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Tips for Learning Japanese: A Practical Guide

Regardless of your motivation to learn Japanese, mastering this beautiful language will leave you with a sense of accomplishment and reward. Because Japanese can be a challenging language for native English speakers to learn, having an outline for how to best study and master the language will help you stick with and accomplish your goals. Let’s take a look at some practical ways of learning Japanese.

Reading and Pronunciation

In Japanese, there are 3 writing systems: Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji. Hiragana and Katakana are part of a group known as Kana (Japanese alphabet). Kanji are characters that represent a word or have a specific meaning. Hiragana and Katakana share the same sounds, but they have different characters. That’s because Katakana is only used for foreign words or words not native to the Japanese language. When learning Japanese, it’s most practical to learn Hiragana first, but make sure you spend ample time speaking and listening to these sounds so that you can learn about all the differences and exceptions. Listening to podcasts, watching movies, and immersing yourself in the language can be beneficial.

3 Levels of Speech

In the Japanese language, there are three ways of speaking; informal speech, polite speech, and formal speech. Each of these forms has a set of different conjugation endings, but the grammar remains the same. Social hierarchy and familiarity dictates how you speak the language and what form you use. Families tend to speak more informally with each other, while strangers will speak more politely, and in a business setting, language use tends to be more formal. When starting to learn Japanese, I encourage you to learn polite speech first so that you can speak with everyone.

Listen & Speak

It can be challenging to find ways to practice speaking Japanese, especially if you’re not surrounded by fluent speakers on a daily basis. For practice, speak the examples you read in your textbook. Explore Japanese language learning apps, specifically designed to help you communicate with other Japanese speakers. Search for communities and meetup groups formed by other Japanese language learners. Check out group classes and private Japanese language lessons which can be incredibly valuable in helping you practice the language in real-time.

Track Your Progress

It’s not always easy to stay on track when you’re learning something new, but putting in the time each week and measuring your progress will go a long way in improving your skills and keeping you motivated. Create a weekly study schedule either on your own or with a study partner. Once you have a routine down, track your progress with apps or workbooks that give you something specific to focus on. If you’re learning from a private instructor or in a group class, make sure you set aside that time each week to focus and learn without interruption.

Stay Dedicated to Learning Japanese

Learning Japanese will not only allow you to discover the history and culture of Japan, but it can also benefit you personally and professionally. Learning this complex language requires a lot of patience, discipline, and time management; but the outcome is worth it. By breaking down the general approach when learning Japanese, you will be on your way to success. Happy Learning!

Writer Bio:

Rosita Ruiz is a vocal and language coach that not only teaches people how to speak in different languages, but also how to sing in either English, Spanish, or Japanese. From helping international organizations better communicate with their clients to helping you impress your friends by singing a song in another language; Rosita customizes the learning journey for each student, so every learner can more quickly meet their unique goals.

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