While learning Japanese requires time and patience, you can boost your learning with these tips from teacher Willy M...
I hate to break it to you, although it’s not impossible to learn Japanese, it’s also not necessarily easy. Japanese is a complicated language on many levels. First you need to learn how to converse, then you need to learn the specialized words. If you want to read in Japanese, then you need to learn Hiragana for indigenous words, Katakana for non-indigenous words, and the Chinese symbols that the Japanese have borrowed.
While this may seem overwhelming, don’t get discouraged. While the best way to study is with tutor, here are some study strategies which will make it easier for you to learn Japanese.
1. Learn the Words You Need
Let’s start with Japanese vocabulary. You want to make the most of your time and study smarter, not harder. You can do this by focusing on the words that you will use in your life or career.
Try this as a beginner, and you’ll see that your Japanese vocabulary will grow in a short amount of time. To begin, write down a list of words and phrases that you use every single day. Don’t waste your time memorizing words that you wouldn’t use in Japan. Focus on words that are useful for traveling; train, hotel, and restroom. Also, write down useful phrases like “how much?” “excuse me,” “please,” and “thank you.”
Write these words on index cards. On the back of the cards, write the translation phonetically, and then the Hiragana/Katakana or Chinese symbols. It may be hard for you to write the symbols, but do the best you can.
After you memorize your first set of words, add some more and repeat the process. You’ll find that learning Japanese this way becomes intuitive. Think of it this way, what did you learn first when you learned your native language? You probably learned essential words like mom and dad, bottle, milk, or food.
2. Define Your Reason for Learning
Why do you want to learn Japanese? Your reason for learning can directly influence the way you study. For example, if you’re traveling to Japan for a business trip, you will most likely need to learn words that are related to your work. Translate and learn words like computer, desk, secretary, employer, and business.
If you’re going to Japan for fun or vacation, you may need words like restaurant or museum. If you’re traveling as an exchange student, spend time learning words like school, textbook, class, etc.
3. Learn Words That Are Important to You
Once you’ve familiarized yourself with basic vocabulary, it’s time to broaden your scope. Think of things that are important to you, like your hobbies or particular interests.
If you really want to challenge yourself, memorize words related to Japanese culture and lifestyle. You will have lots of things to talk about if you travel to Japan or interact with Japanese speakers. It’s one thing to learn the words for the things you love, but it really shows a respect for the language and culture if you learn about things that are important to locals.
While memorizing words will get you off to a great start, you may need some additional help in order to learn proper pronunciation and usage. The best way to master the language is with a qualified Japanese teacher.
Willy M. teaches guitar, ukulele, and mandolin lessons in Winston, NC. He studied Japanese at Earlham college in the ’90s, which at the time, was one of the top five schools in the world for Japanese studies. He took Akido and Karate lessons while studying the Japanese language. Learn more about Willy.
Photo by Thomas