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10 Advantages of Learning Japanese

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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 July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

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How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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