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How to Learn Japanese: The Best Methods

From Jon, published on 20/02/2018 Blog > Languages > Japanese > How to Learn Japanese Effectively

Before you buy your yen and your Japan tourist guide, consider studying the language by starting to learn kana! You don’t need to be fluent by the time you touch down in Tokyo, but having some knowledge of basic Japanese would certainly be an asset in your attempts to interact with Japanese people.

Luckily, speaking Japanese has never been easier than it is today. Any beginner can find a wide range of options relating to how to learn Japanese, suited for every learning style and budget.

Superprof will now review the different tools and supports available to help you learn Japanese faster than ever!

What is the Best Way to Learn Japanese Online?

To learn a new language you need to be committed. If you are dedicated and studious, it is quite possible to learn Japanese online. To help you, we have selected sites offering quality courses and can help you progress quickly according to your profile and your expectations:

  • Japanese-Online:
    • Contains free lessons
    • good for any new learner as it teaches you the four different methods of writing in Japanese: kanji (Chinese characters), romaji, hiragana and katakana.
    • better pronunciation and the different sounds in Japanese
  • Japanese-Lesson:
    • free website
    • very good lesson plans, ranging from writing to oral practice
    • ideal for learning vocabulary, polite phrases, or even insults in Japanese
    • to learn more about Japanese culture, the history of Japan, a bit about the customs and knowledge found in the land of the rising sun
  • easyjapanese:
    • another free website
    • these sites are available to you in the form of online flashcards ?
    • the site insists on the complex but essential Japanese grammar to construct a correct sentence with a subject, verb, adjective and complement
    • the site is collaborative: the forum allows users to ask questions, there is also a collaborative dictionary to progress and share knowledge between Internet users
  • tofugu:
    • another free website
    • an online Japanese textbook to help you refine or learn hiragana katakana
    • helps with the cultural perspective: for example, did you know that being a geisha is being a lady of company and part of a large ancestral art?
  • Superprof.us:
    • courses on our online platform can also be given via webcam
    • the differing rates for a one hour of class depending on the Japanese teacher
    • the first hour is often given for free by our superprofs
  • Learn Japanese Pod:
    • Learn Japanese through fun and easygoing podcasts
    • grammar, vocabulary, and other necessary basics taught to you by native speakers who have Japanese as their mother tongue
  • Nihongo-Pro:
    • You must pay for this service, as Nihongo Pro is an online Japanese school
    • it is focused on transmitting professional Japanese to its students
    • if you are a fan of manga, you will be delighted to learn vocabulary related to this part of the language and culture of Japan
    • online quizzes help you to improve your Japanese
  • Japon In:
    • another online school for the Japanese language
    • professional Japanese teachers, most of them native speakers
    • for movie buffs, you will also be able to talk to your teachers about Japanese animated films

Immersion is a great way of learning Japanese because you can fully surround yourself with Japanese vocabulary, how to pronounce words, and the Japanese writing system.

Learn Japanese via Webcam

Superprof has Japanese teacher close to where you live Find a private Japanese tutor to teach you Japanese from afar! You will save precious time!

If you want to learn the Japanese language for a trip to Japan or to work in Japan for example, it’s a safe bet that you won’t have all the time in the world to get to know the basics.

Why not take Japanese lessons via webcam?

This has several significant advantages when learning a language:

  • saving time: no need to have your tutor come to you or to meet him or her at an agreed place and time, all you will need to do is log on to your computer to have a quick lesson during your lunch break.
  • no geographical constraints: if you find a great Japanese tutor but he or she moves to a distant city miles away from yours, you can keep working with him or her via the internet and continue to take Japanese lessons with him or her via webcam if he or she agrees.
  • more flexibility with scheduling: you work until 10 PM at night? You still want to take a Japanese lesson right after? This is possible with online courses via webcam–if your teacher agrees of course!
  • different tools: screen sharing, Google Doc, emails, and apps like Whatsapp in order to share corrections for example.

You will have a large choice of tutors on our platform at Superprof. This will mean you can find a tutor who is adapted to your needs.

Our tutors also offer courses via webcam, just check “webcam” on the left side of the results page after doing your research according to subject and place.

To choose your tutor, you may want to ask yourself several questions:

  • What is your level?
  • Would you prefer to have a native speaker as a tutor?
  • What rate are you looking to pay?
  • What are your learning goals?
  • What are you looking for out of your tutor?

Finally, if you are to follow classes via webcam, it is always better to invest a little in sound equipment and image quality.

€100 (£88; $120 USD ; $160 AUD; $154 CAD) will buy you a good webcam and a good headset that will allow you to better hear your tutor, especially for pronunciation exercises.

A private tutor can tailor your Japanese course to your needs, and therefore you can focus on the things that you want to.

Can You Learn Japanese Online Thanks to Videos?

Before you go to Japan to discover its civilization and ancestral traditions, it is essential that you know how to express yourself correctly in the Miyazaki language.

Here are some cool ways to study Japanese through videos:

  • Websites:
    • NHK World:
      • downloadable courses and pdf files in addition to video podcasts
      • everyday life situations
      • free
    • University of Tokyo website:
      • emphasis on speaking and pronunciation
      • free
    • Japanespod :
      • 2500 videos and audios
      • free, except for the pdf files
      • all possible levels

The internet is full of video resources to learn Japanese YouTube is a great resource for all kinds of learning, including Japanese.

  • YouTube channels:
    • Ayuetmax : concrete playacting exercises,
    • Digischool: The best YouTube channel to learn Japanese. You will find all the components of the language here.
    • Japan Online: despite broad themes, the amount of information available is more limited
  • Cinema: great way to enrich your vocabulary, immerse yourself in culture and improve your pronunciation
    • The Firefly Tomb, Isao Takahata, Ghibli Studio, 1988
    • Trip to Tokyo, Yasujirō Ozu, 1953
    • Departures, Yōjirō Takita, 2009
    • Like Father, Like Son, Hirokazu Kore-eda, 2013
    • Harakiri, Masaki Kobayashi, 1962
    • The Boy and the Beast, Mamoru Hosoda, Chizu studio, 2015
    • The Land of Hope, Sion Sono, 2012
    • Wolf Children: Ame and Yuki, Mamoru Hosoda, Chizu Studio, 2013
    • The Journey of Chihiro, Hayao Miyazaki, studio Ghibli, 2002
    • Intendant Sansho, Kenji Mizoguchi, 1954

In order to progress while also having fun, think about choosing movies that you like and whose topics interest you.

The Best Way to Learn Japanese on your Own: Through Smartphone and Tablet Apps

Do you want to travel to Japan and learn Japanese, but you have very little time to learn a language?

So why not learn Japanese on an app?

Of course, choose an application that corresponds to your level, from begginer to intermediate or advanced.

Several advantages are available to you via apps:

  • convenience
  • versatile usability: on public transportation, in a waiting room, in the bathroom…
  • playfulness
  • you are more motivated, since you are choosing to study!

japanese-language Because one can progress in Japanese anywhere! There are numerous mobile apps for learning the Japanese language.

Each app will have a slightly different focus, whether it is the alphabet, words and phrases, listening skills, or reading and writing. Therefore you should do some research to find out which app will help you improve your proficiency the best.

  • JA Sensei : 
    • subscription-based
    • The positives:
      • filled with content
      • ideal for learning or reviewing kana
      • 34 Japanese classes, 2500 Japanese words, audio quizzes
      • you can choose the quiz level and see your progress
      • website with free content
    • The negatives: only available on Android
  • Kanji Recognizer: 
    • The positives:
      • free app
      • only one aspect of language: the writing and recognition of Japanese kanji
      • Android-based, but you can find similar applications under IOS: JEDict Lite
      • quizzes to test knowledge
    • The negatives:
      • cold design
  • Obenkyo: 
    • The positives:
      • free app
      • very wide field to learn more vocabulary
      • ideal for learning numbers and digits
      • exercises to speak Japanese correctly
      • original kanji recognition system, kanji animation
    • The negatives: some issues to fix with quizzes
  • JED and “Japanese Dictionary”: 
    • The positives:
      • free application
      • useful if you find yourself not understanding native speakers
      • allows for quick translation by giving you some notions of Japanese
      • very solid learning system for kanji
      • only available on Android, but equivalent IOS application: Imiwa
      • available offline
    • The negatives:
      • a boring design
      • some issues to fix

The Best Books to Learn Japanese

Travelers to Japan are not only there to learn the language but also to soak up the culture: matsuri (traditional festivals), hanami (sakura flowering festival, cherry tree in Japanese), discovering Mount Fuji, the capital, or Kyoto. Tourists love to walk in the footsteps of samurai or buy a traditional kimono for example!

Books are a tried and trusted tool for language learning Less compact than an application but still easily transportable, there are numerous Japanese learning books out there…

If you want to progress quickly through your language learning, here are some books to learn Japanese that could help you.

  • Japanese Manual:
    • two volumes + one exercise booklet
    • The positives:
      • very complete: grammar, vocabulary, translation, and corrected comprehension exercises
      • 7:30 of recordings in order to progress with pronunciation
    • The negatives:
      • the book is expensive for each volume and even more for the exercise book
  • Japanese in 40 Lessons: 
    • for autodidacts
    • The positives:
      • transportable
      • 40 lessons in 4 sections
      • themed exercises
      • pages on Japanese civilization to learn more about the Second World War from the point of view of the Japanese or the Emperor of Japan
    • The classic version is a cheaper option, with the version with two CDs to work on pronunciation and oral skills costing slightly more
  • Japanese for Busy People:
    • The positives:
      • for beginners only
      • focuses on kana
      • the basics
    • The negatives:
      • the grammar is not very complete in our opinion
    • Reasonably priced option
  • Japanese for Dummies:
    • for beginners, duh!
    • The positives:
      • the humor found inside
      • oral dimension focused on
      • roleplaying games
      • efficient and quick method
      • one of the cheapest options available on Amazon 
  • 1001 Japanese Expressions You Need to Know Now: 
    • for intermediate students
    • The positives:
      • idéal to enrich your vocabulary and syntax
      • the book is divided in three parts: the first on the study of the verb, the second on the study of the adjective, the noun, and the adverb, the third deals with the essential expressions to be used according to contexts.

To sum things up: 

Beyond classic classes, there are many tools to learn the Japanese language!

It’s up to you to choose the one that suits you best!

Our last tips?

Don’t just use one tool to learn Japanese!

For example, you can:

  • take some classes with a Japanese superprof on our platform,
  • buy Japanese for Dummies in its classic version with recordings to progress with pronunciation,
  • revise your kana on your smartphone with the JA Sensei app while going to work,
  • view or review Miyazaki masterpieces in the original version.

Best Translation Tools for Japanese-English Translation

Want to study the language of Mishima in the right way?

Don’t forget to practice the language actively. Whenever possible, speak the language aloud rather than reciting it silently to yourself. Say vocabulary words out loud, read passages in the text aloud, do pronunciation activities orally and not just mentally. Write out the answers to activities rather than gliding through them in your mind. Read aloud entire sentences in an activity rather than just reading a fill-in response. Transferring language from your mind to your mouth is a skill that requires a great deal of practice.

But if we are to be practical, what if you started learning with these 7 Japanese translation tools?

Starting with Google Translate! Often ridiculed for its approximation, what about the tool when it comes to the Japanese language? Let’s say that to know the translation of a word or two, why not. But when it comes Japanese phrases which are several sentences long, even a whole page…no thank you!

The free application iTranslate is, on the other hand, a reference for translation/dictionary applications. Much more popular than Google Translate, iTranslate is not perfect and will also serve you up some nasty surprises. All the subtleties of the Japanese language are not there.

The Japan Goggles app will help you, especially in the streets of Tokyo. Why? Just scan the letters and Japanese words that you will come across and get an immediate translation!

Finally, just so we look through every tool out there, here are 4 other applications to download urgently if you are looking to learn to speak Japanese in order to read and write:

  • Imiwa: Japanese French Dictionary,
  • PhrasePack Japanese: oral translation into Japanese language,
  • Ja Sensei: for fun quizzes,
  • And Obenkyo to learn Japanese characters: katakana, hiragana, kanji and rômaji.

Why not take your learning to the next level? Search the Superprof website to start your language lessons today!

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