Surprising as it may sounds, the earliest Japanese language courses in India were established in the 1950s. The Ministry of Defence took the initiative of offering a course through their affiliated School of Foreign Languages in 1954, Visva-Bharati (Santiniketan) established a Japanese department in 1954 which made it the first university in India to introduce Japanese language courses.

Bhartiya Vidya Bhawan, J N Academy of Languages, New Delhi started Japanese courses in the year 1958. The Japan-India Cooperation Association in Mumbai set up a Japanese class in 1958, while the University of Delhi established its Japan Studies Centre in 1969, followed by the University of Pune in 1977, and New Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru University, which began to offer a doctorate in the Japanese language in 1982.

Despite these giant strides in Japanese language education in India, the popular global language only rose to prominence in the late 1990s, when the Japanese government-funded Japan Foundation, an organization for the promotion of Japanese culture, opened an office in New Delhi, its first on the Indian subcontinent. A 2006 survey by the Japan Foundation showed 369 teachers teaching 11,011 students at 106 different institutions across India.

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Basics of Learning Japanese

Phonetics

The Japanese language has a different set of phonetics to English or Hindi. This is the first thing a learner of Japanese would notice. Some of the sounds are different. For instance, in English, there are no native sounds like つ (tsu) or づ (dzu). The exact sounds of ぢ (di, but sounds more like Ji) are also missing in English. The r sounds are unlike the English r sounds.

The Japanese Writing System

Besides romaji (essentially, the English alphabet), the Japanese “alphabet” has 3 different modes of writing.

How can you learn kanji?
To learn Japanese, you'll need to master the writing systems as soon as you can. | Source: Janko Ferlic

Katakana and Hiragana

Hiragana and Katakana can be more accurately described as syllabaries. It is best to memorize each sound with the written component with the help of a good hiragana chart and a good katakana chart, writing practice and saying each of the sounds aloud. The kana (a collective reference to the hiragana and katakana together) is rather systematic. Katakana is just a different way of writing hiragana, and they are fairly similar. Katakana is used for more foreign words or to provide emphasis for what is written.

Kanji

Kanji shares more similarities with the Chinese writing system. There are thousands of kanji, and the exact number is unknown. That said, there are 2,136 常用漢字 (jouyou kanji), which are the kanji learned by Japanese students through junior high. Kanji is usually more complicated than the kana and often has multiple different readings and can have various meanings. The best way to learn kanji is to use a website or book dedicated to jouyou or popular kanji and memorize the first couple hundreds or so. The kanji is a very difficult part of learning Japanese.

Learn Japanese with the help of video games.

Japanese Grammar

Japanese grammar is fairly straightforward. The key to learning Japanese grammar is the conjugations of verbs, which is relatively easy to learn with a few exceptions. Use grammar books/websites or in a class. Another consideration while learning the Japanese language is the various different dialects of Japanese. It is not too difficult to learn how to correctly put the emphasis on a syllable. However, some may find it difficult to learn the dialect they wish to learn. Find a native speaker or take a class in Japanese grammar or listen to a lot of Japanese media.

Best Places to Start Learning Japanese in India

Japanese language education in India has a bright future indeed with several cities taking the lead in offering comprehensive courses for students of all levels of learning. Be it Japanese learning for beginners or more advanced level students, there are different ways to master the language. Students can learn Japanese online or enroll themselves in courses offered by language schools in their city. With Indian schools also opening their doors to the learning of global languages, one can start to learn Japanese as early as Class 8!

Hayakawa Japanese Language School & Cultural Center, Chennai

The Hayakawa Japanese Language School and Cultural Center aims to impart a quality Japanese learning experience of international standard to Indian students at the most affordable cost. The school provides language training, learning about Japanese culture, Japanese business etiquettes, English to Japanese translation, and Japanese to English translation and interpretation services through professional native Japanese teachers.

Students at the school are also provided with Japanese language textbooks, self-learning Japanese CDs for Comprehensive Japanese Test (C-JAT), and Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT). Provisions are also arranged for the recruitment of native Japanese teachers from Japan to teach the Japanese language in India and also coaching for the Japanese language.

Courses Offered

  • Weekends (Regular Japanese Classes)
    • C-JAT I (Basic)
      Duration: 3 months
    • C-JAT II (Intermediate)
      Duration: 4 months
    • C-JAT III (Advance)
      Duration: 5 Months
    • C-JAT IV (Business)
      Duration: 6 months
    • C-JAT V (Fluent)
      Duration: 9 Months
  • Weekdays (Regular Japanese Classes)
    • C-JAT I (Basic) - Weekdays
      Duration: 2 months
    • C-JAT II (Intermediate) - Weekdays
      Duration: 3 months
    • C-JAT III (Advance) - Weekdays
      Duration: 3 Months
What are the best ways to learn Japanese?
Japanese courses are a great way to learn about a fascinating culture and history. | Source: pixabay.com

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  • Interactive (Online Japanese Training)
    • Interactive C-JAT I (Basic)
      Duration: 3 months
    • Interactive C-JAT II (Intermediate)
      Duration: 4 months
    • Interactive C-JAT III (Advance)
      Duration: 4 months
    • Interactive C-JAT IV (Business)
      Duration: 6 months
    • Interactive C-JAT V (Fluent)
      Duration: 9 months
  • Private Classes (Private Japanese Lessons)
    • Spoken Japanese - Online Private
      Duration: 14 days
  • Distance (Correspondence Japanese Courses)
    • JLPT N5 (Basic)
      Duration: 3 months
    • JLPT N4 (Intermediate)
      Duration: 4 months
    • JLPT N3 (Advance)
      Duration: 5 months
    • JLPT N2 (Business)
      Duration: 6 months
    • JLPT N1 (Fluent)
      Duration: 9 months

Japanese Learning School (JLS)

JLS is the first organized Japanese language institute in Bangalore. The basic and advanced Japanese learning programs of the school were developed exclusively for the Indian student, using Indian language fundamentals.

Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) Courses

  1. JLPT N5: Includes basic elements of grammar, a vocabulary of around 1,000 words, and 120 Kanji characters. After completion of this course, one is able to read and understand typical expressions and sentences written in Hiragana, Katakana, and basic kanji and can also listen and comprehend basic conversations used in daily life.
  2. JLPT N4: Includes more advanced grammar, a vocabulary of around 1,500 words, and 350 Kanji characters. Students will be able to comprehend and participate in day-to-day conversation and write simple sentences in Japanese script.
  3. JLPT N3: Includes a vocabulary of around 4,000 words and 700 Kanji characters. Students will be able to read and understand written materials with specific contents concerning everyday topics, is also able to grasp summary information like newspaper headlines, and is able to speak and comprehend coherent conversations in everyday situations spoken at near-natural speed.
  4. JLPT N2: Includes a vocabulary of 7,000 words and 1,200 Kanji characters. Students who successfully complete this course will have the ability to read, write and converse Japanese with relative ease, and even work in a Japanese business environment without difficulty.
  5. JLPT N1: Includes a vocabulary of 10,000 words and 2,000 Kanji characters. This course assures the student a command over the language sufficient for all business dealings and language levels that even permit education at a Japanese University.
How much does a private Japanese tutor cost?
You can learn a lot with a private Japanese tutor. | Source: skitterphoto.com

Sayuri Japanese Language School

Sayuri (“small lily” in Japanese) is a leading and well-established Japanese Language School based in Bangalore which caters to general students of Japanese, corporate job seekers, and other professionals seeking to undertake their chosen verticals in regards to Japanese culture and language. Sayuri employs both local and native Japanese teachers which helps to provide language training as well as real-life stories, scenarios, role-play situations for students to gain a thorough understanding of the Japanese culture. Students can avail online classes, as well as customized courses, suited to their unique learning requirements.

All certification courses offered by Sayuri follow the standard and highly recommended books for the purpose of learning Japanese. Students are given mock tests and trained to crack the JLPT examinations. The JLPT N5 certification is the basic level Japanese certification program, which focuses on familiarizing students with phonetics, syntax, semantics, and basic vocabulary. The JLPT N4 certification includes more advanced grammar, a vocabulary of 1,500 words, and 350 Kanji characters. Students should be able to comprehend and participate in day-to-day conversation and be able to write simple sentences in the Japanese script. JLPT N3 certification offers a more advanced level of understanding of the Japanese language including 4,000 words and 700 Kanji.

The JLPT N2 certification includes 7,000 words and 1,200 Kanjis. The student will start having the command over the language. This level also allows the candidate to involve in more business conversations and is a necessary prerequisite for any education in a Japanese university. JLPT N1 is the most advanced level of JLPT and includes a vocabulary of 10,000 words and 2,000 Kanjis. The school also offers a Basic Conversation course in which the student is taught basic grammar, and ways to communicate day-to-day sentences, ask questions, greet, understand questions and respond to the same.

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Shreyanjana

Shreyanjana is an archaeologist who ironically finds the written word to be the most powerful means of storytelling. A travel buff and a photography enthusiast, she has been writing and sharing stories of all sorts ever since she can remember.