Like any foreign language, the Japanese language can take considerable time and effort to learn. How much, exactly? Well, you can’t really say unless you have a clear goal in mind. You can also find it more difficult to master if you haven’t had the experience of studying a non-native language in the past.
Today, we’ll chew over some of the best ways to learn Japanese so that you don’t get stuck in a rut, burn out, or (and we’re completely serious about this) go crazy.
Five Tips for Learning Japanese
Learning to communicate in Japanese becomes easier when you:
1. Set a goal.
Nihon Dojo advises that you ask yourself why you want to learn Japanese in the first place. Is it because you want to be fluent enough to take a job in Japan? Or, do you just want to learn enough to watch anime without subtitles?
Have a clear goal rather than just saying, “I want to learn everything.” When you have a specific plan, it is easier to measure your progress. And we all know what seeing progress does to people; it motivates them.
Then again, even with a clear goal in mind, the road to fluency can still be paved with setbacks. You could end up taking a wrong turn and getting lost. That’s okay, though, because disorientation often comes with studying a foreign language.
As your understanding of Japanese becomes deeper, spoken and written language begins to clash. This can put you in a situation of being able to understand academic texts yet having no idea what your Japanese next-door neighbor is saying.
2. Befriend Japanese people.
Who better to teach you Japanese than native speakers? Someone whose first language is Japanese can truly motivate you to learn the language. Of course, if you can’t find a willing someone where you live or study, try practicing with a fellow Japanese student.
Learning from someone whose Japanese needs as much work as yours isn’t going to take you far, though. You’d be a lot better off meeting new people online. There’s quite a number of Japanese people on the Internet looking to become more fluent in English. So, it shouldn’t be too hard to find someone to work an exchange arrangement with. In this day and age, you also have Skype and Zoom to help you out.
3. Attend a class.
Self-studying is great and all that, but it’s not the best way to learn Japanese. After all, language is about communicating, and there’s only so much you can learn talking to yourself. Tapes may work, but they are not exactly great for motivating someone who’s just starting out.
It’s always best to have someone to speak to, preferably a Japanese teacher or tutor. If Japanese classes are offered where you live or study, seriously consider taking one to take your learning experience to new heights. With a teacher to depend on, it should be easier to establish a solid foundation in grammar. This will set you on the right track for self-study once you finish taking the class.
4. Don’t translate directly.
What’s got everyone in a fuss? You got the Internet; why not just translate English into Japanese directly? Unfortunately, that doesn’t work in general since these two languages originate from opposite ends of the globe. There are expressions in Japanese that are incredibly difficult to translate into English, even with Google’s help.
Still, we’re not saying the direct translation is completely useless. It can help you through those first few months of learning, after all. Yet, any further than that, and you start encountering several problems, especially with translating more advanced texts.
What you want to do instead of translate is to get the point of the phrase or expression. Find out how it’s pronounced and in what situations it’s frequently used in.
5. Learn at your own pace.
Rushing doesn’t lead to much learning. This is true for a lot of things, but especially for studying a foreign language. Your focus shouldn’t be on learning the fastest way; it should be on internalizing the language so that you’re able to share your ideas with others. This is best achieved in a relaxing scenario where you can learn at your own pace.
You can take things slow if that’s what allows you to be most efficient. However, you shouldn’t be preoccupied with efficiency. After all, it doesn’t matter how many hours you study in a day, applied fluency will still take years to reach. Getting off to a flying start is great and all that, but chances are, you won’t be able to keep that up and start burning out in a few months.
Move to Japan…
Ever thought about moving to Japan? Or, at the very least, living there temporarily? There’s simply no better way to learn the Japanese language than immersing yourself in their culture. Of course, not everyone may have this chance, but if you’re lucky enough to be among those who do, take it!