How to Learn Japanese
It is frequently said that Japanese is one of the more
challenging languages to learn. This may be true, but the learning of
languages - no matter the degree of difficulty - is ultimately 'simple or
hard' depending on how you choose to go about doing it. Many people will get
in their own way when trying to learn a language, or attempt to do it
mechanically when they could engage with the lessons in a way that keeps
If you want to learn Japanese, the first thing you will need to know is that there are 3 different writing systems: hiragana, katakana and kanji. Hiragana and katakana are referred to as 'kana'. You can actually use kana characters to write everything you would ever need to. It is a good idea to learn hiragana before starting with katakana, and when you learn any of the symbols to do so with a sharp imagination. You can make the learning of Japanese symbols fun, or you can make it frustrating. For example, when learning the 46 symbols of the katakana alphabet, if all you see in front of you is a collection of dull, lifeless scribbles, then you'll probably get bored and give up. Attach the correct pronunciation as a sound in your mind for each as an association, and you're absorbing more by engaging more senses. When you see each symbol in front of you, you can train yourself to hear it in an amusing accent, as a male or female voice, as a baritone, tenor, soprano, etc. You're starting to make the language alive for you, and this will help you when you start to use it in a social situation.
Another fun way to start learning is to create your own Japanese immersion environment. Buy yourself one decent course (the Living Language series is always reliable) that includes audio tapes, and play it in your car or discman while on the bus, while you're cleaning, exercising, and surfing the internet. You may find this effective when coupled with more focused practice periods, and useful if you need to learn the language in a short period of time. Watching non-dubbed anime and Japanese films can help you get a sense of the rhythm of the language.
If you have a strong impulse to learn Japanese, don't be put off by the relative difficulty of the language! It always happens to us that we later regret shunning a challenge, as we eventually acknowledge that the greatest challenges both build the most character and reap the richest rewards.
About the Author
Wyatt Moore has travelled extensively and is a certified TESL teacher.
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