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The Best Advice on How to Learn Japanese

By Jon, published on 20/02/2018 Blog > Languages > Japanese > Top Tips for Learning Japanese
Contents
  • Long-Term Motivation Will Help You Learn Japanese
  • Learn Like a Child Would is the Easiest Way to Learn Japanese
  • Learn Kana by Heart
  • Go At Your Own Pace but Practice Daily
  •  The Best Way to Learn Japanese is to Speak with a Native Speaker

Losers have goals. Winners have systems”

Even if you don’t fully agree with this quote from Scott Adams, you can’t deny there’s some truth to it. It’s especially true when it comes to learning Japanese.

Studying the Japanese language obviously requires setting yourself certain goals. However, without any organization or systems in place, you’re going to struggle to make any progress. If you want to learn to speak Japanese fluently, here’s our advice for making sure you’re on the right track before you start.

Long-Term Motivation Will Help You Learn Japanese

Listen to us: There will be times when you don’t feel motivated, like none of the Japanese words are going in, and you’re nowhere near speaking Japanese fluently. This will be particularly evident if you want to learn Japanese independently, but you will also experience it during your Japanese course, and through out the whole of your Japanese learning. However, you need to learn to get over these moments as they’re completely normal.

What are the best resources for learning Japanese? If you want to learn Japanese, you have to be motivated. (Source: Tirachard Kumtanom)

Do you want to learn Japanese in order to work in Japan, do an internship, or just travel around the country? It’s important to have a clear objective. What’s yours?

The importance of motivation in language learning should not be underestimated. It doesn’t matter if you want to learn Korean, Mandarin Chinese, Arabic, Portuguese, or Japanese. To improve your skills in any language, you will need to be motivated.

But perhaps this partially comes down to the level that you want to reach. You need to be much more motivated to become bilingual than you do to just learn a few Japanese expressions. After all, mastering all the Japanese writing systems and learning how to read and write using Japanese characters obviously requires more effort than just learning the basic greetings.

If you’re going to remain motivated in the long term, you need to find a reason to learn Japanese. If you just want to learn a few words and phrases “for fun”, you’re going to struggle since certain aspects of Japanese grammar are really complicated. If you’re just not that into your Japanese lessons, you’ll just end up giving up.

Be careful, though. Even if you’re really motivated, you’ll still have times when your motivation drops. You need to be able to overcome the following hurdles when it comes to motivation:

  • Passion: In the beginning, everything is new. You’ll learn new words every day, practice writing systems, and work on pronunciation, etc. However, after a while, this will start to be less interesting than it once was. If you’re going to get over this hurdle and stay motivated when things become repetitive, you’re going to need to be passionate about learning your new language.

  • Failure: Of course, when you learn a foreign language, there will be times when you feel down. In Japanese, pronunciation can be quite simple. However, learning Japanese kanji in order to read and write might be one of the most difficult things you ever learn how to do. Keep telling yourself one thing: There’s no such thing as failure. Whenever you make a mistake, it’s an opportunity to learn more about the language you’re studying.

  • Perseverance: Learning Japanese might sometimes end up being put on the back burner. You might have a lot going on at work or be studying for other exams. The important thing is that you never give up. This is where perseverance comes into it. Even if it’s been a while and learning Japanese has fallen by the wayside, you need to make sure you go back to it. This could simply be trying to have a conversation in Japanese once in a while to keep your mind thinking in Japanese. There are plenty of websites to facilitate language exchange if you don’t know any Japanese people with whom you can practice face to face.

Where are the best language schools in Japan? The Land of the Rising Sun is home to three different writing systems: kanji, hiragana, and katakana. (Source: pixabay.com)

Learn Like a Child Would is the Easiest Way to Learn Japanese

When we learn our native language, we start by learning how to speak. You should consider taking the same approach when you’re learning a foreign language.

What does a baby do when they learn a language? They listen to their parents, pick up a few words, and then repeat them. Bit by bit, and with the help of their parents, they correct themselves and start speaking correctly.

The best way to learn Japanese is in Japan itself. Immersion is a great way to learn a language as you are constantly surrounded by it. If you can’t go to Japan, then you can learn Japanese quickly by trying to expose yourself to as much of the language as possible.

Listen to Japanese radio and songs and watch movies and the news in Japanese. Try to repeat what you hear, understand it, and, if in doubt, you can always ask either your tutor, teacher, or a Japanese-speaking friend to correct it. You’ll soon know how to say a few Japanese phrases and, once you are familiar with hiragana and katakana, read some basic Japanese words.

The only man who makes no mistakes is the man who never does anything.” — President Roosevelt

In the same way that children learn languages, you can’t be scared of making mistakes. After all, this is how you get better, by learning from your mistakes. Generally speaking, we remember the things we get wrong better than the things we get right.

How long does it take to learn Japanese? You should try to learn a foreign language in the same way as children. (Source: pixabay.com)

People often ask is Japanese difficult to learn? Learning to speak basic Japanese is much simpler than learning to write it. In comparison to English, the pronunciation isn’t really that complicated. However, when it comes to writing…

Learn Kana by Heart

After learning to speak just like a child would, it’s time to move onto learning about writing in Japanese. Before you start learning kanji (the characters), you should learn the kana by heart: hiragana and katakana. These two syllabary systems are used to write Japanese and you could think of them a bit like the alphabet for Japanese.

While it might be useful to enlist the help of a tutor in order to learn the kana, it’ll all be pointless if you’re not really motivated.

You should first start by learning them to the point where you can comfortably read without having to pause too much. While romaji (the way Japanese is written using the Latin alphabet) might be useful for learning the pronunciation, you should try to avoid it as much as possible as it can be detrimental to learning the actual writing systems used by the Japanese.

Put together an effective system for studying the symbols. Don’t forget that there are plenty of great sites if you want to learn Japanese online. The site Kanpai says you can learn the kana in three days. However, we’re skeptical. We reckon that you probably need about two weeks in order to be able to correctly recognize and identify both systems of kana.

Intensive tutorials with a private Japanese teacher can probably help you with achieving this goal.

Go At Your Own Pace but Practice Daily

Learning a language like Japanese can take many hours of studying. You won’t become fluent with just a couple of hours of tutorials every week.

How much do Japanese private tutorials cost? You should practice Japanese every day. (Source: Ghost Presenter)

While it’s important that you learn at your own pace, you should be studying for at least 10 minutes per day. Even if this is just studying a certain particle with some homemade flashcards or going over a certain aspect of Japanese grammar in a textbook. There are plenty of good books to learn Japanese around, so do some research about which one will suit you best before you dive in and buy one.

Learning a language is much easier if you study every day rather than just occasionally for long spells. You need to create a positive and healthy routine in order to do this. If you’ve got the motivation, you just need the discipline.

The writer Stephen King said that in order to become a writer, he wrote at least 1,500 words per day. Every day. Even if it was a national holiday or Christmas. These kinds of routines are essential when it comes to success. It was easier for Stephen King to write 1,500 words per day than 10,000 words every two weeks.

While you don’t need to write 1,500 words in Japanese every day, we do recommend that you expose yourself daily to Japanese by listening to the radio, watching television, or just reading. This is why it’s important that you have the motivation for learning a language.

 The Best Way to Learn Japanese is to Speak with a Native Speaker

While writing Japanese is complicated, you needn’t learn how to do it before you go to live in Japan. Speaking basic Japanese is far more important. This is where knowing a native speaker of Japanese comes in really handy.

In addition to correcting your pronunciation, grammar, syntax errors and teaching you new vocabulary, a native speaker can also teach you more about Japanese culture and the necessary etiquette for speaking to other native speakers while you’re in their country.

Which are the best language exchange programs in Japan? Language exchange programs are a good way to experience a new culture and learn a new language. (Source: Donald Tong)

If you can spend time in the country itself, that’s even better! Life in Japan is probably quite different to what you’re used to, after all. There are so many rules about how you should behave, for one.

If you’re planning on heading out there, you should find yourself a Japanese “mentor”. If you don’t know any Japanese people, you can always look for them on forums and Facebook groups, for example.

You can speak to anyone in the world now thanks to things like Skype. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by how many Japanese people want to learn English, too. This is a win-win situation for both of you. You can help them to learn English and they’ll help you to learn more about Japanese in return.

In short:

  • Staying motivated is hugely important when it comes to learning any foreign language.

  • Start at the beginning: Learn a foreign language in the same way a baby would learn their mother tongue. Listen, repeat, and learn from your mistakes. This is a useful and effective method for language learning.

  • Master kana before you start trying to write anything in Japanese.

  • A few lessons here and there won’t make you fluent in Japanese. You need to practice your new language regularly, even if it’s only for 10 to 15 minutes per day.

  • Finally, find a native speaker to talk to so that they can correct your speaking and help you on your way to fluency.

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