More than 128 million people speak Japanese around the world, making it one of the most widely spoken languages in East Asia. As well as being Japan’s national language, it is also spoken in Korea, the United States, and Brazil due to significant immigrant populations.
Learning Japanese seems like an arduous task at first. When compared with English, Japanese is more subtle and nuanced than direct. Despite its many differences from English, Japanese is easier than you’d think.
There are very few irregular verbs in Japanese, and nouns have no gender. Additionally, verb tenses are limited to past and present. As soon as you start reading, you can also expect most pronunciations to be phonetic.
How difficult is it to learn Japanese?
For English speakers, Japanese pronunciation is straightforward, even though the language’s writing system is one of the most challenging in the world.
As difficult as it may seem, writing requires patience and persistence. Understanding words becomes easier when writing. Kanji can be intimidating due to their large number. However, communicating in Japanese becomes easier when one understands the symbols.
Our 5 Tips to learn Japanese
Let’s dive into our 5 tips to learn Japanese for beginners:
1. Get to know the Japanese alphabet
Learning the alphabet is a good way to begin learning Japanese. To read Japanese, you need to know three basic writing systems: Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji.
Beginners must know Hiragana. Hiragana consists of 46 characters or 51 phonetic characters and is used to write native Japanese words. Understanding how and why Japanese words sound the way they do is essential to learning the language.
Hiragana is quite easy to learn, since most characters have only one pronunciation. After learning Hiragana, you’ll undoubtedly sound native.
While Hiragana is used for Japanese words, Katakana is used for words from outside of Japan, such as loanwords. As well as some scientific and technical terms, the list contains some plant and animal names.
When you are just starting in learning a language, Katakana can be more difficult than Hiragana because it won’t be used as frequently. You will be exposed to Katakana more often as you gain proficiency. Beginners must be able to read Katakana.
Kanji is considered by many to be the most challenging part of learning Japanese. Meanwhile, it’s essential to learn Japanese. You will be able to speak, read, write, and understand Japanese if you know Kanji. Each Kanji symbol represents a full word, an idea, or a phrase in Chinese.
It can be difficult to translate English meanings directly from Japanese words, which are called kanji. Therefore, a single Kanji word can have many correct English translations.
While we never claimed that learning Japanese would be easy, learning Kanji will allow you to express yourself in many ways.
2. Create a learning plan based on your goals
What is your motivation for learning Japanese? Okay, there are a lot of great reasons, but what does it mean to you? Clarify what it means to you.
Are you interested in living in Japan, learning for business, or watching original anime?
Creating an action plan for learning effectively begins with thinking about why you want to learn. You must find the best method for learning Japanese.
Choose a textbook aimed at business students if you want to learn about Japanese pop culture. It will only bore you. Conversational skills are essential for living and working in Japan.
Learning what is important to you will be easier if you plan your learning around your goals. As a result, you will progress more quickly, and you will be more likely to stick to it.
3. Spend lots of time reading and listening
In comparison to most European languages, Japanese has fewer phonemes. As a result, it appears that new words all sound the same at first. Any language we learn feels the same to some extent. Japanese, with its limited range of sounds, seems to be particularly affected by this phenomenon.
Patience is essential. It takes time to learn a language. As you continue to listen and to read using hiragana while gradually mixing in more and more Kanji, you will be able to differentiate the sounds of the new words as you learn the language.
In addition to enriching your vocabulary, you will expand your understanding of authentic content.
To understand television and movies, you will need a larger vocabulary. It will prepare you to understand rapid-fire conversations and slang when you are around Japanese people if you can read well and understand at least some of what you see in movies.
4. Focus on patterns instead of grammar
English sentences follow a subject-verb-object structure, while Japanese sentences follow a subject-object-verb structure. You will likely sound like Yoda if you translate directly from Japanese to English!
As opposed to getting bogged down in complex grammatical rules and technical structure, try spotting patterns.
For example, in Japanese, you would say “I, Japan to, am going,” where in English you would say “I am going to Japan”. You can see how sentences are formed without becoming bogged down in grammatical theory and complicated rules.
5. Meet people who speak Japanese
To learn Japanese successfully, you must practice using it with real people!
Even if you study a lot, you’ll learn things from conversations that you simply cannot pick up from a textbook or by watching your favorite anime series.
If you are seeking a language partner, you can search online for language meet-ups (face-to-face language exchanges are more serious and last longer).
You can also find language partners from around the world using apps and websites that exchange languages. If you cannot find an in-person meet-up, you can still find language partners online to practice with.
At italki, we provide language partners and make it possible for learners to hire private language tutors.
Your motivation to learn Japanese online will be the most significant factor in your success, and you will have to accept that much will remain unclear for some time to come.
As your comprehension improves, however, you will find that you are more fluent. You will inevitably experience moments of triumph and achievement, as well as times of struggle. Don’t give up.
Through italki, you can take 1-on-1 lessons with a certified Japanese tutor via video chat. You will be guided through the process by your Japanese teacher, who will point out your mistakes and create a personalized plan based on your level.