Why I’ve finally decided to study Japanese


April has been a month of self improvement spurred on by anime.

I’ve run three 5k races (and about 25 miles of training for them) at some of my fastest times ever.

I wrote my first fanfic, followed closely by my second. It’s not high art, but it’s the closest I’ve gotten to creative writing in forever.

Now, I’ve signed up for classes to right my biggest regret and finally learn Japanese.

I’ve wanted to learn Japanese ever since I got into anime in sixth grade. My friend Kailer and I would reverently copy down words in kana like they were incantations. (Kailer took Japanese in college and though she’s modest, she is excellent at it now. My college didn’t offer it, so I took Italian.)

I’ll be taking classes at the Japanese Language School, part of the Japan America Society of Washington DC. I’m lucky to live in the city where it’s only four Metro stops away—so the real question is why I haven’t started sooner.

I am plunging immediately into Japanese 101 instead of 101 Prep, which covers just the alphabet, so I am determined to memorize the hiragana and katakana alphabets entirely before class starts at the end of April. I’ve been spending a lot of time using My Japanese Coach for DSi and these incredibly helpful alphabet matching games.

The downside to all this is that now I’m that kind of weeaboo. The kind The Onion was talking about in Report: 58% Of World’s Japanese Speakers White 23-Year-Old American Males. I’m sure the Tumblr social justice community would roll their eyes at me if they knew. If there’s a “right” reason to want to learn another language, it shouldn’t be, “so I can read more manga.” I think this is actually one of the main reasons I’ve shied away from learning Japanese—because I felt guilty for wanting it for the wrong reasons.

On the other hand, it’s hard to learn a language without a goal you honestly want to reach. It would have been noble to learn Italian to “better understand my family’s heritage.” But the real reason I learned it was so I would have a good time when I lived there one summer.

This is not going to be easy, and I still can’t tell “chi” and “sa” apart no matter how many exercises I do, but I’ve never felt more motivated. The ability to watch all my favorite anime without subtitles awaits me at the finish line.

Screenshot of Nadeko from Bakemonogatari. No idea what she’s studying for!