What is a "Gaijin"?

The words Gaijin roughly translates to "foreigner" in Japanese. Gaijin tends to be used as a more endearing term for the Japanese for anyone that is not of Asian heritage, and when talked about in the media, the term tends to be used when talking about white foreigners from either the US or Europe (of course, Africans, Latinos, and Non-Japanese Asians are also gaijin as well).

I currently live in another state or live outside the United States. Would it be possible for me to take lessons with you online?

Absolutely! In fact, most of my students take their lessons with me online through Skype anyway. I do accept foreign payments through Paypal as well, so just be aware of the exchange rate and fees that they apply.

How long does it take for someone to become fluent in Japanese?

This is a common question that I get a lot. I personally believe that if you stick to a 10 hour a week study schedule (including class time at Simple Gaijin), you can get to basic conversational skills in about a year (for fast learners) to two years (for guys that do the bare minimum). So it really depends on how much work you are willing to put in and the effort you give.

Is it difficult to learn Japanese?

I won't lie to you, Japanese is a difficult languge to learn if you don't have the drive or the passion to learn it. You are going to have to put in a lot of effort for you to master the basics. If you think learning Japanese is going to be easy as going on Youtube and watching an episode of a fantasy anime, you are going to be in for a rude awakening. It takes time and a lot of practice for someone to master the fundamentals of Japanese. That said, the more work you put into it, the quicker you will learn. But Japanese is not a language that you can study for an hour a week. More like, 10 hours a week is what you are gonna need.

How are you qualified to teach Japanese?

In terms of my education, I have a BA in Asian Studies - Honors with a Japanese minor from the University of North Texas (GO MEAN GREEN!), plus a Certificate in Japanese Studies from Kansai Gaidai University in Osaka. While I am currently on hiatus for my teacher's license for the state of Texas, I am close to attaining a Texas Teacher's License for Japanese. Perhaps I will go into teaching in the public school sector at some point in the near future. Finally, I also taught Japanese for 4 years at the University of North Texas as a volunteer tutor for the University and as a private tutor. While not indirectly related to Japanese, I taught English conversation to my coworkers during my time as a Japanese interpreter / translator.

Why should I go to an American to learn Japanese instead of going to a native Japanese teacher?

I used to think the same question when I met other Japanese teachers of non-Japanese descent. But as I continued on my formal Japanese education, I started to notice that I was learning a lot more from my non-Japanese teachers over my native teachers for a variety of reasons. The first reason was the language barrier that was on the Japanese teacher's end. Most of the time, my native Japanese teachers couldn't speak native English to their students. This not only caused frustration with myself and my fellow classmates, but the Japanese teacher started to get frustrated when I would ask more difficult questions regarding the language. Of course, there are plenty of Japanese teachers that speak fluent English, but even of those few, there are few that can explain Japanese grammar structures in a way where their students will understand it. Secondly, most native Japanese teachers that are not associated with universities are usually profit driven. In addition, most formal Japanese classes are usually held by local Japanese associations looking to add money to their coffers. While I do love to get paid for what I love to do, what is important to me is that I help students achieve their Japanese language goals and help them further develop their insight on one of the world's most misunderstood cultures. Simple Gaijin, on the other hand, uses its profits to develop the business and give it's students and clients a better opportunity to use better texts, media, and other things to enrich their Japanese learning. Finally, most of my students feel a sense of relief that they are learning from somebody that went through the same lessons and experiences. The many stories that I tell them of my own experiences learning Japanese are some of the same that they are experiencing or will experience soon. It gives them a sort of preview of what to expect.

Where exactly did you live in Japan?

When I first "lived" in Japan, I lived in Hirakata-shi, Osaka-fu, the halfway point between Osaka and Kyoto while I was a student at Kansai Gaidai for almost 6 months. I was a student at the "Kansai Crossroads" from July 2012 - December 2012. While I was an ALT in the JET Program (Japan Exchange Teacher Program), I was stationed the rural (and heavily backward) island of Hokkaido(北海道). I was in my "Winter Quarters" from July 2013 - July 2014. Finally, during my final year at the American Language School, I was stationed in Asahi-shi, Chiba-ken, where Simple Gaijin was conceived and born. I was in the "Land of 1,000 Leaves" from September 2014 - September 2015.

Is it possible to become a Japanese Interpreter / Translator without a JLPT N1 or N2?

It is totally possible for you to do so. But it will be a lot harder for you to get a job, let alone keep one for very long. In addition to my (soon-to-be) teacher's license, I also have a JLPT N3 that I took while I was in JET. In a future article, I will talk about my short-lived interpreter / translator career in the Japanese auto industry and the challenges of specifically being a Japanese interpreter / translator if you are not a native Japanese or are a Gaijin with Japanese skills.

It sounds like you have a huge animosity towards JET and English Teaching in Japan...

YOU can call it animosity if you want to. But it couldn't be further than the truth. Rather, I see it as a failure in terms of results when it comes to improving Japanese English scores throughout Asia. I personally belive it can be fixed, but it certainly will not be an overnight fix and most likely will need drastic overhaul from the school boards.