learn Japanese from a beginner

Learn Japanese From Beginner to Advanced [Essential Guide]

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Writer based in Japan.
Loves how learning languages opens our mind to see the world differently and helps bridging the cultural gap among people.

Learning Japanese is like embarking on a wonderful journey through time and culture, one that changes how you view the world and that deepens your understanding of Japan and Japanese society.

How to Learn Japanese - Essential Guide
Image from Unsplash

If you are on this page, you are probably at the premises of your studies, looking for the proper introduction to get you started. Or maybe you’ve tried to study Japanese in the past, but you lacked the structure to stay on track and keep on learning. Are you worried you’ll never succeed in going from zero to advanced Japanese? 

Leave your worries behind and continue reading this essential guide on how to learn Japanese. By the end of this article, you’ll have everything you need to dive into your studies and reach Japanese fluency. 

 

A Little Background on Amélie-Marie Nishizawa

I’m a student coordinator based in Tokyo, working with Japanese language schools. I’m born in France and early on, had a deep passion for learning new languages. At school, I learned English, but also Russian and Spanish. 

When I moved to Japan in 2013, I barely knew how to speak Japanese. True story! Not knowing Japanese beyond greetings is a major obstacle to enjoying life in Japan, to meet people, and find work. 

So I started learning Japanese, at first by myself, then I went to a language school for three months of intense cramming. Four months after settling in Tokyo, I passed the JLPT N4, the second level of the Japanese proficiency test, six months later, I successfully passed the next level, the JLPT N3. An additional year with private lessons helped me finally rock the JLPT N2. 

To sum up, it took me about 2 years to become fluent enough to work for a Japanese company. 

With this essential guide, I hope to help you by sharing the fruits of my own learning experience, handing you a roadmap to get started as a beginner. 

 

Essential Questions Before You Start Learning Japanese

You are probably excited to jump right into your studies. But I feel important for you to first ask yourself some essential questions before you start learning Japanese.

  • What’s motivating you?
  • Is Japanese hard to learn?
  • How long does it take to learn Japanese?

Why Do You Want to Learn Japanese? 

When you learn Japanese, your experience is not linear. You have some ups and downs. I’ve been there! 

Understanding your motivations and having a clear vision of your goals are key to stay on course with your studies. Your goals will carry you through hard times when you feel like giving up and ditching your learning app. Here are a few of the main reasons people start learning Japanese. 

  • Studies & Career: Japan offers plenty of opportunities to pursue your education or your career. But knowing Japanese is often required for study programs and employers. There are very down to earth reasons to start learning Japanese, however,  they offer the advantage to set concrete goals such as passing the JLPT or the BJT. 
  • Japanese pop culture: Japanese animation, manga, J-drama and J-pop inspire a lot of fans, myself included!, to learn Japanese. What can be more rewarding than to rediscover your favorite work with an in-depth understanding of what’s written or said? The pleasure of not relying on translation or subtitles is a powerful motivation to remain focused on your studies.
How to Learn Japanese - Essential Guide
Credit: Studio Ghibli
  • Traveling in Japan: Traveling in Japan, when you can read signs, menus and speak with the locals, is an eye-opening experience. The excitement of being able to exchange with Japanese people, the confidence you can explore Japan off the beaten path, not missing out on cultural experiences can encourage you to stick to your Japanese studies. 
  • Love, challenge and all the other valid reasons to learn Japanese: Have you met someone special? Or do you have Japanese ancestry perhaps? It can also be a personal challenge you throw yourself, trying to learn something entirely new. Maybe you’re a polyglot wannabe, passionate about linguistics and eager to add Japanese to the long list of languages you love. 

Truth be told, I think there are as many valid reasons to learn Japanese as there are learners! The take-away point is that keeping in mind your targets and setting some milestones fuel your motivation to go through difficult times. 

Let’s now have a brief overview of what you’re getting into when you start learning Japanese. 

 Is learning Japanese (that) hard? 

 

How Hard Is It to Learn Japanese? 

I think that’s a hard question – pun intended! 

How to Learn Japanese - Essential Guide
Screenshot of Wolf Children, Credit: Mamoru Hosoda

Objectively, the US Department of State considers Japanese to be super-hard to learn for native English speakers and Japanese labeled Category IV next to Arabic and Chinese.

I personally believe no language is inherently difficult and it’s just a matter of time to get used to it. Of course, take a peek at advanced level contents and you’ll be scared by the complex concepts that do not resemble your native tongue at all. The big picture makes the Japanese language appear hard to learn. 

But the difficulty level, in my opinion, is influenced by factors tied to you, as a learner. 

Have you studied foreign languages before? 

I’m a firm believer that you have what it takes to learn a new language. But learning is a skill that needs to be nurtured. If you have studied a second language in the past, you are aware of what learning a new foreign language entails: consistency, practice, time, memory and the desire to challenge yourself with new concepts. You may have to revisit your native tongue’s grammar too. 

If you are new to language learning, then Japanese will appear difficult because you are building both your ability to learn new things and Japanese language skills at the same time. 

  • Focus not only on Japanese but also on language learning itself.
  • The earlier you stop translating everything into your native tongue, the faster and better you will learn. 

What’s your mindset when you are studying?

The biggest obstacle to learning Japanese is maybe yourself. I mentioned before how crucial knowing your motivations is. In the same line of thought, you need to be open minded and focused. Are you fully rested and concentrated when you are studying Japanese? If so, you progress easily. 

But if you are unmotivated, rushing to get your lessons done, learning Japanese feels like climbing a mountain. 

  • Take a minute to assess how motivated and eager to learn you are. If you are not, consider a break or take this opportunity to do some easy review.

This leads us to another key question. How long does it take to learn Japanese?

 

Reality Check: How Long Does It Take to Learn Japanese? 

As a Japanese school student coordinator, that’s a question students often ask me. I think there’s no definite answer because like for the difficulty of learning Japanese, the time it takes you to get to fluency depends on your goals, how often you study and how you study. 

Here again, a good reference to start with is the US Department of State’s language learning timeline. Based on their extensive experience, they estimate you need 2200 class hours to fluently understand and speak Japanese. That’s roughly 88 weeks of learning and we’re talking about straight-A students, studying every day. 

Japanese language schools’ courses are set for 2 full academic years because Japanese scholars believe 2 years of studies are needed from an absolute beginner level to pass the JLPT N2.

In practice, students managing to pass JLPT N2 in a year and JLPT N1 in 2 years are not unheard of. But as you can guess, the majority does need about 2 to 3 years of studies or longer to reach high fluency.

Alright, now that we’ve established some ground base, let’s move on to what you need to know to get started.

 

Getting Started as an Absolute Japanese Beginner

If you are brand new to the learning community, aka an absolute Japanese beginner, let’s review the foundations you need to start learning Japanese. 

(Do you have some rough knowledge of how the Japanese language works? A little bit of review never hurts, but you can skip and move on to don’ts and dos with your studies.)

The Very First Step: Hiragana and Katakana

Contrary to English, which uses the Latin alphabet (i.e 26 letters), the Japanese language has three different writing systems

The first two scripts you need to focus your attention on are the Hiragana and Katakana.

  • Hiragana and Katakana are syllabaries. Every character represents a syllable called a ‘kana’.
  • There are two sets of 46 kana, each hiragana having a correspondent katakana.
  • Kana are always pronounced the same way. 
  • Kana have a specific stroke order.

Bookmark our article on the differences between hiragana and katakana to know more about their history later on. Here’s a quick summary.

 

What are Hiragana and Katakana used for?

The Hiragana writing system is used to write kanji pronunciation and words for which there is no kanji, as well as all the grammatical words and conjugation inflexions for verbs and adjectives

  • Hiragana are round like cursive letters

Katakana, however, are used mostly for foreign words, scientific words and phonetic notation. Check Hiroki’s Japanese lesson to understand further how to set them apart. 

  • Katakana are sharp print font like

Which script should you learn first? 

It goes without saying that both writing systems are needed to read Japanese so you can’t skip one or the other. Since the Hiragana writing system is the most commonly used and essential to learn basic grammar, I suggest you start with them first. 

Ultimately, you should learn both right from the beginning and in a short amount of time, not to lose your momentum!hiragana vs katakana

When learning Hiragana and Katakana, practice Japanese basic pronunciation too!

Studying the kana is like doing a 4D puzzle. You learn how to:

  • Read them
  • Handwrite them
  • Pronounce them
  • Type them

Mastering Japanese pronunciation right from the beginning will help you a lot as you progress, especially if you’re a native English speaker. An app like Lingodeer can help you with that. 

A way to have fun memorizing the kana is to master how to type Hiragana & Katakana on your computer or your smartphone. Setting your keyboard is very easy, so save this quick intro to typing in Japanese for another time.

Let’s now review Japanese’s third writing system, the Kanji. 

 

What Is Kanji and How to Learn It 

Kanji are based on Chinese characters, imported around the fifth century AD when Japan only had a spoken language. It’s the most used writing system in Japanese: 

  • Kanji are said to be ideograms, but if we want to be really precise, they’re actually “logograms”. Kanji represent words, concepts or ideas, but not a specific sound.
  • Kanji’s representation can change depending on other kanji they’re matched with. 
  • Japanese has a limited amount of syllables (5 vowels and 13 consonants), so kanji allows speakers to distinguish words by meaning rather than pronunciation and help differentiate homonyms.
    How to Learn Japanese - Essential Guide
    Image from Unsplash

Are you wondering if you need to learn kanji? The answer, unfortunately, is yes. Kanji are an important component of Japanese language

  • Kanji are used to write nouns, adjectives and verbs, so you have to learn them.
  • There are over 50,000 kanji, but luckily you only need to learn approximately 2,000 to pass the JLPT N1 and be considered fluent in Japanese. An average educated Japanese adult knows about 3,000 of them. 

This brings us to the next logical question. 

How do I learn Kanji?

I know firsthand how daunting learning kanji appears to beginners, especially for students who have no kanji knowledge. Learning kanji requires time, discipline, practice and strategy. 

Let me share a few tips: 

  • Like kana, kanji characters have a specific stroke order which you need to memorize at first. Don’t skip this part! You can refer to sci.lang.japan How Does Kanji Stroke Order Works.
  • There are thousands of kanji, but they are composed of only 216 radicals. Learning the radicals at first, what they represent and their stroke order, will give you solid foundations in kanji understanding.
  • Some consider this method old-school, but handwriting kanji regularly helps a lot with memorization. The key is not so much to write them a lot, but to be mindful when you write them, paying attention to their meaning and their stroke orders. 
  • Each time you learn a new kanji, check its radicals and make sure you also memorize its readings.
  • Mnemonics are your best friends. If you can get a copy of James W. Heisig legendary Remembering the Kanji, you’ll be on the right track to associate about 3,000 kanji with memorable stories.

Ultimately, drilling yourself on a regular basis is the only way to ensure you memorize all the kanji you need to know. The LingoDeer app features a fun and efficient kanji drilling function that can help you learn to write 100 frequently used Kanji characters.

Kanji Character writing practice

You know how to write Japanese, so let’s proceed with a brief review of Japanese grammar and sentence structure. 

 

Basic Japanese Grammar and Sentence Structure

The first thing you notice when you learn Japanese is that the word order of a Japanese sentence looks like the exact opposite of what a sentence looks like in English. 

How to Learn Japanese - Essential Guide
The basic sentence structure of the Japanese is different from that of English.

Without going too far into linguistic concepts, just memorize that Japanese is a SOV, Subject-Object-Verb, language, whereas English is a SVO, Subject-Verb-Object, language.

Don’t let this difference intimidate you! The word order is different, but the Japanese sentence structure isn’t hard at all to get used to. Building a Japanese sentence is like doing some mind gymnastics. 

Here’s essentially what you can find in a Japanese sentence: 

  • Particles: they are short suffixes assigning grammatical function to nouns, adjectives and verbs. 
  • Nouns: they’ll stay the same, no matter what. There’s no plural, no gender, no articles in Japanese!
  • Verbs: they’re divided into 3 groups, with little exceptions and a limited number of conjugation forms.
  • Adjectives: they’re divided into 2 groups, and can be inflected like verbs.

I think it’s time you now learn some common Japanese phrases, just so you can familiarize yourself a bit more with how Japanese sounds and works. 

 

Learn the most common Japanese phrases

Learning common Japanese phrases help boost your confidence as a beginner in Japanese. I call this the “survival mode” of Japanese. While these phrases are very basic, they’re used all the time. 

  • Common Japanese phrases can help you get by during a trip in Japan.
  • Knowing greetings and polite phrases please native speakers and offer a starting point for real practice.
  • You can effectively speak Japanese, even if you are not yet familiar with grammar! 

We have listed 42 Japanese phrases that you can start with and you’ll find more resources at the end of this guide. 

 

Beware of these Challenges in Learning Japanese

For a lot of beginners, the writing system appears challenging at first. But I think that building your understanding of kana and kanji, as time-consuming and memory demanding as it may be, is not really tricky. Consistent practice gets you a long way into learning Japanese. 

Here are the main challenges in learning Japanese that I think you need to pay attention to as you advance in your Japanese studies. 

Politeness and honorifics

Japanese people are praised for being excessively polite and mindful of others. This respect is deeply ingrained in Japanese language and reflected in how they speak.

How to Learn Japanese - Essential Guide
Image from iStock
  • You do not address the same way your family, boss or clients. In time, you need to understand the honorific speech system (called “keigo”). 
  • Casual language: for friends, family, close coworkers, younger people or people the same age as you. 
  • Keigo system: Keigo encompasses several speeches, the “polite language” or masu-form, the “respectful language” and the “humble language”. 

Beginners should focus their attention on casual and polite languages first. Beyond speeches, politeness is also expressed with: 

  • A limited number of special “respectful verbs” that are required in certain social settings.
  • Word beautification: modifying words by adding the prefixes o or go  to make them sound more refined. 

Finally, you should also beware of honorific suffixes that you add to people’s names to refer to their polity. Check LingoDeer’s Guide to Japanese honorifics to know more. 

Japanese Verb Conjugation

While the Japanese verb conjugation system is relatively straightforward with few exceptions, it doesn’t resemble English at all. The lack of proximity with how verbs work in English can easily throw off a beginner, hence I view learning conjugation as a challenge you need to be mindful of. 

  • You have 3 verb groups and you need to learn each group’s characteristics. 
  • Japanese has a limited number of conjugation forms (14), these forms are different for each verb group. 
  • Japanese verbs do not conjugate with the subject, but with tenses and formality. 

Get yourself on the right path by learning all you need to know with our guide to Japanese verb conjugation. 

Counters

Correctly Counting in Japanese was my personal pet peeve when I was a beginner and living in Japan, I can tell you that native speakers struggle with “counters” too. 

  • Counters are Japanese measure words you combine with numbers to count people, animals, things, actions, frequency and time, allowing you to say “two cats”, “three houses” or “5 people”.
  • Japanese numbers alone cannot help you count stuff, so you have no other choice but to learn counters. 
  • Japanese language counts around 500 counters, but you only have to learn commonly used counters. 
  • Every time you learn a new counter, you must check if this counter changes some numbers’ readings: this is often the case for numbers 1 to 10. The changes follow certain rules that are consistent, but you need to beware of exceptions. 

The path to Japanese language mastery is a long one and you don’t want to hinder your progress with bad habits. 

 

Don’ts in Learning Japanese as a Beginner

Some major don’ts in learning Japanese as a beginner are very tempting, but they end up being a disservice to your studies. 

Stop Relying on the Romanizations

What we called Romaji (ローマ字) is the system of Romanization of Japanese language. In other words, it’s a fourth way to write Japanese, using alphabet letters. 

Here’s some brief fact:  

  • There are three romanization standards: the Hepburn, Nippon-shiki and Kunrei-shiki systems. We have a detailed article for you to learn more about what is romaji and its usage in modern Japan.
  • Romanization is used a lot on the internet and can be blended with a mix of kana and kanji.
  • At first, romaji can help absolute beginners understand the basics of Japanese pronunciation.
    How to Learn Japanese - Essential Guide
    Romaji is used in English translation for addresses and names in Japan.

I think that using the alphabet we’re used to appears like a good idea because it gives us (false) confidence that we can read and understand Japanese right away. In reality, romaji are quickly a major obstacle for your studies for a few reasons: 

  • Romanization doesn’t perfectly transcribe Japanese pronunciation and can be misleading. 
  • Romaji doesn’t reflect Japanese sentence structure and grammar very well, leaving you at the surface of your studies.
  • Romaji can give you bad reading habits and foundations in Japanese that’ll be hard to correct later on. 

So from day one, my advice is to read everything in kana.

 

Don’t Try To Learn Too Much Too Fast

Setting yourself clear goals, such as the JLPT, is good to feed your motivation, but don’t be overly ambitious with the timeframe of your studies and what you can digest. Learning Japanese is a marathon, so keep a good, regular pace, not to burn yourself out. 

  • Find your pace: set yourself a reasonable schedule in terms of study duration and rhythm. Vary exercises and learning content to avoid boredom. 
  • Be disciplined: more than trying to learn it all too fast, regular and consistent study will help you keep the passion for Japanese burning, while not burning out. 

Don’t Try To Learn From Anime Or Manga As A Beginner

Don’t get me wrong, Japanese pop culture is a great source of motivation and helps learn some natural lingo.  

But anime or manga are not friendly learning resources for beginners. 

  • Entertainment media often involves non-standard grammar and casual expressions: you may take bad habits and struggle with distinguishing casual and polite speech as you improve. You take the risk to learn a rude, broken Japanese. 
  • The way characters speak in fiction is often very different from how people talk in real life: a lot of what is said in anime, manga or even J-drama are over-exaggerated. Their speeches are written to create a dramatic effect. In real life, people are far from talking like this. 

Speaking differently, don’t be that learners believing the expressions learned in their favorite anime makes them sound like native speakers. They don’t. 

 

Don’t Try to Memorize Long Random Word Lists

I think you understand by now that learning Japanese requires a tremendous amount of effort in memorization. On average, though, we can’t really memorize more than 20-25 words a day, because you need time to process and store new information in your memory. 

Learning the words that pop up in your grammar lessons and the most commonly used vocabulary will help build a good base. However, be smart about expanding your vocabulary beyond the basics and don’t try to memorize long random word lists. 

  • Group words according to their meanings, such as colors, animals and food. 
  • Practice mind maps, which allows you to visually list up words that are connected to each other. Mind maps are excellent to learn vocabulary easily. Here’s a guide to help you with mind mapping.

 

Don’t Trust Machine Translations

AI translation has come a long way in the past years, but is nowhere near perfection. Translating Japanese into English or other Romance languages and vice-versa, will not help you at all, because machine translations cannot easily render concepts and ideas as human brains do. 

  • Machine translation can make a lot of mistakes
  • Machine translation can’t read the context and perceive omissions
  • Machine translation ignores the proper speech level to use

Dictionaries like Japanese will be your best friends. The silver lining, the time and effort you put into translating Japanese by yourself helps you with memorization. 

 

Don’t Nitpick Exceptions to Grammatical Rules

While Japanese language can be praised for its relative simplicity, exceptions do exist. Should you sweat over them, though? No!  

  • Do not spend too much time on the few exceptions to grammatical rules, because almost all grammatical rules have exceptions, and they are only the minority.
  • You can always revisit a rule later, when you have built more confidence in your skills.
  • In time, the exceptions will make sense and come to you more naturally. 

Ultimately, learning Japanese grammar is like adding layers of comprehension and knowledge on top of one another, until you’ve built a solid block. 

Now that you know what not to do when learning Japanese, let’s move on to what can effectively help you. 

 

Dos in Learning Japanese More Efficiently

I can see three major do’s for beginners, which are critical in learning Japanese more efficiently and lessen the energy you need to put into your studies. 

  • Using what you already know
  • Be smart about your studies
  • Speak with native speakers

Gairaigo – So Many Japanese Words You Already Know!

Japanese has a lot of loanwords from other languages such as Chinese, English, German but also French and Russian. These loanwords are referred to as “gairaigo”, literally “foreign language”. Very often, these words kept their original meanings and are easily recognizable. 

  • Gairaigo has simply been syllabicated in the Japanese phonological system. You just need to roughly understand how to convert words into Japanese using katakana. A good way to familiarize yourself with this is to try to convert your name into Japanese
  • Loanwords are important in the fields of new technology and advertisements. Statistically, you find a lot of gairaigo in Japanese newspapers, TV-news and recent Japanese pop culture. 
  • Interestingly enough, social trends and younger generations tend to borrow foreign words more easily. Even if they don’t always make it into Japanese common vocabulary, native speakers will understand you! 

After Chinese English has strongly influenced Japanese. But some of the borrowed words have been “Japanized”, giving birth to Wasei-eigo, literally “Japanese made English”. 

  • Wasei-eigo will sound and somewhat look close to English, but in fact do not exist in English or aren’t used the same way. Bookmark Hiroki’s lesson on Wasei-eigo to get back to this in the future.
  • Even if wasei-eigo offers new meaning and concepts, the proximity with the vocabulary you already know helps with vocabulary building. 

Are you curious about how Japanese speak Gairaigo and Wasei-eigo? This video will show you!

 

Use a Spaced Repetition System (SRS) to Improve Your Vocabulary

Depending on how proficient you would like to be in Japanese, you need to spend a lot of time on learning and retaining new vocabulary. To give you some perspective, you need to know approximately 2,000 words to speak fluent English. But the same level in Japanese requires you to know at least 8,000-10,000 words and 2,000 kanji

Your best friend to improve your vocabulary effortlessly is the Spaced Repetition System (SRS). 

  • SRS is a proven learning technique widely used by flashcard apps such as Anki, that helps you improve your vocabulary by playing with the frequency in which you review words. The app algorithm alternates between older, easy flashcards and new, more difficult cards, showing you less the easier cards and more the difficult ones.
  • You’ll have plenty of choices for both iOS and Android. Try a few apps until you find the one that works for you.
  • Commit to reviewing your flashcards 10-15 minute daily. Be mindful and focused about it, so your memory will retain the words better. It’s also an opportunity to read the words out loud, maybe even build short sentences for fun. 

 

Find Native Speakers and Speak From Day One

I cannot emphasize more how fundamental practicing with native speakers and speaking from day one is. Here are three arguments in favor of early practice: 

  • Actively putting what you learn to practice helps you retain what you learn faster and better.
  • You avoid bad pronunciation & grammar habits.
  • Basic conversation gets you familiar with Japanese casual & polite speeches.

Speaking in a Japanese as a beginner is intimidating. I know too well how we can be afraid to make mistakes and sound ridiculous. Quite frankly, the fear is in our head. Native speakers are always happy to practice with language learners and to correct them. Finding people to practice with is easier than you might think too.  

  • Look for local language exchange groups, Japanese culture related associations or even communities of Japanese expatriates. Nothing beats speaking with people in real-life! 
  • It can help to take a community course or join a local school. 
  • You can also look up online platforms that connect language learners, such as HiNative and iTalki

If you cannot find anyone to partner with, the LingoDeer app has the voice of native speakers to practice with you. You can repeat as many times as you want and correct your pronunciation while training your listening skills. 

 

How to Improve All Four Japanese Skills As You Advance

After building good foundations in basic Japanese, you may fall into a very common trap, that is to focus on the one language skill – speaking, listening, reading or writing, you’re comfortable with.

But in order to communicate well, you have to equally develop all four Japanese skills. You need to understand (listening, writing) and produce (speaking, writing) Japanese. 

Let me introduce some good strategies to apply when you further advance in your studies. 

You will find learning resources listed at the end of this guide

 

Speaking Japanese

I think school teaches us to spend a tremendous amount of time on learning words and grammatical rules, until we’re finally ready to “speak”. On the contrary, no amount of preparation can replace practicing speaking to effectively learn how to speak Japanese. 

Here are some ideas that work for all learners, from beginner to more advanced levels. 

  • Shadowing. Try to imitate native speaker’s recordings as much as possible. You can practice with songs, J-drama on Netflix, YouTube videos and so on. There’s also an excellent collection called Shadowing Japanese, perfect for the task. 
  • Read out loud whenever you review kanji – you’ll memorize them better while polishing your pronunciation.
  • Record yourself and play back your own recordings and listen to it along with native speaker’s recordings with LingoDeer app. 

Listening to Japanese

Improving your listening goes in hand with your speaking practice, but you do need to work on boosting your understanding of spoken Japanese. 

The good news is that Japanese is not per se a tonal language, like Chinese or Thai. Native speakers do have a pitch that helps distinguish homonyms such as hashi (bridge) and hashi (chopstick). But the truth is the general context of the conversation is in fact enough to allow clear communication. 

Here are some strategies to improve your listening Japanese in casual and formal settings:  

  • At first, listen to audio content specifically developed for language learners. Listen to clear and slow speed and gradually move to speech at a faster natural speed with apps such as LingoDeer who have a dedicated function to help you with that. 
  • Try to be regular and to listen to Japanese every day. Some studies suggest that listening to audio content in the evening, in a relaxed environment or before sleeping, can help better learn a language. 
  • When you get confident in your listening skills, you can move on to real-life audio content such as radio and TV programs, audiobooks for young Japanese, gradually aiming for more complex content. 

 

Reading Japanese

I’m a book lover and I strongly believe that from the early stage of your studies, you can and should read in Japanese to help the vocabulary stick. Even an absolute beginner in Japanese benefits from reading very easy content, such as short textbook dialogue or Graded Readers. 

  • Aim for the right level: you want what you read to be approachable, not indecipherable! Pick topics that you like too, for the experience to be enjoyable.
  • Practice active reading: before you look for new words in the dictionary, make the effort to guess their meaning with contextual information.
  • Take note: reading is an opportunity to record useful words and well-written phrases. Have a notebook/use apps to collect them in organized lists. 

Writing in Japanese

Writing is probably the last skill Japanese learners want to spend time on. Believe me when I say I get it!  

Speaking or reading Japanese feels more rewarding, but you cannot grasp Japanese language structure entirely if you do not write in it.

Contrary to basic drilling exercises, writing a text helps you think in Japanese, organizing your thoughts and learning new vocabulary. 

Don’t get discouraged, writing is the hardest skill of all four. It takes a long time to practice and improve, even for native speakers! 

    • Consistent practice will get you a long way. Japanese language schools ask students to practice speech writing on a weekly basis. That’s a good rhythm to start with. 
    • Always get your texts corrected and learn from the feedback. Rewrite your texts in a neat manner. 
  • Save the corrected texts because writing in Japanese is an excellent way to see your progress along the way and review what you learned. 
  • Not sure to know what to write? Practice with templates: emails, sick leave note, an invitation, holiday postcards… What about having your own blog in Japanese?

Best Online Resources for Self-study Japanese 

Here are some of the best online resources you can find for self-study Japanese. 

LingoDeer App & BlogLingoDeer AppFollow a scientifically structured curriculum
LingoDeer BlogGet a deeper insight on language learning and Japanese language
Learn Japanese with podcastsBuild listening & speaking skills, as well as vocabularyNHK News
News in slow Japanese
small talk in Japanese
SBS Radio Japanese Program
Learn Japanese on YoutubeBuild listening skills, as well as vocabulary and grammarJapanese Ammo with Misa 
Akkie Sensei
Real Miku
Erin Ga Chosen
Japanese ArticlesBuild reading skillsHiragana Times (beginner friendly)
Google News
CNN Japan
Asahi Shinbun
Yomiuri Shinbun
Other Japanese MediaAdvancing to sounding like a native speakerJapanese movies
JDrama
Anime
Variety shows
Advancing to reading like a native speakerManga
light novels

 


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