Monthly Archives: February 2012

How Japanese People Learn English…And Why it Isn’t Working

The golden rule of English teaching pedagogy in Japan: The more blond your hair and pointy your nose, the better you are at teaching English. Also, and saying "OH" in English is hilarious.

As the Asia Times has previously reported, Japanese people aren’t so hot at learning English compared to their East Asian peers:

Indeed, the average score of Japanese candidates sitting for the Test of English as a Foreign language (TOEFL) ranks lowest among all Asian nations except North Korea. In fact, Japan ranks just below Myanmar.

Now that’s pretty bad, but perhaps just using the TOEFL isn’t a good measure of English ability? What about using the results form another test by Education First where Japan scores fairly high (ranked 14 out of 44) rather than bottom of the pack? But at the same time, the Education First test apparently does little to test speaking and listening skills.

Obviously, then, what the people of Japan need to work on is English communication. Talking with Westerners. Speaking both with and like other native English speakers. Learning about western culture. Making that Western culture a real part of their lives. You get the picture. If they want to speak like us, they need to be like us.


So I decided to do some research of English learning resources targeted at Japanese speakers. And while I had originally planned on doing some real, serious research that would uncover the dark conspiracy that is keeping Japanese people from learning English, that quickly ended when I found a certain DVD on “Dangerous English” by American-born gaijin talent Dave Spector:

DVD cover to "Dave Spector's Dangerous English" 「デーブ・スペクターの使うとヤバ~イ英会話」

You might be wondering what in the world the Japanese would consider “Dangerous English.” Luckily, there’s a wonderful trailer available on Youtube. Enjoy.

If you don’t know Japanese, the premise of the entire DVD is pretty simple: it’s nothing but a bunch of puns from either Japanese words that sound like dirty English words (or occasionally, from terrible mispronunciations of English words that the Japanese speaker can’t say correctly). For example, all the men in the restaurant in the video around 3:30 start dropping their pants after the girl makes a certain, unfortunate pronunciation error on the word “cook.”

And putting aside the issue of a large number of men dropping their pants in a public restaurant around a Japanese girl, the over-the-top stereotypes of American are also pretty hilarious. Suffice to say, I wanted to find the whole video—I couldn’t let my research on English learning material for Japanese people end with a infomercial! Since Amazon doesn’t ship the DVD outside of Japan, I managed to find a great solution—online video rentals.

Enter, Videx.

Unlike some other video rental sites online, Videx doesn’t seem to be super-restrictive on what country you’re from—at the very least, non-Japanese IPs are able to access and purchase content—which is better that most Japanese-targeted sites. So making one of the strangest rental purchases of my life, I downloaded and watched the full “Dangerous English” video.

It was… interesting. Basically, the same stuff as on the trailer, but more of it. I didn’t feel totally satisfied in my purchase until the end of the video, though, when we the viewers are treated to “Top 5” lists of curse words in English for both men and women. Here’s the list for women:

Top 5 curse words for women. The bubble reads, "Say it out loud!"

Gotta love that flawless proofreading that only those suns of bitches down in Japan can so consistently provide.

And, the list for men:

Top 5 for men. Which one of these words is not like the other...?

I can’t say I use “cock titty balls sucker” as much as the other words on the list, but perhaps I’ll have to make an effort lest I be labeled as un-American.

The takeaway from the video was a dual message, one about American culture, and one about the English language in America. First, that all Americans carry guns, and therefore talking with an American is dangerous, as you’ll be at a high risk for murder should you choose to do so. The gun stereotype sounds pretty over-the-top, but you’d be surprised. I once had a conversation with a Japanese girl:

GIRL: So do you have a gun?

ME: Uh, no?

GIRL: Really?? I thought everyone in America had one…

ME: Um, I think you’re mistaken.

GIRL: Is your gun locked up somewhere?

ME: I don’t own one at all.

GIRL: But your parents own guns, right?

ME: No! In fact, I don’t know anyone who owns a gun at all.

GIRL: Wow, no way! *Insert stereotypical Japanese-sounding OOOOooh sound here*

In the end, she seemed pretty disappointed. I’m pretty sure she didn’t believe I was actually American after that. I didn’t have an American flag hanging up in my room either after all!

The second message in the vide about language was that adding the word “fuck” every 2-3 words is a proper, American tradition. Depending on what part of the country you’re in, I can’t exactly disagree with that, though.

Although I have gotten offtrack after writing this post, one possible conclusion is: I would hesitate to recommend Dave Spector’s DVD for the serious learning of English.

Hope that helps!


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Picking up Japanese Girls: Learning from the Best

Charisma man comic

Japan: Living the dream

As yesterday was Valentine’s day, I’ve decided to share some advice on how to woo the Japanese ladies. Because I obviously have lots of experience in this field, right? And because if you follow my rigorously-tested PUA-style tips, you’ll suddenly become a Charisma Man yourself, capable of attracting J-girls like flies are attracted to syrupy, sugary mounds of goodness, right?

Well, no, not really.

But, one thing to recognize here is that the Charisma Man in the comic above has pretty poor Japanese. All he does is use the 私・・は・・です formation, which is pretty much the first thing you pick up in Japanese 101. Don’t you want to be just a bit more awesome than that? Don’t you want to be ready to bust out some really syrupy, sugary, chocolate-filled nuggets of Japanese in order to impress the ladies?

Of course!

So the best places I’d recommend searching to go find such lines would be anything that isn’t a “How to Pick Up Japanese Girls” or “How to speak Dirty Japanese” book. Because while those sorts of books may have some value, the only way they also have any sizable amount of content is because most of the content is terrible. Filler. No longer used by anyone in Japan…ever. And besides, if you’re buying books like that, let’s be honest: your Japanese probably isn’t exactly up to snuff either.

So where do you find good “pick up lines” in Japanese? Well, I’ll take the AJATT approach on this one: straight out of genuine Japanese media. Anime, Manga (especially Shojou, I bet), Jdramas—take your pick.

Nisemonogatari Episode 6

Here’s an example courtesy of Araragi from Nisemonogatari:


“You may not know this, but I love you…I want to be with you all the time.”


“Sometimes I don’t know why I’m dating you. But I love you so much, I don’t need a reason.”

The first line may have a bit too much cheese for the average person, but the second one—the one about not needing a reason—really just straight up owns. The girl’s (Senjogahara’s) reaction is therefore appropriate: 「ヤバすぎ。超絶かっこいい」”Oh no…so incredibly cool.”

Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann episode 8

But perhaps you’re too cool to spin off a line like that. Maybe you need a more Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann-type response. If so, Kamina has you covered. After going in for a kiss, his response to Yoko is:

「おまえ・・・. 10倍返しだ。 戻ったら、10倍返しだ。 」

You… I’ll repay that… I’ll repay that ten times over

Yoko laughs at Kamina after he answers, but come on, you’re at least as cool as Kamina, right? You should be able to handle the delivery no problem.

Moteki episode 4

Or maybe you’re just looking for some good confession Japanese to help you settle the deal? Girl been giving you a hard time, but you want to show just how romantic you can be once and for all? Then perhaps a typical line from Moteki might be what you’re looking for:

I love you. You’re the one I loved the most in my life. Even now… even now I still love you.

I have to admit that all of the lines here aren’t delivered without a nice helping of romantic cheese. Perhaps J-Girls are into that—the straightforward confession of love, or perhaps the simple raw emotional power of saying “I love you” itself (cue a slow procession of ha ha ha’s here). At the same time, though, I can’t say I’m unhappy during these scenes either—after all, watching awkward characters have awkward encounters with one another without either one being able to actually say what they’re feeling (I’m looking at you, Freeter, Ie o Kau) is just painful after the first time. I get it, you’re awkward but you like each other—get to the good stuff already!

That’s all for now—but any love-related Japanese media should have plenty of lines for the grabbing. Not to mention I do have a copy of Love Plus sitting around my house somewhere

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