Cure Tadashiku: You have always said that in order to learn Japanese you need to use Japanese, and that means communicating in Japanese, not just having massive input of anime, novels and such.
However, learners seem remarkably loath to do that. You’ve discussed the reasons for that, but the fact remains. How do you suggest tackling it?
Cure Dolly: That’s right. Well, look, if people don’t want to communicate in Japanese, that’s their affair. Many people spend endless time on English-language Japanese forums. Essentially, if that’s what they want to do, if that’s where they get their fun, who am I to complain?
I don’t think it is a good use of time if you really want to learn Japanese (rather than learn about Japanese), but all I am here for is to offer my advice. After that it’s up to the individual to do what she wants to do.
Cure Dolly: I think the problem with the Forums has been essentially a critical mass problem. Because only a minority of Japanese learners seem to want to (or reach a level where they can) interact in Japanese, the demand for such a forum is not high, which presumably is why there aren’t other all-Japanese learners’ forums online.
It is quite possible that once people do reach a high enough level, if they are actually interested in using Japanese they move on to online interaction with actual Japanese people, as you and I have done. However, I still think there might be a place for interaction with other second-Mothertongue speakers, partly as an easy entry for beginners (interaction beginners, not Japanese beginners) and partly because we do have things in common that we might want to discuss (which is why there is such a lot of English-language forum activity).
A rather bigger site than ours started such a forum a while back and abandoned it from lack of participation. Ours keeps going in a quiet way, but the problem is that someone comes, is quite enthusiastic, but because not many people are there, understandably moves on. Occasionally a small community starts to form, but it will only be two or three people, so when one of those people gets busy or goes on vacation or something the group dissolves. We don’t reach a critical mass where an active self-sustaining community is formed.
The Forum still works well in its quiet way. We have quite a few visitors per day and it rarely stays quiet for more than a day or two. But it hasn’t reached critical mass.
Cure Tadashiku: So what about the Line group. Do you think it can break this pattern?
Cure Dolly: We’ll see. I think there is a chance that it could. Line interaction is more casual. You can post a picture, say a word or two, share a link. You can have real-time chat if people are there, or slow-motion chat if they aren’t. Importantly, it doesn’t need many people. It is a format ideally suited to a small handful of participants. It may grow, but it doesn’t require critical mass in the way a Forum does.
Cure Tadashiku: So might it eventually replace the Forums
Cure Dolly: Probably not. They work differently and the two may end up complementing each other. A Line group is not an ideal medium for laying out ideas in detail or having an in-depth discussion. Those things want their own thread and a more permanent location. People may well do that on the Forum and link to it from the Line group. We’ll have to see how it all evolves.
Cure Tadashiku: It is certainly an interesting experiment and I have to salute your tenacity in an area where no one seems to have made a lot of headway!
Cure Dolly: You’d be welcome to join the group too you know (－ｏ⌒)
Cure Tadashiku: I don’t have a keitai, and honestly I am less involved with non-native Japanese speakers (as well as non-Japanese speakers) these days. So I guess I am part of the problem. I think there are those Japanese learners who really want to stay based in English, and conversely those who really move into Japanese and out of the foreign-learner circuit altogether.
Speaking of which, how do you see your future in these terms? I know you want to become a writer in Japanese eventually. I know you thought you would never do another English book and then you did Unlocking Japanese.
So where do you see yourself going in the long-to-middle-term? Will you continue to support the Forums, Line group etc? More broadly, will you go on blogging in English? Do another book in English?
Cure Dolly: I don’t know. Really I don’t. A community may form via the Forums and Line group(s). If so, I guess we may grow together. So far the Line group is attracting people who are pretty darn serious and really want Japanese as a second Mothertongue, I think. That being the case we are likely to grow in Japanese together and stay friends in Japanese.
As to the rest, I did Unlocking Japanese because I realized that I (with the help of you and others) had discovered some really important things about Japanese that no one else has ever put into English – things that can be extremely helpful to Japanese learners. In some ways they revolutionize Japanese learning. For that reason I felt I had to do a book. I would have been failing in a duty not to lay out these discoveries in usable book-form.
I continue to discover more so there may be another book at some point. For the present I continue contributing to this site. I don’t guarantee to do it forever! I really am not that interested in working in English, but I do want to help people tread the same path. I want to share what we have learned. But, yes, there is probably a limit to that.
Cure Tadashiku: So if people who are not dedicated second-Mothertongue people want to join the Line group?
Cure Dolly: Absolutely welcome. So long as people are wanting to interact in all-Japanese we are happy to welcome them. At some point, if it all expands, we may form different groups. If it doesn’t expand, that’s fine too.
Cure Tadashiku: Thank you.
Cure Dolly: Thank you.