This is a certainly a question that is asked of both myself, and of Hills Learning. Japanese in the 80’s was what Chinese is today, a language that is learned for business, political, and most importantly future expectations. If a language is perceived to become more prominent, people will try to learn it. Chinese is seen as a language that might even take over English in prominence, so people are desperate to learn it. Potential students for Japanese these days, so people tell me, are manga and anime fans.
While manga and anime fans certainly have an interest in Japanese culture, I would say still today schools, businesses, and individuals are still legitimately interested in learning Japanese. The majority of our own students are not manga and anime fans, but professionals, business owners, private schools, and other entities that see Japanese as very much a part of their lives and their children’s lives. I’ll also argue that Japanese is still very prominent, and learning Japanese can help both beginners and advanced speakers alike in today’s environment. Here’s why:
Strengthen or create your niche in the job market by learning Japanese When asked in an interview, “So recently what have you been doing?” I can’t think of a better response than “learning Japanese.” This instantly shows commitment and an openness to try new things, both characteristics that employers are looking for. But on a broader scale it creates a unique marketable skill, a skill that is instantly recognizable (obviously to any potential Japanese institutions or employers) but also to American, International, or European ones. Remember that ancient question, “what are your skills?” Language is something that’s instantly recognizable and respected; just don’t boast about your Japanese skills. Believe me, I’ve failed multiple interviews because the perception of my Japanese skills was much higher than what they actually were, so just be careful to articulate your skills accurately.
Japanese culture is ubiquitous throughout New York City There are multiple things Japanese in New York City, so much that I’d argue it has almost all the Japanese amenities that Tokyo has. There are multiple book and video stores that are dedicated solely to selling Japanese books and Japanese videos. There’s the typical argument of “sushi”, I know it’s everywhere, but beyond that New York City has a wide variety of Japanese restaurants: Japanese Korean BBQ, Ramen shops, Izakaya (Japanese Pubs), fast food Japanese, and noodle restaurants. There are also Japanese holidays in New York: Japan Day (50,000 attend annually), Cherry Blossom Festival, Anime Festivals, etc.
Japanese Companies Are Ubiquitous in New York City If you still don’t believe me, try walking into an electronics store that doesn’t have 50% Japanese products. Or purchasing a car and not thinking about Honda or Toyota. How about the Nintendo store near Rockefeller plaza? How many Japanese companies advertise in Times Square? Japanese company names are household names in America, but I can also attest to 300 or so Japanese East Coast (or American) headquarters being either in, or near, New York City. That gives you a wide variety of potential employers and ex-pat Japanese populations living in New York City.
These are just some of the reasons why New Yorkers, when thinking of which culture and language they’d love to learn about next, should consider learning Japanese. If you have any further reasons please list them, or if you disagree your comments are welcomed.