The Intimacy of Names in Japan

I’ve been watching a few cheesy Japanese romance dramas (my guilty pleasure) and I noticed something bewildering: when a young Japanese couple starts dating and starts addressing each other by first name instead of last name, the dynamic of their relationship completely changes.  In one particular drama, the boyfriend told his new girlfriend that she should call him “Kotaro” instead of “Taniguchi-san.”  She blushed and said she wasn’t ready to take their relationship that far. read more

How Can Learning Japanese or Chinese Get You a Job?

According to the news, China is about to rule the world and the Japanese are poised for extinction via low birthrates.  With an ever-rising China and a Japan on the decline, one has to wonder:  Will learning Japanese actually get me a job?  And more importantly, will learning Chinese get me an even better job?

In my post “should I learn Japanese or Chinese?” I gave the cop out answer of “go with your heart.”  I still stand by this super cheesy advice.

However,  via this particular post, I received multiple emails from young college students asking for even more advice.  What kind of jobs can I get with these language skills?  What level of proficiency do I need?  And most of all: Are learning these languages just a massive waste of time? read more

Should I Learn Chinese or Japanese?


“Should I learn Japanese or Chinese?”

As a Japanese/Chinese interpreter and translator, it’s a question I get asked a lot.

Those that are crazy or masochistic enough to venture into the realm of Asian languages often stop and pause when it comes to choosing from the two giants of the East Asian languages: Japanese and Mandarin.

Choosing a language is important. Gaining fluency will take you hours, months, and perhaps years of your life. It’s not something to take lightly and, if used for future work purposes, is definitely worth consideration. read more

How To Get a Full Ride Scholarship in China (then throw it away)

Come on, Learn Chinese for Free!

Come on, Learn Chinese for Free!

If learning how to speak Mandarin and living in China is your dream, or even a plausible next step in your life, then you’ve got great timing—because China wants you, and wants you now.

China is allocating tons of money so it can lure 100,000  foreign students to China for the sole purpose of teaching them Mandarin. The United States and China created this 100,000 strong incentive to provide money for young American hopefuls to go abroad, study Chinese, love it, and give China some (hopefully) good PR. read more

Learn Japanese with Legal High


Why You Should Watch Legal High

I know that Japanese dramas aren’t for everyone. It’s like the Home Shopping Network, or Mexican soap operas, or golf—some people love it, others hate it. Hell, even my Japanese friends refuse to watch Japanese dramas, calling them “the garbage of television.” Sometimes, I don’t blame them. The same old plotline of boy meets girl, hospital politics, or police detective nonsense starts to get old. Most Japanese dramas also tend to lack character depth, a plot, and half-decent acting (sorry, Arashi boys don’t always cut it). read more

Overcome the Language Plateau


We all hit it.  That point in our lives where the fast growth suddenly comes to a halt and we run right smack into a wall with no exit.  We just can’t seem to escape and find a way to start moving forward again.  You feel trapped, you feel helpless, and no matter what you do you still see yourself at the same place you were a mere few months ago.

I’m not talking about a mid-life crisis.  I’m talking about learning Japanese and Chinese.

There’s always a point in language learning where you feel comfortable, but you’re not feeling the growth.  You find yourself studying, pushing yourself to the brink in trying to chat up the locals, memorizing your flashcards–but the amount you’re learning and the rate at which your language ability is maturing is far slower than when you first started.  I think all languages learners, whether it be French or Spanish, encounter the dreaded language plateau and feel stuck. How can I get better ? What can I do to improve my language studies? read more

Eric X. Li: A tale of two political systems 二政治体制の物語

Interested in how the Chinese government works?  Want to hear this guy appeal to the masses about a one party system?

Do you want to read about it IN JAPANESE!?

Knock yourself out

*This is a personal translation, not a professional one.  If my Japanese is incorrect or incomprehensible, please do not hesitate to comment.


Good morning, My name is Eric li and I was born here.  But no, I wasn’t born there.  This was where I was born:  Shanghai at the height of the cultural revolution.  My grandmother told me she heard the sound of gunfire along with the sound of my first cries. read more

Taking the JLPT Test in China

The Horrors of Taking the JLPT Test in China

I took the JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test) N1 last Sunday.  I won’t even go into the logistics of the test.   Like, who says あるまじき anymore?  Whatever.

What I want to complain about is: The test center.  I signed up for the nearest testing location in Shanghai, which  was deep in the-middle-of-nowhere subrb.  I get to the university (testing location) and ask the nearest guard about the JLPT test, and she’s oblivious.  She points me to a nearby sign that has some stuff on it.  Lo and behold, it lists all information about the JLPT–except where to actually take it. read more