How to use Quora to practice Japanese

Quora, for those of you who may not know, is a website where users can ask and answer all kinds of questions. It’s a community of shared knowledge, not much unlike Wikipedia, and there are lots of questions being asked and answered every day.

Recently, Quora introduced Japanese language support, which means there’s been a sudden, massive influx of Japanese users joining Quora to ask/answer their own flurry of questions.

Prior to Japanese officially being supported, people were obviously able to ask and answer questions about Japanese–the Japanese language “topic” has over 130k followers—but while that has its uses, the mere act of talking about a language will take you only so far in your actual learning. At some point, you have to sit down and get some actual work done using the language.

And that’s what makes this update so great. As a Japanese learner, you now have access to a treasure trove of questions and answers about topics that can be filtered based on your tastes and interests, most of which are asked and answered by native Japanese speakers. Better yet, you can ask your own questions and attempt to answer questions posed by other users, which provides a great opportunity to sit down and practice writing Japanese, and that’s important for a number of reasons.

The key here is that you can learn and think about subjects that are interesting to you, whether it’s video games, international politics, programming, starting up a YouTube channel–literally anything–in Japanese. The pedagogical term for this is called Content and Language Integrated Learning, which involves learning a subject (e.g. geography, science, or history) through a foreign language. While Quora isn’t technically a classroom, you can still learn a lot using this approach, and you can choose to focus on meaning (i.e., getting the gist of what’s being said), form (how specific grammar is used), or some combination of the two.

So, let’s get started!

First, head over to Quora and create an account if you don’t have one already. Upon creating your account, Quora will ask you to select some topics of interest. (Note: If you are accessing Quora from Japan, it will at this point detect your location automatically and ask if you wish to use the Japanese site; for the sake of being thorough, I will continue this guide under the assumption that most people reading it are accessing Quora from outside of Japan.)

Selecting the topics that you’re interested in may take a while–as you select broad subjects, more specific subtopics start to populate the list. For example, if you choose Psychology, Psychology of Everyday Life, Social Psychology, Cognitive Psychology, Psychiatry, Mental Health, and Psychologists will appear as subtopics. If you choose one of those, a whole new slew of even more specific topics will appear, and so on. Take your time and try to create the most meaningful and relevant feed possible for yourself!

Once you’ve chosen at least 10 topics, Quora will ask you what you know about. These can be areas of study, your career, or hobbies–perhaps you’re an avid fantasy football player, or you’ve seen more than a few movies in your life and love to talk about them, or you’re a diehard Marvel fan who will jump at the chance to debate with a DC fan about which universe is better.

Quora will then ask you for any additional languages that you may know and attempt to get you to add your friends from Facebook (skippable). After that, Quora will create your feed.

At this point, you’ll want to navigate to your language settings page. Here are the various ways you might do this based on your device:

  • Desktop: Click on the generic, blue user icon at the top of the page, which should pop open a new menu. Click on Settings at the bottom. On the settings page, navigate to Languages via the menu on the left side of the page.
  • Mobile browser: If you can somehow manage to avoid the popup prompting you to download the Quora app, locate the “You” tab and click on it to get to your profile page. From there, in the main description box (where it says your name, blurb, and the number of followers you have), locate the three tiny dots on the right. Tap on that to open a new menu and click on Languages (you can also get here by tapping on Settings first, but you may as well skip a step and save time).
  • Mobile app: Tap on the “You” button at the bottom of the screen. From there, in the main description box (where it says your name, blurb, and the number of followers you have), locate the three tiny dots on the right. Tap on that to open a new menu and click on Languages (you can also get here by tapping on Settings first, but you may as well skip a step and save time).

Once you’ve made it to the language settings page, you should see a list of available languages.

You can add Japanese to Quora by selecting “Quora日本語版へ参加”. Click on the blue button on the next page that says the same thing, and voilà! Quora is now entirely in Japanese!

At this point, Quora will ask you all of the same account creation questions again. Once you’re back on your feed, you’ll be presented with a variety of questions and answers written in Japanese. It may be a bit overwhelming at first, but you’ll get used to it. And hey, if you know the answer to questions such as 「パスタを茹でる時にオイルを入れるのは何故ですか?」 and want to give answering it a shot in Japanese, go for it!

Make it a habit to jump on Quora regularly, even if it’s just for a few minutes a day. You should automatically receive email updates in Japanese containing questions that are currently trending, so keep an eye on your inbox (of course, you can turn this off if you don’t like it).

The last thing to note is that Quora makes it easy to freely switch between languages by clicking on the globe icon at the top of the page next to your user profile icon. (Mobile users can locate this button next to the “You” button.)

Happy Quora-ing!