Learning a language is an extremely useful skill. Recent statistics on the Guardian show that only 32 per cent of young Brits can read or write in another language. Today’s digital world is more connected than ever, and picking up a new language can help you form connections both online and in the real world.
To that end, the Japanese remain one of the most widely studied languages in the world. This is because Japan is also one of the most popular tourist destinations, but it’s also because learning Japanese is a lot easier than many think. Keep reading below for some practical tips on learning Japanese for beginners.
Enrol in a course
As much as possible, enrolling in a course is still the best way to go when it comes to learning Japanese. Lots of schools are opening up classes via Zoom to ensure that students can still get the guidance they need. It is possible to learn a language on your own, but working with a teacher can give you a sense of structure.
Online learning enables you to really fit those language classes into your busy schedule, wherever you are in the world. The added benefit of this is that you won’t necessarily have to enrol in a Japanese language school in your city.
Japanese Language Schools:
- Lingoci: Dedicated 1-on-1 lessons with you and a qualified language tutor on Zoom.
- Japan Switch: Tokyo based affordable language school that offers online Zoom lessons for international students.
- Coto Academy: Offers flexible payment options for online classes, either by purchasing lesson credits or a monthly subscription.
Follow a workbook
If you can’t enrol in a course, the best thing you can do is get a book on how to learn Japanese. These books have structured lessons and vocabulary words, which can also give you that sense of structure you need. For those who are already enrolled in a class, these books are also a great way to supplement your learning outside each session.
There are some great resources out there that you can either order online on Amazon or even on the publisher’s website. Using a workbook in the early stages of language learning will give you a familiarity and idea of the scope of learning required. But don’t get too overwhelmed with everything at once!
Japanese Language Workbooks:
- Genki: Textbook series for any beginner to use as their starting point when learning Japanese. The textbooks act as a foundation on which you’ll build your Japanese language learning. Great for grammar learning.
- Japanese for Everyone: Considered one of the most user-friendly and powerful programs prepared both for classroom use and self-learning. Delves deep into the Japanese language so do tread carefully so as not to get overwhelmed.
- Japanese from Zero! 1: A book filled with clear explanations about each topic, word, or phrase necessary to learn Japanese. One of the authors George Trombley has a Youtube channel that acts to support the learnings from the workbook.
Learn the difference between characters
Learning Japanese might be confusing because of the characters, but learning the system behind these characters can make it easier for you. This Japanese language guide by ExpatBets lists four main scripts used by the language. Each serves a different function, which is as follows:
• Hiragana is a simple script with rounded shapes, primarily used for grammatical purposes and word endings.
• Katakana has sharper figures and is used primarily to emphasize something or when writing foreign loan words.
• Kanji are adopted from Chinese characters, and usually provides the basic meaning of a phrase.
• Romanji refers to the English alphabet and is used for translating words.
Romanji is rarely used, which means that Japanese relies on a mix of hiragana, katakana, and kanji.
Find a language partner
We’ve previously touched on partnering with Japanese speakers who want to learn English, but there are still tons of ways to find a language partner online now that we’re in the days of social distancing. In fact, there are even Facebook groups dedicated to people who want to pick up a certain language — you can join those and see if anyone would be willing to meet up with you regularly and chat!
Listen to podcasts
Podcasts are a fantastic way to learn a language. Wired’s article on the benefits of listening to podcasts highlights how making it a habit to listen to podcasts can make your days a lot more productive. Think of all the times you go about your day doing chores, whether it’s washing the dishes or cleaning your room. Listening to a podcast during these times gets your brain used to hearing it on a daily basis, which will go a long way in improving your fluency.
When it comes to learning a language, consistency is key. No matter what tactics you end up implementing, what’s important is that you’re making these part of your everyday life. Although it may still take some time to fully pick up Japanese, practising on a regular basis lets you track how far you’ve come as a way to motivate you to keep going.