How to Start Learning Japanese

Опубликовал Admin
21-01-2021, 19:30
Japanese is an East Asian language, spoken by approximately 125 million people across the world. It is the national language of Japan, but it is spoken in Korea, the United States, and many other places as well. If you are a native English speaker, Japanese will be very different. It will require practice, but with a little effort, you can become an effective Japanese speaker.

Learning the Basics

  1. Learn Hiragana. Hiragana is the Japanese alphabet. It is comprised of 51 phonetic characters, and each character stands for exactly one sound. (This is different from English in which one letter may sound different in different contexts). Once you know Hiragana, you will know how to pronounce any word in Japanese. Begin your Japanese journey by studying and memorizing these characters.
  2. Learn some Katakana. Katakana is a series of characters used to stand for loan words or non-Japanese words (such as hot dog or internet). You will want to learn the Katakana terms for English words you are likely to use.
  3. Learn Kanji. Kanji are typographic Chinese symbols that are used to stand for basic words and phrases in Japanese. Whereas Hiragana symbols are more like English letters (depicting simple sounds), Kanji symbols are used to depict complete words. Knowing some basic Kanji will enable you to understand and speak basic Japanese.
  4. Avoid relying on Romaji. Romaji is a system of using English letters to spell Japanese words. Romaji can be useful for learning initial key phrases, or for online communications. If you rely too much on Romaji, however, you will never move on to a genuine grasp of the language. Focus your study on Hiragana, Katakana, and some Kanji.
  5. Practice grammar. In order to learn Japanese grammar, you’ll need to try to forget everything you already know about grammar. Don’t apply the rules and concepts of your native language to Japanese. Instead, try to take the rules of Japanese grammar at face value.
    • Obtain a Japanese grammar workbook and begin following the lessons. Some good choices include "Practice Makes Perfect: Basic Japanese" and "A Guide to Japanese Grammar" by Tae Kim.
    • Locate free online resources (such as Duolingo) to study Japanese grammar.
  6. Learn some key phrases. Learning a few key phrases will allow you to begin practicing, and may allow you to enjoy some casual conversation with a Japanese speaker. Although Romaji should not be relied upon, using Romaji to learn these basic phrases can work as a good jumping off point.
    • Hello - Kon'nichiwa
    • Goodbye - Sayonara
    • I'm fine, thanks - Watashiwa genki desu. Arigato.
    • Thank you very much - Domo arigato gozaimasu
    • Nice to meet you - Hajime mash'te

Practicing the Language

  1. Use flashcards. You can purchase Japanese language flashcards, or make them yourself at home. You can then practice with them in a variety of ways. Flashcard can be a great way to strengthen your vocabulary in all three language systems (Hiragana, Kanji, or Katakana).
    • Post the flashcards around your house to label items with their Japanese names.
    • You can have a friend quiz you with flashcards to practice your memorization of Hiragana letters, Kanji words, or words in Katakana.
    • You can use the flashcards to quiz yourself.
  2. Speak like a kid. Small children are fantastic at learning new languages because they are not afraid to mimic sounds. They are not embarrassed. Tap into that childlike shamelessness, and practice repeating Japanese sounds, words, and phrases, even if you you’re not pronouncing them quite right.
  3. Practice with someone in person. The very best way to strengthen what you have learned and fine-tune your grammar is to practice your Japanese with another person. If you have a friend that is a native speaker, make a date and chat with them!
    • If you don’t know any native speakers, you can search for international meet-ups or language exchange groups in your area.
  4. Talk to someone online. Another great option is to video-chat with a native speaker. There are numerous online resources that pair language partners together. Seek out a new friend who speaks Japanese and speak to them using your computer.
  5. Make mistakes! Making mistakes and getting corrected by native speakers is probably the most effective way to learn the nuances of Japanese. Don’t avoid words that you are aren’t sure about or skip over phrases that you may mispronounce. Making mistakes means that you are genuinely trying to learn.
    • Move outside your comfort zone.
    • Get feedback from others.
    • Some Japanese speakers may not want to correct you out of respect, so make it clear that you’d appreciate some guidance.
  6. Enroll in a class. One of the most effective ways to learn a new language is enroll in a class. With the guidance of an instructor, lesson plans, workbooks, and best of all, lots of other people to practice with, enrolling in a Japanese language class can be an excellent use of your time. In addition to helping you learn the language, a class like this can help you meet new people.

Encountering the Language in New Ways

  1. Watch Japanese movies. In order to learn Japanese, you’ll want to expose yourself to as much of the language as you can. Spend your down time watching films or television shows in Japanese. This will expose you to a wider range of terms (including slang) and provide you with another avenue to sharpen your understanding skills.
  2. Read. Try to get your hands on Japanese books or a Japanese newspaper. This will expose you to a whole host of new words and phrases, and reading is a very active way to learn. By trying to read in Japanese you will engage deeply with this new language.
  3. Listen to Japanese radio. Like television and films, listening to Japanese radio can be a great resource for encountering new words and practice listening. Seek out Japanese music with lyrics and try to sing along. Or look for Japanese talk radio.
    • Japanese podcasts or language learning podcasts can be great resources as well.
  4. Immerse yourself. Placing yourself in a completely immersive environment is the most effective way to learn a foreign language. If you have the opportunity to go to Japan, or even to spend time with a Japanese family in America, take it. If you have any Japanese friends, see if it is possible for you to spend a bit of time at their home.
  5. Watch people talk. Speaking Japanese will require you use your mouth in a different way than you are used to. In order to produce the proper sounds, you may need to make new shapes with your lips and tongue. Watch the mouth of a Japanese-speaker to get a visual understanding of how to produce these sounds in your mouth.
  6. Use electronic dictionaries. Trying to find Kanji words in a paper dictionary can be tedious. Instead, use electronic dictionaries to expand your vocabulary, fill in gaps in conversation, and aid in your understanding of new terms. You may use a free online dictionary, download an app for your phone, or invest in a pocket translator.


  • Don't rush yourself on this. It takes a great deal of time and effort to learn a new language.
  • Don't let the words of others slow you down. If you are motivated, you can succeed at learning a new language.
  • Look for language learning apps to practice your Japanese skills.


  • The textbooks can get expensive and pricey, so watch out for sales.
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