Although learning a new language is a gradual process, there are things you can do to make the learning experience easier and more rewarding. Language teacher Carol Beth L. shares the best ways to learn Japanese for beginners…
When you’re learning a new language, it’s important to start with the basics and lay a firm foundation. Here are a few tips that will help you on your quest to learn Japanese.
1) Write in Hiragana and Katakana
The Japanese writing system is very different from English, so in order to master the basics, you need to practice. Pick one alphabet to start, and use it as much as you can. Choose one or two rows of letters to focus on each week, and try writing with the alphabet whenever you can. Write your name. Write your friends’ names. Practice translating English words into the Japanese phonetic system. Practice writing the Japanese words you know. As you become more comfortable with Japanese scripts, you can start to differentiate when to use each one: Hiragana for native Japanese words and Katakana for foreign words (such as your name and native English words). You will eventually be able to incorporate Kanji, the Chinese characters adopted into the Japanese writing system.
2) Use Reliable Resources
Different people have different levels of awareness about their learning methods. If you’re not sure how you learn, think about past learning experiences. Look for common themes. This will help you determine which resources are right for you. Look for learning opportunities locally and online. For example, look for blogs with information on Japanese for beginners, cultural and linguistic websites, pen-pal and exchange programs, and local or online tutors. Search for a local Japanese culture center, a Japantown, or a Japanese Toastmasters club. Also, look for conversation groups and classes at local colleges and universities.
3) Find a Teacher or Tutor
An experienced teacher understands how to teach Japanese for beginners. If your Japanese teacher is a native speaker, he or she will understand the language better than anyone else. It’s important to note, however, that native proficiency in a language – including Japanese – doesn’t always guarantee the ability to explain everything to a non-native speaker. For example, have you ever tried to explain English to a non-native speaker? Sometimes he or she will come up with unusual questions that are impossible to answer. A teacher’s tutoring and teaching experience can help him or her teach Japanese for beginners.
4) Set Aside Time to Study
It is crucial to make time to study. A set time every day or several times throughout the week usually works well, especially if you’re in a class or working with a tutor. Use this time to review what your teacher went over during your class or lesson. If you are confused or think of any questions, write them down so you can ask your teacher during your next lesson.
5) Commit to the Long Haul
Unfortunately, you can’t master Japanese overnight. Some say it can take up to 10 years to completely master the language. If you really want to learn and understand Japanese, be patient, and be prepared to push through the frustration and obstacles you may encounter along the way. As the Japanese would say, がんばって (ganbatte), or do your best!
Carol Beth L. teaches French lessons in San Francisco, CA. She also studied Japanese in high school and college. She has her Masters in French language education from the Sorbonne University in Paris and has been teaching since 2009. Learn more about Carol Beth here!
Photo by Nicola