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10 Advantages of Learning Japanese

10 Advantages of Learning Japanese

Did you know that learning a new language could actually make you smarter? Scientific research into language learning suggests that when you tackle a new language, it causes brain growth.

If you want to take advantage of increased brain power, you’ll no doubt be wondering what language to learn. If you’re seriously undecided, know that Japanese is a very popular choice for language learners. When delving into why that is, the reasons aren’t too surprising.

1. It Can Be The Basis for Learning a New Culture

During the process of learning Japanese, you will very likely learn all sorts of things about Japan itself. You’ll learn the history of the country and the differences in dialect between one region and another. You’ll also learn to use words specific to Japanese customs and culture.

This can allow you to slowly open up and learn more than you ever imagined about Japan, its people and its rich and interesting history.

2. It Is Not As Hard As You May Think

Although learning any new language can be difficult, you are already at a distinct advantage as a native English speaker. English is actually one of the hardest languages to learn.

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But any new language can be intimidating simply because it’s so different from what you’re used to. However, after you start learning some Japanese characters, you’ll be surprised by how easy they are to remember with regular practice.

Many people start out with the hirigana alphabet first, so consider learning these characters initially if you plan to be self-taught.

3. It Increases Your Job Options

As the world’s economies become increasingly global, it makes perfect sense to use language as a tool for branching out and increasing your business options.

Looking to work in Japan? It would make things work more smoothly if you learned the language rather than trying to find American-owned businesses or hoping like heck that your coworkers will understand you. You will find that learning at least one other language could greatly increase your job prospects.

4. It Helps With Greater Language Sensitivity

Once you begin to learn Japanese, it will amaze you how anyone could ever mistake it for Chinese, Thai or Korean.

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To the untrained and insensitive ear, many Asian languages may “sound alike.” However, as you begin to learn Japanese, you’ll be easily able to distinguish Japanese from Korean and Chinese.

5. You Avoid Having Things “Lost In Translation”

Japanese anime and television shows have become very popular in the United States. An entire generation of children grew up watching shows such as Dragon Ball Z, Sailor Moon and Naruto. However, it may come as a surprise to know exactly how much was lost in translation.

This includes anything from phrases being edited to “make sense” in English, to voice actors failing to capture the correct emotion in the original show, to American sensors trying to pass off PG-13 or R subject matter as “kid-friendly.” When you’re able to understand the original content for yourself, you don’t have to worry about inadequate editing issues.

6. It Makes It Easy to Make More Friends Online

For many users in the Western world, the internet is an “English-only” reality. As such, you may assume that citizens in Japan engage in online activities at the same rate as Americans. But this is HIGHLY inaccurate. Japan boasts a population that is among the world’s most internet savvy.

There is a simple reason why interaction between English-speaking Americans and Japanese citizens isn’t as great as it could be: Often these persons use Japanese-language sites. Learning Japanese will allow you to navigate these locations and find new friends to interact with.

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7. It Helps You Sing All the Way Through Your Favorite Jpop Songs

If you are a fan of Jpop (Japanese pop music), but don’t speak Japanese, you’re missing out on the complete enjoyment of the music you like.

You may think it’s enough to hum along to the melody and sing any English lyrics and words found in the song. But you’ll find it’s an entirely different experience when you can truly understand the meaning and emotion behind certain songs.

8. It Will Inspire You to Learn Other East Asian Languages

With the possible exception of Japanophiles, or persons exclusively fixated on all things Japanese, persons who learn about the Japanese language and culture may be moved to learn about other Asian countries and cultures.

It’s not unusual for someone to first learn Japanese and then move on to Korean, Chinese, Vietnamese or Thai. This will allow for you to greatly expand your understanding of languages and cultures in East Asia.

9. It Gives You a Less-Conventional Approach

Even though Japanese cartoons and video games are popular in the United States, language wise, Americans often opt to take on a European language.

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While others boast Spanish, French or German as a second language, saying you can speak fluent Japanese will make you stand out and can allow you to offer a unique perspective as compared to your peers.

10. It Could Help You Study Abroad

Japanese schools have high standards of learning at all levels of education. If you’re interested in studying abroad, Japan would be an excellent place to do so. Of course, studying in a different country would be most beneficial if you can speak the language very well, so make sure you are comfortable with all three Japanese “alphabets” (hirigana, katakana and kanji) before undertaking this endeavor.

As you can see, the reasons behind choosing to learn Japanese are varied. However, it can be a rewarding experience that helps you grow your knowledge of the world around you.

Featured photo credit: Infinity K via flickr.com

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Kayla Matthews

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Last Updated on January 15, 2021

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

Posture

First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

  • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
  • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
  • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
  • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

Facial Expressions

Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

  • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
  • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
  • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

2. Relax Your Face

New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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3. Improve Your Eye Contact

Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

3. Smile More

There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

4. Hand Gestures

Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

5. Enhance Your Handshake

In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

“Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

Final Takeaways

Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

Reference

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