Japanese is one of the most difficult languages for speakers of English to learn, it being truly and completely foreign to our ears. However, there are techniques you can use to help ease the learning process a bit—like using the popular Japanese social networking site, Mixi. Here’s a review.
What Is Mixi?
Mixi is just another social networking site, much like the US’s own Facebook or MySpace, intended for native speakers of Japanese—which means that there will be no break in which you can stop and just use English again.Real Japanese people speaking real Japanese, all the time.
However, Mixi is not all the same: there are some serious cultural differences you need to keep in mind while using it to practice your Japanese.
Using Mixi To Learn Japanese (4 out of 5)
Mixi is probably the most similar to Livejournal, in that it is centered around journal entries, and not so much “pokes” or photos or the like (as in Facebook). This means that Mixi will excel at having you work with actually writing Japanese, one of the most difficult aspects of the language to master.
In addition, because the entries are more bloggish and casual than your typical dry essay that you’d be writing for a formal class, the time will pass more quickly, and learning Japanese won’t seem like quite as much of a pain.
Reading plenty of Japanese on-site is the other bonus to your language skills. You’ll be reading other people’s journal entries as well as comments on your own, immersing yourself both socially and linguistically. People tend to write in short, simple sentences, often from their phone, so it’s great practice.
However, jumping into Mixi as an absolute beginner to Japanese is probably not the best idea. Having at least intermediate skills in reading and writing Japanese is a good prerequisite before you can begin really making the most out of Mixi as a fun social environment in which to practice your skills.
Socializing (3 out of 5)
It might be difficult for you to make friends, even once you’ve got that invite in or already know a handful of Japanese people. Unlike the somewhat more open cultures of Facebook and MySpace, fewer people at Mixi will speak to complete strangers.There are those, of course, who will be quite friendly toward strangers—just be patient while sending out all those invites, and try not to be too discouraged at first.
A good way to make friends is by joining up on communities, which provide not only great places to discuss virtually any topic that might interest you—all in Japanese—but will also work as mixing bowls where you can get in contact with the sort of people you’d get along most with.
Security (5 out of 5)
Mixi is very secure, especially when compared to other social networking sites. Primarily, this is done by requiring invites to join Mixi as a full member. While this might also make it more difficult for you to find your way in, once you’re in, you can feel completely safe while interacting with Japanese people.
Availability (1 out of 5)
There’s been a recent change to the Mixi policy: Requiring a Japanese mobile phone number. While there are a number of workarounds for this—and previously registered users don’t have to worry—this might mean some difficulty in getting registered.There’s been a lot of outcry since this change, especially from the Japanese living outside of Japan who don’t have Japanese mobile phone addresses, so a reversal of this would not be out of the question.
Overall, however, Mixi is a great resource for practicing reading and writing the Japanese language.