Japanese is thought to be one of the more difficult languages to learn for a native English speaker. It takes some amount of dedication and time to learn the language. Studies say that depending on several factors like your original language, how much time you devote daily to learn the language, etc. one can decide how difficult it is to learn Japanese. Again contrary to this popular belief, many linguists agree that spoken Japanese is comparatively easier to master than other languages, because it has only five vowels and thirteen consonants. In this blog, I will discuss a few points why Japanese is easy to learn for some people and why it is difficult for others.
Is Japanese really difficult to learn?
The answer to the above question is – No Japanese is not as difficult as you think but it can have challenging moments while you are learning. But challenges are a part of our life and we need to take them. Then only we will be able to achieve something new.
Japanese is considered one of the easier languages for Indians to learn. The syntax (Subject-Object-verb structure), pronunciation, etc are pretty much closer to Indian languages than English. Only you need to concentrate more to master the language. In the writing part, you need to put a little more effort into learning the Japanese writing system as it combines different systems. They are kanji, hiragana, katakana, Arabic numerals, and even the Roman alphabet. The Japanese language basically revolves around Kanji, and there are more than 10,000 kanji in Japanese. Along with this Hiragana and Katakana are equally essential to learn in Japanese. People of India have lots of advantages in learning Japanese as the basic structure of Hindi and Marathi languages are exactly the same as the Japanese language. The Hindi grammar part is almost the same as Japanese.
Tips to learn Japanese for beginners:
Learn to use dead time:
Ok, you’re busy. We’re all busy. I know that. I’m not asking you to sit down for five hours every day and study Japanese chained to your desk.
Time management is one of the biggest difficulties for most language learners. Most likely, you have a job, or you’re attending school or both.
Then you have to spend time with your family, walk the dog, do your chores… I get it.
One of the most effective ways to learn Japanese is to claw back dead time for language study. Look for little pockets of time where you’re not doing anything, or you’re doing something passive and could multitask.
Why can’t you listen to a Japanese audio course while you’re walking your dog or driving to work? How about a Japanese vocabulary game on your phone while you’re on the train?
Finding just five minutes to study here and there throughout the day can really add up!
Surround yourself with Japanese:
One of the most powerful things you can do when you’re learning a foreign language is to create an immersion environment.
Can’t travel to Japan just yet? No worries. Bring Japan to you.
Listen to Japanese music, watch Japanese movies, cook Japanese food, make Japanese friends, stick Japanese posters on your wall…. You get the idea.
You’ll learn more Japanese just by absorbing it, and you’ll also grow a greater appreciation and love for the culture.
Instead of Grammar, Focus on Patterns:
Japanese sentences tend to have a subject-object-verb structure, where English follows a subject-verb-object structure. If you’re directly translating from Japanese to English, you’ll probably end up sounding a bit like Yoda!
Instead of getting bogged down in complex grammatical rules and technical structuring, focus on picking out patterns. Consider that in Japanese you would say “I, Japan to, am going,” whereas in English you’d say “I am going to Japan.” You can start to see loose patterns emerge in how sentences are shaped, without having to get enmeshed in grammatical theory and complex rules.
Use Full Sentence Flashcards:
Everyone knows that flashcards are a great way to learn new vocabulary. But for Japanese beginners, flashcards will work best with full sentences as opposed to individual words or characters.
Construct a deck of simple sentences so you get used to the context that surrounds much of the language, as well as the order in which you find words in a sentence. Websites like Brainscape have pre-compiled sentence flashcards so you don’t have to reinvent the wheel.
Find a Good Japanese-English Dictionary
Sometimes Google Translate isn’t enough to explain the full context around a Japanese character, word, or sentence. Several resources exist that provide a more complete picture. Check out the Weblio dictionary or the Rikaichan Chrome extension.
Do a little bit every day:
If you’re serious about learning Japanese, you have to practice every day. A one-hour class per week just isn’t going to cut it.
There are two main reasons why you should be practicing every day:
Firstly, you remember a language better when you are constantly using and reviewing it. If you only study once a week, you’ll spend the first half of the class feeling ‘rusty’ and trying to get back into the groove. Daily use keeps you in the habit and also helps new words stick into your long-term memory.
Secondly, by making Japanese study a daily habit you’ll likely add up more hours than if you went for one monster study session once a week.
Ultimately, learning to speak a language well comes down to how many hours you spend on it. Estimates vary regarding how long it takes to get fluent, but realistically it will be several hundred hours. Start working on it today, study consistently, and you’ll get there!