Japanese girls are great for a lot of reasons, I mean, get real, they're loved world wide because they're small, cute, wear tiny tiny skirts, and sometimes dress up in school uniforms (even if they're not in school anymore). It seems to be a rite of passage for every male exchange student, every JET, and everyone visiting Japan to try to find a Japanese girlfriend when they visit…
Many people even say that "the best way to learn a language is to date someone who speaks it!" Sorry, but for the sake of your Japanese language skills
Flirting DOESN'T CUT IT!
I assure you, the longer you date a Japanese girl, the less likely you will be able read the rude t-shirt you started wearing to find one! Why you might ask? It only makes sense that the more you speak Japanese, the better you get, right? Right? RIGHT?!
Wrong, and here's why:
1. You are lazy
Sure. At first you might say, "Oh man, I'm going to get so good at kanji, and grammar, and all that stuff now!" and you might even convince your girlfriend to tutor you everyday, but that won't last. It NEVER does. There are exceptions to the rule, but most of the time you've got a lot more "fun and important" things to do with your girlfriend than talk about freaking kanji radicals and grammar points (…at least I HOPE you do). You'll also have a lot more "unfun" things to talk about like when her mom is coming to visit or how bad you made the bathroom smell. In any case, there will be times when you'll get lazy and just use the easiest words you can think of, even if it's just English that sounds kind of like Japanese.
2. You will mix English and Japanese
There are lots of terms for this phenomenon, and it is not limited to just speakers of English and Japanese, but it is the DEVIL!!! This stupid practice, mostly caused by laziness will literally ruin your chances of speaking intelligible Japanese, and probably your girlfriend's chances of remembering English. You will create your own little language that no one else really understands, not even you, and that makes for absolutely terrible communication.
Here is a sample conversation that doesn't make sense:
A. When do you think the 図書館 is open?
B. さあ、I don't know, after dinner you should チェック。
B. Don't be a バカ。ほら見て、このサイトで it's written right here!
A. そうか。Fine, 夕飯を食べたら I'm gonna go return these 本。
See? This conversation is wrong in too many ways to "counto."
3. Getting made fun of sucks
No matter how good at speaking Japanese you get, there will always be ways to get made fun of by your girlfriend. Some are simply called "cute" for speaking with an accent, while others get called out on their weird grammar or pronunciation. No matter what, most guys HATE criticism, even backhanded statements about how cute you are! It makes you feel stupid, like you are being treated like a small child, and it's easy to get defensive. Even people who speak really awesome Japanese get made fun of because they speak better Japanese than normal people! It's frustrating! It's only fair though, because I'm sure not many of you can honestly say you've never made fun of Japanese English or "カタカナ イングリーシュ." It's just so cute and funny. アイ ライク ユウー！カン ウイ ハング アウト ツモーロ？ "I like you! Can we hang out tomorrow?" Awwwwwww….okay, fair is fair.
This title means, if you talk with your girlfriend all the time, you might end up sounding like our friend above:
「あたし美しいね〜!」"I'm sooo beautiful!" (said very cutely)
This is probably not desirable, and believe me, everyone will let you know how girly you sound. This unfortunate scenario also occurs a lot because a huge portion of Japanese instructors are women, and most foreign guys don't spend their time looking for manly sounding Japanese dudes to chase around. If you are just starting your language learning experience, you won't be able to help but talk like girl. On the flip side, if you over compensate, and try to talk like a Japanese THUG, then your friends, girlfriend, their friends friends, will think you've lost your mind and will all laugh until they turn blue.
5. Your girlfriend wants to learn English
I know Koichi hates this with a passion, but most guys learning Japanese are going to try to get girlfriends in Japan by becoming language partners. Sorry Koichi, but it's the birds and the bees, and it's the way it will always be. Men, chances are your future girlfriend isn't going to date you because she's really pumped about teaching someone basic Japanese over and over again. If anything, she'll agree to hang out with you because she wants to learn English, at least as one of the perks. If that is the case, you will probably spend a lot more time explaining things in English rather than learning Japanese.
6. No keigo or kanji with your girlfriend
Maybe I have exaggerated a smidge in the above parts, and there are significant linguistic improvements that can be made in your life by chasing Japanese girls. Keigo (formal language) and Kanji skills are probably not included in this theoretical list of benefits. Unless you want your conversations with your girlfriend to sound like two bankers who aren't quite sure which of them is 先輩「せんぱい」 "senior," you won't be getting a lot of time practicing keigo. Even Japanese people have trouble learning keigo because no one uses it with anyone close to them. Using keigo with people you like makes you sound like you are being especially cold and probably mad at them. It's like when your parents were driving the car on a road trip when you were a little kid, and your dad is super lost and your mom asks overly kindly "Honey, would it be at all possible if we could stop and ask for directions?" to which your dad replies very politely and forcefully restrained "Darling, if we can just find the freeway, there will be no need to stop and bother the gas station attendant…" It's a little different in Japanese, but it's the same concept that something isn't right if you're suddenly being very formal. It sounds weird to the point where a lot of girls really don't like to practice it with their boyfriends. Sorry guys.
For kanji, unless your girlfriend is really into calligraphy and wants to practice together everyday, she probably won't be a big resource for helping you there. Some people try to hand write letters, but most would rather be doing other things, like eating nachos. A popular solution is email, but I can assure you, everyone can type a ZILLION more kanji than they can actually write! You, me, and most Japanese people under 30 included. Now there's even 191 more kanji we're all supposed to know…so better start writing some really complex love letters!
7. Jesus that's fast! Can't you speak slowly?! Oh wait…you are?
It may seem like your girlfriend is talking like a machine gun to you, but wait until she gets around her friends…it's a blur of giggling lightning! For a lot of us, the only real part we participate in once they get going is listening to how silly or cute we sound if we try to say anything. That means that most of the time she's going easy on you. It's nice and practical for mutual understanding, but really it's like using training wheels all the time. Once you take them off, you'll crash and burn in real conversations. An obvious solution is to tell her to speak normally to you, but that often doesn't last long. If she tells you at lightning speed to "Bring the chopsticks" はしを持って来てね 「hashiwomottekitene」and you hear "Go to the bridge and back" 橋に行って来てね「hashiniittekitene」she's probably going to get tired of you fast if you're gone for an hour while she's waiting for chopsticks!
8. Your conversation topics will be limited
Some of you might be dating Japanese bioethics experts who take time and care to explain each vocabulary to you to ensure that you understand every word, but most of you will be repeating the following conversation far more often:
A. kyo 今日 nani 何 tabeyou 食べよう？"What should we eat today?"
B. saa さあ、nanigaii なにがいい？? "Uhh, well what do you want?"
A. wakaranai 分からない。冷蔵庫に何が入っている？「reizokoninanigahaitteiru?」”I don’t know. What’s in the fridge?”
B. あまり何もないよ。「amarinanimonaiyo」"There's not much."
On the edge of your seat yet?? It's like repeating basic Japanese class over and over again. Some of you will get to delve into deeper topics from time to time, but it's not like you're going to be seriously practicing Japanese all the time with every conversation. It gets tiring to have real deep conversations all the time, so it's really easy to be lazy and stick to the mundane stuff, and mix in some English when you don't know the right word and hope she understands. BAD BAD BAD!
9. Your girlfriend probably doesn't know Japanese very well
I hate to criticize your girlfriend without having met her, but her Japanese is probably not perfect. Unless she's used to teaching foreigners all the time, it's likely that she won't be able to tell you much about how to learn Japanese. She learned it a loooong time ago, and way differently than you're going to have to do. It's not going to help you that much to go sit in on an elementary school Japanese language class in Japan. Too much worrying about protecting your anus from mean children to focus anyway.
The Japanese your girlfriend uses isn't even exactly the same thing you'll be learning. Her kanji's probably off some of the time, and the grammar she uses sometimes won't be found in your textbook. That's okay for basic practice, and it's great to learn theoretical and practical use of Japanese, but this isn't Japanese class it's your GIRLFRIEND.
10. Just kidding.
Getting a Japanese girlfriend really can improve your Japanese. A lot. Please don't run away from Japanese girls screaming that you need to protect your language skills. Please. A lot of them are nice, fun, and might actually speak to you in Japanese. If you practice with real people, then maybe you won't sound like a conversation from Nakama or Genki, which will make people laugh way more than if you actually try. Hopefully you'll learn lots of cool things about culture, dating style, a new world view, and if you're lucky, find more meaningful things to talk about than kanji radicals. Just keep in mind the frustrations and pitfalls along the road, don't give up, and don't stop actually studying. みんな頑張れ！
P.S. All this probably applies to Japanese boyfriends, too, for all of you that like boys and not girls.
This post was written by Nick W., who has traveled throughout many regions of Japan in search of unique cultural gems. He is currently earning his MBA and has researched topics like folk music in WWII Japan and Ainu cultural revival through music. His favorite Japanese musician is the late Nujabes. He does have a nice Japanese girlfriend, but is too lazy to learn much Japanese from her.