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Japanese is the 5th most commonly learned foreign language in the USA at both the college and high school level. While Spanish, French, German, and Latin still take the lion’s share of popularity, some might be surprised to find that Japanese makes the cut and is a top foreign language.

In the past (think 1980’s), Japan had a booming economy, and learning the Japanese language had very real and practical implications. Also since the 80’s, there has been a huge following in the United States for Japanese pop culture. In fact an entire American subculture has formed around anime, j-pop, and manga (japanese comics).

There’s no doubt that in recent history Japan has commanded a large influence over both commerce and culture.

But does that influence remain intact today? How relevant is the Japanese language on the global scene? Is it still advantageous to learn the language as a career move, or should the study of the language be confined to the halls of anime conventions or Jpop concerts? These are the issues we look at in this post.  

1) Where Does Japan Stand Today? (Japan’s economy is still relevant)

While the Japanese economy has been stagnant since 1991, it doesn’t mean they are losing their importance in global politics. Japan is known for having the third largest economy in the world, right behind the global and economic powerhouses of the United States and China, which are certainly high standards to live up to.

As the second highest exporter of vehicles, and with other Japanese exports remaining critical in international trade, it’s expected for Japan to retain such an effective international presence.

It’s no wonder the 2020 Summer Olympics are being held in Tokyo. It’s becoming increasingly hard to ignore the encompassing global influence Japan holds and how its continued growth; The Japanese government and corporations are constantly looking to advance technology and progressive actions, for instance, getting more women into the workforce.

2) What Are the Cultural Benefits? (expand your horizons)

Engaging with new cultures often encourages people to be more thoughtful in the long term because people inherently become more empathetic to the cultures they immerse themselves in. And what’s the best way to inundate yourself in a culture?

Learn their language! After all, Japanese is the 9th most spoken language in the world, so you’ll find plenty of people to converse with.

Hopefully, you have more reasons to learn a language than to just get ahead at work. For example, heightening awareness is a great reason to be open to experiences of another world.

Additionally, there’s a lot to uncover from the Japanese culture: from the earliest days of film (they aren’t releasing Godzilla remakes still for no reason), to Animes like Attack on Titan that we watch today, to the growing inspiration of J-pop.

Even if you decide to take up Japanese strictly as a hobby, there’s a lot to be gained in the understanding of a whole region — you will forge new connections and learn new skills.

3) What Career Are You in/Going Into?

Japan has a huge hand in the US economy and vice versa. With a lot of international dialogue between the two countries, there are plenty of jobs where learning japanese will definitely help you get ahead.

If you’re into business/ trade or looking to be anything from an international sales manager to a business process manager, then learning any new language might be a good career choice.

Although, if you have committed to being a nurse or getting involved with local business, then maybe you only need to pursue Japanese as a hobby or go with a different language altogether.

4) Could Your Brain Use the Exercise?

Your brain works similarly to a muscle: the more you use it, the more you can do with it. By learning a new language, you could improve problem solving skills.

Past social enlightenment, the potential your brain can profit from by navigating two languages in order for you to compose an idea is endless and anyway that sounds a lot like good multitasking, another skill language learning can help you excel in.

Take your brain to school with learning a new language and you might find it’s not the only craft you learn and mature through.

5) How Much Time Do You Have?

Do you have the time to dedicate to learning a language at a professional level? Most people might not and that’s okay if you decide to learn a language merely as a hobby.

There’s a lot that can go into learning a language at a professional capacity, and is typically a good idea to get real time experience speaking face-to-face with a real person. This might look like weekly meet-ups or finding an online teacher, and if you schedule doesn’t allow huge blocks of time then you might want to evaluate the seriousness of your dedication to the language.

 Additionally Japanese tends to be a difficult language to learn, the grammar can become quite a feat, the sounds can be hard to master, and writing it seems like a whole other skill in itself, so it may require some additional efforts

6) Will it Look Good on Your Resume?

This is kind of a no-brainer, but it bears pointing out. If you’re bilingual then your going to stand out from your competition for a new position by bringing something new and unique to the table.

Even in the US, bilingual employees are highly desired. Plus, learning a language takes discipline and dedication and that’s never a bad thing to communicate to your potential employer.

7) Are You Looking to Connect?

Do you work with people who speak Japanese on a regular basis?

If so, then you have a great opportunity. Think about all the new relationships you can form from using the Japanese you learned in the workplace. You would be able to converse with some of the people you work closely with on a deeper level past “hello” and “thank you.”

If you’re in the right career, then Japanese might open up a multitude of doors, some of which could benefit you and your company since the people you get to build more concrete relationships with are the international companies you rely on so intimately for success.

It’s plausible that you could become an invaluable asset in your workplace—and all it takes is buckling down and taking on Japanese seriously.

8) What is Holding You Back?

Learning a language can be daunting, but is fear the only reason holding you back from making a huge career choice? There are plenty of resources out there to help you along the way, however you choose to go about learning the language.

Also, don’t forget you’re not the first person to try mastering the language. Plenty of people have conquered the Japanese language and so can you.

Don’t get discouraged. Finding the way of studying that works best for you might be the most laborious part, but once you’ve done it, well, it’s done.

9) Have You Considered the Japanese Job Market?

Many great opportunities exist for those who know Japanese in the US, if you know where to look.  Even more doors are opening in Japan if you’re bold enough for the move. With proficient language skills there’s actually a fair chance to start a career in Japan. There is a high demand for foreigners who can speak the language in the business setting.

Why? As employers strive to bring diversity into the workplace they look at foreigners to bring that change. So if you’re looking to move overseas then you might be in luck, and if you haven’t considered the move, maybe it’s time to give it some thought.

To conclude, it is completely up to you whether you want to learn Japanese as a hobby or to further your career, and it most likely depends on your individual situation.

No matter how casually you practice Japanese it will undoubtedly enhance your thinking skills and resume, and it will open up an entirely new cultural experience.

Written By
Jesse Reyes is an avid language learning and occasional world travel who also runs the language language learning blog LiveFluent.com. His language learning journey started with Spanish, but has since expanded into various languages such as Russian and French. Now his goal is share his love of languages and with other learners and help them succeed.

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