Why Not?

March 10, 2010

I was reading the comments on this post at Anime Vice.  Most of the debate over justification for scanlations didn’t interest me, as I’ve seen them all before, but one comment did sort of bother me.  Fellow Manga Village reviewer and blogger John Thomas had joined the conversation and made a simple statement.  “Why not just learn to read Japanese?”  It was the response to this that made me go “Huh?”

I have to confess, that is the one answer I loathe seeing in scanlation debates, and it appears every time.

He goes on to give excuses of no time, too expensive, too difficult, etc., which then steers the conversation toward learning Japanese.

Now, I can almost be sympathetic to this argument, in the same way you can be almost pregnant.  25 years ago, when I first got the notion of learning Japanese, it was difficult to find materials for learning Japanese.  Bookstores had next to nothing in there reference sections, the local colleges only offered a course at the 4 year, and the only self-study courses I could ever find would be at Japanese bookstores in the ethnic parts of Los Angeles, Torrance, and Fountain Valley.  And they were expensive!  It was something that wasn’t a viable option, especially when I was then getting married and starting a family.

With the advent of the internet however, resources, both for a fee and for free are available in abundance!  There are websites that offer courses online, podcasts to help with pronunciation, and tons of sites with vocabulary, dictionaries, practically everything one would need to start learning.  There are even DS games!  It’s so easy to access so many resources now, that anyone with the will can try to learn to read and speak Japanese.

If you are really serious about wanting to read “authentic” and unedited manga, then learning Japanese is the only real option you have, and complaining about someone bringing it up is just asinine.  Is it going to be easy?  No.  Would learning in a total immersion environment be ideal? Yes, but as was pointed out, this isn’t always possible.  Does that mean you should write the whole option off as nonviable?  Hardly.  There might not be any instant gratification in trying to learn Japanese, but the sense of accomplishment is so much greater.

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5 Comments for this entry

  • Ephidel says:

    Just for the record, the excuses about time, money and difficulty weren’t initially a part of my “I loathe seeing this suggested” statement (although I guess I did mention expense).

    They were (admittedly common) excuses that were extrapolated to by John.
    As you would have seen from my answer to him, I don’t have any problem with the suggestion itself.
    Why would I? Its a perfectly reasonable suggestion, and I had no intentions of trying to seem as though I were writing it off.

    Its more that the suggestion is made a lot, and I have huge problems with the flippancy and dismissiveness with which it is usually made.
    All things considered, with the purity-mad fan in question John’s post wasn’t really being particularly flippant, but I felt like stating my opinion anyway. Thats what public forums are for, after all.
    (I’d almost venture to say your “almost sympathy” is is more closely related to the tone I dislike ;))

    Most of my reasoning was laid out perfectly well in the anime vice thread, and while they don’t entirely match up, they’re similar to the you of 25 years ago.

    There is nowhere here to learn, so I would have to resort to self study. Thankfully to countermand the uselessness of local bookstores, I would have amazon. Unfortunately, I don’t have a clue where to start. I have never tried to teach myself a language before, and I am flying blind. Am I better off trying to learn the language then the writing (so I know what the writing I’m learning says), or the writing at the same time as the language (so I don’t get stuck with a romanji crutch), or who knows really? Differing resources that I have stumbled across also contradict each other :|

    You, on the other hand, seem to be well aware of all these possible resources. You could do a good deed and enlighten your past self ;)
    You could always make some sort of mangatech suggestion post collecting some of that information for some of your readers who may happen to share an interest in them :)
    (does the internet count as mangatech? Rainbow Hill was under that, at least)

  • I have to admit, I found your comment to seem to be just as flippant and dismissive, hence this post. I read it over the weekend, and it just bothered me. But I can see where you’re coming from.

    I’ve been investigating self-study on and off for about 3 years now, when I really got back into manga, and I was just considering starting a series of posts about my progress with self studying, and what works and what doesn’t. Most of my resources will be from online as I don’t have the time for classes. But I will definitely talk about them and my progress. Hopefully that will help.

  • Ephidel says:

    Well then, for that I apologise as it wasn’t my intention. I’ll definitely be interested in seeing those if you write them though :)

  • I think it’s pure laziness, nothing more. There is no real excuse, not with software like Rosetta Stone advertising on every TV in the country.

    Back in the late 70s when I got into it, we had no choice. Lots of us had to learn Japanese because there was no other way to understand what we were watching. Fansubs were a rare luxury, you either had to have someone who knew Japanese and could give you the general storyline or you just watched the pretty pictures and tried to speculate what you thought was going on. We tried to learn as much as we could, just to give us an edge in understanding, we bought books, we talked to people who knew Japanese, we took college courses, we were dedicated because it’s what we wanted to do.

    Today, people have everything already translated for them and they still complain. Heck, Google can offer a passable translation of Japanese web sites! If you want to read foreign-language material, you’re the one who has to learn the foreign language, it’s nobody else’s job to deliver it to you on a silver platter. Either get up the gumption to learn on your own or get a different hobby.

    Just stop whining.

  • Lisa says:

    Although I didn’t begin reading manga until I’d been studying Japanese for a while, I can speak to the resources available for learning Japanese & there’s one that you left out :) Probably because it costs more than a book… My son & I began studying Japanese with a teacher when he was 9 years old (that was nearly 5 years & 2 trips to Japan ago). We found our teacher through a friend, & as she was a graduate student at the time, she really appreciated the extra income. We found studying with a native speaker to be invaluable. Not only did we get cultural information along with language instruction, but we’ve also acquired an extended family in Japan, complete with kids around my son’s age, whom we’ve visited & exchanged letters & gifts with for some years. I suppose you could find a group interested in learning Japanese to help defray the expense of hiring a teacher. I actually turned to manga to help me learn kanji, but now find myself preferring certain titles in nihongo ( & having just picked up the first volume of “Yotsuba&” in English, I can’t wait to get it in Japanese- I think it’ll be even funnier). And it was a very proud day (for me at least) when my 13-year-old son finally read hiragana well enough to begin reading “Bleach” (because he really wanted to know what happened beyond the slowly translated English releases) in Japanese.

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