Don't become Japanese
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Don't become Japanese

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Don't become Japanese
It's harder than it sounds.

The longer you spend learning Japanese, the longer you spend living in Japan, the higher the probability you'll find yourself doing things because you want to be Japanese.

I speak from experience here: I was trying to become Japanese from the first time I went to Japan in 1995 until October 1999 when my then Japanese teacher, the extremely patient Crawcour-sensei, had words with me.

Maybe you think the whole notion is absurd. Fine. But let me ask you a few questions.

  • Do you find yourself forever advocating a Japanese perspective to everything in conversations with your friends?
  • Do get really down when you slip up in Japanese?
  • Do you make a point of watching anything and everything about Japan on TV just because it's about Japan?
  • Do you feel you have more in common with your Japanese speaking friends than other friends who don't speak Japanese?
  • Do you think, with a touch of pride, that a little part of you is Japanese?
  • And last, the biggie: have you ever dyed your hair black?

If you've said yes to any of these questions, stop and think. Why am I doing this? Why am I thinking this?

I don't think doing or thinking any of these things is a bad thing. I don't think it's a moral question at all. However, when  it comes to learning Japanese, if you find yourself doing something because you want to become Japanese, I'm telling you to stop, wake up and smell the coffee. 

The reason you're learning Japanese is NOT to become Japanese. 

Seriously, it's not.

You're learning Japanese so you can better communicate with Japanese people, so that you can better express yourself and your gaijin-ness (read "humanity") in a way that a Japanese person can understand.

Sure, the better you get at Japanese, the more you'll find you have in common with Japanese people. This does NOT mean you're becoming Japanese. Rather, it just means that you're seeing Japanese for who they are.

People.