While no single panel at any convention could ever teach a native English speaker Japanese within an hour (especially not a scatterbrained “AmeriFinn” like me), Panda Cubed’s panel at Anime Vegas, Japanese the Easy Way offered up extremely helpful tips, advice, and resources to allow even the most feeble minds the opportunity to overcome their lacking language skills and become proficient writers, speakers and readers.
Panda Cubed began the panel with a quick run-through on general tips;
- don’t depend on anime/manga: most characters speak with a peculiar dialect and use tons of slang that would be improper to use outside of the manga/anime world.
- if all you want to do is speak Japanese (and not write or read) then take a beginner’s college course: it’ll teach you the basics and you’ll most likely be able to pick up cues to move on your own.
- if complete fluency is what you desire, be prepared to spend the rest of your life studying Japanese.
- Japanese is completely different from English, if you aren’t up for an eternity figuring out a language, try something closer to English.
Panda Cubed’s offered the best and most fun advice, “if you ever plan on going to Japan (or) want to make learning easier and faster, buy a DS!” Their recommended DS games included My Japanese Coach and Beautiful Kanji Training along with Kanji Sonomama Rakubiki Jiten. When someone says, “the best way to learn is to play video games” I’m certainly not going to say different though be forewarned; DS educational games tend to require at least a bit of prior knowledge in order to pass the first round of a “beginner’s level”.
If learning Japanese (kanji) via manga is of utmost importance Panda Cubed suggested Kanji de Manga (a Manga University publication). If it’s just a matter of familiarity which is needed, Panda Cubed suggested childrens books along with the Japanese version of Disney movies as they are strict concerning propriety as well diligent in their translations. Panda Cubed did warn, “all of your favorite movies will be annoying to watch in Japanese as many nuanced meanings will be lost in translation.”
The Q and A segment allowed Panda Cubed to go into some very important information for any wannabe-Japanese-speaker to know concerning social manners;
- there is an important difference in the way a male and female speaks Japanese. A female can get away with mistakes, it’ll be seen as “cute” but a male should take heed. It’s best to learn Japanese (if being taught face-to-face) from a person of the same gender.
- Native Japanese do not have a definite way of saying “no”. Don’t be pushy when searching for a speaking partner. Try a language exchange site like lang-8.com instead.
- Read up on culture differences if you plan on going to Japan. If you are doing an exchange program, you don’t have to know any Japanese to get by when you first arrive. You’ll learn as you go and your exchange group will all speak English and help you out.
- Decent reading materials concerning culture in Japan would be Culture Shock! Japan by Reiko Makiuchi, Learning to Bow by Bruce Feiler, and The Empty Chair by Jeffery Deaver.
- If you are a meat eater, you smell. In a vegetarian-based society, meat-eaters have a certain unpleasant stench to them. To not offend the noses of those you meat overseas, try vegetarianism for 4 months before you go.
After just an hour, I feel far more prepared to (re)attempt learning Japanese. I’m a bit disappointed that all my attempts to learn from anime and manga were in vain, though with all this great info I’m sure even I can master the complex Japanese language.
*Panda Cubed travels around the United States, visiting conventions and holding panels to share a wealth of information. To learn more about Panda Cubed, their travels and their panels visit Panda3.