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How Do I Start Learning Japanese?

Are you just not feeling this whole “Japanese” business? That’s probably because you’re stuck in a rut as far as learning the language is concerned. Don’t worry; you’re not the only one.

Japanese can be a struggle to learn more, especially when you get to the parts that require a more immersive experience as opposed to technical knowledge. Luckily for you, there is a way to get yourself unstuck and back to the path you’ve set—a path you wouldn’t have strayed from in the first place had you had the opportunity to follow the Japanese learning tips we’re about to present today.

Beginner Tips for Learning Japanese

Carve out a smoother path towards learning Japanese by incorporating the following elements into your journey:

Set Goals

What does “learning Japanese” mean to you? Do you simply want to learn the basics so you can understand Japanese anime better, or do you seek to give Japanese natives a run for their money in speaking their own language?

Each goal entails entirely different routes. Once you have a clearer picture of your objective, you can draft a blueprint towards achieving it most efficiently.

Regardless of your current position, experience in foreign language learning will always be a plus. That’s because you’ll have an idea of what’s to come and arm yourself with the necessary contingency plans for dealing with hiccups down the road.

You can also set achievable goals and not set your expectations too high. This can go a long way towards helping you see your journey through.

Also, remember always to set a specific goal. A vague objective like “I want to master everything.” is less likely to get you anywhere compared to a specified goal such as “I want to be able to read this book in Japanese by the end of the year.

Setting fixed goals helps you take better note of your progress, which is the biggest motivator. Nevertheless, the path to fluency is a tough one. A clear goal might help get you there, but it won’t be able to on its own. Enter the next factors that can help ease your progress in Japanese language learning.

Seek a Master

Although self-study is a method proven to work for learning a foreign language, it does not apply to every student. Do you know what is, though? Learning the language from a master or a teacher.

You can find a fluent Japanese speaker to teach you in a university. Of course, if you’re not in college yet, the options might not be that plentiful. The next best thing is to take a class online or in-person, depending on which is available or more practical.

An actual teacher can help you build a strong foundation in Japanese grammar. That way, when you eventually study on your own or get to the immersive part of the learning process, it’ll be easier for you to adjust.

You will rarely find someone who wasn’t born and raised in Japan who speaks fluent Japanese without at least attending a couple of dozen classes. A huge part of language learning is about immersion—you actually have to converse and interact with the language’s best speakers.

Make Friends With People Who Speak the Language Well

Preferably, you’d want to make friends with Japanese natives. However, since this isn’t an option available to everyone, you can start by making friends with a fellow Japanese student. Then, you can agree on conversing using the language so that you get to practice what you’ve learned.

In case you insist on working with a native in your language journey, you can find willing volunteers online for the right exchange. You just have to figure out an arrangement that works well for you both.

Don’t Translate Word for Word

Not even in English to a variety of regional English does word-for-word translation work all the time. It’s even less applicable when you translate from a language that originated from the other side of the globe.

Sure, during the first stages of learning Japanese, direct translation may work. However, if this is the kind of learning pattern you’re used to, it would make it extremely difficult to adjust to the immersive stage of learning. It’s also this kind of learning behavior that makes you sound like a toddler just beginning to learn the ropes of his or her language when speaking Japanese.

Better than direct translation is understanding the expression. Instead of focusing on the technicalities of a word or phrase, learn the scenarios it’s commonly used in. This should give you a much better idea of its correct usage.

Focus on Your Journey

This is your journey and not anybody else’s, so stick to the pace that works for you. We mentioned having a goal earlier, but make sure that goal is set to your desired pace. This is what keeps you from burning out and losing motivation to learn Japanese early on.

If you want to take things slow and have more fun in your journey, that would be even better. Finding a way to study efficiently is good, but don’t obsess over it. It’ll take years to achieve fluency in Japanese, regardless of whether you study a couple of hours a day or a few times a week.

It’s good to be passionate from start to finish, but injecting too much passion into the beginning stages of your journey is likely to burn you out. Ease up every once in a while. You might even realize after doing so that it’s what you needed to get your groove back all along.

A Little Traveling Might Do You Some Good

Who doesn’t want to travel to Japan? Certainly not anyone looking to learn Japanese efficiently. Traveling to the country of origin is not only the best way to learn a language, but it’s also the most holistic path towards learning their culture. Like in any other country, Japan’s language and culture are intertwined in a way that makes learning one critical to studying the other.