Speaking Japanese will allow you to communicate with the 128 million people that live on the archipelago. You don't even necessarily need to be fluent, speaking just basic Japanese will make you stand out from the crowd.
Maybe you have always been fascinated by Japan, its ancestral traditions, and its language and culture. Or perhaps you are a fan of Japanese manga and would like to be able to read them in their original version. You might even be planning to go to Japan for your next vacation or to live and work there. Whatever your motivation is, you are probably thinking about how to learn Japanese.
How do I start learning Japanese?
Learn hiragana and katakana (the Japanese alphabets) to begin with.
Do the following things:
- Start with the basics first.
- Keep a notebook for Japanese Grammar
- Set yourself a goal
- Find Japanese classes near you. Best way to learn a language is through Japanese sessions, it helps in better pronunciations.
- Communicate as much as possible. Read Japanese books/novels/Mangas
- Read, watch, listen and LEARN.
There are a number of great ways to learn Japanese, and depending on your learning style, time constraints, and even budget, there is a method out there for you.
A lot of people find that the ability to learn Japanese online fits all three. Most online Japanese language course focus on Nihongo, the form of Japanese learnt by beginners as a second language. Depending on which course your choose, you can develop a conversational level focused around Japanese vocabulary and greetings, or a more advanced level that focuses on grammatical structures in order to prepare you for the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT)
The internet can seem an overwhelming place at times. Fortunately, Superprof is on hand to give you all of the information that you need to start your journey to fluently speak Japanese.
Follow this guide and you will know what tools you need in order to learn the art of Japanese conversation!
Learn Japanese for Free
When you start your Japanese learning adventure, you will come across a number of different terms. Generally speaking, these refer to the complex Japanese writing system which is composed of syllabic kana and logographic kanji. Kana has two syllabaries; hiragana and katakana. Japanese kanji are based on borrowed Chinese characters.
Don't worry, any good online course will run through the intricacies of these writing systems as you learn how to read and write in Japanese.
The Ici Japon website offers free Japanese beginner classes. As soon as you enter the site, you will learn to pronounce the different sounds and recognize the four forms of writing:
- Hiragana (ひ ら が な)
- Katakana (カ タ カ ナ)
- Kanji (漢字) = Chinese characters
- Roumaji (romaji)
The courses themselves are composed of:
- translation of a text (discover the best English-Japanese translation tools)
- Japanese reading comprehension
As you progress with the lessons, you will find less and less English, and more and more Japanese, so make sure that you start studying right from the beginning!
Even if at first learning this language seems complicated, after the free lessons, you will already have a solid foundation in the Japanese language.
Japanese-Lesson is another free website.
On the Japanese-Lesson website, you can access online courses written by Japanese teachers.
You will learn how to say "yes" and "no" along with the pronunciation and all other nuances of these words. This seems like easy enough words to us in the West, but for example, in Chinese there is no straight "no."
There are also classes to learn the polite phrases: "hello," "goodbye," "thank you," or "goodnight." Again, depending on the situation, there are many possible variants.
To progress and express yourself easily, be careful to learn Japanese words (verb, proverbs, complements, adjectives...).
With Japanese-Lesson, you can even find a way to learn bad words and insults in Japanese if you really want!
When you learn a language, it is important to also learn a little bit about the culture of the language. On this site you will encounter advice for travelers, life tips, a brief history of Japan, and a bit on customs like the "matsuri"--traditional folk festivals.
The Easyjapanese site offers online courses in PDF format, which can be useful if you are traveling to Japan and want to study on the plane to Tokyo.
The other advantage of this site is its collaborative aspect. The English-Japanese dictionary can be enriched by all users of the site and if you want to share any knowledge about a life experience, you can do it through the forum. An all-around more lively way to learn Japanese!
The site insists on Japanese grammar, which is totally different from ours but obviously essential if you want to one day build a correct sentence and make yourself understood by a native speaker!
The Tofugu site gives you a chance to learn the Japanese alphabet.
You will also find an "art and history" tab to learn more about Japanese culture.
Did you know, for example, that a geisha is a refined lady and that the art of being one is an ancestral art? It is quite far from its role of a prostitute in Western movies!
If you are a fan of gourmet meals, you will also learn all about what makes up Japanese cuisine (sushi, sashimi, yakitori, maki, sake...), as well as the origin of these dishes, how to cook them, and where to eat them!
Paying for your Online Japanese Classes
Do you want to go further in your Japanese language learning? Opt for paid language courses!
Learning Japanese Online Thanks to Superprof
We obviously recommend that you learn Japanese with us by finding a teacher on the Superprof website! You can find Japanese courses London or any other city around the UK.
Our search engine allows you to type in the course you are looking for ("Japanese language online") and enter your address in order to find a teacher near you!
The advantage is that you can choose your tutor, and he or she will come to your home (or give you Japanese lessons via webcam). Using our platform is free and ensures the quality of the tutors!
You can even learn the art of calligraphy if it floats your boat!
Learn Japanese Online to Enrich your Vocabulary
If you have already acquired the basics of the Japanese language (Japanese characters and maybe some Japanese phrases), then it might be time to enrich your vocabulary in order to better engage with Animé or Manga!
There are sites that will allow you to learn vocabulary using the expressions used by manga characters, lexical fields (love, school, samurai. or ninja), and then invite you to test your knowledge via a quiz for each category.
Games are also a good way to permanently have vocabulary enter your mind, and if you are a fan of manga, you will be even more receptive to this form of learning!
To learn more vocabulary, don't bypass purchasing a good English-Japanese dictionary. You can set your goal at learning three words a day and trying to string a sentence together as you begin to know more words by heart. You will see that your progress will be remarkable!
Another way to learn vocabulary is to read in Japanese or watch movies in the original version! Many animation films are Japanese. There are of course Miyazaki's masterpieces! This way of learning vocabulary will mean that you are also learning about Japanese culture.
In the modern day, where technology is everywhere, you can even use your smartphone to download one of a number of great apps for learning Japanese.
I Want to Discover Japanese Civilization
If you are looking to travel to Japan, it is essential to know some key words and phrases, along with the Japanese pronunciation, to help you get by. It may also be wise to learn the habits and customs of the country as well as its geography.
Japan has a very rich history and culture. This means you will almost certainly leave the land of the rising sun with a unique cultural perspective on things. But before visiting Japan, it would be worth finding out the answers to some important questions in order to make the most of your trip:
- What is the most popular religion in Japan?
- When can one see the cherry blossoms?
- What is the name of the current Emperor?
- Which temple and what sanctuary are the best places to visit?
- What is the history of the kimono?
- How did the country recover from the Second World War and the bombs dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima?
- What does the future hold for Japan since the Fukushima nuclear disaster?
And maybe you're interested in something more modern, like Japanese cell phone culture. It is more socially important than in most Western countries.
In Japan cell phones are called keitai denwa (携帯電話), literally “portable telephones,” and are often known simply as keitai. As in Western countries the majority of the Japanese population now own a cell phone (keitai).
Japanese is culturally very different to the western world. Luckily, thanks to the internet, you find a number of videos to study Japanese, and the cultural nuances that go with it.
When visiting Japan there are some particular cultural difference you should you look out for. Japanese people have excellent phone manners in public. In Japan, chatting on the phone on the train is considered extremely rude and generally isn’t tolerated. On the Shinkansen and some other inter city trains it is acceptable to talk on the phone at the end of the carriage if there are doors between the seats and the end of the carriage.
There are normally signs on the train reminding people to switch their phones to “manner mode”, meaning silent. People are also generally careful about when and where they speak on the phone, since causing inconvenience to others and drawing attention to oneself in public is something a lot of Japanese people would rather avoid.
Most Japanese people have a privacy film on the front of their phone screen that blocks the phone from being viewed except for directly in front of the screen. When people are packed tightly on a peak time train they still want some privacy.
The Kanpai site answers some of these questions and invites you to discover the four main islands (Shikoku, Hokkaido, Honshu, Kiushu), the Okinawa archipelago, Mount Fuji, and the use of its famous high speed train, Shinkansen.
In addition to being a tour guide, you can learn Japanese through the conversation guides available on the Kampai website.
If you are passionate about cinema and animated films, we advise you to read the analyses of works such as The Castle in Cielou and Princess Mononoke.
Be aware that there are some good books to study Japanese. Such textbooks can be used to learn to speak Japanese on your own, or as a supplement for your language lessons.
- If you want to learn the Japanese language, start by knowing the alphabet first. Most people are able to master it in a few weeks, so you should be alright! Once this step is over, things will become a lot easier for you!
- Learning Japanese can be done online if you are rigorous and studious. If not, you should learn with a private tutor.
- When learning a language - especially the Japanese language - it is important to immerse oneself in the culture and history of the country. This will allow you to better understand the country and the use of certain words rather than not have a clue!
- If you are looking for a private Japanese tutor, check out the Superprof website for an online Japanese course.