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Tokyo: What are the challenges facing foreigners when learning Japanese?

by Julian Peters

Iain Naughton, 30
Event promoter (Scottish)
Motivation. It’s all too easy to live here and not learn Japanese. I attended the cheap ward office lessons but everything was in kana and kanji. I felt discouraged but determined to try again.

Erin Sharpe, 31
Peace Boat (Canadian)
Word order is a challenge, and all the particles in Japanese can be very tricky. It’s also very easy to make slight pronunciation errors that result in a different meaning and an embarrassing outcome.

Rob Pott, 24
Teacher/translator (British)
Sustaining your enthusiasm to communicate is key to progressing. Understanding that any individual you meet probably has something interesting to say. See that old man? His story probably rocks!

Meme Watanabe, 40
Peace Boat (Japanese)
Although I’m 100 percent Japanese I grew up in the U.K. I can converse in informal Japanese but keigo is difficult. Knowing how to speak more formally is something I’m learning. Kanji too, of course.

Ian Bailey, 50
IT (English)
As you get older your ability to memorize becomes more difficult. Building a big enough vocabulary to convey the subtlety of what you want to express is difficult — taking it beyond just the basics.

Ingela Hellgren, 25
Fashion design student (Swedish)
Japanese is difficult because each person you speak to demands a different level of formality with respect to age, rank, friendship and so on. Switching naturally between them is hard.

Living outside Tokyo and interested in gathering views in your neighborhood? E-mail community@japantimes.co.jp