If you’re taking Japanese lessons, you probably want to know how to study smarter, not harder. Maximize your learning with these study tips from language teacher Elaina R…
Japan has a lot to offer: great food, interesting culture, and wonderful sightseeing. As a result, lots of English speakers want to learn Japanese. Unfortunately, Japanese isn’t always easy to learn. Not only are there new phonetics and grammar; the written language consists of thousands of intricate characters.
So, what’s the best way to learn Japanese? The best way to learn is through practice, repetition, and dedication. If you put in the time and follow these tips, you will be well on your way to mastering the language.
1. Take a Class or Computer Course
If you don’t know any Japanese, a structured class is the best way to start. Find teachers in your area, or sign up for Japanese classes at a local community college or university.
2. Listen to Language Podcasts
I love language podcasts. When I was in Germany, I listened to podcasts on the way to and from school each day. It helped me learn much faster than my classmates.
There are lots of Japanese podcasts available online. They range from beginner to advanced. For best results, make listening to podcasts part of your routine (listen during your commute or while you do chores).
3. Watch Japanese TV With English Subtitles
I once met an American girl in Japan who spoke impeccable Japanese. She told me that she had been bedridden with a serious illness for almost a year. During this time, she watched anime in Japanese with English subtitles. She never took a class, but her Japanese was phenomenal.
4. Learn Hiragana and Katakana
Hiragana and Katakana are two basic 30-letter Japanese alphabets. They provide two ways of writing the same sounds (the sound ah is あin Hiragana and ア in Katakana). Hiragana is the general alphabet, and Katakana is used for foreign-derived words. Learn these two alphabets before you learn the Kanji characters.
5. Read Manga or Children’s Books
Children’s books and Manga, Japanese comics, usually include Furigana, which are little Hiragana or Katakana characters next to each Kanji character. Stories with Furigana can help you learn common Kanji.
6. Get a Workbook
Kanji workbooks can help you learn to write Kanji characters and understand their meaning. Get a workbook and dedicate a short amount of time to practice each day, even if it’s only 20 minutes.
7. Use Flashcards
Use flashcards to help you memorize Kanji. You can make your own, or use a website to help. Wanikani is a great flashcard site for Kanji memorization.
8. Sing Japanese Karaoke Songs
Learn some Japanese songs, and focus on pronunciation and meaning. It helps to listen to the songs multiple times. Then make your way to a Japanese-style karaoke joint and watch the subtitles as you sing. Japanese karaoke places usually have private rooms for small groups to rent, so you can practice without feeling embarrassed.
9. Use Japanese Subtitles
As you get better at Japanese, try switching the English subtitles to Japanese while you watch TV. My spoken Japanese is very good, but I can’t read well. When I watch TV with Japanese subtitles, I can mentally connect the spoken words with the Japanese characters. If this is challenging at first, try switching between English and Japanese subtitles.
10. Get a Tutor
You can’t get better at speaking Japanese if you don’t practice. A Japanese tutor can help you learn to speak in practical situations.
11. Join a Group
Many cities have groups for Japanese speakers. Even if you’re just starting out, it can help to join a group and listen to other Japanese speakers.
What’s the best way to learn Japanese? Become somewhat proficient, and then make friends with people who speak the language. If you go to a language group once a week, you will get better. The more you practice, the faster you’ll improve. Make some new friends and have fun learning. Your new Japanese friends might even be willing to sing karaoke with you!
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 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 Christopher Chan