Twitter has come out of nowhere to be it’s own little miniblogging/social networking service. Some people love Twitter, some people hate it, some people can’t figure it out. It seems to get a mix of reactions from people.
If you aren’t already on it though, I would recommend hopping on just to try it out. Practicing with Twitter might suit some people amazingly well, while others might be shaking their heads in frustration. You never know until you try right?
I personally have an off and on love affair with the service. Sometimes I get on and do a lot of posting and really get into it. Other times I’m simply too busy to keep up. The advantage of Twitter though is that your friends generally don’t seem to notice if you’ve been gone for awhile since the service is so ephemeral to begin with.
Twitter has exploded in the States of course, but it wasn’t until somewhat recently (2010) that it really started to take off in Japan. And like everything else about Japan, Japan has it’s own quirky way of using the service.
First off, people don’t usually use a clear picture of themselves unless they are famous celebrities. This is because privacy is highly valued in Japan. This is of course starting to change, but you’ll see a lot of people on Twitter with manga characters for their avatars or have a picture of the back of their head looking at something. This is perfectly normal in Japan.
Second, one big misconception of Twitter is that it is all about you posting updates about yourself. This is true to some extent, but the real power of Twitter comes from interacting with other folks that share similar interests. Keep in mind when you write that you want to start or continue a conversation not just throw random bits of information out for no reason.
So for example, if it’s hot out, you probably shouldn’t say something like 暑いですね because there isn’t a whole a lot a person can do to respond to that. Try to rephrase it into something that might get some interaction like 暑いときは冷やすために何をする？(What do you do to cool down when it’s hot?). This is more likely to get a response and thus allow you to have more interaction/practice/fun on Twitter.
Third, I would recommend having an account that is only for Japanese. Don’t try to blend English/Japanese. If you pretend to be Japanese and other people don’t know your native language, they will most likely only use Japanese with you, even if you can’t understand one bit. This is great, real-world, get-your-fingers-dirty practice.
The other reason for this is you don’t want to anger your English-only speaking friends or Japanese-only speaking friends when you post an update in either language and they can’t understand it. I always find it a bit annoying when I go to follow someone on Twitter and think they are English or Japanese speaking and find out that they speak Russian 80% of the time instead. This usually results in me dropping them.
Unfortunately the trick of posting bilingually doesn’t work on Twitter as well as it does on Facebook due to the 140 character limitation, so it is best to just stick to one language and leave it at that.
As anyone who follows my Twitter account knows, I’m an on and off Twitter-er. I used to tweet all the time, I was almost addicted to it, but I’ve been too busy of late to do a lot of tweeting. But don’t let my experience discourage you from at least trying it out. Give it a few weeks and a few tweets and see what happens.
1) Setup a Twitter account if you haven’t already. And go to Twitter search at https://search.twitter.com
2) Search for a topic that is of interest to you. It could be anything from hiking to skiing. Type the search term in Japanese.
3) Reply to one of the messages that catches your eye in the search stream and follow that person. Asking any kind of question is a good way to get a response and a follow back (where the person will see your updates)
4) Some people won’t follow back or reply, but that’s okay, you still got your practice in. Again, Japan is a lot more privacy-oriented than other countries, so some people won’t follow/respond to people they don’t know.
5) You can also visit sites like https://twitter.grader.com to see the most popular people in your area if you are in Japan. Or if you are outside of Japan you can check your favorite city and see who is the most popular and follow them.
Again, remember to at least introduce yourself or ask them a question so you can get some interaction out of them. Don’t be a dead fish, you really don’t have anything to lose by trying out your Japanese and seeing where it takes you.