Have you ever wanted to study an important foreign language, particularly the one rumored to be among the most difficult in the world for English speakers to master? Would you like to fluently command an entirely new writing system, one which will enable you to read a wide variety of previously-inaccessible texts? Would you like to gain the ability to communicate with people from an entirely new culture? If so, then learning Klingon may be the right choice for you.
Unfortunately, I don’t speak a word of that language because Vassar doesn’t offer it. So I settled for the next best thing: Japanese. Like Klingon, nihongo boasts the twin advantages of enabling you to utilize an entirely new skillset and of marking you as an enormous geek the instant you begin your studies. And here’s a hot tip for you: While I may have been working on my Japanese for three years now, I actually gained the vast bulk of my language skills in less time than it takes to purchase a falafel bowl on Tasty Tuesday. How? Read on!
The most challenging thing about Japanese is the fact that it has three writing systems. If that sounds simple enough to you, consider this: How many of the English speakers that you know really have a decent command of just twenty-six letters? Learning to read and write Japanese takes years of practice and dedication, which is why I simply skipped that route entirely and went straight to my first Japanese lifehack.
Think about what reading looks like to an outside observer. You’re staring at the little squiggles, maybe scratching your chin, grunting knowingly now and then—it’s the very picture of erudition. But think about it: How many of the people you’ve ever seen reading another language do you think actually know what the little squiggles mean? The answer is that it was probably very few of them. In an age where simply staying updated on the Kardashians is a full-time job, who has time to do all that work? Instead, you can achieve the same effect by simply hrrming and ahhing as you stare at page after page of impenetrable text. Highly-respected language scholars have been known to do this for up to 10 hours every day.
After I learned to read, I knew it was time to master speaking and listening. Fortunately, this proved even easier. By simply turning on my favorite anime, I was quickly able to discern what a typical Japanese person would say if they were being beaten down by a half-naked muscular man with sea urchin hair. Now that I’m in Japan, I simply repeat these phrases verbatim whenever I am addressed by a Japanese speaker. I’m sure I’ve left quite an impression!
While you’re here, try consulting this list of useful expressions, the three of which I find myself using most often during my life in Japan:
ああ、このアニメ、エロいね。[This Japanese animated television show tickles my fancy in more ways than one, if you happen to be picking up what I’m putting down, old chap.]
Perdóname, pero yo soy un poco confundido/a.
I believe I have booked the wrong plane ticket.
Easier than you thought, right? I can now speak Japanese like a native, presuming that said native is heavily inebriated or missing most of their teeth. Sure, I don’t know what the things I say mean, but what is meaning if not a subjective social construct? But I’m afraid I have to go now; I’m actually quitting Japanese, you see, and Klingon 101 starts in five minutes.