Ohayou ASK: Japanese Culture Shock

January 20, 2015

Culture, Opinion, The Zoetics



In the latest Column, “Ohayou ASK,” Rylee Felzien will impart her knowledge and passion of the Japanese language and culture on scholars once a month. If you have questions or would like her to write about something specifically pertaining to Japan, email her at @rfelzien@theaskacademy.org

By Rylee Felzien

In high school, taking a language is required for graduation. Many peers that I speak to about my passion for language learning say that language is not a subject that they look forward to, and they simply want to take the easiest language possible for graduation. This is understandable if you have a difficulty picking up languages and are worried about your grades in a language class, but I believe that by not taking a language that interests you, you may leave a lot of potential untapped.

Language learning can be enjoyable and rewarding. Studies show that those who learn a second language have increased cognitive development in mental flexibility, creativity, problem-solving skills, and conceptualizing skills .

That’s certainly not all of the benefits of learning a second language, though. Speaking of Japanese specifically, there are many more reasons. Like anime? Maybe soon you won’t need those subtitles anymore. Did you know that Japan has the third largest economy in the world? That’s not a bad place for engineering opportunities. Not to mention, bilingual people are often paid more even with jobs here in America.

Learning a language comes with strings attached, as I like to say. When you begin to learn a language, you also learn the culture of a country, especially with a language like Japanese which uses symbols for entire words. Culture also plays a huge part in knowing what to say in conversations. For example, just because we say “no” in English when someone asks us to do something that we can’t or don’t want to do, you would not necessarily say “no” in that situation in Japanese! In fact, the Japanese culture is one of extreme respect, so people often don’t say “no,” for fear of offending someone. People in Japan will often say, “chotto”, or, “that’s a little… [inconvenient].”

Also in Japanese, one would say, “please treat me well” when meeting someone. It is also appropriate to use different words for “I” based on who we’re talking to, and  acceptable to leave the subject out of a sentence or ask for directions using only one word. Cultural differences, my friend.

I began to study Japanese simply because I was interested in learning a language. I believed that learning a second language would increase my knowledge of my native language. I also wanted to understand how languages function as a whole. With this in mind, I chose Japanese because it was so incredibly different from English; new writing system, new grammar.  I was not disappointed.

In this addition to The Catalyst, I hope to bring something new to the table, so to speak. I’m going to be presenting to you Japanese language lessons, culture comparisons, and general information on its beautiful and exotic culture.

For the first issue, I’ll simply leave you with a few basic phrases.

Good morning おはよう (Ohayou)

Good afternoon こんにちは (Konnichiwa)

Good evening こんばんは (Konbanwa)

See you soon! じゃ、また! (Ja, mata!)



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