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So, the axiom offered up in Monday’s strip was a theory I heard countless times while my wife and I were dating. At the risk of eliciting a “methinks the cartoonist doth protest too much,” let me just note that I knew a guy who had lived for somewhere around sixteen years in Japan, was married to a Japanese woman, had kids with her, and spoke no more than a handful of Japanese phrases. The will is really the way.

There were people in my past, though, who genuinely thought I was either just dating my wife-to-be as part of some twisted Berlitz course, or because Japanese women are “so subservient and eager to please,” and I must like that sort of thing. (It is to laugh, but that’s a topic for another day.)

Having a native-speaking significant other just increases practice opportunities. Depending on the nature of your relationship, however, you may wind up primarily learning phrases you can’t repeat in polite society. (This goes both ways; pity the non-native English speaker who dates someone from Coxsackie, NY.)

My theory of Japanese learning is that the best way to learn a language is to live there, make some friends who speak the language, and find hooks in the language and culture that keep you engaged. This, of course, would be superceded by Dave Barry’s suggestion that the truly best way to learn Japanese is to be born in Japan, as a Japanese person.

All of the above only applies to the spoken language. Written Japanese is a bear, and were I not happily married, I might be actively searching dating sites for a Japanese calligraphy expert.


  1. Whitey

    I am not married to or dating a Japanese person, but I have found with the people I know here there’s a tendency to default to speaking whichever language is easier. ie, if the Japanese person is fluent in English, you probably may not get much practice speaking Japanese.

  2. Chris

    I’ve experienced that to an extent at home, but for us, it usually leads to “Japenglish”; whichever language has an easier/better way to describe a concept, or in whichever language we happen to know the appropriate vocabulary, we speak. It’s like a married couple’s own Pig Latin. That is, until our son was born. Now we try to keep the house 100% Japanese (usually falls more around 70%, and most of the lapses are my fault, especially when he’s getting into something he’s not supposed to…).

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