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What’s The Best Way To Learn Japanese?

Japanese is one of the most difficult languages to learn in the world. Therefore, you will need to work really hard in order to master this language. It may take you years before you can be fluent in it, but don’t be discouraged! You can fasten your learning time as well as make it fun whenever you learn Japanese if you know how to learn it effectively. Now, let’s check this “Things to do” blog out for the best way to learn Japanese!

Basics About The Japanese Language

Unlike English that has only twenty-six letters, Japanese has three different writing systems which are Hiragana, Katakana and Kanji.

Hiragana is the basic of all the Japanese writing systems and you must master it to learn the language. It consists of forty-six characters that represent every sound of the Japanese language and are syllabic with the basic vowels in English except for the character standing for ‘n’.

Similar to Hiragana, Katakana also has forty-six characters that have the same syllabic sounds. However, Hiragana and Katakana are different in shape. While Hiragana is more cursive, Katakana is more angular and straight.

Kanji is the third writing system of the Japanese language and it is very challenging to remember. There are more than 50,000 Kanji, but only about 3000 of them are common in daily use. Unlike Hiragana and Katakana, Kanji represents meaning rather than sound.

best way to learn Japanese
In order to find the best way to learn Japanese, you should know the basics about the language first

Best Way To Learn Japanese

So, what is the best way to learn Japanese? The best way to learn is through practice, repetition and dedication. If you spend time, put your effort into learning Japanese and follow these tips, you will be able to master the language.

1. Learn Hiragana And Katakana

Hiragana and Katakana are two basic Japanese phonetic alphabets that you need to learn when you first approach the Japanese language.

First of all, you learn Hiragana and then move on to Katakana. But why should you do that? Well, you know Hiragana is the general alphabet and it is the deciding factor for your achieving Japanese proficiency. Hiragana performs a variety of functions in Japanese, namely modifying Kanji’s meanings, adding grammatical structure to sentences, showing the pronunciation of unusual Kanji characters and writing words that don’t have Kanji of their own. Therefore, it is really important to learn Hiragana.

Learning this alphabet can be hard at first, but you can turn it into an easy task if you know the right way to learn it. A recommended method to learn Hiragana is to use mnemonics, which are images serving as a memory aid to help you remember the Hiragana symbols. Besides, you should also do exercises or play fun games online to really imprint those symbols in your brain.

Hiragana and Katakana are two basic Japanese alphabets that you need to learn when you first approach the Japanese language

2. Listen To Podcasts

The best way to learn Japanese is by listening to podcasts. This way is not only fun but also useful as it helps you get used to the language. You can go to the Internet, download Japanese audio files, and try to listen to them whenever you can. On your way to work or school or when you do chores, you can open a podcast and listen to it.

Listening to podcasts is not only fun but also useful as it helps you get used to the language

Here are some Japanese podcasts recommended for you:

  • News In Slow Japanese: This website provides a wide range of topics such as news, sports, culture, and entertainment. These topics are all discussed in clear and simple Japanese so that you can understand every single word. Listening to the podcasts in “News In Slow Japanese” every day can lead to a big boost in your lexical resource. In addition, pop-up translations for difficult words and readings of Kanji are also available on the website.
  • Learn Japanese Pod: The podcasts on this channel are informal because they are just short conversations between Alex and Asuka, a native Japanese speaker. What is said in each audio is explained by both of them to help with your vocabulary and grammar. Besides, the channel also provides scripts of the conversations.
  • JapanesePod101: With around three thousand audio lessons and video tutorials, JapanesePod101 is one of the greatest podcast series for Japanese learners. It is quite easy for you to understand the podcasts because of clear pronunciation.
  • Japanese LingQ: There are thousands of conversations about a wide range of topics in real Japanese on the channel. You can choose podcasts in the format of interviews, features and audiobook excerpts. It is free to listen to the podcasts, but you can also pay for a membership so as to get other advantages such as flashcards, vocabulary lists, progress trackers and web browser extensions.

3. Use Flashcards

Using flashcards is the easiest way to learn Japanese in terms of memorizing Kanji. You can make your own flashcards or use an app or a website to help.

Anki is a suggested app for you. This app will help you remember the Kanjis you’ve learned better with the use of flashcards and the spaced repetition method. You should learn five different Kanjis each day, then put them in the flashcards and try to remember them the next day plus learning five more Kanjis. Anki will analyze which Kanjis you find difficult to remember and will show them to you more often in order that you can memorize them.

Additionally, Wanikani is also a good flashcard site for Kanji memorization.

best way to learn Japanese
Using flashcards is the easiest way to learn Japanese in terms of memorizing Kanji

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4. Watch Japanese Programs With English Subtitles

Watching Japanese programs with English subtitles is an interesting way to learn Japanese. You can choose a TV show or an anime in Japanese with English subtitles to watch. If there are any words that you don’t know when watching those programs, you can note them down and then find out their meanings by saying them into a translation app like Google Translate.

This way will help you a lot in enhancing your vocabulary and you can learn both languages including Japanese and English if English is not your mother tongue.

Watching Japanese programs with English subtitles is an interesting way to learn Japanese

5. Use Japanese Subtitles

When you are better at Japanese, you can try to switch the English subtitles to Japanese while you watch Japanese programs. This may be challenging at first, but you will soon get used to the method if you keep doing it every day.

6. Read Manga Or Children’s Books

Reading manga (Japanese comics) or books for children is also considered the best way to learn Japanese. These stories often include Furigana, which is little Hiragana or Katakana characters next to each Kanji character so that they are very good for you to learn Japanese vocabulary as well as common Kanjis.

Reading manga or books for children is also considered the best way to learn Japanese

7. Join A Class Or Learn Online

If you are a Japanese beginner with no knowledge of Japanese, taking a class would be the best choice for you. You can find a teacher in your area, take part in a class in a Japanese language center or sign up for a Japanese class at a local college or university.

If you don’t have time to go to an offline class, learning Japanese online can be a perfect option. There are two great softwares, Rosetta Stone and Pimsleur that can help you to learn Japanese.

  • Rosetta Stone uses the immersion method, teaching you new words and simple sentences and then asking you to repeat them. The software can also assess your pronunciation with the speech recognition technology. What’s more, Rosetta Stone provides live tutoring and an online community with games and activities so that you can practice what you learn.
  • Pimsleur provides basic conversations among native speakers in the format of audios, so you can learn Japanese by listening to them. One great benefit of this computer program is that you can listen to the audios while you are doing other tasks such as commuting to work or doing household chores.
You can join an offline class or learn Japanese online with some useful softwares such as Rosetta Stone or Pimsleur

8. Sing Japanese Karaoke Songs

Singing karaoke is a relaxing way to learn Japanese. You can choose any Japanese songs that you like and sing them based on the subtitles. This way will not only help you practice your pronunciation but also enhance your vocabulary as well as your ability to understand the different layers of meaning of Japanese words.

best way to learn Japanese
Singing karaoke is a relaxing way to learn Japanese

9. Get A Workbook

Getting Japanese workbooks is the best way to learn Japanese as they can help you better remember Hiragana, Katakana and Kanji characters as well as understand their meanings. Spending a short amount of time practicing each day, even only 20 minutes will be good when you learn Japanese.

Getting Japanese workbooks can help you better remember Hiragana, Katakana and Kanji characters as well as understand their meanings

10. Get An Online Tutor

Besides reading and writing, speaking Japanese is essential to achieve proficiency. If you cannot practice speaking Japanese yourself, you can do that with the help of online tutors such as Preply, Italki and Verbalplanet.

So, why is choosing an online tutor better than going to a regular language school to learn Japanese? Well, there are three main reasons for this. Firstly, you can get an online tutor with a reasonable price, which is about 15 dollars an hour. Secondly, you will not have to share the teacher’s attention with other students like in a regular language school. The online tutor will only focus on you. Thirdly, time is flexible when you learn with an online tutor. Instead of depending on the school’s schedule, you can set the date and time that you like with the tutor.

If you cannot practice speaking Japanese yourself, you can do that with the help of online tutors

11. Find A Language Exchange

If you are wondering “what is the best way to learn to speak Japanese?”, you will find the answer when reading this part. You know, finding a language exchange can be a great way to practice speaking Japanese. So, what does the “language exchange” here mean? It means finding Japanese speakers who want to practice their English. You can make a video call with them through Skype or any social network and spend half of the time speaking Japanese and the other half in English. Don’t think that this way will “waste” half of your time as it’s better than what you expect. Speaking with native speakers will help you a lot with your pronunciation and also improve your listening and speaking skills.

Finding a language exchange can be a great way to practice speaking Japanese

12. Join Japanese Learning Groups

Beside finding an online tutor or a language exchange, you can join some groups for Japanese learners to learn Japanese. In these groups, you can not only communicate with other Japanese speakers to practice your speaking skills but also find the best way to learn Japanese based on their sharings. Also, you can make new friends and have fun learning. You can choose either an offline group or an online one to join. Remember that the more you practice, the faster you’ll master the language.

Besides finding an online tutor or a language exchange, you can join some groups for Japanese learners to learn Japanese

13. Use A Good Dictionary

There’s a tool that cannot be missed mentioning when learning any language is a good dictionary. With the help of the dictionary, you can know how to pronounce a specific word in Japanese. In addition, you can use it to study grammar or enrich your vocabulary.

best way to learn Japanese
A good dictionary is a tool that cannot be missed mentioning when learning Japanese

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What Is The Best Way To Learn Japanese On Your Own?

If you cannot afford courses or don’t want to take lessons inside a classroom, you can study Japanese on your own with three following methods.

Firstly, you learn the basics of the Japanese language. This method includes:

  • Learning Japanese writing systems: As you know, there are three major writing systems in Japanese and you will need to study all of them. You should start with Hiragana, Katakana and then move on to Kanji.
  • Practicing Japanese pronunciation: The Japanese language has 46 sounds. Learning how to pronounce each character in Hiragana and Katakana will be the greatest way for you to study Japanese pronunciation.
  • Learning some key phrases: Along with learning Japanese writing systems and practicing the pronunciation, you can pick up some key phrases used in daily life such as: Konnichiwa (Hello), Sayonara (Goodbye), Hajime mashite (Nice to meet you), Arigatou gozaimasu (Thank you), Kudasai (Please – when you ask for something), Dozo (Please – when you offer something), Watashiwa genki desu (I’m fine), etc.
  • Learning grammatical rules: Japanese grammar and that of English are very different, so you cannot apply the grammatical rules of English to studying Japanese. The best way to learn Japanese in terms of grammar here is buying a Japanese workbook and follow its lessons. Besides, learning Japanese grammar through free apps such as Duolingo is also good.

Secondly, you practice the language by:

  • Spending more time learning the Japanese writing systems: Reading and writing are crucial for your understanding of Japanese, so you need to spend time learning all of the writing systems. It can take you a few weeks to learn Hiragana and Katakana, but Kanji will take you much longer.
  • Using flashcards: Using flashcards can be a fun way to enhance your vocabulary. You can buy or make them yourself at home.
  • Using online resources: There are a lot of free online resources that can help you learn and practice Japanese. You can try Duolingo or other resources like it and turn practicing Japanese into a daily habbit.
  • Talking with a native speaker: You can find an online language partner through some websites such as My Language Exchange or The Mixxer and keep practicing once or twice a week.

Thirdly, you experience Japanese in fun ways such as:

  • Watching movies: Japanese movies can not only help you relax but also give you chances to expose to a wide range of words including slangs.
  • Reading: In order to strengthen your vocabulary as well as explore Japanese culture, you can look for some Japanese books, comic books (manga) or newspapers to read.
  • Listening to Japanese radio: This can be a good way to practice your listening skills. What’s more, you can pick up many new words when listening to Japanese music with lyrics or Japanese talk radio.
  • Immersing yourself: If you have an opportunity like visiting Japan to immerse yourself in the language, you should definitely take it! This enables you to listen to authentic Japanese and speak to real Japanese people.

2. How Should A Beginner Learn Japanese?

If you want to learn how to speak Japanese and practice your listening skills, you can find the help of Pimsleur which is an audio course. Every lesson in the course starts with a conversation between a male and female speaker and then the conversation is broken into words, phrases and sentences so that you can repeat them. The nice thing about Pimsleur is that all you have to do is listen and repeat. However, you ought to repeat aloud the get the maximum benefit of the course.

To learn reading and writing, you can try Duolingo. It’s free and it can also help you to practice your pronunciation.

Watch the video below to get more tips for learning Japanese!

Conclusion

Hopefully, you have found the best way to learn Japanese after reading this blog. However, remember that perseverance and determination are also crucial besides the learning methods. If you have any questions about learning Japanese, feel free to leave your comments below!

About Yuu Sato

Yuu Hiasa has been working in hospitality industry since 2003. In the past, he used to work as a tour guide and now he is running his business of supplying comfortable accommodations in Japan. Thanks to this experience and his passion for writing blog, the articles by him provides awesome tips and things to do when you are traveling in the country of cherry blossoms.