I'll learn Japanese in Japan
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I'll learn Japanese in Japan

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Don't become Japanese

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I'll learn Japanese in Japan
Um. Er. How shall I put this? Ahem. No you won't.

Naturally the more exposure you have to a language, the better. You need stimulus. Naturally being in Japan will give you a great deal of opportunities to practice the language.

However, it's not a matter of plonking yourself in Japan and "picking up" Japanese. You don't "pick up" a language! That's ridiculous. You pick up a pebble. You pick up a bargain. However, you learn a language. Seriously if you think you can learn a second language completely by osmosis, you're deceiving yourself.

Sure, there is stuff that sinks in without you having learnt it consciously. For instance, I picked up Tohoku intonation without meaning to. Hearing the same train announcement every day will probably leave something in your head afterwards.

However, if you want more than pidgin Japanese, you need to study as well. That's right. I'm talking about sitting down on your tatami mat, looking up those words you don't know and unraveling those grammatical anomalies that have left you stumped all week. If you don't make the time to learn Japanese, you won't learn it.

I have many friends who have lived in Japan for years and years. Many of them use their Japanese in their work. All this notwithstanding, time and time again their Japanese plateaus. On the other hand I've met people who live out of Japan whose Japanese comes along in leaps in bounds.

What's going on with this crazy business? It's simple: one group studies Japanese, the other doesn't. Geographic location is irrelevant.

You can learn Japanese anywhere. Just because you live in Japan doesn't mean you'll "pick up" Japanese, and just because you live in Paris doesn't mean you won't. What will determine whether you master Japanese is the time you dedicate to studying it.

Remember that precious adage:

Mastering a language takes a shitload of time.