Japanese pop culture has become incredibly popular around the world. It has influenced many people to take an interest in Japan, its culture, and its language. Whether it’s solely for a business interest or to read their favorite manga in the official Japanese language, a vast number of students of the Japanese language have been observed in the past few years.
The most widely asked question is, “How hard is it to learn Japanese?” Most language learners deem that learning this language can be significantly more difficult than learning any other language. The truth is, learning any new language requires a lot of hard work and effort, but it clearly doesn’t indicate that you should give up championing your skills.
Learning a new language opens an array of opportunities for your professional and personal growth, and learning the Japanese language is certainly not an exception!
Guide to Learning Japanese: 10 Must-Know Ways to Learn the Japanese Language
If you are an English speaker, you will likely be intimidated by the number of hours it can take to learn the Japanese language and speak it fluently. It’s because Japanese has an entirely different writing system and grammar structure than English. Unlike the latter, it heavily relies on cultural understanding and context.
Most people find it hard to get the pronunciations down and understand the Japanese grammar rules. Moreover, learning “Kanji,” the Japanese symbols representing words, can really take some additional effort.
To make fast progress with your Japanese learning skills, you need to focus on the core pillars of language learning. These include learning the basics, immersing yourself in the culture, and establishing a regular study routine. Here are 10 simple ways that can help you cover these basics and commence your Japanese learning journey.
Learn about the 3 writing systems
The best way to learn the Japanese language is getting downright to the basics, i.e., learning the alphabet. There are 3 fundamental writing systems you have to know to read Japanese.
The ability to read Hiragana is vital for all those who are new to learning the language. Hiragana comprises 46 characters or 51 phonetic characters and is mainly used for native Japanese words. It is the key to comprehending why and how Japanese words sound as they do.
Since most of these characters usually have just one pronunciation, you won’t find it challenging to learn Hiragana at all. Undoubtedly, once you’ve learned Hiragana, you will establish a solid foundation required for a native-sounding accent.
On the other hand, Katakana is used for non-Japanese or loanwords, i.e., a word that’s adopted from a foreign language. These usually consist of scientific and technical terms, along with the names of some animals and plants.
Katakana is bound to give you a tougher time than Hiragana since it won’t be used so frequently, especially at the start of your Japanese learning journey. As your level gradually increases, Katakana will start appearing more regularly. Still, just the ability to read Katakana will be more than enough for beginners.
Most learners believe that learning Kanji is probably the most challenging part of the Japanese language learning process. Conversely, it is one of the most critical parts of learning Japanese. Basic Kanji will allow you to write, speak, and understand simple Japanese. In reality,
Kanji comprises hundreds and thousands of Chinese symbols that signify entire phrases, ideas, or words. Undoubtedly, Kanji entails many complexities since English words and meanings cannot always be translated directly from Japanese words. This is why there can be several accurate English meanings for just one Kanji word.
Learn key phrases and words
Start with a list of common expressions and words. Simple phrases such as “Hi,” “How do you do?” and “Pleased to meet you” enables you to start speaking Japanese and shortly start conversing with native speakers. If you ever have to visit Japan or relocate there and need a new starting point, here are more than 100 important Japanese words to help you.
Practice Japanese grammar
To master Japanese grammar perfectly, you must forget all you know about English grammar. There is a dramatic difference between the two. Unlike the other romance languages, there are just 2 tenses in Japanese: past and non-past (present and future).
The best way to start learning Japanese grammar is through textbooks. Here are a few bestseller books where you can learn Japanese grammar:
- A Guide to Japanese Grammar by Tae Kim
- Practice Makes Perfect: Basic Japanese
- Japanese Hiragana & Katakana for Beginners
The Japanese language also has a totally different system for writing: from top to bottom, from right to left. In these books, you can come across a significant amount of practical lessons that’ll help you gain some sense of how to write in Japanese.
Set up a schedule
Most people are interested to know how long it takes to learn Japanese. The truth is, it primarily depends on the efforts you make to improve your level of Japanese. The only way to see quick progress is to start practicing daily.
There are several learning strategies and useful applications to learn Japanese online, and daily lessons can be scheduled. Hence, you can find a learning pace that’s suitable for you.
Use apps to get started
There are a ton of simple language learning applications that can be super handy for all the people who wish to start learning basic Japanese vocabulary and phrases. These kinds of apps enable you to study whenever and wherever you want.
While most language learning apps are excellent for an instant boost to your Japanese skills, they should not be the only resource to rely on. You should also consider finding a Japanese tutor or language learning partner who can help you speak Japanese regularly.
Find native speakers or chat online
Ideally, the best way to learn Japanese, speak the language, and strengthen whatever you have learned is to regularly practice with other individuals, especially those aware of the language. For instance, there might be a small community of Japanese speakers in the vicinity that you’re probably unaware of.
Find somebody who can converse with you in Japanese and start speaking the language from Day 1. This is the most productive and vital step that can help you reach fluency. If you are learning Japanese for academic purposes, you won’t get too far in your studies without speaking Japanese.
Even if you don’t have a Japanese friend or a language exchange partner in your area, don’t let it stop you from trying and speaking. There are plenty of other options and ways to find native Japanese speakers to chat with. Find the best Japanese teacher and learn the language at your own pace, according to your needs.
Flashcards can be an excellent and beneficial source for language learners. They are basically cards containing information that you need to remember. To quickly memorize certain words in Japanese, you may use flashcards with specific words on them. When the card is flipped over, you will notice its translation in your native language. Flashcards can help you to:
- Repeat new words regularly and test yourself.
- Ask someone to quiz you to see if you remember the words correctly.
- Label things on your home with their respective Japanese names to see and memorize them every day.
Besides going through Japanese newspapers and textbooks, another fantastic way to learn Japanese is to immerse yourself in the Japanese cultural output such as Japanese dramas, J pop, and manga.
Manga is an integral part of Japanese culture with a rich history and now stands at the center of the fascinating Japanese pop culture. It is basically art in the form of graphic novels or comics, which can be particularly useful for language learners.
These comics are filled with all kinds of contextual clues, allowing you to easily comprehend what the written words mean.
Watch anime and Japanese shows/movies.
If you want some form of entertainment while studying, try learning Japanese with anime. Anime is a distinctive and creative style of Japanese animation that has been produced solely by Japan for decades. Now, it attracts millions of anime buffs after it has become such a universal phenomenon.
Watching anime can significantly help you learn an entire batch of new words and slang and enhance your listening skills. You can easily find many anime and Japanese shows and films on Netflix, Asian Crush, and Crunchyroll.
Listen to podcasts
Finally, listening to podcasts is a fantastic way of finding out more about the unique Japanese culture and incorporating the additional listening practice into your everyday routine. NHK and Learn Japanese Pod Podcasts are two wonderful podcasts that are perfect for beginners:
Improve Your Learning and Fluency in Japanese with italki
Whatever ways you opt for to improve your Japanese skills, one thing is for sure: nothing can beat speaking Japanese from Day 1. This is why italki is an excellent language exchange platform for practicing a new language and becoming fluent in Japanese.
Italki is one of the best and most renowned language websites for anyone who likes to take their learning lessons up a notch. It connects students with some of the best native teachers for conversations, allowing them to take 1-on-1 lessons online with a certified Japanese tutor.
Here, your Japanese tutor will be your ultimate language learning sensei, guiding you at every step of the process, identifying your mistakes, and developing a tailored plan based on your needs and budget.
Undoubtedly, italki offers a fully immersive learning experience, making it an efficient and productive way to learn Japanese and work on your fluency and conversing skills in a relatively short time.
The lessons are incredibly affordable and available at reasonable prices, so you won’t have any difficulty paying for them.