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Old 12-31-2007, 04:16 AM
 
1 posts, read 10,560 times
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Hey all!
I'm new to these forums, but am a longtime lurker. What better place for a starry-eyed college freshman to try and set some abstract foundation to his future opportunities than on a board about new places, things, and people, eh?

A quick rundown of my current situation: I'm indeed an undergrad, and am all pumped to dual-degree in News/Editorial Journalism and English; as if it weren't enough, I am most certainly interested in taking language courses this coming summer vacation and continuing them until my graduation.

The only thing is, I share an equal love for both Japanese and German culture/language/etc.etc. I'm as interested in technology and commerce as I am in literature and history. Also, and unfortunately, I have yet to visit either country; I have friends in both languages, however, and each of them give me nothing but good things to hear about their respective country.

Now, my question doesn't have a definitive answer, I know, as the choice of learning the language is more personal enjoyment than it being a career choice. I'd like to hear of any and all experiences from 'outsiders' in each of the respective Japanese and German cultures, pro's and con's alike.

How useful are they? (As a tall white male) how inviting is the culture to outsiders? Would you ever enjoy living there? Any and all answers are appreciated.

Thank you very much in advance.
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Old 12-31-2007, 04:32 AM
 
1,149 posts, read 5,245,588 times
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That you are white can matter if you're going to live in Japan. Knowing you are tall is irrelevant. I believe you will find the German-speaking countries of central Europe more inviting than Japan. German is an Indo-European language. English is too. You are therefore much more likely to learn German easier than Japanese.

Nowadays English is the best language to know in almost any field. Spanish have become important in USA. Other than that German can be good in business and engineering. People in West Slavic countries and Hungary tend to know some German, although the younger generation probably know more English.

The Chinese economy has developed a lot. Knowing Mandarin might be useful in the future. However, even the Chinese are learning English. You did say personal enjoyment is more important. I mention Chinese more for career opportunities.

I recommend you listen to Pimsleur lessons. That way you will also learn correct pronunciation.
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Old 12-31-2007, 02:30 PM
 
Location: In exile, plotting my coup
2,408 posts, read 13,358,698 times
Reputation: 1792
Why "either"? Why not "both"?

It may be difficult to take on, but you can learn two languages at the same time. And seeing as how there are virtually no similarities between the two languages, you'd be unlikely to confuse the two with one another as you would were you learning French and Spanish at the same time.

As far as what language offers the most opportunities, I would say German over Japanese, just based on the number of speakers of the language. There are more native Japanese speakers, virtually all confined to Japan itself; but when taking second languages into account, the amount of German-speakers nearly doubles, and stretches across a wider geographic net across a good chunk of Europe.

Between the two, I would say Germans tend to be more open towards outsiders than Japanese. Well, on a personal level that may be debatable, but on a larger scale, so far as an issue of national identity and treatment of non-natives, I think Germans (or Austrians or Swiss) come out ahead of the Japanese. Japan is notoriously heterogenous whereas in Germany now, I believe 10% of the population now is foreign-born, and a greater percentage has some foreign ancestry; and with the downed borders of the EU, those numbers are bound to increase and contact with people of other cultures is more common.

I think I would enjoy living in either country, but I think my enjoyment of life in Japan would be shorter-lived. I should say however, that I have never actually been to Japan, so this is purely speculative on my part. I have however been to Germany and felt fine there and I could see myself enjoying living there perhaps at some point in time.
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Old 12-31-2007, 07:41 PM
 
Location: Tucson AZ & Leipzig, Germany
2,369 posts, read 7,758,843 times
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English is my native language, but I also learned Spanish at a young age and use both languages every day. I learned German pretty well when I was in the US Army in Germany for over 3 years in the 1970s, although I have forgotten some things from lack of practice. Trouble is I don't know a lot of people in my here that want to practice German with me. Most people that I know here in the USA from German speaking countries speak near flawless English, perhaps with an accent but nonetheless better than or equal to many native English speakers.

I agree with Internat, Mandarin would be #1 choice for a useful language related to technology and business.

If you would be interested in living in central Europe for whatever purpose, German would be useful too. I would like to go back and live in Germany for a while after I retire in a few years, it would be great to have some time to spend in the area I lived in 30+ years ago. I don't feel at all like an "outsider" in Germany. It seems if you spend a few years in a place when you are young, you will always have a connection to that place even though it is not your hometown or homeland.
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Old 12-31-2007, 09:42 PM
 
Location: Gulfport, MS
469 posts, read 2,555,950 times
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I would not recommend learning two languages at once. That's a heavy load for someone with little to no language-learning experience (i.e. a monolingual English speaker). Let's examine Japanese and German on their merits.

Difficulty: German will be MUCH easier to learn than Japanese, and you will achieve fluency much quicker. German is one of English's closest cousins. The genders, etc. will be a bit daunting at first, but you'll probably be chattering along quite well in a couple of years.

Japanese is completely unrelated to English, and has very few loan words and common vocabulary. The grammar is totally different. It will take you much longer to reach fluency in Japanese than in German, probably at least 5 years.

Other Languages: One of the fun things about learning a second language is discovering a third language. Once you learn a language from one language family, such as Romance languages, you will find learning another Romance language to be much easier. German is a Germanic language like English, but it could be helpful if you want to study the Scandinavian languages or Dutch in the future, or some of the smaller languages, such as Afrikaans or Yiddish.

Japanese has relatively few close relatives. Korean is a distant cousin of Japanese, and quite daunting, but also beautiful. Turkish and the other Turkic languages seem to be VERY distant cousins, and share some similarities with grammar, etc.

Orthography. German is written in a Roman alphabet, plus a couple of unfamiliar characters to an English speaker. From what I can tell, it's far more phonetically-spelled than English or my second language, French.

Japanese has FOUR writing systems. Yes, FOUR. Hiragana, Katakana, Kanji, and Romaji, plus a few archaic styles. You will have to memorize several thousand Japanese characters to be able to read a novel.

Usefulness: Japan and Germany are both major economic powerhouses. Knowing their languages fluently will be incredibly useful in those countries. Outside of their immediate spheres of influence, Japanese and German will be of much less use than your native English. If you want a language that millions of people worldwide will speak, try Spanish.

Bottom Line: German will be much easier to learn. If you crave a challenge, Japanese may be for you.
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Old 12-31-2007, 10:37 PM
 
942 posts, read 1,066,069 times
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I have lived in both countries 2 years in each. I definitely would say German is much easier to learn than Japanese. I am fluent in German, I am or was only semi proficient in Japanese. I also agree learning these languages would not have much benefit other than when in these countries. I rarely speak in German any longer due to limited contact with anyone that is german. My Japanese is just about non existent due to never using the language any longer. My guess is learning Spanish is the language to learn now in this day and age.
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Old 01-02-2008, 09:37 AM
 
Location: Vienna, Austria
83 posts, read 371,349 times
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I'm from a german speaking country and will work in the US soon as a german teacher so I'd recommend german But to be honest learning german isn't all that important if you're just a tourist. Most germans, austrians and swiss speak english very well, we start learnign it at the age of 6. You don't need german in germany except you want to live there.

I don't know anything about japanese, but german is not easy to learn. There are so many irregular verbs, ad you have to conjugate it differently for every person. In english you only have the s, in german verbs change completely. For example:
I walk ich gehe
you walk du gehst
he walks er geht
we walk wir gehen
you walk (pl) ihr geht
they walk sie gehen

German may be easier than japanese but it's not something you learn easily like english, it's even harder than french or spanish. You'll really have to study hard and remember that you learn high german in school, but nobody really talks that way. There are very distinct dialects. I am from vienna, austria and a person from vorarlberg, which is about 600 milsy away wouldn' understand me and I wouldn't understand him, athough out native language is both german. People do talk in high german on tv and to foreigners, but as soon as they are in groups they don't, so socializing could be hard. However this is not true for areas o northern Germany. Lübeck, Hamburg, Hanover, Kiel etc. talk perfect high german which everybody understands, but 85% of german native speakers don't.
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Old 01-03-2008, 09:28 AM
 
171 posts, read 236,696 times
Reputation: 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by Luke81 View Post
. However this is not true for areas o northern Germany. Lübeck, Hamburg, Hanover, Kiel etc. talk perfect high german which everybody understands, but 85% of german native speakers don't.
.. na na na ... nun übertreib mal nicht so ... du meinst wohl 15 % sprechen kein vernünftiges Hochdeutsch , daß ist richtig und besonders die Schwaben .. die schwäbeeeleee ai bisserl ...

if there is anyone who don`t understand this ? NO !!
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Old 01-27-2009, 06:38 PM
 
1 posts, read 10,138 times
Reputation: 15
I have studied Japanese for several years, and I've finally reached the level of being able to read a newspaper and speak comfortably on most topics with Japanese speakers. I have suddenly become very interested in learning German however, which drew my attention to your post!

As others have noted, Japanese is a difficult language. It will take a sincere devotion to learning to master it. However, if you love Japanese culture or appreciate the eccentricities of language, the process is a lot of fun. Each new Kanji (symbol with a meaning) you learn has a story behind it that ties it to an ancient heritage of East Asian Culture. The twists and turns, kooky English derived vocabulary ("merii kurisumasu!" -- "Merry Christmas!"), as well as the elegant nuances of Japanese grammar are the pleasures of this language.

Japanese opened up my mind not only to a fabulous and previously impenetrable culture -- but also to a new way of thinking. Also, whether in Japan or in a sushi bar in New York City, I have received vastly different, and better, treatment than when I didn't speak Japanese. Yes, Japan is an insular country, but people will be sincerely shocked and flattered that you have made the effort to learn their language, and you will be treated with very warm welcomes.

As for the practical uses of Japanese: Let's all remember, Japan is the world's 2nd largest economy, above Germany, the rest of Europe, and China. There are numerous business opportunities to be had there and with Japanese companies abroad, precisely because fluent foreign Japanese speakers are quite rare. Additionally, I'd say that Japan is the most exotic place you can travel to in the world while still enjoying the creature comforts of a highly developed country. Hygiene and crime are negligible issues in Japan, and great food and service abound.

In short, I've had a fantastic time learning Japanese, and it has opened up numerous opportunities relating to business, travel, and social connections. I am now looking forward to learning German!
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Old 01-28-2009, 03:40 AM
 
Location: Paramus, NJ
500 posts, read 1,255,205 times
Reputation: 207
Quote:
Originally Posted by Luke81 View Post
I don't know anything about japanese, but german is not easy to learn. There are so many irregular verbs, ad you have to conjugate it differently for every person. In english you only have the s, in german verbs change completely. For example:
I walk ich gehe
you walk du gehst
he walks er geht
we walk wir gehen
you walk (pl) ihr geht
they walk sie gehen

German may be easier than japanese but it's not something you learn easily like english, it's even harder than french or spanish. You'll really have to study hard and remember that you learn high german in school, but nobody really talks that way. There are very distinct dialects. I am from vienna, austria and a person from vorarlberg, which is about 600 milsy away wouldn' understand me and I wouldn't understand him, athough out native language is both german. People do talk in high german on tv and to foreigners, but as soon as they are in groups they don't, so socializing could be hard. However this is not true for areas o northern Germany. Lübeck, Hamburg, Hanover, Kiel etc. talk perfect high german which everybody understands, but 85% of german native speakers don't.
That's interesting. O.o I didn't think there were different dialects in German. So, if you guys were to communicate to each other, it would be in English?

As for the "I, you, he/she, we, they" part, that is pretty much the same for Italian. "Io, tu, lui/lei, noi, loro" So, some European languages follow similar grammar structures. (I studied Italian for 5 years and I don't remember much at all.)

To the TC, studying a new language can be both easy, fun, and hard. Just take one language at a time. I would not recommend to study both at the same time.

Japanese language works a bit more challenging than other foreign languages but it can also be easy too. The kanji can be pretty daunting when you first see each new character. It's not too hard to understand their meanings if you go from bottom-up. Elementary school kanji to junior high/high school kanji. Then, you also have particles to deal with too. I'm self-teaching myself the language, which is a little tough since I'm not relying on a text book in front of me. >D
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