So, you want to learn Japanese? Well, you have come to the right page. Here is the road map that can take you from zero to a hero in your Japanese skills. I won’t lie to you; you will not become fluent in 7 days. It will take time to become better, although at the beginning you will progress fast!
Here´s what you do:
- Learn Hiragana
- Learn basic grammar
- Start doing Wanikani
- Find something useful to do with the language (games, music, anime)
1) Learn Hiragana
The first thing you want to do is to learn the letters. Not only will it allow you to read and understand the structure of Japanese language, but it also allows you to make tangible progress.
I would recommend learning hiragana with the following videos, as they teach you mnemonics (memory rules) to make it much easier to memorize everything.
Japanese 101 hiragana: https://youtu.be/6p9Il_j0zjc
After you know the hiragana, I would recommend drilling yourself by trying to fill in the “aiueo” matrix from memory.
Pro tip: if you are bored on a lecture, this is a great way to refresh your brain and look like you are making notes 😉
Here is my matrix I did 2 years ago when attending intermediate macroeconomics class 🤫
After you have gotten this down, you can start doing the same with the alternative way of writing hiragana: katakana. At this point though it should be relatively easy.
After you have learned the hiragana, it is time to learn some basic grammar. I would recommend going through videos from Japanese Ammo With Misa, as she is a great teacher that takes her time going through the examples.
Grammar lesson for absolute beginners #1: https://youtu.be/UneYOL0DQxk
I would also to just search videos on your own to simply explore what is out there and to entertain yourself. Remember to have fun! 😊
This is purely a personal preference, but for me it was super helpful to start learning kanji early on, and Wanikani makes the process so much easier. The application gives you structure for your learning and uses spaced repetition to help you remember the words.
Most importantly, it gives you a framework for starting to build stories around the radicals (different parts of the kanji), which for me made it much easier to remember the meaning and reading of the kanji.
For example, the kanji for “cooperation” is 協, which has a cross and 3 “power” radicals. And what was the old capital of Japan, where powers crossed? That´s right, Kyōto.
Now, the next time you see the kanji 協, you remember how powers crossing means cooperation, as well as that the reading is Kyō.
4) Finding something useful to do with the language
Here is, in my opinion, the most important part you should do when learning any language.
It should be useful to you. If a language is not useful to you, there is no point in learning it.
*Cough* Cough* Swedish *Cough* Cough*
Here are two ideas how you can make the Japanese language useful to you:
Make it part of your existing pass time activities. For example: start adding Japanese songs to your playlist, watch anime, play video games in Japanese. Take something that you already do and find ways to do it in Japanese. This will expand your knowledge while allowing you to learn passively, without effort!
Find people who are also interested in talking the language. Languages are all about communication. So why not use it in the way it was designed to be used in, talk to people!
When I started learning Japanese, I went to Japanese language exchange sites where I exchanged messages and talked with natives using google translator, writing my messages both in Japanese and English. (If this sounds interesting to you, I have written an article on it!)
Alternatively, you could, I don´t know, participate in the activities of your local Japanese association. 😄
And there you have it!
A guide on how to start learning. After you have passed through these 4 gates, the initial hurdle of learning is behind you and various different paths start opening up to you.
Originally, I was planning on writing more on how Japanese language can be used in real life, but then I realized that it would make this page way too long. Also, it would only include the uses I have found.
Instead, I would ask you, the more advanced Japanese learner, to comment down below on how you have made use of Japanese language in your life!