I keep thinking "I dont want my Japanese to waste away" or I'll hear a word I don't know in Japanese and think "woops I missed one". I'm able to comfortably watch tv/ read novels in Japanese but I keep moving my goalpost and never get fully into "Chinese only hardcore study mode". 

That being said I find that a couple hours of raw Chinese tv and my comprehension is back up to near where I left it, so atrophying language ability might not be a huge problem if you regularly use both.

The problem is learning that next language(L3?) to the same level as your  L2 is going to take years of hard work and motivation to keep up the grind. 
At least kanji wont be an issue though.   

Also I cant speak for using either language at work, but from what I've heard most companies only require N2 from the JLPT which is a very achievable goal if you work at it. 

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xinoxanu
1 hour ago, NinjaTurtle said:

Yes. I have lived in both countries, I speak Japanese and I am learning Chinese. If your Chinese is good enough (and it seems to be), there will be no interference from Chinese as you learn Japanese. The main thing about learning Japanese is don't learn Japanese grammar or vocabulary until you have mastered the two writing systems called hiragana and katakana.

 

Thanks for the tips!

 

1 hour ago, 杰.克 said:

Your not going to be hired for being able to speak half good Japanese and Mandarin. You may be hired for being good at one. Or for having a good understanding of the region and doing business in it, but no, not for being okay at both.

 

42 minutes ago, haveheart said:

Also I cant speak for using either language at work, but from what I've heard most companies only require N2 from the JLPT which is a very achievable goal if you work at it. 

 

Definitely this is a concern I have in mind, but I understand that the Japanese want you to have a native level of their language... which totally makes sense to me. I am definitely thinking about getting 1 year of intensive Japanese prior to starting the master + part-time while the course lasts. That should bring me up to a reasonable level where they can "start considering me for positions" and where the fact that I am a foreigner that already speaks 4-5 languages and it's not a machine it's also not a bad catch. One can only dream, right? 🤪

 

Either way, no matter if it's China/Japan, I plan to achieve fluency. IMHO, there's no point in living there otherwise because I've already seen and experienced what it's like to have poor language skills in a mono-linguistic country, and it ain't pretty.

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xinoxanu
1 hour ago, 889 said:

If you hated learning those European languages with their tenses and cases and genders and such, then fell in love with Chinese because the grammar seemed so easy by comparison, you'll be really unhappy getting into the morass of Japanese grammar.

 

I am trilingual since I was 6 years old or so and I've experienced first-hand the hardships of grammar when learning two different romance languages... but I hear you, Japanese grammar is up there with German on my list so I understand where I am getting.

 

1 hour ago, 889 said:

That is, in terms of both language and culture, Japan is a chore compared with China.

 

I mean it's all about adaptability isn't it? It always depends on how much of your soul are you willing to change or adapt, and lucky me I am all-in thanks to having been raised in 3 different cultures at the same time which I don't feel I am a part of.

 

Still looking for a place to fit in, and the 30's wall is getting closer and closer.

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PerpetualChange
8 hours ago, 杰.克 said:

I'm only guessing at this but I would say no, not credibly. 

 

Reason I say this is I've been doing "china" for 7 years. Masters there, language programme, working for 3 years, then moved home and now working in an all Chinese language environment. Including consuming Chinese media , and studying in spare time. And i still feel like I've only got to the bottom ring of being useful to anyone in an actual work capacity (ie my knowledge is useful to someone or something other than my own pride and achievement sense).

 

Essentially you are gonna achieve a level in both, where you can chat in both languages socially, which will be cool. But work wise, which you mention your company, you will be nowhere near good enough, it will just be a cool hobby! (that i would hugely respect- but socially. It would be of little economic value). Your not going to be hired for being able to speak half good Japanese and Mandarin. You may be hired for being good at one. Or for having a good understanding of the region and doing business in it, but no, not for being okay at both.

 

TLDR - Assuming a statisicaly normal adult learner with no family background in either - Big fat No - respect how hard they are. 

 

I'm not sure what this post is getting at? You can definitely learn to speak both Chinese and Japanese "credibly". I know several westerners who have, and who have lived and worked in different places during their lives. As far as speaking either language at a professional level goes? I'm not sure. Is that ever the goal, as someone who presumably speaks English as their native language? 

 

Getting back to the OP, I can't speak for the rest of life, but I have enjoyed casual Japanese study which I began this year, after 12 years of nothing but Mandarin and occasional (less than 1-2 month) flirtations with other languages. It's nice turning to something new, and having the scars from jumping into Mandarin as my 2nd language to help me avoid the same pitfalls over again. I don't study Japanese any more than 30 minutes per day, but I'm making steady progress and my Chinese does not at all interview with the other. Your Chinese language abilities will not disappear unless you stop using Chinese (I suggest you find some way of using Chinese outside formal study before you decide to pick up something new). 

 

8 hours ago, 889 said:

But in Japan, you'll always find a wall. That is, in terms of both language and culture, Japan is a chore compared with China.

 

I've never been to Japan, but I've noticed something like this in online interactions on apps such as Hellotalk. Overall Japanese people are just far more introverted and less outgoing than Chinese. I don't consider this a "chore" at all but the days of being bombared by people who want to "help me learn" are long gone with Japanese. 

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imron
11 hours ago, 889 said:

I think starting out with Japanese then moving to Chinese would be a lot easier.

The plus side of doing it the other way is that if you've reached a good enough level of Chinese you'll already know several thousand characters, and learning the kanji won't feel nearly as daunting as it does to most other foreign learners.

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carlo

I have a somewhat similar language background but I'm older than you. I've stopped actively learning Mandarin more than a decade ago but have continued using it -- I don't think I've lost any of it, despite having worked on Cantonese, Japanese and (Swiss) German after that. I still read, follow current affairs, talk to friends, etc.

 

I think it's not just about the level you're at, but about finding the right tipping point given your own circumstances. Are your connections with that culture, people etc strong enough that the language will stay with you? The good thing is that these days it's so much easier to keep these connections alive thanks to the internet (unless and until we bomb each other back to the stone age). A random example: this morning I'm using German to learn about Japan with this. Tomorrow I might do the opposite.

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NinjaTurtle
13 hours ago, xinoxanu said:

most companies only require N2 from the JLPT

 

This really depends on what kind of job you get. What kind of job do you hope to get while living in Japan?

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杰.克
8 hours ago, PerpetualChange said:

I'm not sure what this post is getting at?

 

In my opinion, it would be very difficult to reach "credible" working level proficiency(ie you wholly conduct your employment in that language) in Chinese and Japanese in the space of 5 years. As the posts gets at.

 

Socially, they would be fine, even impressive. But the OP was mainly touching on his career and company as I remember, and as such reference in my post.

 

 

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xinoxanu
2 hours ago, NinjaTurtle said:
15 hours ago, xinoxanu said:

most companies only require N2 from the JLPT

 

This really depends on what kind of job you get. What kind of job do you hope to get while living in Japan?

 

Were you quoting me or the original?

 

As I said, I want to work in something that is Asian politics/development related. The field is wide, albeit the opportunities are scarce...wherever you look for them. Also considering dragging my feet through academia since I find the topic fascinating, but I'd like some first hand experience... otherwise I'd only be parroting the contents of a book I've read but I haven't put into practice.

 

Either way, for what I've seen, an N2 it's like an HSK 6 (or harder to get)... so not really the pinnacle of fluency anyway, isn't it? The Japanese seem to want the latter more than any pretty white face you can bring to the table.

 

 

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xinoxanu
3 hours ago, carlo said:

Are your connections with that culture, people etc strong enough that the language will stay with you?

 

That's a good question. 

 

Right now I am in a bit of a turmoil as you can tell by my post. Still interested and connected to the country, but definitely not as much as when I was there on a different track of life and then things went up in flames.

 

Also, due to my interest in politics on the area, recent events are also taking a toll on the beliefs and hopes I had for the country/world. A love/hate relationship is starting to develop and honestly that's a new thing for me... hence the inner conflict.

 

Either way, purely keeping up with Chinese language is something of a routine at the moment, and I don't see a problem on doing so for the long-term until somehow I run out of daylight hours.

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xinoxanu
47 minutes ago, 杰.克 said:

But the OP was mainly touching on his career and company as I remember, and as such reference in my post.

 

To be honest I don't really love what I do and it doesn't have anything to do with what my plans are for the future.

 

But my company is a big name on my résumé and I have chances to grow there, so it will be helpful in the future. I'd jump ship on a heartbeat if I found something better, which is not currently possible.

8 hours ago, PerpetualChange said:

Getting back to the OP, I can't speak for the rest of life, but I have enjoyed casual Japanese study which I began this year, after 12 years of nothing but Mandarin and occasional (less than 1-2 month) flirtations with other languages. It's nice turning to something new, and having the scars from jumping into Mandarin as my 2nd language to help me avoid the same pitfalls over again. I don't study Japanese any more than 30 minutes per day, but I'm making steady progress and my Chinese does not at all interview with the other. Your Chinese language abilities will not disappear unless you stop using Chinese (I suggest you find some way of using Chinese outside formal study before you decide to pick up something new). 

 

Good points!

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NinjaTurtle
10 hours ago, xinoxanu said:

I want to work in something that is Asian politics/development related.

 

If you want to get a job in Japanese politics then, yes, you will have to be able to speak Japanese at a very high level.

 

There is one thing I want to point out. In my opinion, a lot of learning a language depends on a person’s ‘talent’ for learning that language. (I have a talent for learning Japanese but not for learning Chinese.) I think a lot of your future success in achieving a high level of Japanese ability depends on this. Of course, the only way to find out is to give it a shot.

 

And, as you probably already know, the best way to learn a language is to immerse yourself in it while being in that country. While I was in Japan, after a couple of years, I would leave my English school on Friday afternoon and not speak a word of English until I went back to work on Monday morning. (I really enjoyed it.) Are you ready to do this in Japanese?

 

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xinoxanu
2 hours ago, NinjaTurtle said:

Are you ready to do this in Japanese?

 

I mean, I've done it in Chinese while in China already. As per "talent"? For me languages are just tools that simply require time and being constant, but don't require any other effort whatsoever and anybody that isn't completely tone-deaf can learn them. You get what you put in them, and as a long as you are not aiming for the stars of fluency (perfect accent, no mistakes, etc) you should be fine... Long gone are the days where I tried to fake a British accent when my European one doesn't make me less capable of speaking the language. Can you elaborate on why you think you don't you have "talent" to learn Chinese?

 

2 hours ago, NinjaTurtle said:

If you want to get a job in Japanese politics then, yes, you will have to be able to speak Japanese at a very high level.

 

For what I understand, any job in Japan will require that high level anyway. Also, not Japanese politics per se, I don't have an interest on those. Maybe I should have said "politics in Asia" instead of Asian Politics: how countries are developed, the outside influence they receive, the roles of technology and the environment and so on. I know, it's vague, but I am still only 2 years into my BA and I don't want yet to define what is what I want to do, I'll leave that for when it's time to get a master (elaborating on that: this master sounds pretty interesting to me right now, but I may eventually get an MBA instead since I'll have enough years of work experience - who knows).

 

I also must clarify that I have limited options on where to go to school next. Western Europe has been on an ongoing recession for over 12 years now, and salaries are not really kind. The Chinese government with their CSC scholarships probably it's the easiest bet, but my grades indicate I might be able to get into LSE and apply for a scholarship/long-term loan there... Japan masters are not particularly expensive, and I am not considering education in the US for obvious reasons. To be honest, I am already quite late to the party because when I finish with all these I'll be +5 years older than recent graduates from much better universities, so the only thing I'll have to level the field is my resilience/bravery/craziness and the place where I got my education from won't really matter that much.

 

The more I dwell on this the more it feels like I am 17 again and thinking of where to go to school and what to study. It's been nearly a decade since then, but I still don't quite know what I want to do when I grow up... 哎呀

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NinjaTurtle
6 hours ago, xinoxanu said:

For me languages are just tools that simply require time and being constant, but don't require any other effort whatsoever and anybody that isn't completely tone-deaf can learn them. You get what you put in them, and as a long as you are not aiming for the stars of fluency (perfect accent, no mistakes, etc) you should be fine...

 

 

My experience has been different, due to ‘intangibles’.

 

6 hours ago, xinoxanu said:

Can you elaborate on why you think you don't you have "talent" to learn Chinese?

 

There are several factors.


1. There is basic level of interest in and motivation to study a language. There is also the fascination a particular language has to a person. I have had hundreds of students in China and Japan who are just not motivated to learn English, so for these students I do not think any real progress is possible. (Many of us English teachers have suffered with students in China or Japan who just do not want to learn English, they only do it because their parents are forcing them to study English. If the motivation is not there, it will not happen, no matter what.)

 

2. There is ‘talent’, which can be described as how easily a person acquires a language. Don’t get me wrong, learning Japanese was one of the hardest things I have ever done. But once I spent several years learning Japanese and started using it in Japan, it really started to ‘grow’ on me and my ‘talent’ appeared. (It never ‘appeared’ at any time in my years in China studying Chinese.) I have known Americans where Japanese just ‘works’ for them whereas Chinese does not, and vice versa. And of course I  know Americans where neither Japanese or Chinese ‘work’ for them at all.

 

3. There are some people who study Chinese or Japanese but they never gain any level of expertise. It just doesn’t ‘work’ for them. I know one fellow who lives in Japan, is married to a Japanese lady, and he puts a great deal of effort into studying Japanese, but it is just not ‘happening’. (This case is quite sad.)

 

So, it just seems there are a number of intangibles that affect whether a person will or won’t succeed at Chinese, Japanese, etc., and this is very much a part of the whole process.

 

6 hours ago, xinoxanu said:

I am still only 2 years into my BA and I don't want yet to define what is what I want to do

 

I am a fully-qualified career counselor for students at the collegiate level. The way I have my students look at majors and career paths is different than how you are doing it. But I think the best thing I can do for you is simply encourage you to make progress on your present path.

 

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