Lots of people are interested in learning Japanese, but they quickly discover that Japanese is not a simple language. With hard work and the right study habits, learning the language can be fun and rewarding. Here are seven easy ways to study Japanese from language teacher Elaina R…
When you’re learning a new language, it’s important to start small and slowly build on what you’re learning in your classes or lessons. Consistent study time and practice will help to reinforce both the written and spoken language, grammar rules, and pronunciation. Here are some simple and effective strategies to help you study Japanese.
1. Set Reasonable Goals
Learning a new language doesn’t happen instantaneously. Accept that it will take time and effort. Set small, manageable goals for yourself. For example, challenge yourself to learn five new words or characters every day. Small goals are much less daunting, and your accomplishments will add up over time.
2. Make a Schedule
After you’ve set some goals for yourself, make a schedule to study Japanese. It’s best to study a little bit every day, even if it’s just for 20 to 30 minutes. Set aside a specific time of day, whatever works best with your schedule, and stick to it.
3. Make Japanese Part of Your Day
Constant exposure to the language will increase your understanding and help you learn Japanese faster. In addition to your daily study time, find some creative ways to sneak more Japanese into your life. Try listening to Japanese podcasts, radio stations, and TV shows. Even if you don’t understand these programs at first, listening will help. Download some Japanese learning apps and games to play when you’re bored.
4. Get a Kana Workbook
The Japanese writing system consists of kana (simple characters) and kanji (Chinese-derived characters). Hiragana, one type of kana, is used for conjunctions, word endings, and other filler purposes. Katakana, the other type of kana, is used for foreign-derived words.
There are less than 100 kana characters, and if you learn these first, you will be better equipped to tackle kanji. Don’t just copy them off the internet; buy a kana workbook to teach you stroke order. Stroke order is very important in Japanese. Kana has fewer strokes than kanji, so start with kana and master these characters before you move on to kanji.
5. Read Japanese Books
Once you’ve mastered kana, you’re ready to start reading simple Japanese books. I recommend using basic children’s books to start. Look for books with three- to four-word sentences and a lot of pictures. Amazon has lots of free Kindle books to get you started. Also, find out if there is a Japanese bookstore in your area; many cities have at least one.
6. Learn About Formal and Informal Japanese
Formal and informal Japanese are very different. Though I learned informal Japanese from my mom, I never learned formal Japanese because I never went to school or worked in Japan. I still have to concentrate really hard to speak in keigo, or formal Japanese.
In school and most language learning programs, you will learn formal Japanese, which is used in business settings. If you watch anime or listen to native Japanese speakers, however, you will hear informal Japanese. Read about the differences, and pay attention to which style you hear in conversation.
7. Get a Tutor or Learning Buddy
There’s only so much you can learn on your own. A tutor can help you correct your pronunciation and improve your grammar. He or she can also develop a teaching plan that fits your specific needs. You can practice speaking Japanese with a friend or learning buddy, and apply the new concepts to real-life situations. If you don’t have any friends who are studying Japanese, you can search for a conversation group in your area.
Making the language part of your daily routine is a simple but effective way to study Japanese. What are some other creative ways to learn Japanese?
Elaina R. teaches singing in Ann Arbor, MI. She is acquainted with many languages and speaks English, Japanese, Italian, and German. As a singer, she pays particular attention to language and pronunciation. She earned a Bachelor of Music from the University of Southern California, and she is currently working on her Master of Music from the University of Michigan. Learn more about Elaina here!
Photo by chicageek