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French or Japanese?


Worchaes
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Hello , I am 16 and  fluent in Croatian (native) and semi-fluent in English (I'm studying it in HS so I think I should spend my free time learning something else).

Now , as the title says, I can't decide whether I should study Japanese or whether I should study French.

I studied Japanese last summer. I only learned the kana and stopped learning because of school. The thing is : my brain says French and my heart says Japanese. I love anime and overall Japanese seems really cool , but those 2000 kanji (at least) really grinds my gears! I don't have that great of a memory ,at least for details, and I'm afraid that I will just never be able to really learn enough kanji , or that it will take too much time which could be used for getting really good at both speaking and reading some other language such as French. But then again one of my flaws is that I mumble really, really a lot. And French pronunciation is so hard! I don't think I could ever cope with that.

What should I do?

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If your goal is to reach native-like fluency, there is a huge difference in the amount of time necessary to reach fluency between French and Japanese

The US Foreign Service  estimates it takes about 600 hours of intense study  for a native English speaker to be fluent in French, but to reach that level in Japanese it takes about 2,700 hours of intense study.

You have to decide how much time you want to invest.

You may have an easier time with French if your native language is Croatian. I am fluent in Russian, another Slavic language, and I know there are some similarities with Romance/Latin languages like French.

Japanese is a very high mountain to climb, but not impossible. I'm studying Mandarin right now and making slow progress.

But either of those languages is a good choice and would be an asset in many professions.

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  • 3 weeks later...

If it is any comfort to you at all I would like to tell you my plans. Japanese is difficult for me but that is the next language I am going to learn after am done with French. Some consolation.

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Then go with what your heart tells you to do, and that is to pursue studying Japanese/Nihonggo. I was able to study a little bit of Japanese/Nihonggo when I was in college for our Foreign Language class. And I absolutely enjoyed every bit of it. Their alphabets are kind of hard, but it was fun scribbling them. On the other hand, speaking this language felt like I was one of those anime characters, so yeah, I know how you feel since I love anime as well. :)

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Well I speak French and I can say it's really good language (the most romantic language lol) but it's one of the less used languages so learning it will be useless ! that's why I think Japanese may be better ! but in the end just follow your heart :)

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If you are from Croatia, chances are that you'll need French sooner than you'll need Japanese. If I were in your shoes, I'd study French until I would master it and only after that I'd start studying Japanese.

French is easier to learn and there are a lot of similar words (or at least almost the same) in English.

On the other hand, if you start studying Japanese, when will you use it in real life? Anytime soon?

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French is difficult to pronounce and I find Nihongo to be full of emotions when they speak it. Written French is easier compare with the Japanese characters. I think you should go for French and I believe this language is quite similar to Spanish in some respect

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It really sounds to me like you really want to learn Japanese, you seem to be very interested both the japanese culture and language.  But not so much in french. So why don't you just try to learn Japanese again, maybe you will have an easier time if you try again.  In life you got to try things before giving up, so you can know for sure what you can and cannot do. Do yourself a favor and try it.

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  • 1 month later...

If you can and you have the chance, then learn the two languages. It would be a great achievement to learn two more languages because this is an added bonus to your resume and may be helpful in finding specific jobs in the future especially in the places where these languages are spoken, Japan and France. I also think that you can learn them both, just have the discipline and dedication to succeed and you will go places. Good luck and more power to you and keep at it. Okay? You can do it.

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This is just my two cents, but I'd rather go for Japanese. French is good but if you're having a hard time learning that language, then just take it with a grain of salt. If your heart loves Japanese more, then you had better go for it. There's something so fluid and friendly about Nihonggo. In fact, I learned a few conversational lines by simply watching animes and Jdoramas. Effort, perseverance and the willingness to learn will help you acquire more knowledge about Japanese before you know it. So trust your intuition.

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Only you can really answer that question honestly. What reasons do you have for learning these languages? If you can answer that question honestly, that will help you decide which way you want to go. I would go for French, because I've always loved the language and culture. Plus some of the work related stuff i'd love to be able to do, lend themselves better to French.

Ask yourself also, is it practical to learn Japanese or French? Will you be able to use the languages once you've learnt them? I get the feeling you like both, why not maybe go for both? I think you're still young enough to give it a bash, and may surprise yourself by how well you cope. I can only wish you the best of luck :)

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I know what you mean Worchaes.

I faced a similar problem. Basically I decided I just want to be able to speak not read. Ultimately I took up writing/reading as well.

I can confirm that it is indeed a lot of work. If you'll want to be able to read/write "fluently" then it will take a loooot of hours.

But here is where my real opinion comes in.... Screw all that...don't worry about these things. Just listen to your heart. In any and every part of your life.

So what if your Japanese won't be perfect? It doesn't need to be. Honestly if you're passionate about it then you are more likely to master it than French. Don't worry you'll do fine.

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The decision to that is exactly up to you. You mentioned that your brain says French, but your heart says Japanese. What pulls you the most regarding that matter? Is the pull of gravity towards Japanese stronger compared to French?

Learning numbers and their numerical system frighten me more than Kanji, but I still study it because I love Japanese language.

If you really love Japanese despite the difficulty regarding Kanji, I am sure you can find a way to master it, like associating a certain character with a drawing or a figure. If there's a will, there's a way. You just need to trust your instinct.

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My heart has always felt at home learning Japanese, so from one heart to another, go with it~  You're young and have plenty of time to learn the language and get used to kanji.  Honestly in my 15+ years experience learning Japanese, I've studied the least in Kanji (though that will change when I take the JLPT).  I think if you really want to learn it, you should start out with the Kana and speaking, and do really easy beginner kanji, and steadily learn it as you get older, like I have.  I've enjoyed the time I've spent learning Japanese and at 30 years old, I look forward to many years more!  It's really rewarding, especially if you are into manga and anime because that will only strengthen your love for it, since you'll be able to understand them all raw.  Hope this helps your decision.

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Both languages are really cool, but I personally would go for Japanese. It is much more exotic and I think fewer people know Japanese then they do  French. Also, if you would go into the translation business, Japanese is much more sought after then French. But you could also learn both and why not? :D

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Yes I have read the advice of others and they say and advice you to follow your heart and trust your instincts and go for the one that you are more comfortable but I personally challenge you to learn both as this is very helpful for you in the future I think. I know that this can be done. I have met a lot of people trying to learn two or even three languages at once. So if they can do, why can't you. Determination and hardwork is your friend in this. Good luck and more power to you and to all of us again. 

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Learning one of the two languages first doesn't impede you from learning the other language later. The question you should ask yourself is which one do you want to learn first? French seems like the logical choice at first as you already speak two Indo-European languages, but if your heart is set on Japanese you will find it just as easy to learn. 

The kanji characters can be easier to learn if you brake them down. For example, learn only 10 characters every second day, before you know it you will have learnt all the 2000 kanji.

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I would say French.  I wouldn't quite give up on Japanese, but it sounds like you need a bit of a break from it.  I learned some French in high school.  I took it because the choice was Spanish or French and most people said French was more difficult.  For me, it was actually easier.  Between the two French is closer in grammar to English (my native language) than Spanish.  Since you said that you were studying English, your brain may take to it more easily than Japanese.  As for the pronunciation, that may get better with time and practice.

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Each time I see discussions about how many hours you need to study, how difficult one language is over the other, etc., I would roll my eyes under I get dizzy.
Allow me to clear up a couple of mythes:

Myth 1: Japanese is very difficult

I actually found learning Japanese much easier than learning Spanish, especially because:
1. No tones or accented letters (like "ą", "é", "ü", etc.).
2. Strict grammar rules.
3. Almost no irregular verbs.
4. No articles.
5. Limited amount of possible sounds.
6. No gendered verbs or nouns.

Myth 2: Learning all 1945 (NOT 2000!) Kanji letters is a pain

A bit of an agreement here, but not too much.
If you have the right tools and methods, you can easily learn those things in 3 months.
You can break it down to: 1945 Kanji / 90 days = ~22 Kanji to learn every day.
And there are only around 250 particles used in all 1945 Kanji, so these are not the abstract characters many westerners think.

Myth 3: You need 2700 hours of intense study for Japanese (and 600 hours for French)

Good luck with that.
If you really think intensively writing down vocabulary for 12 hours a day straight is going to work, I'm sure you'll give up the next day.
Learning should remain fun and effective, not intense and discouraging!
What really helps are 30 minute conversations every day (use Italki, there is no such an excuse as "I can't"), active listening to the language (YouTube, anyone?), immersion (movies, music, comics, system language of your PC and phone, etc.), flash cards (Anki) and whatnot?
There! This way you can easily convert your 10 years of study to 6 months of learning!
The most important tool: motivation!
You seem to have much more motivation for Japanese, so that's the language you want to go for.

 

I hope that helps.

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Warning: I’m not a Benny Lewis fan. I try to present people with all pertinent facts about a language learning topic when I post, and leave it at that. It’s not my job to encourage or discourage you from learning; that’s entirely up to you. If you decide to be discouraged by the facts, that’s your choice; I’m not going to sugar coat it. I hate that.

I always say that if one has the motivation, time and resources, one can learn a language, and that means any language. When I decide to learn a language, I like to research it a little first. I often hear about difficulties, and I take this as useful information, not discouragement.

Each time I see discussions about how many hours you need to study, how difficult one language is over the other, etc., I would roll my eyes under I get dizzy.

Fair enough. Each time I see a post meant to encourage someone to learn a language by emphasizing the easy points and obscuring the hard ones I feel the same way.

Myth 1: Japanese is very difficult

Not a myth. I’ve learned several languages. All of them were hard, but Japanese was the hardest. Your whole post is about the difficulty of Japanese, but you seemed to focus on grammar and pronunciation for this first “Myth”, so I will too. Here are some things people find especially difficult with grammar/pronunciation:

Politeness levels

Homonyms

Particles

Numbers/Counting

Myth 2: Learning all 1945 (NOT 2000!) Kanji letters is a pain

Not a myth. They are extremely difficult to learn. You advise the OP to learn 22 kanji per day for 3 months, but you don’t say how; you just say to use the right tools and methods. It sounds to me like your talking about RTK. I’d like to remind you that RTK only scratches the surface of kanji learning. Sure it’s a good start, but it takes hundreds if not thousands of hours to learn all the compounds and readings. Also, there are 214 traditional kanji radicals. I’m not sure what you meant by 250 particles. One last point – what do you mean by “1945 (NOT 2000!)”? There are 2136 joyo kanji, but you will need about 3000 to reach C1/C2.

Myth 3: You need 2700 hours of intense study for Japanese (and 600 hours for French)

It depends. What level do you want to reach? 2700 hours is probably enough to reach B1. For C1/C2 you’ll need a lot more; probably in the neighborhood of 10,000 hours. I think you are quoting this FSI article (see Table 2., page 78).

Some things you should keep in mind about this chart. These are classroom hours for intensive courses at the US Foreign Service Institute. Typically they spend many hours outside of classes studying too. Also, students are usually experienced language learners and native English speakers.

So these numbers are good for determining the approximate relative difficulty of different languages for a native English speaker. In other words, these numbers aren’t equal to the amount of time it will take you to get fluent, but you can approximate that learning Japanese will take a native English speaker 3-4 times as long as learning Spanish. My personal experience jibes with that. You, on the other hand, can’t make such a judgment because you’re not a native English speaker and your Spanish isn’t far enough along to compare it with your Japanese, according to your profile.

If you really think intensively writing down vocabulary for 12 hours a day straight is going to work, I'm sure you'll give up the next day.

Sorry, where did that come from? I didn’t see the post that makes this suggestion.

There! This way you can easily convert your 10 years of study to 6 months of learning!

Good luck with that.

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Filtering out the bullshit from the following quote:
 

Not a myth. I’ve learned several languages. All of them were hard, but Japanese was the hardest. Your whole post is about the difficulty of Japanese, but you seemed to focus on grammar and pronunciation for this first “Myth”, so I will too. Here are some things people find especially difficult with grammar/pronunciation:

Politeness levels

Homonyms

Particles

Numbers/Counting

...

It sounds to me like your talking about RTK. I’d like to remind you that RTK only scratches the surface of kanji learning. Sure it’s a good start, but it takes hundreds if not thousands of hours to learn all the compounds and readings. Also, there are 214 traditional kanji radicals. I’m not sure what you meant by 250 particles. One last point – what do you mean by “1945 (NOT 2000!)”? There are 2136 joyo kanji, but you will need about 3000 to reach C1/C2.

...

you can approximate that learning Japanese will take a native English speaker 3-4 times as long as learning Spanish. My personal experience jibes with that. You, on the other hand, can’t make such a judgment because you’re not a native English speaker and your Spanish isn’t far enough along to compare it with your Japanese, according to your profile.

 

Sorry, where did that come from? I didn’t see the post that makes this suggestion.

 

I can only remember I was talking about the language, not just about the grammar.
Of course I'm aware of the politeness levels, particles and counting systems, but out of the 3, only the counting system is actually difficult.
The particles are mostly straight forward and the politeness levels were also easy to understand.

I only didn't understand what you meant by "homonyms".

No, I'm actually not referring to RTK, I found it quite boring.
Instead, I used KanjiDamage.
KanjiDamage has slightly less kanji due to the lack of like they call it "bullshit kanji".
And I never said there were exactly 250 particles, I said there were around 250 radicals.

What you said about me being unable to judge what's easier to learn for an English speaker is outright wrong.
For reference: I have 2 native Indo-European languages, one of which is relatively close to English AND super similar to German.
Dutch, German and English are all Germanic languages and therefore more similar to each other than English, Italian and Czech would be.

And about the last one: I studied Japanese for 7 years intensively with little to no results.
When I started learning Japanese by speaking it, listening to it and immersing into it since May 2015, I finally made a huge progress in Japanese, and I didn't even open a study book since then.
So as you can see now, I didn't use Benny as my answer to the universe (in fact, I also used to be against his advices until I tried it).
But of course I can't think of any advices on my own without proof, so I always take things to the test to verify if it's true or not, and in this case it is.
I discovered the exact same thing with programming, designing and whatever else: the key isn't to read books and doing small exercises, the key is all about doing it!
And language learning is nothing different in this case.

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Filtering out the bullshit

Was that really necessary?

Of course I'm aware of the politeness levels, particles and counting systems, but out of the 3, only the counting system is actually difficult.

I don’t doubt that you didn’t find them difficult. But understand that most westerners do, just as most find Japanese much harder than Spanish. Similar to Benny Lewis, you presented a list of 6 things that most learners find pretty easy about the language, and used it to try to convince people to learn the language. 

When I started learning Japanese by speaking it, listening to it and immersing into it since May 2015, I finally made a huge progress in Japanese, and I didn't even open a study book since then.

This is some good advice; you’ll notice that I didn’t criticize it in my post.

I studied Japanese for 7 years intensively with little to no results.

Understand that this is a lot of study, and it probably gave you the base you needed to succeed with your more recent method. It’s very easy to underestimate what early studies have done for us.

I didn't use Benny as my answer to the universe

I wasn’t talking about your language learning, I was talking about posting incomplete information in order to convince people that a language is easy. I would say your learning method is closer to AJATT

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