How to learn the Japanese language at home in India?
Japanese is an East Asian language spoken by approximately 128 million people, the majority of whom live in Japan, where it is the national language. It belongs to the Japonic (or Japanese-Ryukyuan) language family, and its relationship to other languages, such as Korean, is debatable. Japonic languages have been classified as part of other language families such as Ainu, Austroasiatic, and the now-discredited Altaic, but none of these classifications has achieved general recognition. Japanese is a mora-timed agglutinative language with straightforward phonotactics, a pure vowel system, phonemic vowel and consonant length, and lexically important pitch-accent. Word order is usually subject–object–verb, with particles indicating grammatical function, and sentence structure is a topic–comment. Sentence-final particles are used to add emotional or emphatic effects, as well as to ask questions. In addition to kanji, the Japanese writing system mainly employs two syllabic (or moraic) scripts, hiragana and katakana. Latin script is used sparingly, such as for imported acronyms, and the numeral system mostly employs Arabic numerals alongside conventional Chinese numerals.
Let's now see how are you can learn Japanese at home
1. Identify your reason and passion for learning Japanese
Here are some really good reasons to learn Japanese:
- To travel the world. Japanese is an official language of Japan and spoken in USA, Brazil and Guam.
- To have conversations with Japanese-speaking family members.
- To read Japanese literary works (Almost Transparent Blue (1976) by Ryu Murakami, Death in Midsummer and Other Stories (1953) by Yukio Mishima, The Diving Pool (1990) by Yoko Ogawa, Kafka on the Shore (2002) by Haruki Murakami, Kokoro (1914) by Natsume Soseki, Seven Japanese Tales (1963) by Jun’ichirō Tanizaki., Snow Country (1937) by Yasunari Kawabata)
- To connect with Japanese native speakers.
- To get an inside view of Japanese culture.
2. Immerse yourself without leaving your home. Here is what you can do to immerse yourself in Japanese:
- Turn your smartphone into a Japanese speaker. Switch the language settings on your phone to Japanese. You can do the same with your computer.
- Look for Japanese speakers in your city. Look for a community of Japanese speakers. If you are lucky you may find one near you.
- Watch Japanese TV and movies. Switch on the subtitles to speed up your learning.
- Read articles and books in Japanese. NHK Web Easy, Matcha, Hiragana Times, Bauddha, Comic Times are helpful for accomplishing reading.
- Listen to Japanese radio and podcasts (my favourite is JapanesePod101). You can learn a lot of Japanese by listening to Japanese songs.
3. Creating your own Japanese phrasebook that’s relevant to your life
- You’ll learn Japanese much faster if you focus on words and phrases that are relevant to your life. Add a lot of fillers and conversation connectors to help you build your first conversation.
- Plus, when you have real conversations in Japanese (I’ll come to that in a moment), you’ll be able to talk about yourself.
- That’s why I recommend creating a personalised Japanese phrasebook. This is a collection of words and phrases that are relevant to you.
- Rikaikun (on Chrome or Opera), or RikaiChamp (on Firefox), are a must-have browser extensions for any learner of Japanese. They allow you to hover your mouse over a word to get a popup dictionary showing both its pronunciation and translation. If in case you happen to press Shift while hovering, you will get to see details about a kanji.
4. Using language hacks to make “difficult” Japanese turn into easy Japanese
Language hacks are shortcuts that help you learn a language faster. They’re ideal if you want to learn to speak Japanese. Here are a few of my favourite language hacks that can speed up your Japanese learning:
- Spaced Repetition Systems (SRS). SRS is a great method for memorising vocabulary and phrases using virtual flashcards. My favourite SRS tool, Anki, is free and allows you to create your own flashcards, so you can build a deck from your personalised Japanese phrasebook.
- Mnemonics. A memory palace is an effective way to burn Japanese words onto your brain.
- The Pomodoro Technique. Break up your study sessions into 25 minute chunks. This gives you better focus, so you learn more in a shorter time
5. Speak up
- Japanese includes sounds that don’t even exist in English. When you’ve only ever spoken one language, forming your lips and tongue into new shapes to make unfamiliar sounds can feel jarring, like hearing a wrong note in a well-known song.
- Some language learners let this hold them back. They feel embarrassed about saying things wrong and making mistakes.
- Push through this fear by speaking Japanese even when you feel silly. You’ll learn Japanese much faster that way.
6. Learn how to have real conversations with native Japanese speakers
No matter where you live you can still find people, either online or offline, to speak in Japanese. I like to search for native Japanese speakers on:
- Italki. This is the first place I go to find Japanese tutors and pay for one-on-one lessons (reasonably priced).
- Meetup.com. Most major cities have a Meetup for Japanese speakers or Japanese learners. CouchSurfing is another of my favourite ways to meet Japanese speakers.
- HelloTalk. This free mobile app helps you find Japanese speakers who are learning your native language.
7. Focus on the Easy Aspects of Japanese
Japanese really isn’t easier or harder to learn than any other language, but you can quickly forget this if you only focus on the difficult aspects of Japanese. Whenever you get discouraged, think about all of the ways that Japanese is actually an easy language to learn. Japanese is an easy language because it:
- In Japanese, the sentence order is subject-object-verb.
- Unlike Vietnamese, Thai, Mandarin, and Cantonese, Japanese is not a tonal language.
- The Japanese language is composed of 45 syllables, each of which are pronounced the same way regardless of where they fall in a particular word.
- Chinese uses more kanji characters than Japanese but around 70-80% of the characters used in both languages are used to express similar meanings.
- Japanese has no grammatical gender, number, or articles
Japanese is effectively the sole language of the country, and almost all of the 128 million natives speak it. Although there are a number of dialects and accents around Japan, the essentially monolingual status that prevails here is quite rare, experts say. Several principal languages are widely spoken within the borders of most countries. According to Nagoya University linguistics professor Ken Machida, there are between 6,000 and 7,000 living languages in the world today, which, if evenly distributed, would break down to about 30 per country. Outside of Japan, 2.98 million people in 133 countries are studying the language at 13,639 institutions, according to a 2006 survey by the Japan Foundation. This number, up 26.4 percent from the previous survey in 2003, does not include people teaching themselves or taking private lessons.
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