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[YRP Students' Essays] Japan Loses Japanese

This essay was generated from an assignment that grew out of a unit on the extinction of languages around the world. Students were asked the hypothetical question: what would happen if the Japanese government decided (for financial and other reasons) to make English the official language of Japan, and all education, mass media, and government services were only available in that language? Students were asked to write an argumentative essay for or against the policy. The results were quite moving.

Japan Loses Japanese

Can you imagine if Japanese disappeared from the world? I cannot imagine it, and I'm afraid to think about it. If the Japanese government decides that all Japanese must use English instead of Japanese, our language will become extinct so as many important things will disappear from Japan and we will have many problems. People who cannot speak English will find it difficult to communicate with others. Eventually, the identity of Japanese will disappear completely. Also, Japanese culture will become weaker and foreigners won't have interest in Japan. Now I would explain deeply about what might happen if we cannot use Japanese.

If we must use English instead of Japanese, people who cannot speak English - especially older generations - may find it difficult to communicate with others. This is because almost all people in the older generation haven't learned English and it would be difficult for them to learn English from now. However, this doesn't mean that the younger generation (such as us) can speak English. The reason for this is that we are taught English grammar, reading and writing skills but do not practice speaking much. Therefore, if using Japanese is banned, many people will find it difficult to live in Japan and many people will be depressed by less communication. A good example of this is a branch of cafe Doutor which is located in Tokai University that became an international cafe for improving the university students' English level, so that customers must use English for ordering. Some of Tokai University students said, "I cannot go to the Doutor in my university anymore." This reaction is natural. They don't have to use that cafe; they can use a different cafe. However, this attitude shows what might happen after changing the country's operating language into English. People may not come out of their houses in order to avoid communication in English. Another example is when the older generation see their grandchild, and they cannot communicate in English, so they also cannot tell their experiences such as war and how they lived in the old days to their grandchildren. These problems would make Japan quiet and become a less lively country.

We will lose the identity of Japan, because when a generation that doesn't know any Japanese has grown up, they might not have any Japanese spirit and sense. For instance, the way of thinking called "Wabi-Sabi": this meaning is difficult to translate into any other languages, and it is even ambiguous in Japanese, but this word shows the indigenous Japanese sense of feeling the loving of fleeting things, such as the four seasons. Also, similarly, their palate might change so that the new generation prefers to eat junk food instead of Japanese food. Moreover, Japanese food is healthy food in the world, so it is registered as an "Intangible Culture Heritage" because it supports longevity and obesity prevention. This means that if people stop eating Japanese food, the Japanese health level is getting worse and Japanese food will also disappear someday. These things show Japanese people will become the same as foreigners, and no longer be Japanese. Therefore, if we lose the Japanese language, our consciousness of identity might become confused because we live in Japan but are not so different from foreign people who don't have Japanese characteristics.

Japanese culture would also be changed by using English instead of using Japanese. I think one of the major Japanese cultural assets is "Anime" and "Manga." These are popular in not only Japan, but also popular in other countries. Comparing with foreign animation and cartoon, Japanese anime and manga have higher quality and are more detailed, and also the storylines are often profound and wide in variety. In fact, many Japanese anime and manga are translated into other languages, so foreigners can read and enjoy them. However, my American friend who really loves Japanese anime said that she wants to understand them in Japanese because anime is created in Japan so some of the expression might differ in nuance between English and Japanese. Also, by studying Japanese, it will help her understand Japanese culture, therefore she is studying Japanese by herself. I noticed that foreigners like stories that are influenced by Japanese culture or characteristics of Japan by noticing which are their favorite manga, for example Naruto, the most popular manga about the battle action of Ninja. If we cannot use Japanese, these qualities will gradually be lost and we cannot create greater ones anymore. By losing the popularity of anime and manga, which is one of the Japanese strong points, we will lose foreigners' interest toward Japan.

As a result, if we cannot use Japanese, we will have problems of less communication, losing the identity of Japanese, and an overall weakening of Japanese culture. These problems would be shocking and deplorable to everyone because of losing this noble culture and the popular food which is loved by many people. In fact, I will feel despair if Japanese culture disappears because I love Japanese expression in Japanese literature and the arts such as "waka," and also I'm proud of my sense of Japanese identity. Therefore, if the Japanese government decided to use English in real life, I don't want to be like a foreigner; I want to stay Japanese having Japanese spirit and sense. So I'm sure that I will try to protect our precious culture and keep telling it to future generations by using my English skills in addition to my native language, Japanese.

Child Research Net would like to thank the Doshisha International Junior/Senior High School and Honami Inoue, student and author, for permitting reproduction of this article on the CRN web site.

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