Global Politics

Renewed interest in learning Japanese

How useful is Japanese? It's not like Spanish or Arabic, languages spoken in dozens of countries. No, Japanese is spoken in just Japan. Here at this California high school, the students of Japanese just want to study the language. The number of students learning Japanese here has tripled in the past decade, and these are not Japanese-Americans. So what is the connection? Manga and videogames. It's the same story across the U.S. and across the world: Japanese pop culture has succeeded where Japanese business culture failed. Here's an example of Manga that here has been turned into anime. This student says it's about a man whose arm is embedded with a substance that he can grow at world to bring down monsters which threaten to bring down the world. Cheesy or not, following the actions of this character is an obsession, one that's led students to learn Japanese, a language said to be difficult for English speakers to learn. This scholar says the attraction to the Japanese language is the aesthetics. But that's just the initial hook: there's also the storylines and the people. Western culture doesn't really have an equivalent because our cult fantasies are all fantasies. In manga it's different because a lot of the things in manga also happen in Japan. It's almost like a virtual world that you can actually visit.

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