So you want to learn Japanese? Chances are you are in for a long and bumpy ride. As well as the headaches associated with learning a European language, Japanese also has the added headache of around 2,000 written characters that need to be leaned, as well as a complex social system that dictates the way one should talk to others. Sound difficult? It is.
Below are five tips for increasing enjoyment of studying the language and maintaining study in difficult times.
1) Get a teacher
In the internet age, this is quite an unfashionable comment, but it’s completely true. Without a teacher, study can become less routine, mistakes can be reinforced through repetition and areas such as pronunciation can fall behind. Also, as an adult, there’s no reason a teacher should be any kind of authority figure, just a person there to help you with the language. The right teacher will be somebody that increases your enjoyment of study, and consequently, leads you to improve fast.
2) Write down why you want to study Japanese
Sound simple? It is. Too many times, a text book, method of study or unsuitable teacher will get in the way of a student progressing in Japanese. Want to learn the language to meet girls your age? Why are you studying with a teacher 30 years older than you then? Passion for manga? Don’t read essays on Japanese gardens. Fed up of studying? Check what you wrote down when you first started about reasons for studying. There’s a chance you have deviated from that path.
3) Adapt your study plan to subjects that interest you
Just like point one, this is as simple as it sounds. Speak to friends, check the internet or ask a teacher to focus on what you are interested in. Particularly at more advanced levels, Japanese can become a turgid affair in which the vast amount of vocabulary Japanese students have to learn can become somewhat stressful. But if there is work in the field of, say, science, which ios of no interest to you, check online to try and find ways of making the subject interesting. Ask your teacher to do the same.
4) Don’t avoid the areas of the language you find most difficult
Most people that study Japanese are weaker at either reading, writing, speaking or listening. (Mostly writing because we all type these days). But particularly while studying at a foundation and basic level, it is essential to make good progress in all areas. By the time you are at intermediate level, and the kanji are getting more frequent, the grammar beginning to sound similar and the pace of spoken study materials is speeding up, having a good grounding in all areas is essential.
5) Make Japanese friends
Perhaps the most obvious tip. Japanese people have a reputation for being shy and quiet that is somewhat deserved, some of the time. But in other countries, the chances are any Japanese you meet will be more than happy to hear somebody speaking their language. Here in Japan, there are also plenty of people looking to socialize with people from other countries. And if when you first try and don’t hit it off with a person, find someone else. Within a few weeks of socializing with a Japanese person, you will realize just how wide the chasm between text book and spoken Japanese is. You’ll also likely learn some swear words.
Photo by Kanko*