Japan Internship Kyoto

Internship in Japan: Should you learn Japanese?

You've always been fascinated by Japan for many reasons. And now you want to work there. While some companies accept English-only speakers to work with them (foreign startups or international corporates essentially), most will not consider anyone whose level is below JLPT N2 for a position. Now it's time to get ready for your internship in Japan.

Japanese ranks alongside Mandarin Chinese and Arabic as one of the most difficult languages to learn from a European point of view. Yes, harder languages require harder work. But it shouldn't stop you - neither should you learn a language only because it is said to be easy. Passion first. So let's explore the different particularly difficult aspects of the Japanese language.

 


1) Learn Kanji

Many students of Japanese say it is the hardest part of the language. I personally don't agree - but Kanji remain a challenge. Every character has a different set of pronunciations, and sometimes the meaning also seem to vary. After struggling at the beginning of my study by trying to learn Kanjis one by one, with their complete set of contexts, I soon gave up on that method. Rather, I started to learn Kanji for only one to three different uses.

Example:
You want to learn 電 which means "electricity". 電 is used for example in the following words:

電気 (Electricity)
電池 (battery)
電車 (train)
電波 (electromagnetic wave)
電球 ((light)bulb)
発電 (production of electricity)
充電 (charge of a battery)

I suggest you should learn it within the context of one to three words, not more; preferably words you already know and with other kanji you also know.
In the case of 電, you should learn its pronunciation "Den" within the context of "Train" 電車 and 電気 "Electricity" (simple words). If your level is JLPT N5, You may want to leave the other words for later when you feel ready. For now, this sole use will be enough.

 

 

2) Learn Grammar

Japanese grammar is particularly deceiving for Europeans. Words are arranged with a completely different logic, and it takes time to find natural the most basic sentences. Standard grammar expressions that are used in Japanese often find no equivalent in many languages.

 

3) Learn Vocabulary

To me, the biggest challenge in the Japanese language consists in neither Kanji characters nor grammar, but in its vocabulary. Japanese having relied on Kanji for centuries, made-up words coming from the myriad of possible combinations between Kanji characters have invaded the language. As such, I have often had the impression to learn different words for the same meaning dozens of time. An example:
志向 (Shikou)
志 (Kokorozashi)
意思 (Ishi)
意図 (Ito)
意向 (Ikou)
積り (Tsumori)

You guessed that right: they all more or less mean the same thing, "Intention". You can see the role Kanji play in that multiplication of words: 志, 向 and 意 are used particularly often because they all inherently mean something close to "Intention" "Meaning" or "Direction". It can be easy to guess the meaning of a word in writing because of that, but hearing a higher-level conversation is more challenging.

Don't let everything we said discourage you. A harder language means fewer foreigners will deliver the work to master it, thus you will have a higher competitive advantage at the end of the day. And try to find an internship in Japan even if you don't speak Japanese yet! 頑張って! Don't hesitate to contact us at contat@brightinternships.com so that we can help.