Is Japanese Easy?

Japanese teacher
My young Canadian english
"...whaat, crazy, Japanese sure is difficult eh?"
Common english
"wow, yea. Japanese sure is difficult isn't it?"

On average this has been said to me at least once a day for the last 8months.

...But I just realized..

We say japanese is difficult, the Japanese also say japanese is difficult; but, we're saying two different things. In this context, Japanese's 'difficult' says that it's impossible; our 'difficult' says that it takes time and effort. The distinction here is that we think learning japanese is totally doable and very possible to become fluent ( very proficient), whereas many Japanese believe we are fighting a long and difficult, if not impossible, journey. We aren't!
I kept on getting told by, bless their souls, sympathizing Japanese that japanese is so "difficult"


...and I started to believe it...


Because I believed it I found that I had given up on identifying patterns, I no longer looked forward to speaking, I stopped drilling vocab, and I stopped practicing kanji. Before long I was asking myself why I ever moved to Japan to study japanese for a year when I'm an economics major (which is totally a wrong question, another post about that later). The truth is that it all started with believing that I was fighting an impossible fight, that learning japanese is realistically impossible.

...The good news is... 


that this is plainly flat out wrong.1 year ago I didn't know a lick of japanese, and just the other day I was talking about the recent national election in Japan and about the political and legislation levels of Canada .... in JAPANESE. No I wasn't sitting with my legs crossed, sipping wine, eating cheese and staring up into the starry milky way with a distant gaze... I was in a family restaurant where hot-dogs and meatloaf (hamburger patties) are served as a sort of delicacy. I probably had meatloaf sauce smeared over my face as I sat there making slow and steady conversation about politics trying every possible angle of explanation I could think of - often you'll venture down a road of explanation and find that the grammar you've chosen.doesn' I want you to know that




it's that learning Japanese is not impossible (not even improbable!). It is very possible and very realistic to learn japanese in a condensed and rapid way. I'm not even venturing to say that you must jump off the deep end and only speak japanese 24/7 no, I'm in Japan and haven't for one day "only spoken japanese" and I'm able to get to this level and keep on.

Bless the Japanese souls, they sympathize with us so nicely saying that japanese is 'just oh so difficult'; learning japanese is difficult, but only by our meaning of the word.

Difficult is 1)that it takes time and effort and 2) it will be accomplished soon

What do you think? Am I right? Am I wrong? Have you found yourself in this situation while learning Japanese in Japan? 

Next>>>Returning Home

Have you read about our first days in Japan yet?Day 1 (Travel from the Airport)


Ben and Kailey lived in Japan not too long ago and also visit Kyoto every year.

Ben is developing a Japanese Practice site. It's current main functions are:
1. a Flash Card system that features a leveling system where you must answer correctly and "level up"to gain new cards, receive money and buy new decks - anime decks included!
2. Fill in the Blank system where you can choose to focus on particle practice or verb practice etc.
Japanese Practice Blog is here. Check out the Japanese Practice site here


  1. Dear Kailey and Ben:
    It's January 8th, 2013 as we write this. It's been pouring rain for days. We just read your latest post about Japanese and "difficult". Well-written, Ben, and very cute. We're sitting in front of the gas fireplace keeping warm and dry.

    Grandma says:
    No mention in your post of the weather there. It must be sunny most of the time. We enjoyed our time at Manning Park.(me,the Hunters [both families; Keith and Wendy and boys and Rosa came for a ski and an overnight). I hiked through the glistening snow on the snowshoe trail with everyone. Kaamya is a real trooper. We celebrated John's 65th birthday Saturday with the family and Kyle, Kshamta and Kaamya at a Stanley Park restaurant The Fish House.
    There has been lots of rain here. I was at the seniors centre for singing and art today. Bonnie tells me that Betty has had a fall and hurt her leg, so she's not feeling too well. It's not broken. You didn't mention new years eve but we had the usual up at Manning with fireworks and all, not that it was all that joyous. Kyle was sick and Bonnie was sick with a cold. They all went down to watch the fireworks but I stayed in and watched them out of the window. Teresa is arriving from Kelowna Jan. 17th so we will celebrate all the January birthdays at that time with Richard and Cindy coming from the island as he is taking courses at UBC that weekend. Bethany has returned to Prince George for her studies.
    Happiness and good health in the new year.
    Lots of love.

    1. Sounds like quite the winter! Kyoto is often really cold during the winter. Scarves, gloves, and a warm coat do the trick though. Last night it was snowing! It was beautiful, but it didn't accumulate. I could be wrong, but I don't think snow stays around very long in Kyoto.


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