japanese for beginners

Japanese for Beginners: 5 Study Tips That Work

japanese for beginners

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

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!

Interested in Private Lessons?

Search thousands of teachers for local and live, online lessons. Sign up for convenient, affordable private lessons today!

Newsletter Sign Up

Photo by Nicola

false cognates

Watch Out! 16 Spanish Words That Easily Fool New Learners

false Spanish cognatesBeginners, take note! There are several words in Spanish that deceive English-speaking learners. Here, Fairfax, CA tutor Jason N. explains what this means for your learning, and some of the words to watch out for…


No wonder you want to learn Spanish! It’s the undisputed second language of California, and the United States for that matter. In 10 years, it could even be the most commonly spoken language in this country. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that Los Angeles, for example, is 53% Latin American and growing. That means that if you’re Caucasian or born in this country, you could be an English-speaking minority.

Luckily, English and Spanish have similar roots; both highly influenced by their origin language, Latin, although Spanish more so. If you are a native English-speaker, this clearly facilitates learning Spanish as a second language. For instance, many words in English, such as ‘active’ or ‘car’, are surprisingly similar in Spanish (activo and carro). It’s easy to assume here, “Wow! Spanish is easy! You just add an ‘o’ to the English word!” If only it were that simple.

Unfortunately, this pattern can be deceptive, as many words in Spanish that seem familiar actually aren’t at all. These are called ‘false cognates’ or ‘false friends,’ words that appear the same across languages due to their similarity in form, but actually have different roots and entirely different meanings.

Related: 75 Helpful Spanish Cognates to Know 

Here are several examples:

  • Familiar in Spanish actually means ‘familial’ or ‘family-related,’ not ‘familiar.’
  • Largo in Spanish actually means ‘long,’ not ‘large.’
  • Realizar in Spanish actually means ‘to do’ in English, not ‘to realize.’
  • Recordar in Spanish actually means ‘to remember’ or ‘to remind’ (depending on the context), instead of ‘to record.’
  • Grabar in Spanish actually means ‘to record,’ not ‘to grab.’
  • Soportar in Spanish actually means ‘to tolerate,’ not ‘to support,’ in English.

Working with a Spanish tutor can help you watch out for these little traps.

Now, test yourself:


Why Work With a Tutor?

False cognates are not easy to learn or to memorize, yet they are ubiquitous in Spanish. Unfortunately, many native English-speakers learning Spanish commonly use them incorrectly without realizing it, and therefore are frequently misunderstood by Spanish-speakers. Even I, an experienced Spanish tutor, still continue to discover new false cognates despite speaking, reading, writing, and listening to Spanish almost daily for over 10 years. A Spanish tutor can help you or your son or daughter become aware of these essential subtleties and bolster your language acumen in a way that studying alone cannot — so you understand more and can speak and write in ways that native speakers can better understand.

JasonNJason N. tutors in English and Spanish in Fairfax, CA. He majored in Spanish at UC Davis, lived in Mexico for 3 years where he completed a Master’s degree in Counseling, and studied Spanish Literature and Psychology at the University of Costa Rica. Learn more about Jason here! 



Interested in Private Lessons?

Search thousands of teachers for local and live, online lessons. Sign up for convenient, affordable private lessons today!

Free TakeLessons Resource

Photo by Kevin O’Mara

shy spanish speaker

Help! What to Do if You Get Nervous When Speaking Spanish

shy spanish speakerDo you get nervous when you have to speak Spanish, even if you’ve taken months — or years — of classes or lessons? You’re not alone. Read on as Spanish tutor Emmanuel N. shares his tips for battling your nerves and becoming more confident…


When it comes to speaking a language, there are two ways of being good at it – the more scholastic way (reading, writing, and speaking all ‘by the book’) and the more layman’s way (mostly conversation-centered, using the common vernacular of a region or country). In other words, you can be good at Spanish by knowing how to do everything by the book, or you can be good at Spanish by knowing how to have real person-to-person conversations.

Most people who learn Spanish as a second language tend to be the former. Natural Spanish speakers tend to be the latter. This tends to be the pattern because people who learn Spanish as their second language tend to learn only by the book, while natural Spanish speakers learn by the book, as well, but mainly by speaking it with everyone they know. This is why I believe that people who are learning Spanish as their second language tend to be very good at it scholastically, but very subpar when it comes to natural, flowing conversations.

Speaking Spanish: Where to Start When You’re Nervous

I’m pretty certain you don’t want to dive right in and start speaking Spanish to people who are fluent, and that’s understandable. However, I do believe that when you push your limits, you learn more. Instead of speaking purely in Spanish, or with people who will speak only in Spanish, I recommend speaking ‘Spanglish‘ – a mixture of Spanish and English where you use English words when you don’t know how to say something in Spanish. Aside from that, here’s what I recommend you do:

  • Have full-blown conversations in Spanglish with anyone you know who speaks a moderate amount of the language. It’s better if they know more than you.
  • Try your best to speak only in Spanish with a friend or family member for a whole hour. Even if you have to translate for them, it’s alright. The important thing here is to force yourself to speak only Spanish.
  • Translate all the television shows you usually watch to Spanish, and try your best to understand what they’re saying without English subtitles on.
  • Speak to yourself at the end of the day (every day), and speak in Spanish as you say what you did all day. Try your best to speak only in Spanish, and look up translations only when you can’t think of the word or phrase.

Tips for Overcoming Your Shyness

Believe me, when it comes to being shy about your Spanish speaking, I know what it feels like. You’re extremely shy because you don’t have the accent or can’t really roll your Rs. You’re shy because the other person has to speak slowly for you to catch up. Or, you’re shy because you struggle to remember Spanish words on the spot and stand there embarrassed. Whatever it may be, I’ve been there and know the pain of being a shy Spanish speaker. However, the best way to get over your shyness is to practice.

  • When it comes to your accent, the best way to improve is to listen to other people who are fluent in Spanish. Try your best to imitate the sound they make.
  • I recommend watching television shows in Spanish or translating your favorite shows into Spanish. Listening to Spanish songs is also helpful.

I, myself, don’t have the Latino accent, but I have learned to speak Spanish effectively even though I have an absent accent. Without the accent, Spanish speakers can still understand you. It’s better to have no accent than to have the ‘butchered’ accent (where you pronounce every Spanish word incorrectly).

Why You Should Work With a Spanish Tutor

Although you might be very anxious or nervous about having a Spanish tutor, it can be extremely useful for you. As a tutor, I strongly believe in having casual, laid-back conversations in Spanish or ‘Spanglish’ for practice – it helps you get comfortable, and it eases your nerves so when I do challenge your knowledge of Spanish, you aren’t as timid. My lessons vary student to student because I know everyone is different and everyone learns differently. The main focus for shy or nervous students is to give them the confidence they need to speak Spanish proudly with anyone.


I do believe in giving homework to my students, but before you roll your eyes, my assignments are never that hard to complete. The following is normally what I would assign my shy speakers:

  • Record yourself having a conversation with yourself in only Spanish.
  • Record yourself reading for a few minutes from a Spanish article/book/website.
  • Record yourself talking about your hobbies in English, and then translate it into Spanish.

These take no more than 10 minutes and can be pretty fun.

Ready to improve your Spanish-speaking skills? Find a Spanish language tutor in your area!

Emmanuel Noriega

Emmanuel N. teaches Spanish online. A California State University, Fullerton graduate and native Spanish speaker, he also teaches essay writing, study skills, and singing. Learn more about Emmanuel here!



Interested in Private Lessons?

Search thousands of teachers for local and live, online lessons. Sign up for convenient, affordable private lessons today!

Newsletter Sign Up

Photo by Ed Yourdon

learning spanish

10 Hidden Benefits of Learning and Speaking Spanish

Many high schools and colleges require a language credit, and technology these days it makes it easier than ever for adults to expand their language skills. But it’s not all memorizing vocabulary — learning a new language can help you in business, personal endeavors, and more! Here, New York, NY tutor Lauren P. shares some of the hidden benefits of learning Spanish...


Whether you’re deciding to major in Spanish in college or considering learning Spanish for an upcoming trip abroad, you may be interested to know the long-term, unexpected benefits of speaking Spanish.

1. Job Opportunities & Contacts
job opportunities

Speaking Spanish opens up an entire chapter of networking opportunities closed to individuals only confident in one language. While most people limit their job search and networking opportunities to the English-speaking world, you can create excellent contacts while traveling abroad or striking up a conversation with a Spanish-speaking family friend or passing acquaintance. With the relatively small percentage of people becoming fluent in Spanish as a second language, you have the chance to make an instantly strong impression on any native Spanish speaker you meet.

Of course, English speaking careers are only a fraction of available opportunities. By speaking Spanish, you are eligible for thousands of exciting jobs in the United States and abroad.

(Editor’s Note: You can learn more ways to make yourself marketable in your job search over at the Money Crashers blog!)

2. Stronger Leadership Skills

Many administrators of small businesses, schools, and not-for-profits indirectly manage English and non-English speakers. The unfortunate reality is that most of these leaders get by without being able to speak Spanish directly to their employees, customers, or target population. They inevitably limit their interactions and rely on translators when they could instead teach themselves Spanish. If more leaders committed to learning the language of the people they managed and served, they would both receive and display greater levels of respect.

3. Higher Income
piggy bank

Similar to earning a college or graduate degree, being able to speak Spanish is a valuable skill that warrants higher pay. A potential employee can negotiate a higher salary as compensation for more effectively performing their job and not wasting time or money recruiting translators. By speaking Spanish, you’ll be a more valuable, effective, and higher-paid employee in almost any industry.

4. Volunteer Opportunities

Another unexpected benefit of speaking Spanish is that you can contribute to more volunteer opportunities. With Spanish being one of the fastest-growing languages in the U.S. and abroad, many charitable organizations serve Spanish-speaking children and families. Many schools and not-for-profits need Spanish-speaking volunteers to communicate with young children, the elderly, and homeless. Schools, food pantries, shelters and other organizations want volunteers who can make a real connection and therefore a real impact on the families they serve.

5. Freelance Opportunities

If you know that you won’t need to speak Spanish for your future career, you can still increase your income with freelance opportunities. Schools and charitable organizations are always looking to translate their written material and oral presentations. These corporations and small businesses usually don’t need a full time translator, since most translations are needed for only several pages of text or several isolated events. You can set up an email alert from a job-listing database to receive notifications when paid translators are needed. Whenever a remote or local position becomes available, you can make additional income for several hours of work. This is a great way to build your resume and increase your income without changing career paths or quitting your day job.

6. Authentic and Inexpensive Travel

learning spanishWhen you travel to a Spanish-speaking country, you will be able to experience the local culture and not have to worry about being overcharged inflated tourist fees. When you speak Spanish, you can negotiate rates for services and prices for goods. You can also ask locals if prices are fair. In addition to avoiding tourist rates, you can avoid tourist traps altogether. Rather than using a travel guide written in English, you can ask locals about the best restaurants, cafes, cultural experiences, and day trips. By speaking Spanish, you can experience different cities just like the locals do.

7. Make New Friends and Family

When you speak Spanish, you suddenly have the option to be friendly to the people you normally ignore. Instead of a polite smile, you can suddenly learn about the mother sitting next to you on the train, the man who brews your coffee every morning, your cab driver, your best friend’s grandmother, or your in-laws. Speaking Spanish expands your ability to learn about the lives of those around you. Your sense of community grows every time you get to know a stranger. The more confident you are speaking Spanish, the more friends and family members you can welcome into your world.

8. Become More Open-minded

It can be easy to walk down the street feeling isolated from those around us. Whether it’s a citizen of a different country or a stranger living two blocks away, you might imagine your cultural differences are greater than they actually are. You might assume that someone who speaks a different language will also think differently. When you learn to speak Spanish, you can begin to break down these imaginary barriers. You can learn about your neighbors’ beliefs, country of origin, and family traditions. The more you speak to people with a different language background, the more you learn to respect your similarities and differences.

9. Reduce Chances of Alzheimer’s

Scientists have always studied ways to stay mentally sharp and delay or prevent signs of dementia. Studies have shown that learning a new skill, including learning a new language, grows and strengthens new parts of your brain. This type of brain exercise does not occur simply from reading or doing crossword puzzles because you have to use new parts of your brain. This is why individuals who are bilingual or learn a language later in life are far less likely to develop dementia or even Alzheimer’s. What better way to reduce Alzheimer’s risk and stay mentally healthy than to learn a useful skill like Spanish?

10. Improved Attention and Problem-Solving Skills

A person’s ability to plan ahead, solve problems, and stay mentally and physically organized is called their ‘executive functioning ability’. People who struggle with memory or attention often have an underlying executive functioning disability. Bilingual individuals and people who learn a second language, on the other hand, have stronger executive functioning skills. If you have trouble with organization, memory, attention, or problem solving, consider learning Spanish to strengthen your brain in a number of useful ways.

If you want all these unexpected benefits of speaking Spanish, it may be time to find a Spanish tutor to help you. Good luck with your studies!

Want some help getting started? For a limited time, check out one of our live, online classes for free! Reserve your spot here. 


LaurenPLauren tutors various subjects in New York, NY. She has her Master’s Degree in Education (with a concentration in students with learning disabilities), and is a certified NYC Special Education teacher. Learn more about Lauren here!



Interested in Private Lessons?

Search thousands of teachers for local and live, online lessons. Sign up for convenient, affordable private lessons today!

Newsletter Sign Up

Photos by Flazingo PhotosShawn NystrandpenguincakesteflheavenCat, Eddy Van 3000, The TedsterJosh KenzerCharly W. Karl, and Sean

Birds, Bees, and More French Vocabulary You Need for Spring

Birds, Bees, and More French Vocabulary You Need for Spring

Birds, Bees, and More French Vocabulary You Need for SpringC’est le printemps! The sun is finally coming out, and Willy M. is here to share the French vocabulary you need to know for spring!

What on earth could be lovelier than Paris in the spring? After a long cold winter, everyone is ready to get out and enjoy the warm weather. Here are ten French vocabulary words that will get your spring off to a good start. Not only will you get ten new vocab words, but I am also going to give you some tips to help you memorize them, and to put them into practice fast!

The first word on our list is the French word for Bird: l’oiseau (masculine noun)! Not only is the word oiseau poetic in its sound, it has the rise and fall (wah-zo) of a bird in flight. A group of related words are found in the popular French-Canadian song “Alouette,” a song about plucking off the feathers of a lark for waking the singer up too early!

Alouette, gentille alouette,
Alouette, je te plumerai.

The next word on our list goes along with our title, and it is the word for Bee: l’abeille (feminine noun). This word should be easy for you to remember, because it is similar to a person in English saying “a bee.” Don’t let the fact that all the bees you see flying around in the world are male drones fool you though, this little French vocabulary word is a feminine word!

The next word on our list is one that you have to have if you are going to talk about spring, and it is the world for Flower: la fleur (feminine noun). And as Pepe Le Peu would probably say, females are the flowers of the world, this petit mot is feminine as well. This one should be pretty easy to remember as our English word “flower” actually originally derived from it.

And who can have flowers without having some grass around? L’herbe (noun feminine) is the French word for grass. This one is like our word herb. Should be pretty easy to remember, and like fleur, it is also feminine.

Another word that goes along with flowers and grass is the verb to plant: planter. Planter is an -er verb, and should be conjugated as such. It shouldn’t be too difficult to remember!

A couple words that are often associated with spring are words have to do with rainy days: rain (la pluie), cloud (le nuage), and sky (le ciel). Pluie is actually a feminine word, and it’s interesting to note that very often nouns that end in ie tend to be feminine. My name is Willy, and other people spell it Willie. But a long time ago, Willy was the shortened form of William, whereas Willie was the shortened form of Wilimina. In English we have not retained this distinction, but when we did, it came to us from the French!

Le nuage and le ciel are both masculine words, so keep in mind that clouds in the sky are always masculine! But the rain that waters the feminine grass and flowers are also feminine!

But no one wants only rain in the spring. What we’ve all been looking forward to is some warm weather, and some sun to brighten our days! Chaud is the French vocabulary word for warm, and it is important to remember that it is an adjective that follows the noun. Some French adjectives precede and some follow, but the word chaud comes after the noun.

Le soleil (masculine noun) should be easy to remember as “sun” if you know that the Latin name for our sun is sol!

So there are 10 French vocabulary words that should get you started speaking French this springtime!

Learn even more French words and improve your speaking skills by working with a French tutor! Tutors are available to work with you in-person or online via Skype. Search for your French tutor now!

Willy M

Willy M. teaches guitar, ukulele, and mandolin lessons in Winston, NC. Willy studied French for over 6 years in high school and at Earlham College. He traveled to Quebec, Canada where he was able to practice with native speakers. While working as an ESL teacher for World Relief, Willy had the opportunity to translate for people from former French colonies, such as Haiti, the Congo and Vietnam. Learn more about Willy here!


Interested in Private Lessons?

Search thousands of teachers for local and live, online lessons. Sign up for convenient, affordable private lessons today!

Newsletter Sign Up


Photo by Linh Nguyen

10 French Words and Phrases You Already Use Every Day

10 French Words and Phrases You Already Use Every Day

10 French Words and Phrases You Already Use Every DayIf you’re a beginning French student, you might be surprised when you notice how many words and phrases you already sort of know in French. French tutor Lizzie S. shares 10 of the most common French words English speakers might already know…

Since arriving in the US, I have been surprised to find a little bits of French words and expressions everywhere. Why do so many words look like a mix of English and French and why are some phrases taken completely from the French?

First, it’s important to understand that French actually played a big role in the formation of the English language after the Norman Conquest of England in the 11th century. The upper classes injected a lot of French vocabulary into an Anglo-Norman language which would become, several hundred years later, modern English. That’s why today 45% of English vocabulary comes from French. There are many examples of anglicized French words such as police, money, publicity, etc, that are pronounced according to English phonetic rules.

On the other hand, we find everyday in the English language French words and phrases pronounced the French way. These generally entered the lexicon later. They have been borrowed from fields where France set the standards such as in cooking, fashion, the arts, literature, and philosophy. Today, I’d like to share with you 10 of the most common French phrases you’ll find in America, plus a little more about what they mean.

1. RSVP: Répondez S’il Vous Plaît: You probably recognize this French expression from fancy invitations. It translates to, “Response Please”.

2. sans: Without. In French the last “s” is silent except if the next word starts with a vowel. In this case the final “s” sounds like a “z”.

3. à gogo: derived from the latin meaning “in abundance, galore”. At first, this expression was used in popular culture, especially in the fields of music and dance.

4. à la mode and à la carte : Something “à la mode” designates in French the way somebody or a city used to do something. For example, des habits à la mode meant fashionable clothes and tripes à la mode de Caen means tripe of Caen. When you order  à la carte, you are asking for the item just as it appears on the menu.

5. amuse-bouche: This is a one or two bite-sized hors d’œuvre which literally translates to “mouth amuser”. It is usually smaller than an hors d’oeuvre and is pre-selected by the chef who offers them for free.

6. au contraire: The French for “on the contrary” is often used in English with the aim of giving a humorous, ironic, or dramatic effect.

7. au pair : This designates the person taking care of the children of the familly. Etymologically “au pair” means “at par” or “equal to” because the au pair becomes a part of the family rather remaining separate as a traditional domestic worker.

8. café : In French, this word designates the beverage (coffee) as well as the coffee shop. In 1802, the French café “coffee, coffeehouse,” came from Italian caffe “coffee”. The beverage was introduced in Venice by 1615 and in France from 1650s by merchants and travelers who had been to Turkey and Egypt. The first public café may have been the one opened in Marseilles in 1660.

9. cliché : In printing, the plate cast from movable type was thought to make the sound “cliché” (kli-shay) when it was used. This printing plate is also called a stereotype. In the machine, the letters were set one by one so when a phrase was used repeatedly it was cast as a single piece of metal. “Cliché” came to mean such a ready-made phrase.

10. Chef : In French “chef” means boss. When used in English, it refers to the “chef de cuisine“, the director or head of a kitchen. The haute cuisine of the 19th century introduced many French words such as this one into the English language, along with words like “entrée“, “crème“, and “amuse-bouche“.

Get more help studying French by working with a French tutor. Tutors are available to teach one-on-one private lessons in-person or online via Skype. Search for your French tutor today!

Lizzie S Lizzie S. is a French teacher in Orange, CA. A native speaker, she’s been teaching students of all ages for 2 years. Learn more about Lizzie here!





Interested in Private Lessons?

Search thousands of teachers for local and live, online lessons. Sign up for convenient, affordable private lessons today!

Newsletter Sign Up


Photo by Matthew Mendoza

Is Japanese Hard to Learn? Find out the Truth

is japanese hard to learn

Learning any new language can seem difficult at first. If you’re feeling apprehensive about learning Japanese, these tips from language tutor Carol Beth L. can help.

Is Japanese hard to learn? Many people say so. I believe the answer can be yes or no—or both—depending on the individual. Japanese is often said to be a logical language that does not have anywhere near the whimsical inconsistencies or notorious exceptions of languages like English or French.

English, in fact, can be very difficult for some foreigners to learn. This is a result of the inconsistencies stemming from its numerous linguistic influences from historic groups that inhabited, invaded, or came in contact with England, such as Anglo-Saxon, Welsh, Scottish, and French. For most people reading this article, however, English is probably not difficult. In fact, it’s likely to be your first language. If it’s not, you have most likely mastered it to a reasonable level. Japanese can be mastered to the same degree English can, given reasonable time and effort. So why do people say that Japanese is so hard then? Here are a few often-cited reasons:

1. Time Required to Learn

Japanese is often considered to be one of the most different languages linguistically from English. As a result, it takes more time for English speakers to learn Japanese. Our way of thinking has been shaped by our native English language, and we must teach it to conform to a different way of organizing our thoughts.

2. New Characters

The Japanese writing system borrows a lot from Chinese, but the characters (kanji) are not always used the same way. As English speakers, we are used to phonetic—not pictographic—language. Japanese has two syllabaries, or sets of written symbols,  hiragana for native words, and katakana for foreign words. These syllabries provide ways to write without knowing all the characters for what you are writing. The pictographic kanji and the phonetic hiragana and katakana are regularly used side by side in writing. Using more kanji, however, will help you look more educated.

3. Japanese Grammar is Very Different From English

In Japanese, the verb is always placed at the end of the sentence. For an English speaker who is accustomed to putting the verb right after the subject, it can take time to reorganize the parts of the sentence in his mind so that everything comes out in the right order. Japanese grammar is, nonetheless, very logical. In this respect, it’s not really so difficult as it is different. Differences usually mean added learning time for students. The same is true for most non-Japanese speakers, too, because Japanese is related to very few other languages. French, Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese speakers can learn other languages in this group very easily because all are Romance languages stemming from common Latin origins. French also strongly influenced English after the Norman Conquest of the 11th century, making all of these languages easier for English speakers, too. The only widely-recognized language thought to have common roots with Japanese is Korean.

4. Phonetics

Phonetics are not actually as difficult as people sometimes make them out to be. The R sound—really between an R and an L—is one of the most difficult for an English speaker to get exactly right, though probably not as difficult as it is for a Japanese speaker to distinguish between the English R and L. The long vowels can also take some time. For example, kawai and kawai’i have two very distinct meanings: scary and cute respectively. Not words you’d want to mix up! Yet the only phonetic difference is the long “ee” sound in kawai’i to contrast with the short “ee” in “kawai.” Note that “long” and “short” are not used in the same sense we use them with our English vowels. A long vowel in Japanese really takes more time to say; it isn’t a reference to a phonetic difference. Most Japanese syllables are quite simple: one consonant sound plus one vowel sound. Chinese pronunciation with its tones and unique sounds (zhi, chi, shi, and ri) is probably more difficult for most English speakers.

So is Japanese hard to learn? Yes and no. It will require time and willingness to think differently, but learning Japanese can be fun, and the language is logical and consistent. If you’re willing to commit your mind and your time, then you can master it.

Carol Beth

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!

Interested in Private Lessons?

Search thousands of teachers for local and live, online lessons. Sign up for convenient, affordable private lessons today!

Newsletter Sign Up

Photo by mer chau

Are Advanced Placement (AP) Courses Worth It?


Are AP courses really that important? Find out in this guest post by Grand Rapids, MI tutor Elizabeth S...


One major question that comes into play when choosing classes for the school year is this: are Advanced Placement (AP) courses worth it? 

Of course, there is no easy answer to this question. Many people will answer: “Yes. Advanced Placement classes are definitely worth it! If you get good scores on the tests, you can waive those basic classes in college!” Others will respond: “No way! They are just harder versions of the normal class, and not all colleges and universities offer or recognize the classes that your class would cover. Besides, that test costs extra money!”

After hearing these answers, one might be more conflicted than before. When I was in high school, I signed up for many advanced placement courses, and even in some with no intention of taking the tests. The experience, for me, was worth it for many different reasons.

Challenging Yourself

Number one: AP courses are more challenging and in-depth than regular classes.

I found that in these classes, I was more interested and motivated to participate, because the coursework was more challenging. In the class, we weren’t just glossing over the basics; we learned the basics and then applied those to the subject at hand. The demonstrations used were interesting because the teachers had to make sure we understood what they were teaching us.

Learning to Meet Higher Expectations

Number two: The expectations were much higher than regular classes.

One thing that I have learned throughout my life and teaching career is that if someone has high expectations for a person and/or group, people usually try to reach those expectations. In advanced placement classes, this was proven for me every day. The attitude of, if one is in these classes he or she should be doing well in them, puts a lot of pressure on students to live up to that standard. While it was tough, I came out with more than the knowledge of the subject I was learning, but with knowledge of better time management and study skills.

Connecting With Peers

Number three: A lot of my friends were doing it as well.

Who doesn’t like taking classes with their friends? Not only was the coursework more interesting, I always had people I could talk to about it who weren’t my teacher.

Preparing for College

Number four: I was more prepared for the intensity of college courses because my AP teachers treated the classes in much the same way as my college professors did.

That being said, I will leave you with this advice: if you’re wondering if AP courses are worth it, it really depends on you as a student. If you want to be more challenged in high school, then by all means take the classes. You don’t have to take the tests to still get many benefits of taking an AP class. If, however, you are not prepared or do not feel prepared, then you may want to stay in regular classes.

Advanced Placement classes have the potential to do a lot of good for students who are ready for the extra challenges. These classes will not only give you a deeper understanding of the subjects you are taking, but they will prepare you for the courses you will take in your journey through higher education.

ElizabethElizabeth S. tutors in various subjects in Grand Rapids, MI. She graduated from Grand Valley State University with a two majors in English/Language Arts and Education, plus two minors in French and Elementary Distributed.  Learn more about Elizabeth here! 



Interested in Private Lessons?

Search thousands of teachers for local and live, online lessons. Sign up for convenient, affordable private lessons today!

Newsletter Sign UpPhoto by Tulane Public Relations

8 Study Tips You Never Thought of (That Actually Work!)

Study Tips That Work

Put away the double espresso and throw out those energy drinks! With these eight easy study tips from San Diego, CA tutor Natalie S., you no longer have to jump through hoops to stay awake and cram for your exams. Check out the tips below, and start your journey towards better study habits now:

  1. Learn your personal study process. Are you most productive in your room, at the library, outside, or in a coffee shop? Do you like to listen to music, or does it have to be totally quiet? Do you need an occasional cup of coffee to get you started? Are there certain healthy foods that you like to eat while studying? Do you need to write down your notes in order to comprehend the information, or is it better to read them aloud? In other words, are you primarily an auditory or a visual learner? Figure out your study process, and it will be much easier for you to focus and get a lot of work done.

  2. Eliminate distractions! Don’t waste time texting and stalking people on Facebook. Those activities are a time suck, and they get in the way of developing good study habits. Put your phone on silent, and close the Facebook tab on your computer.

  3. Find your favorite study music. If you like to work in a coffee shop or a bookstore, but need to avoid some of the public distractions, make a playlist of your favorite study music and listen to it on your earphones. Instrumental music is often the best since it doesn’t have any lyrics that will distract you and tempt you into singing along. Classical music is also said to stimulate the brain, so it’s good to listen to this type of music first as it may boost your brainpower!

  4. Take stretch or exercise breaks. Hours of sitting and studying exacerbate mental fatigue. Instead, spend five minutes stretching, doing sit-ups, or jogging in place to get the blood flowing and give your brain a break.

  5. Drink water! Studies show that staying hydrated with water helps the mind stay sharp and focused more than any other liquid. Skip the sugary sodas or the caffeine-filled energy drinks in favor of pure water. If you simply must have some sort of flavor in your drink, try making a natural, herbal tea.

  6. Write down your notes. Rewrite your notes, and then rewrite them again. Students often write too much information when they first hear a new concept. They record everything the teacher has said and they crowd their brains with too many details. Take your first set of notes, and read them over. Rewrite them a second time in a more concise fashion, paraphrasing only the most important details. Finally, rewrite them one more time in bullet points. Rewriting your notes and cutting them down each time forces you to learn and remember the material, so it’s more manageable.

  7. Use alarms. If you have trouble buckling down and studying for long periods of time, try setting a timer to go off every 30 minutes. Then step away your computer, put your phone on airplane mode, and study until the alarm goes off. Take a short break; check your texts if you have to, and then do it again. Working toward an immediate deadline makes you focus more because you’re working toward something concrete.

  8. Use a reward system. Whether it’s lots of small snacks throughout your study session or one big prize at the very end, give yourself a treat for hitting certain study milestones. Maybe you could reward yourself for reading up to a certain chapter, or perhaps you get a reward for every hour you study. Whatever you choose, if you stick to this system, you’ll have more motivation to study harder!

Use these study tips to figure out your personal study process, and you’ll be on your way to successful, productive study experiences that will increase your GPA and reduce your stress.

Natalie S.Natalie S. tutors in English, ESL, History, Phonics, Reading, and Test Prep in San Diego, as well as through online lessons. She received her BA in English Education at the University of Delaware, and her MA in English Literature at San Diego State University. Learn more about Natalie here!



Interested in Private Lessons?

Search thousands of teachers for local and live, online lessons. Sign up for convenient, affordable private lessons today!

Free TakeLessons Resource

Photo by MC Quinn

How to Be a Writer: Will A Writing Tutor Help Me?

How Writing Tutors Can Help Writers Your favorite athletes all work with coaches. A football coach creates plays and helps players adapt to the game on the field. A swimming coach analyzes individual parts of the athlete’s stroke to gain more speed in the pool. A gymnastics coach finds ways for the gymnast to add more grace and power to his or her routines. Just like these athletic coaches, a writing coach or tutor is an excellent asset as you work to develop your writing and rise above the competition.

Working with a writing coach is an excellent idea if you are:

  • Looking for support with schoolwork. Writing assignments in school are often challenging. If you need help with writing an essay or other assignments, working with a writing tutor can be incredibly helpful. A tutor can provide critical feedback, assist with revisions, and offer writing examples when necessary. Before you turn in a piece of writing your tutor will help ensure it is your best work.

  • Seeking specific feedback. Many people learning how to be a writer are looking for feedback on a specific aspect of their writing. Are you one of them? Perhaps you are struggling with plot development, conflict resolution, organization, dialogue, or establishing strong characters. A writing coach can provide the feedback you need to refine your work.

  • Working in a new genre. Each writing genre has a fairly standard set of characteristics that sets it apart from other genres. If you are new to a particular genre a coach can help you discover how to be a writer that has mastered this new type of writing. Some writers may specialize in a single genre, so consider this as you’re searching for the right coach for you.

  • Encountering writer’s block. Every writer has experienced writer’s block at some point. A writing coach can offer a fresh set of eyes and the feedback necessary to continue writing – or at the very least, some words of encouragement! If self-doubt has crept in, your coach will encourage and challenge you to help overcome this block. Having someone on your side that has gone through the same writing struggles can be a huge asset.

  • Hoping to get published. If you are seeking advice on the publishing aspect of how to be a writer, a coach can help you understand the process. Publishing isn’t just seeing your work in a magazine, on the store shelves, or featured online. It involves understanding the manuscript process, which publishers you should submit to, and the way an author interacts with editors. There are a variety of publication options that are specifically for developing student writers. Your coach can help you submit your work to these publishers and will guide you through the online or print publishing process.

  • Considering a career in writing. A career in writing has its own set of challenges. If you are considering studying journalism or writing in college, a tutor can serve as a fantastic mentor. Your tutor will help you approach your middle school and high school writing to better prepare you for college and your future career. With the help of your coach you may also discover what type of writing you excel at most, and how to ramp up your portfolio with quality writing samples.

Practice writing every day, get the guidance you need from a tutor, and most of all – make sure you’re enjoying the process. Good luck!


Interested in Private Lessons?

Search thousands of teachers for local and live, online lessons. Sign up for convenient, affordable private lessons today!

Free TakeLessons Resource

Photo by Kim Piper Werker