I want to motivate a child of High school age to learn a new language from far away like Japanese and learn about other cultures and civilisations like - Zen and ancient Japanese culture, for example.

I think learning a new language (with very different fonts, pronunciations) could help to open-up brain and personality development. Also learning about ancient Zen etc. culture will help to bring calmness and focus in busy and chaotic student and university life.

How can I motivate the child to learn Japanese and more about Japanese culture?

  • 1
    Did the kid show any interest in Japanese language and culture already, or is this choice completely yours?
    – Arsak
    Commented Sep 20, 2019 at 20:18
  • Have you learned a new language? Are you familiar with how difficult the task you are asking them to do is? I don't think either Zen meditation or the study of Japanese (which can be completely separated) are things you should ask your child to do alone... as opposed to something you could do together.
    – jker
    Commented Oct 2, 2019 at 15:50

3 Answers 3


It's simple: To encourage someone to learn a language, make them want to.

Show your child JoJo's Bizarre Adventure. Then, turn subtitles off before the start of Part 3.

You'll have hooked them on a story that they'll want to keep going on. To keep going, they'll have to learn Japanese. It's easy to learn (with the exception of the strange ~ます behavior) if done correctly (i.e. if taught like Greek or Latin).

However, do not perform cultural education. You're not qualified. Instead, find someone willing to teach mindful meditation (the type with cognitive benefits).

  • 2
    Nice idea, but what's to keep a high-school-age kid from finding the translated/subtitled story/stories on the internet? Also, I don't think it works - learning a language is just too much work for a simple incentive like that to keep you motivated long enough (or at least it wouldn't work for me). Commented Sep 21, 2019 at 21:02

You're right that bilingualism has numerous cognitive benefits, so it's a good idea to encourage your child to learn a second language.

That said, I wouldn't dictate which language they learn. Learning a new language is a lot of work and you really need to be motivated to do it. It's motivation they are going to have to find themselves, you can't force that. Instead, just encourage them to learn about other cultures generally. Especially with the rise of non-English music and media online (k-pop, anyone?), there are plenty of opportunities for organic interest in another language to develop.

I'd start just by asking about their interests. What countries are they interested in? If they could travel anywhere, where would they visit? Why? Do they have any friends who speak other languages?

In addition to the language, there are other ways of exploring other cultures. Trying their food, their music/movies/etc. I'd start just asking about what countries they are interested in and go from there.


You don't. Japanese is an extremely difficult language to learn, so if it's going to be learned, the motivation for doing it has to be intrinsic - they have to genuinely want to learn it themselves. Maybe you'd be able to get him motivated to do so by trying to get him into subtitled anime or something, but that would also require him to want to explore that area himself.

I think learning new language (with very different fonts, pronunciations) could help to open-up brain & personality development.

High school age is well past the point where the brain and personality development are likely to be influenced by learning a language. Ideally, if you want to teach a child a language, you want it to be done as early as possible so that it hooks into the natural language-learning process of early childhood - and with a language as complex as Japanese, you probably don't want to seriously attempt this unless you're either Japanese or you've spent considerable time (years) living in Japan, because odds are, you'd wind up teaching it to them wrong.

Also learning about ancient Zen etc culture will help to bring calmness & focus in busy and chaotic student & university life

Now this is more doable, though I think you're also committing the sin of Cultural Appropriation. Again, unless you've got access to genuine Zen teachers, it's likely that any "Zen" you teach your son will be a bastardized New Age version that barely resembles the original, which is a part of a culturally significant religious belief system.

If all you want is some calmness and focus, just teach him secularized Mindfulness Meditation, instead.

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    I wouldn't be so quick to avoid teaching it because it is supposedly hard. Hard things are OK sometimes. Besides, it's not hard for everybody. My wife learned Japanese for the first time in college and had a very easy time picking it up despite previously having no exposure to Japanese or any language remotely like it. Commented Sep 20, 2019 at 19:45

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