Japanese is a wide-spread East Asian language with more than 128 million speakers around the world. It’s the national language of Japan, but it’s also spoken in Korea, the US, and Brazil primarily because of the significant immigrant communities.
How hard is it to learn Japanese and how much time it takes? Learning Japanese requires a lot of time and effort. And it usually takes 1 to 2 years to become fluent in Japanese. To master Japanese, you need to first master the Japanese alphabet, grammar, pronunciation, and you need to immerse yourself in the language. Apps are a great way to begin your learning journey, they are easy to use and you can learn from apps almost anytime. But, they shouldn’t be the only resource that you use. Because apps can never be a substitute for real-world experience with other people, that you need other resources as well. We’ll talk about them in detail, but before that, you should know that learning any language is not a very difficult task, it is quite fun. So let’s get started.
What will help you learn Japanese
Learn the Alphabet
There are 3 basic writing systems you need to learn to be able to read Japanese: Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji.
Learning Hiragana is important for beginners. It is used for native Japanese words and consists of 46 and most of the characters have only one pronunciation, so Hiragana is very easy to learn and once you learn it you will have a strong foundation.
Сompared to Hiragana, Katakana is used for non-Japanese or loanwords: a word adopted from a foreign language. These include technical and scientific terms, as well as the names of some plants and animals.
Many learners believe that learning Kanji is the most challenging part of the process. On the other hand, it’s one of the most critical aspects of learning Japanese. Knowing very basic Kanji will enable you to understand, speak and write simple Japanese. Kanji consists of thousands of Chinese symbols that represent entire words, ideas or phrases.
Kanji comes with many complexities, as English meanings can’t always be directly translated from Japanese words. That’s why there can be many correct English meanings for a single Kanji word. We never said learning Japanese would be easy, but learning Kanji will give you a huge amount of ways to express yourself.
Making the first move – Learn through apps
As I said, the easiest way to begin learning Japanese is through apps! Language learning applications will come in very handy when you start learning Japanese. Duolingo, Memrise, or Rosetta Stone are very simple apps for beginners to start learning basic Japanese phrases and vocabulary. Apps like these allow you to study wherever and whenever you want. Set a schedule and learn through any of these apps for 5 or 10 or 20 minutes a day. However, as I said, learning only through apps is not enough. 20 minutes a day won’t fetch you anything.
How do you learn Japanese grammar? If you want to master it perfectly, you have to forget everything you know about English grammar as they differ dramatically. Unlike many romance languages, Japanese has only two tenses: past and non-past (present and future). However, there are two forms: polite and plain. The last one is used for casual speech.
I recommend that you start to learn Japanese grammar with the help of textbooks. The best books to learn Japanese grammar are:
You’ll also find a lot of lessons on the Japanese writing system, so you can practice your writing with the help of these books.
Learn some key phrases
Want to learn Japanese faster? Start with the list of the most common words and expressions. Knowing basic phrases like “Hello”, “How do you do?”, and “Nice to meet you” allows you to begin speaking Japanese and quickly join conversations with native speakers. Take a look at the 100+ most important Japanese words — this will be extremely helpful if you ever decide to visit Japan, or if you need a starting point if you decide to relocate there.
Flashcards are perfect for language learners. It’s a card with information on it that you need to remember. To memorize a particular word in Japanese, you can use a flashcard with this word on it. When you flip the card over, you’ll see a translation into your native language. There are apps available for this too like Anki and many others. You can start making flashcards while learning new words from Duolingo, Memrise, and other apps and while learning through other resources to remember what you’ve learnt.
It’s time for immersion
Despite all the learning and practice, the most effective way to learn a language is immersion. Immersion is a process wherein to learn a language you immerse yourself with its culture, and you live it. This includes watching movies, series, anime, reading Japanese books, and newspapers, and other things.
It’s time to start immersing yourself in Japanese culture! Apart from Japanese books and newspapers, learn to read Japanese with manga. Manga is a crucial part of Japanese culture with a long history. Today, it’s at the heart of Japanese pop culture and is also widely known outside of the country. Manga is an art in the form of comics or graphic novels and can be especially helpful for language learners. These comics are full of contextual clues so that you can easily understand the meaning of the written words. Sailor Moon would be a great starting point for a beginner.