Are you interested in Japan and its language? Do you want to broaden your horizons and learn another language without having to stick to a strict regimen? Learning a language can be fun and difficult at the same time, but many people cannot or do not want to invest in courses or classes that are taught inside a classroom. By studying the basics, practicing the language, and exploring Japanese in new ways, you can experience the pleasure of learning another language.
Method 1 of 3: Learn the Basics
Step 1. Study the Japanese writing systems
The Japanese language uses four writing systems. In order to learn Japanese, you will have to study each of them. You can check https://www.tofugu.com/japanese to see each writing system and start taking basic level classes in order to learn each system.
- Hiragana is the Japanese alphabet. It is made up of 51 phonetic characters. Each character represents a sound. Start by studying and memorizing these characters. Once you understand hiragana, you will know how to pronounce any word in Japanese.
- Katakana is a series of characters that represent non-Japanese words (like fast food or California). It is a good idea to learn the phrases in katakana for everyday words.
- Kanji are actually Chinese symbols used to represent Japanese words and phrases. While the hiragana symbols are more like "letters" (that is, they represent simple sounds), the kanji symbols represent whole words.
- Romaji is a system that uses Western letters to pronounce Japanese words. It will help to use this system a bit at first (especially to learn the opening key phrases), but if you rely too much on it, it is unlikely that you will really understand the language. Instead, focus primarily on the hiragana, katakana, and kanji.
Step 2. Practice Japanese pronunciation
There are 46 sounds in the Japanese language, which are composed of one of five vowel sounds, by a combination of vowel and consonant. There is only one exception, which is a sound made up of only one consonant. You can start studying pronunciation by learning how to pronounce each character in hiragana and katakana.
Go to https://www.forvo.com/languages/ja/ to take entry-level classes in Japanese pronunciation
Step 3. Learn some fundamental phrases
After you know a few important phrases, you can start practicing. Although you shouldn't be overly dependent on romaji, it's okay for beginners to use it to learn these basic phrases.
- Hello: Kon'nichiwa.
- Nice to meet you: Hajime mash'te.
- Chao: Sayonara.
- I'm fine, thank you: Watashiwa genki desu. Arigato.
- Thank you very much: Domo arigato gozaimasu.
- Please (to order something): Kudasai.
- Please (to offer something): Dozo.
- Do you understand ?: Wakarimasuka.
Step 4. Learn the rules of grammar
Japanese grammar is very different from English grammar, so you should not try to apply the rules of English grammar when studying Japanese. It will take a little time to get used to Japanese grammar. Buy a Japanese grammar workbook and start by following each class. Some examples of these workbooks are "Practice Makes Perfect: Basic Japanese" and "A Guide to Japanese Grammar" by Tae Kim. You can also search for free online resources (like Duolingo) to study Japanese grammar. Here are some basic tips:
- Nouns have no gender. Also, most nouns do not have a separate plural form.
- In Japanese, the subject is optional and can be omitted.
- The predicate is always at the end of the sentence.
- Verbs do not change according to the subject (he, she or it). They also do not change according to the number (singular or plural, like me, us, him or them).
- Personal pronouns (such as "I" or "you") are used differently depending on the level of formality of a given situation.
Method 2 of 3: Practice the language
Step 1. Better understand writing systems
If reading and writing in Japanese is important for you to understand the language, it is essential that you spend time studying the four Japanese systems. You can learn hiragana and katakana in a few weeks, and you can use them to write whatever you want in Japanese. It will take you longer to learn the kanji, but it is also important. You should also start practicing the kanji.
- A good workbook is a good resource for you to start practicing reading and writing in Japanese.
- You may also want to use online resources, such as Duolingo.
Step 2. Talk to someone online
It's a fun option for practicing Japanese and making a video call with a native speaker. Look for online resources that bring together language partners. If you find someone who is right for you, start practicing with them 1-2 times a week.
Check out "My language exchange" or "The Mixxer" to find a language partner online
Step 3. Use chips
Buy Japanese tiles or make them at home. You can buy or make index cards for each language system to study specific phrases and memorize the basics of grammar. Flashcards can be a fun way to improve your vocabulary in all three language systems (hiragana, kanji, or katakana).
- Put the index cards around your house to label various items with their names in Japanese.
- Have a friend evaluate you with your index cards so you can practice your memorization.
- Use the cards to evaluate yourself.
Step 4. Use online resources
There are many online language programs that can help you learn and practice Japanese, such as Duolingo, Tofugu, and Japanese 101. Find these free resources and practice Japanese daily.
Method 3 of 3: Experience the language in fun ways
Step 1. Read
Look for books, comics, or news in Japanese. When you read in Japanese, you expose yourself to new words while improving your skills and getting in touch with Japanese culture.
Step 2. Watch Japanese movies
Another fun way to expose yourself to Japanese is by watching Japanese movies. Movies can expose you to a wide range of terms (including slang) and provide a bit of entertainment. You can even use Spanish subtitles to help you understand the plot.
Step 3. Listen to radio in Japanese
Like watching movies, listening to Japanese radio can be a good way to hear new words and improve your listening skills. Look for Japanese music with lyrics or radio talk shows in Japanese.
Step 4. Immerse yourself in the language
If you have the opportunity to experience a language immersion in Japanese, take it! Maybe you can go to Japan or even an authentic Japanese restaurant. This will allow you to speak to people in Japanese and watch them speak. Actually, there is no better way to learn a foreign language.