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Teach Your Dogs Japanese!

Today we’d like to share another story from the Mail Bag Contest we did recently from Nathan Mittelman of Sydney, Australia.  What do you do while listening to the podcast? Nathan walks his dogs and has even taught them commands in Japanese!

Here’s his full story:

“On my first trip to Japan I was sure I would pick up Japanese easily.  I had the wonderful opportunity to work at Tokai University Hospital for a working holiday.  Although I had no previous experience with the Japanese language, I had been able to pick up European languages quickly and easily, and so smugly I thought Japanese would be a pushover.  I bought a phrase book at the airport in Sydney and spent a few hours reviewing it on the plane.

The problems started immediately on arrival.  

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From trying to read the kanji on a train ticket automatic dispenser, to a simple query for a direction, I was lost.  I was supposed to go to a hotel in Akasaka, but while I was on the train I looked at a map and became confused with Asakusa.  Everything sounded the same!   I got off at the wrong stop and because the train had stopped under a department store I couldn’t find my way outside. I just kept on going up into the department store. No one seemed to understand my frantic “Where is the exit?” question. If it wasn’t for the kind help of a passing ‘gaijin’ I probably would still be lost in the Daimaru kimono department.

I had to admit that simply ‘picking up’ Japanese was going to be impossible.  My Australian accent was a real obstacle and so real communication was very limited.

Two months time flew quickly and I fell in love with Japan.  The kindness and patience of the Japanese people led me to enjoy a magical time and I was certain I would return. Secretly, I made a resolution that I would speak Japanese on my return.

In Australia I looked for Japanese courses at the university or adult education classes, but I couldn’t find a course to suit me.  The classes were at inconvenient times, difficult locations and too expensive. I also knew that my preferred study style was to learn at my own pace.

How was I going to learn Japanese?  It was then I received a wonderful gift of an mp3 player and discovered podcasts.

Before long I found and within minutes I was in business.  Not only did it teach Japanese, but it was also light hearted, positive and fun.  Now I was able to study in my car on the way to and from work and have the occasional laugh.  How convenient!  I didn’t need to travel to classes and share a teacher with lots of other students.  I have my own personal teacher in the car!  I could learn at my own pace and listen over and over again until I felt that have mastered the new vocabulary.

My next trip to Japan was so much easier.  Not only was I able to communicate, but my Japanese friends were impressed with my ability.  I heard, “日本語が上手ですね!” repeatedly from my Japanese friends, but this time they seemed genuinely surprised by my quick progress. The lessons had been perfect for ‘real life’ situations and I was able to ask directions and speak to shopkeepers.

I have continued with and find the best feature is its convenience.  I can study when or where it suits me.  I continue to study in the car, but also when I do the supermarket shopping or while walking my dogs.  Even my dogs now respond to ‘Sit’ and ‘Come here’ in Japanese!

I find listening to native speakers at normal and slow pace very helpful.   I can identify each syllable separately and clearly and learn the vocabulary before reading notes to consolidate my writing skills.

My Japanese is improving daily and I am looking forward to my next trip to Japan where I can ‘show off’ my new Japanese skills to my friends.  Thank you so much JapanesePod101 for teaching me Japanese! 


I think Nathan’s story sums up what the first trip to Japan can be like for just about everyone.  I know it’s very similar to my own when I landed in Fukuoka.  It’s nice to see Nathan didn’t back down from a challenge and is preparing for round 2 of Japan!