By Daniel Rhys Coleman and Skye | Updated September 5, 2020
Welcome to the start of your long but rewarding journey to learn Japanese language. Many of your fellow adventures do not make it to the promise land of fluent Japanese, but let us guide you with tips and advice based on our experience in moving from beginner to intermediate level and then advanced Japanese.
Learning Japanese for beginners can be hard but based on our years of experience and research we have uncovered many ways which we cover in our series on how to learn Japanese for you. This article is one sub-section of that series.
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Learn Japanese : Introduction
At this very moment, you probably have a notebook and a pencil ready to start learning Japanese, but then you realize something. “What do I do exactly?” You’ve probably been looking for a study method but then thought “Which one’s the right one?”, don’t worry! This is normal. Language learning is a long rewarding journey but it wouldn’t be a surprise if you didn’t know where to start. After all, Japanese is a daunting language to learn and many people tend to give up easily after their first month (or even their first week).
In this article, I will be explaining, not only about a study method that will be very useful to learning Japanese for beginners, but I will also be talking about how to maximize your time efficiently. How to take it bit by bit rather than all in one go. This is also useful for those who are aiming for JLPT (or any form of proficiency test). But, the most important thing is to have fun, of course!
Study Methods for Learning Japanese for Beginners
First of all (and what I’m about to say is a bit contradictory), there’s no perfect study method to learning Japanese for beginners. If you’ve been spending most of your time researching for the “perfect language study method” out there (which it could’ve been spent in actual studying), then I’m sorry to say but such a thing does not exist. The reason why I say this is because everyone’s learning style is different. There are those who have a better memory than others, those who acquire a language much faster than others, and those who speak it better than others.
However, the study method to learning japanese for beginners in articles or videos that you find on the internet or in a book are created by those who came up with their own learning style. In other words, those methods are only suited for the actual author of those articles. What a lot of people do is that they find a study method, they start learning the language by following that specific method, and then they deviate from that and start learning it their own way. No one really sticks to the same one because they realize that this is not the right study method for them.
At this point, you’re probably wondering “What is the point of all this then?”. The point I’m trying to make here is that no matter which way you learn a language, if you feel comfortable in whichever way you learn the language and you’re making either big or small progress, then that is without a doubt the best study method. You should always follow a study method to learning japanese for beginners that addresses your own strengths and weaknesses. I encourage you to create a study method that suits you!
I’m not saying that you should 100% disregard all study methods out there. Quite the opposite actually. All study methods are useful but it shouldn't be used as a step by step manual, but rather as a reference. For example: if you’ve been learning Japanese for a bit and you’re struggling in a specific area, listening for instance, then you should look for a study method that covers that area and see how they approach it.
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For complete beginners, you should use study guides as a starting point. Have a feel for the language and see what are your good and bad points. Then, after a couple of weeks/months of studying a language, you should be able to know what study method is best for you. Also, make sure to bookmark all study guides that you find on the internet! Don’t just read them and forget about them. It’s good to have easy access to them and see if there’s any learning style that you would like to apply.
Whether you want to make your own or you’d rather keep following the same guide that you’ve been using, at the end of the day, all of it is for you to address your own learning needs. For those who are not beginner level, consider learning how to make the jump from intermediate to advance Japanese.
Don't babies learn better than adults?
Last thing that I would like to point out is that no matter what age you are, you can learn any language easily. Babies and toddlers are like sponges. They absorb things much faster than adults. Hence, they can acquire a language much easily without any interference from other languages, no doubt about that. However, studies have shown that adults have a much bigger advantage when it comes to language learning. They’re much more intuitive and understand concepts better than young kids, such as grammatical structures and abstract words (e.g. “span” or “prosperous”).
In other words, don’t feel discouraged if you’re struggling to learn a language. You are capable of reaching at a high conversational level within 6 to 24 months whereas a child wouldn’t be able to speak their own language probably (a bit better at least) until the age of 7. Even then, as I mentioned before, you as an adult would have a much better understanding of political-socio-economic topics of the second language for instance, than a child in their own native language.
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If you thought learning the characters in the hiragana alphabet and Japanese vocabulary words was a daunting task in your journey while studying the Japanese language, how about making Japanese friends with your newfound skills? Gaining experience as a Japanese speaker is just as much of an important part in the process of studying Japanese. Here are some Japanese studying tips on making Japanese friends. Can't understand how to make friends with Japanese locals due to a cultural barrier? There are tips for that too! Here are six steps for making Japanese friends.
I can personally give one Japanese studying tip for making friends with a person from Japan: keep trying. Long before I understood a single word other than 'Ohayo' and 'Arigatou-gozaimasu,' I was a little girl running around a convention center in Okinawa, Japan. I wasn't the only child running around without adult supervision! There was a whole crowd of Japanese children who were speaking Japanese to me, while I spoke English back again, and we spent hours playing around the convention center.
I didn't understand a single word they said and I highly doubt they understood me, either. I love that memory!
If you want more advice, don't worry! I still have a lot to say on making Japanese friends. Namely, you don't have to worry that making a mistake while practicing your Japanese language skills will affect your friendship or lower their opinion of you. You DO want to learn Japanese etiquette if you want to make the process of becoming friends to be easy.
I know, I know, it's not a exactly effortless to learn an entirely new book on etiquette. That why websites like this website right here exist and why BFFTokyo published this article. But what if I told you there was an easier way to accomplish this task? A way that didn't feel like studying at all?
Well, the final Japanese studying tip I have for you on making friends with Japanese-speakers is to watch the Dotanba no Manners anime. Yep, you read that correctly. I'm giving you an excuse to watch anime.
Feel free to have fun and watch as Dotanba navigates manners in Japanese social situations!
You don't have to move forward with studying Japanese alone. One of the tricks to learning Japanese for beginners is to put yourself out there and Japanese language communities is one welcoming way to start. If you're not familiar with the subject, we at BFFTokyo released an article on the subject during the 14th of July 2020. You can read more information on the subject here.
An excellent way to improve your abilities as a Japanese speaker is to gain experience communicating with others using the skills you learned while studying the Japanese language. That doesn't have to happen by communicating with a Japanese friend or even by living in Japan. You can do it by meeting people who are just like you- people who want to practice their Japanese language skills by communicating with friends in the Japanese language.
If you're like me and you're first thought is to worry you won't be able to keep up with Japanese language community members in terms of skill, don't worry! Japanese language communities accept people of all skill levels. Good luck! I know you can do it!