Beginners might think that learning Japanese is a monumental task. Indeed, the uniqueness of the Japanese language, which is a contextual language that employs subtlety and nuance over directness, can give it a mystical appearance.
However, certain features of Japanese make it a relatively easier language to learn than, say English or French, or even Hindi. For example, there are very few irregular verbs and no gender for nouns in Japanese.
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Moreover, there are only 2 verb tenses: past and present. Additionally, the pronunciation of any Japanese alphabet is phonetic which makes it easier to memorize.
Scripts for Writing Japanese
Any list of tips for learning Japanese as a beginner is likely to feature a tip to understand the basics of modern Japanese writing systems. Modern Japanese is written in a mixture of three basic scripts. They are Kanji , which are Chinese ideographic symbols , Hiragana, and Katakana, the latter two being phonetic alphabets (syllables).
Kanji characters run into the thousands, while Hiragana and Katakana have 46 each. Don't worry about when to use which script. There is a basic rule of usage, with some exceptions. However, one can be wary of words written in Kanji that have often multiple pronunciations, depending on the context or conjunction.
Kanji is mainly used for the lexical elements, that is, nouns, verb stems, adjective stems, and so on. Hiragana has rounded letter shapes and is mainly used for the grammatical elements of sentences such as particles, auxiliary verbs, and suffixes of nouns. Lastly, Katakana has an angular letter shape and is mostly used for foreign words and for the purpose of emphasis.
Learn Japanese Fast with These Hacks
Shortlist Your Learning Goals
There are a great many reasons why anyone would want to learn Japanese. But, what is your specific learning agenda for learning the Japanese language?
You must pick a learning method suited to your learning goal.
Do you want to live in Japan? Are you looking to make international friends? Do you want to learn Japanese to expand your career horizons or business opportunities? Or, are you into manga and anime and would love some authenticity?
Creating concrete goals will help you to prepare an action plan to learn Japanese fast. Based on that, find the best way to learn Japanese for yourself.
For example, if your goal is to enjoy Japanese pop culture, it makes no sense to invest in Japanese textbooks meant for learners looking to polish their Japanese for business purposes. Chances of you getting bored and giving up, in such a scenario, will be high!
On the other hand, if your learning goal includes a plan to live and work in Japan, improving your conversational skills in Japanese will be a priority. In this case, you can learn Japanese online or opt for a Japanese communicative course with a native Japanese course instructor.
Create an environment of learning that will help your immerse yourself in the Japanese culture. Immersive learning is one of the best ways to learn something new, especially a new language. Don't worry If you can't travel to Japan. You can always bring Japan into your life!
Listen to Japanese music, watch Japanese movies, cook Japanese food, make Japanese friends, read Japanese graphic novels or manga, listen to the news in Japanese ... there are several ways to pursue immersive learning. Absorb the learning in Japanese, while growing a greater appreciation and love for the Japanese culture.
Learn Japanese Online
In today's world, there are online courses available for almost every imaginable subject under the sun! Not surprisingly, one can learn Japanese online as well. There are a lot of different courses out there, just waiting to be discovered!
Remember, enjoying what you learn is key to remembering what you learn.
The number of options might be overwhelming at first. The trick is to just choose one and stick with it. Just like textbook hoarding, there is no point in signing up for a variety of online Japanese courses. It’s more effective to work through a structured course.
Of course, you should choose something that sounds fun. For example, online courses that are interactive usually tend to be more dynamic than a traditional classroom setting.
JapanesePod101 is a highly recommended course of Japanese for beginners. The course uses audio resources to make itself interactive. Students can learn by speaking, listening, reading, and writing.
Learn Japanese with Manga Comics
Trivia for you: There’s a manga for pretty much everything. From history to statistics, the Japanese learn about all sorts of fascinating educational subjects through manga. This makes it a great learning resource for beginners in Japanese. Practice your Japanese language skills by reading manga while broadening your knowledge of Japan, the country.
Japanese is a living language, with slang, casual speech, and all sorts of words for different contextual uses. Manga introduces you to the fun part of learning Japanese!
By studying with manga, you’ll be learning lessons that don’t generally come in textbooks.
While a lot of casual speech is used in anime as well, the benefit of manga is that it happens as fast or as slow as you read. Then, there is always your reference English-Japanese dictionary, or Google, for those terms that you’re unfamiliar with.
Practice, Practice, Practice!
As is true of any language learning process, learning Japanese also requires tons of practice every day. Yes, it's true! A one-hour class every week might not cut it. Practice makes one perfect primarily because of 2 reasons.
- It is easier to remember a language when you are constantly using it and reviewing it. For those students without practice, each weekly class is spent shaking off the rustiness and trying to get back into the groove. Daily practice of writing, reading and speaking Japanese will keep you in the habit and enable you to retain new words in your long-term memory.
- Practicing Japanese adds up more hours than one marathon study session once a week.
Learning to speak a language well is a result of the many hours you spend practicing each new vocabulary word, each new Japanese alphabet, each new syllable, each new rule of grammar, and so on. Experts disagree on the number of hours it takes to become fluent in Japanese. However, realistically, it will be several hundred hours!
Study Guides Help
As starting points for beginners in Japanese, study guides are ideal. A study guide lets you have a feel for the language and check what your good and bad points are. After a couple of weeks or months of studying the language, you should be in a position to decide which study method is best for you.
Learning Japanese is mostly about smart study habits, regularly challenging yourself, and keeping a good routine.
It is advisable to bookmark each new study guide you find on the Internet, instead of just reading and forgetting about them! They serve as great references too. So, give yourself easy access to study guides. You can also apply one or more learning styles that suit you.
The Japanese language borrows many loanwords from English. This is a blessing for beginners because once you get into the language, you’ll find that many words are already available to you. For students who already have a working knowledge of the English language, it should take about 2-3 years with full-time study to become fluent in Japanese. However, this will also depend on how much time you devote to daily practice.
Once you move beyond the initial hurdles of learning Japanese, you’ll likely realize that learning Japanese is really quite fun and not all that difficult. True, there is a massive amount of information to process and learn, which naturally takes time. However, there is nothing that regular and efficient study habits can't fix!
The Japanese language is one of the most versatile languages out there. Those who choose to learn Japanese do so because it is unique and can be used in different areas of life. Putting pressure on yourself is not the best way to go about it.