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Why Japanese Is Both the Hardest and Easiest Language to Learn


When you take one look at Japanese
grammar, pitch accent, and kanji, It’s very easy to come to the conclusion that Japanese
is one of the world’s hardest languages to learn from the perspective of an English native speaker. There is something that Japanese has, however,
that not many other languages possess, and because of this one thing it could potentially make the language much easier than we’re led to believe. With this, I don’t mean to diminish anyone’s
hard work towards learning Japanese but rather share different perspective
that hopefully gives some inspiration and motivation to those currently learning or to those who want to learn but haven’t started yet. And to those watching but not interested in learning, Wait, why are you wat- So, how can Japanese be both the
hardest and easiest language to learn? Despite the time-consuming process of learning Japanese grammar, pitch accent, and kanji, that unique thing Japanese has is tons and tons of content Japanese has anime, manga, video games,
visual novels, dramas, movies, music, and a culture that attracts the attention
of millions of people across the world. Unfortunately, the issue is that
people are getting caught in learning just kanji, pitch accent, and grammar rules, and they never really try to learn from the
good juicy native content that Japanese offers. And when they do try, they don’t stick with it long enough and they just quit after one, two, or three days But of course, learning from this kind of
native material can be very overwhelming But that’s why I’m such a big fan of learning Japanese from anime starting from day one. And to be clear, I’m not saying that everyone should just watch anime for sixteen hours a day and
never pick up a course book or kanji book. What I’m saying is that forcing yourself to study for two, three, four hours every single day is going to completely burn you out after six months, I’ve been down that road with
Korean many many years ago. And you know what? I get it. It’s embarrassing to tell people that
you learn Japanese from anime because we all know that guy. You know, that guy. Thanks, Darren, for screwing it up for everybody else, hmm? But if you prayed it to your grammar book in hopes that you won’t turn into a weeb before you
started learning Japanese from anime, and by that, I mean just study for 30 to 60
minutes and then watch a few episodes, you might find it’s incredibly easy to
pick up thousands of vocabulary words and grammar structures
that are found in everyday Japanese just by turning off the subtitles and listening in. Now, I know what you’re probably thinking. You can’t actually learn how to speak
Japanese by watching anime, right? Well… Yeah, I’m not so sure about that. In reality, it’s so easy to learn and keep
learning for multiple hours per day, and as a result, you eventually encounter and learn all the “serious”
Japanese that you need to know. You can even use the Japanese
subtitles to help you learn even more including kanji as well. But don’t you need to learn all
2,000+ of the “regular-use” kanji before you can read Japanese? Absolutely not! While it’s true that I used
“Remembering the Kanji” in an “attempt” to study
800 of those characters, I couldn’t actually complete the full course. And if it makes you feel any better, I forgot A LOT of those 800 characters. I was making great progress
learning 20-30 kanji a day, but honestly, I just got bored after a while. And I needed something else to do. I definitely didn’t feel
ready to read anything, but the most important
thing was that I started. And I started with the
Japanese subtitles from kitsunekko.net for the anime
that I was watching at the time. And that’s how I was
able to learn the rest. Well, at least the “regular-use” kanji that is. People get caught in this idea that we
must complete the full kanji course or the entire grammar book before doing anything else. We have this idea that we need to study
super hard for years, and then one day, just magically we’re
able to understand native Japanese 100% no subtitles or translations required. But in reality, reading and listening to native Japanese every single day is how you eventually get to that point. And because japanese has so much
good content you can binge on, it can potentially become the easiest language to immerse yourself in and learn from day in and day out In other words, while it’s going to take native English
speakers more time in general to reach the advanced levels
of Japanese than say Spanish, the mental effort and burden
required to reach this point can be significantly much less in Japanese when the language is learned primarily through native materials. You see, without that good content to practice
reading and listening in a foreign language all this learning becomes meaningless. The truth is out of millions of people
who start learning foreign languages, most just stop learning at some
point and quit altogether. For example, I studied Korean for four years religiously while living and working
as an English teacher in South Korea. But I eventually lost all motivation to continue learning even though I was inside the country and studying that language was my
entire life for that whole period. The thing is that Korean has
plenty of good content as well like K dramas movies and comedy shows. And I found it all very interesting, but after
four years of immersing myself in that country I had accumulated very little content in particular that I wanted to read or listened to for fun and just for the sake of the content itself. I realized I was reading and listening to all
this Korean but mostly only to learn Korean. What was the point of pushing myself to reach the advanced levels if it had lost all meaning? Just to get some job at some Korean company? Mmmmmmm…Meh. It’s true that many people study foreign
languages for work-related reasons. They want to build that resume and work in a foreign country and get ahead in their careers. And even then, having some kind of cultural affinity with the language you’re studying makes it so much easier. So if you were super into Korean culture
or any other foreign culture, You could make the argument that that
language is the easiest language to learn (for you.) But it just so happens that a lot of people that learn Japanese like myself we do it because we’re weebs! It’s because we’re absolutely fascinated by so
much of what Japan offers and as a result, we’re naturally interested in
learning the language as well. That’s because good content in a foreign
language gives birth to the reason to start learning it and the ultimate
motivation to persist in mastering it. Even if you’re someone who’s not interested in anime, Try not being moved by one of the major films from Studio Ghibli or reading a manga like Death Note. I understand that anime doesn’t appeal
to a large number of people out there, yet if a guy like Bill burr can like One Punch Man, there’s at least a small chance you might like it as well. So to put everything all together, whether you’re interested in learning Japanese or are currently studying, there’s going to be some initial effort required in learning the basics to grammar, pitch accent, and kanji. But whenever you find yourself getting continually bored with whatever material you’re working through, It doesn’t mean that you’re lazy nor stupid. In fact, it’s a sign from your highly intelligent brain, which is the product of millions of years of evolution, and it’s trying to tell you to try something new Go to the source material that got you interested learning Japanese in the first place, and learn directly from that. If you know the basics of hiragana,
katakana, and grammar, you have more than enough to begin your own journey. You can always learn the hard parts along the way. And if learning Japanese from things
like anime and video games still seems unrealistic to you personally, to that I say, World of Warcraft. Seriously. You’d be surprised at all the different
ways millions of people across the world have used to reach a high level
of English including World of Warcraft. There’s one story in particular though, which I would like to share with you. This story comes from the world’s top
Super Smash Brothers player who goes by the name ZeRo and who also learned English primarily through video games. In his home town in Chile, all the video games sold
came in English rather than Spanish So he had to learn English to even be able
to play video games while growing up. At just 10 years old, he printed out a 30
page guide in English on how to play the character Falco in the game Super Smash Brothers Melee. And with the help of a dictionary and his sister, he was able to read the entire guide and
eventually understand all of it. Now not only as he considered the best
player of the current game, he lives the majority of his life through English. With that story in mind, I’d like to conclude this video with a
quote from Friedrich Nietzsche He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how. And as always, thanks for watching.

74 Replies to “Why Japanese Is Both the Hardest and Easiest Language to Learn”

  • In the process of making this video, I realized how much of a financial hole I've dug myself into with this crazy idea of quitting my full-time job to start this YouTube channel. I need to start climbing out of this hole, so I'm going to go on a break to do just that. I'm not exactly sure when I will be back, but if you'd like to support me, the best possible way you could do so is to leave a simple review for my book on Amazon (if you read it that is).

    Thanks to everyone who decided to give a chance to a guy who decided to go with the name “Fluent Japanese From Anime”.

  • Yeah, it's amazing how far you can go if you're into the content. I met a lady here in Thailand who learned English simply by listening to music. She would sing along without really even knowing what she was saying. Eventually, she picked up the language. I thought that was pretty incredible

  • So besides studying grammar, hiragana /katana, by watching anime without subs my brain will start to understand the language little by little? Seems almost unbelievable at this point early on in my journey.

  • Yes, having something that is interesting to you, is really the most important thing.

    I too learned english by accident.
    Like almost everyone in germany, I had english in school, but I really sucked at it. Right before going to university, I wasnt even able to read simple books or anything like that. But I got intressted in a topic where most good content was in english. I just began reading with the help of a dictionary. And later on watching youtube videos on the topic. I never thought about my english "level" at all. (Never even bought a grammar book.) I just looked up all the words I didnt know.
    The first time I really realised how good I have gotten was when I wrote my bachelor thesis and had to read studies. I realised that I understood everything without the help of a dictionary.
    Doing the same thing right now with japanese. Just with a little more effort and planning.

  • Guys, THIS is this type of content I want to watch on YouTube. It helps me stop binging stupid videos, and instead be satisfied with a few of these type of videos. I can rant about how good his videos are but ill save it for another comment.

    PLEASE help him make more! I recently started supporting him on patreon and I don't feel like stopping any time soon.

  • You're amazing in speaking Japanese! On my way in learning too! Just started few weeks ago from Hiragana to Katakana and forming some words at first. Nice video! You're so positive! Way to go!

  • Before learning from anime, you must have a solide academic fondation then after learning the basics and some harder parts you can finally move on to anime BUT!!!…….you need to be careful with anime cause most of the caracters in anime use a very argotic way of speaking

  • Mattvsjapan is a douchebag for calling you out on having “bad” japanese skills(although I am a fan of Mattvsjapan). You aim to motivate, to inspire.. and Honestly, from what I hear, you know exactly what you’re talking about. Like literally, you don’t sound like a bs’er. Maybe your japanese isn’t the best, but it doesn’t matter, your content is really good and you made very necessary points.

  • I want to learn Japanese and I really like anime, but I'm learning English and I have so much to improve. I hope to be able to start learn Japenese in the next year. 😀 When you started to speak in Japanese it was just amazing, your accent… I felt like waching anime hehe

  • Thanks a lot, i was thinking to stop learning japanese but this video just give me more motivation to not give up and keep learning but in a different way 🙂

  • I remember when I just gave up learning English in the 4th/5th grade (I don't exactly remember which one it was). It all seemed boring and useless. The only motivation teachers gave me was "you'll get a better job in the future". That's it. They didn't even tell us anything about English-speaking countries aside from "ThE BRiTiSh LOvE TeA". Most people propably don't even know that American English and British English are diffrent. I just got demotivated because I could get a nice job here if I tried hard enough so after some time my grades dropped and I was back to the basics (and by that I mean basic basics because schools don't really teach you that much. You mostly just repeat whatever you learned in the previous year and that goes for every subject EXCEPT MATH FUCK THEM).

    One day, I got bored and I had nothing to do or watch so I thought "Maybe I should check out that Pewdiepie guy everybody is talking about…" and started watching. The conted he produced at the time was pretty much perfect for me. It wasn't the old, screaming Pewds, but he still did some weird shit. The funny moments compilation were propably the best (at least that's what me from 5-6 years ago thought). I downloaded Google Translate and just translated singular words that I didn't understand. It was way easier when I figured out auto-generated captions were a thing. I also discovered cobanermani456 and joined the Sonic fandom, which helped me a lot. I just did that for a few years, my reading and listening improved and I was finally confident enough to leave and English comment under a video, but I don't remember which one it was.

    …aaand now the teacher gives me advanced English tests (the ones that you write at the very end of high school) because I'm bored in class. So I guess my final message would be SUBSCRIBE TO PEWDIEPIE BECAUSE HE WILL CHANGE YOU LIFE

  • thank you for the video, I'm starting to learn Japanese in college and super motivated to keep up with it and will use your book for studying also now.

  • Do you suggest that we read/watch content that we have already read/watched or brand new content (should I use full metal alchemist which I've seen 3 times or one punch mam which I've always wanted to see)

  • It's funny because i started learning japanese to watch anime, and you're basically saying "So you want to watch anime in japanese without subtitles ? Then start by watching anime in japanese without subtitles" 😀

  • Well, i m a native spanish speaker from argentina. In 2004 when i was about 10 years old i started playing a MMO called Lineage 2, the thing was, i had no idea what the hell anything meant, as the game was totally in english, there were no spanish guides at all, and at the time google translate was aviable, but it wasn´t too polished to translate long sentences, so usually if you wrote long paragraphs, you would get translated nonsense most of the time.
    So i started translating what "Wind Strike" meant (it was the name of the first skill every mage gets at level 1), and then what the hell meant the word "skill", and so on.
    So every time i took a quest, i started translating it bit by bit, at first i took half an hour to translate a shot text, and it was very slow and annoying, but after a few days, i was noticing a lot of words were repeating, so even tough i didn´t understood most of the dialogue, i was becoming able to know if i was being asked to go somewhere, o go and kill enemies on certain place, and so on. I continued to translate stuff along the way, and did the same thing each time i encountered new words on multiple games, and after some years, even tough my listening skills and spoken english were terrible, i was able to undertand and translate any english text better than even most educated adults.
    About 2 or 3 years ago i started watching youtube videos, movies, and stuff with english subtitles, and improving my listening ability was a breeze, a bit annoying at first, but eventually it became so easy.

    I will try the method you are predicating here, as it does not seem so different in concept to how i learned english in first place (learn the language, using something you like as a motivating tool)

  • Nietzsche also said "Die Schwachen und Missratenen sollen zu Grunde gehen; erster Satz unserer Menschenliebe. Und man soll ihnen noch dazu helfen."
    The true meaning is lost in translation if you use just a single word to describe "zu Grunde gehen"
    The weak and misfortuned shall perish [1st and foremost meaning] / go for the reason [second meaning; only if you write it this very way!]; first sentence of our love towards mankind. And one should help them in doing so.

  • My sociolinguistics proffesor said it best: "Japanese is arguably the hardest language to read and write. Ironicly the Japanese literacy rate is basicly 100%."

  • Sucks that you found yourself in a bit of a financial hole, but try to up your output. Do something like, breaking down one episode of something, line by line. One episode would be like 30 videos. Don't worry so much about presentation too much. Make PowerPoint presentations for examples, and just power through.

  • That was the very first language I ever known. Like I know over 10,000 of it's characters. I'm very fluent in that language. I speak Japanese better than I speak English.

  • I feel like the people who don't like anime just never watched it. If they had watched it in their childhood they'd be fans now. I think anyone is gonna like Death Note, Your Name, Spirited Away etc, you just have to give it a litte bit of a chance

  • honestly your videos are insane. i feel like the only thing keeping you from blowing up is luck and maybe the niche you base your channel on

  • Thanks for the video.

    I didn't quite understand your comparison of Japanese to Spanish and brain power.

    Could not someone in the pursuit of Spanish mastery pursue the same heavy native content path and achieve the same result?

  • Would you recommend this heavy anime or native content even for someone who really only has a grasp of about 500-800 words?

    At what level would you recommend someone begin this without subtitles?

    I've done this a few times with Japanese dramas, but I seem to miss so much and it seems kind of grueling to continue at times.

    Are you saying to just keep doing so and the brain will eventually learn through context in the native content?

    Would you recommend watching with subtitles first and then rewatching without or just diving in without?

  • Feel like this is the main reason why I struggle with Spanish. I need to learn the language but I havent yet found anything fun or entertaining that I can immerse myself into that's in the Spanish language.

  • Im sure u won’t reply but how would I actually learn the kanji or how to pronounce it if all I’m doing is looking at kanji and hearing Japanese… maybe it’s a dumb question idk I’m just very self conscious in my learning ability

  • Why is pitch accent difficult?
    It's just like stress accent in English, but instead of saying the stressed syllable a bit louder, you raise the pitch of your voice a bit, like when you're asking a question.
    It's absolutely not like tones in Chinese languages, which carry meaning.
    Also, different dialects in Japaneae have variable pitch accent on the same words, so you will always be understood even if you stress the words incorrectly, as long as you structure the sentence right and if the proper context is given.

  • Bro, please allow me to share a piece of advice : your vids are really interesting, but up until now, we have never seen your Japanese level (JLPT certificate, you speaking in Japanese…). Only experts are entitled to share so many suggestions, if you don't show your level (which is supposed to be high), many people will get more and more suspicious and might think you are just a con artist (no offense).

  • So I studied Japanese for a couple of years. One of my biggest roadblocks to learning was the fact that not many Japanese people lived near me. If you live in the US and are not in California or Hawaii, you are not going to come across many Japanese people. Japan is a very nice country with a lot of opportunity, so why would a ton of them move away? You can watch all of the anime and movies you want, but when you run into real native speakers you will find they speak about 50 – 75% faster than they do in the movies and it will sound like another language until you can adjust.

  • Even though there is more source material to learn the language. Whether you'll be able to learn it or not is based purely on genetics and intelligence, as is the case in most languages. It's not to say that being observant and working hard won't get you anywhere, but that alone certainly won't get you anywhere near to fluency.

  • I personally think that you shouldn’t really “Learn languages” purely over your cultural interests in the language because the main reason that language exists is to be able to communicate in that language. If you aren’t going to use language to communicate, then I feel like it’s just a waste of time almost. It could just be a kanji but I feel like people make it up to be a lot more than it actually is/should be.

  • Eric, keep following that passion of yours. I'm moved to tears by your sincerity and your passion because I too have a love for Japanese culture and media that has deepened after a blessed 9 day trip to the country. Since then, I have been obsessed with learning the language so that I can not only enjoy my favorite anime in the native tongue, but also someday converse with locals when I return to that wonderfully hospitable country. I appreciate the research you did on your video for how Polyglots have come to be, and I appreciate your perspective on learning via anime! I'd like to offer these words of encouragement.. Keep following your inspirations – I'm a deep believer in Paulo Coelho's quote in The Alchemist, "…when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” After all (also a quote from the same book) “It's the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting.” Keep at it! 🙂

  • Please make more videos, they make me feel a lot better about myself and that they actually get me determined, your an awesome guy from what I've seen and the amount of passion you put into your videos makes me believe that someone recovering from the depths of sadness can be as determined and energetic as you, your awesome man, keep doin whatcha doin

  • So… im motivated, im fired up and ready to do this. and i am doing it, but i need a little help. So im on duolingo, i've said this before, but i don't know how far i should go before i start reading. See my plan is this: im gonna try and get a foundation in duolingo, and once that is established, which i think it is to a degree, i will then, try to read and watch Books and shows. i've already started on the watching shows part. im on crunchyroll right now watching Time taxi with the subs off. And i am understanding some words, more bits and pieces i dunno if that's efficient though? cause i don't have any fluent/native speakers that i know, that i could request help from, so im trying to supplement that with J-drama, cause if i can't get it from one area ill try to get it from another. I just don't know if what im doing is correct, and will work. And im kinda wondering if it will, and would you maybe like give me some pointers if you can give me any. (holy typo's batman….typing this at 12:30 in the morning…not my greatest idea.)

  • At this point though, I still wouldn't understand how one would dislike anime (Probably if one really hates subtitles and has bad history over the language?). Like sure, one may hate a lot of the anime out there but there's just a lot of genres out there and there's no way there isnt something that would pique one's interest.

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