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How to Learn Japanese Today

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If, like many Americans, you have an interest in Japanese culture, and you want to explore its different aspects more in-depth, you should learn its fascinating language. Spoken by approximately 130 million people, Japanese has become increasingly popular in recent years thanks to the spread of Japan’s pop culture, and although most speakers are natives living in Japan, there’s a big community of bilingual people in the USA with whom you’ll be able to communicate once you master the language. In addition to making new friends who are as passionate about Japanese culture as you are, if you become a fluent speaker, you’ll get to access new exciting job opportunities all around the country and abroad, so if you’re currently in between jobs, or you want to change careers in the future, you should consider adding this skill to your CV as soon as possible.

Although it can be intimidating to learn a language that’s so different from English, with a little bit of dedication and the help of a qualified tutor you’ll be able to reach fluency in close to no time, so instead of wasting more time dreaming about being bilingual, sign up for a Japanese language course today and make the first step to becoming a fluent speaker. In case you’re completely new to the language, and want some tips and recommendations before you get started, keep reading this guide, and you’ll learn everything you need to know to study Japanese more effectively and avoid the most common mistakes learners tend to make!

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1. Why Learn Japanese Today

If you want to become bilingual, but lack the motivation to do the hard work that’s needed to achieve your goals, you should take a look at some of the most important reasons for learning this beautiful language.

To Visit Japan

Although you certainly don’t need to speak Japanese to travel to Japan, being able to communicate fluently there will allow you to enjoy your trip much more. To begin with, you won’t have to depend on a guide or a translator to move around the country, and you won’t have to worry about finding natives that speak English, which will give you a wonderful sense of freedom to explore areas that most tourists miss. On top of that, speaking the language will allow you to talk to locals and find out all sorts of facts about life in Japan, their traditions, and their worldview overall, so if you’re interested in making some Japanese friends and getting to know their culture more deeply, don’t hesitate to learn this wonderful language.

To Advance Your Career

Are you looking for ways to advance your career? If so, you should learn Japanese, as once you’re bilingual, you’ll become eligible for amazing corporate jobs in companies such as SoftBank, Mitsubishi Power Americas, and Toyota. Even if you’re not interested in getting a new job, learning a foreign language is a great way to take your career to the next level, as most employers value employees who learn other languages and see them as assets, so it will increase your chances of getting a promotion. On the other hand, if you own a business in the USA, and are looking of ways of getting new clients and access international markets, learning Japanese is a wonderful idea, as you’ll be able to network with other businesspeople from different parts of the world and get all sorts of opportunities.

To Enjoy More Your Favorite Anime and Manga

If you’re a big anime or manga fan, becoming a fluent speaker is a great idea, as you’ll be able to enjoy your favorite shows and read all the comics you like in their original language, and understand many of the cultural references, jokes and word play that usually gets lost in translation. What’s more, you’ll be able to enjoy new shows and comics that don’t get translated into English, and you’ll get the chance to join all sorts of online communities where natives talk about all the anime and manga they love, so if you want to expand your knowledge on this matter and make new friends who share your passion, don’t spend one more day being monolingual!

2. Is Japanese Easy to Learn?

Even though learning Japanese can be daunting given how different it is from English, it’s one of the best decisions you can make, as it will allow you to have a newly found appreciation for the Japanese culture and people. However, you should know that reaching fluency will take time, and a lot of hard work on your part, as you’ll have to learn three different writing systems that are very different from the Roman alphabet we use in English, and get used to grammar structures that rely heavily on cultural context. As challenging as it might be, it can be immensely rewarding, as it will open up the opportunity to discover a wonderful culture and make close friendships with people from all around the globe, so make the first step in your journey to fluency today and all of your efforts will pay off!

3. Tips to Learn Japanese More Effectively

Learning Japanese will not happen overnight, but there are many things you can do to achieve all your language goals in less time. Don’t believe us? Then take a look at some of these tips and recommendations to learn Japanese more effectively.

Take a Language Level Test

The first thing you should do if you want to become a fluent Japanese speaker is to take a language level test, especially if you studied the language in the past. This will allow you to know how good your skills really are, and help you find a language course and materials in the right level. On top of that, knowing your current level means you’ll be able to track your progress in the following months, which is a great to stay motivated in the long run. On our website, we offer a completely FREE Japanese Level Test that you can take as many times as you want, so head over there, complete all 70 questions, and you’ll get a result sent to your e-mail that you can use to find the most suitable lessons.

Find a Language Trainer

Want to master Japanese in close to no time? Then make sure you find a Japanese tutor who can help you stay motivated through the whole process and is able to create a learning plan that’s based on your interests and goals. Having a teacher will help you make progress much more quickly, as you’ll be able to ask as many questions as you want, and have someone to practice your conversation skills every week. On top of that, you’ll get to find out a lot of interesting things about Japanese culture that only native speakers know, and study with some of the best updated materials that are available right now, which will have a great impact on the speed in which you learn the language.

Learn Hiragana First

To read and write in Japanese, you’ll need to learn three different writing systems called hiragana, katakana and kanji. While hiragana and katakana represent the sounds of Japanese, kanji characters are used to represent entire words, and because of that, it’s much harder to learn. Although it might be tempting to learn kanji right away, you should start by mastering hiragana, which will only take you about a month and will allow you to understand Japanese pronunciation really quickly and read most Japanese coursebooks. On top of that, hiragana is used to write furigana, which is a reading aid that’s really helpful for Japanese learners, as it will help you know how to pronounce kanji characters.

Immerse in Japanese As Much As Possible

An easy way of improving your listening skills and expanding your vocabulary is to immense in Japanese language and culture as much as you can every day. Fortunately, you don’t need to move to Japan to do this, instead, you can create a home immersion environment by listening to Japanese music and podcasts, watching Japanese shows, documentaries, dramas and anime, and doing other things like switching your phone and other gadgets to Japanese. You can also look out for events that celebrate Japanese culture near you, like movie screenings, festivals and art expositions, and visit local restaurants that specialize in sushi and other traditional Japanese dishes. The more you do to surround yourself by Japanese culture, the faster you learn and the more motivated you’ll feel, so try to do this from day one.

Find Native Speakers to Chat With

One of the keys to becoming a fluent speaker fast is to practice your language skills as much as possible from day one. To do this, you can attend language exchange events in your city, or join one of the free online communities of Japanese learners in websites like Meetup or Interpals, where you’ll find plenty of Japanese people willing to teach you about their language and culture in exchange for you helping them improve their English. In addition to improving your language skills, this is a fun way of expanding your social life and meeting other language enthusiasts near you, so even if you still can’t hold a basic conversation in Japanese yet, don’t miss the chance to socialize with like-minded people.

4. Resources to Learn Japanese

Want to develop your language skills in the comfort of your own home? If so, you should check out some of the following resources.

Language Learning Apps

If you are starting to learn Japanese from scratch and want to learn the basics before signing up for a language course, you should begin by using any of the many amazing language apps available. One of the main advantages of doing this is that you’ll get to set the pace of your learning, which can make learning a challenging language like Japanese much less intimidating, as you’ll get to take lessons as many times as you want. On top of this, using apps allows you to learn what’s relevant to you, which means you’ll get to head to specific lessons that interest you right away, making expanding your Japanese skills much more entertaining and personalized.

There are many apps you can try, but here are some of our top picks.

• If you’re tired of using apps that present new words and phrases without context, you should try LingoDeer, which will allow you to expand your vocabulary by watching short videos of native speakers using expressions that the Japanese say in real life. Another useful feature of this app is that it allows you to turn on furigana, a Japanese reading aid which will help you study kanji much more easily, so as you can see, LingoDeer is an excellent option for you to develop many of the skills you need to communicate fluently in the language.

• Do you enjoy using flashcards? If so, you should try Anki, an app that allows you to import kanji from some of the most popular Japanese textbooks and turn them into flashcards. Using this app is excellent if you struggle to memorize Japanese characters, or if you feel like you have a very limited vocabulary, so if you have any of these problems, give it a try.

• Nowadays, there’s no point in carrying around heavy Japanese dictionaries. Instead, you can just download apps like Imiwa or Japanese by Renzo Inc., where you can look up any word you want using romanji or Japanese characters, and find grammatically correct sentences that illustrate how to use them.

Podcasts in Japanese

A great way of working on your listening skills and picking up new phrases is to listen to podcasts in Japanese. If you’re a complete beginner, you can start by checking out podcasts like Japanese Swotter, NHK Easy Japanese or FUN Japanese Listening, which have plenty of episodes specifically aimed for people who want to learn their first words in the language. On the other hand, if you’re already an intermediate or advanced student, you might want to listen to podcasts like Learn Japanese with Noriko, Nihongo con Teppei, or Nihongo no Tane, where you’ll get to listen to native speakers talk about more complex subjects and use more advanced grammar, so if you’re ready to take your skills to the next level, give any of these shows a chance, and you won’t regret it.

Websites to Read in Japanese

Reading hiragana, katakana, and kanji can be daunting at first, but mastering these three types of characters is key to become a fluent speaker, so you should try to read in Japanese as much as possible from day one. To help you do that, here are some websites that will help you improve your reading skills for free.

• If you’re a beginner, and you’re still learning how to read hiragana, you should check out Tadoku, where you’ll find many free picture books that have basic vocabulary and are very easy to understand. Another great website you should look at is Hakumusume, which features plenty of traditional Japanese children’s stories, and many of them have audio tracks, so you’ll get to hear a native read the text for you. On the other hand, if you are not really interested in children’s stories, you should read CosComNews, a great website that features news and weather forecasts in simple Japanese that’s perfect to learn useful words and phrases that you can use in everyday conversations.

• Already have an intermediate level? Then you should take a look at Matcha, a Japanese travel and culture magazine that features many interesting articles about Japan, and is translated to 10 different languages, so you’ll get to read the original articles in Japanese and their English translations. You can also read Watanoc, a very interesting website where you’ll find articles about food, events and Japanese culture of different lengths and levels, so it’s great for both pre-intermediate and upper-intermediate students.

• If you’re an advanced Japanese speaker, you should read materials that are written for native speakers, like NHK, Japan’s national broadcaster, where you’ll find the most relevant news about the country. Alternatively, if you’re interested in literature, you should check out Aozora Bunko and Project Gutenberg, where you’ll find free digital copies of out-of-copyright books written in Japanese.

5. Key Japanese Phrases

Are you traveling to Japan anytime soon? If so, you should take some time to memorize the following phrases, which will allow you to get by more efficiently and have better interactions with people at hotels, restaurants, and city tours.

English Version Rōmaji Japanese Version
Hello Konnichiwa こんにちは
Can you speak English? Eigo wo hanase masu ka? 英語を話せますか?
Thank you Arigatou gozaimasu ありがとうございます
You’re welcome Dou itashi mashite どういたしまして
Excuse me Sumimasen すみません
Yes Hai はい
No Iie いいえ
Please Onegai shimasu お願いします
I understand Wakari mashita わかります
I don’t understand Wakari masen わかりません
My name is… Watashi no namae wa _____ desu 私の名前は___です
What is your name? Anata no onamae wa nandesuka? あなたのお名前は何ですか
Could you repeat that, please? Mou ichido onegai shimasu もう一度お願いします
How do I go to ____? ____ ni wa dou yatte ikemasuka ___にはどうやって行けますか
Turn left/right Hidari/migi ni magaru 左/右に曲がる
Please take me to _____. ____ ni tsurete itte kudasai ___に連れて行ってください
Is it near? Koko kara chikai desuka ここから近いですか
Can you take a picture for me please? Shashin wo totte morae masuka 写真をとってもらえますか
How much is this? Kore wa ikura desuka これはいくらですか
Cheap Yasui 安い
Expensive Takai 高い
Free Muryou 無料
Can I pay with a credit card? Kaado de harae masuka カードで払えますか
Where can I exchange money? Ryougae wa doko de dekimasuka 両替はどこでできますか
Goodbye Sayounara さようなら

Memorising these phrases will help you have basic interactions with people you meet in Japan, and this will certainly make your trip more enjoyable. However, if you truly want to take your language skills to the next level, and communicate like a true native, the smartest thing you can do is sign up for a language course in Language Trainers! Whether you’re looking for face-to-face lessons at your house, or online classes using Skype, Zoom or Google Meet, contact us today, and we’ll match you with one of our excellent Japanese tutors! What makes our language courses stand out from the rest is that they’re completely flexible and personalised to our students interests and goals, so regardless of your requirements, we’ll have one of our trainers tailor a course to adapt to your every need!

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