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!
4 thoughts on “Start learning!”
I´ll start off with my examples.
First use case: Music
Learning Japanese has allowed me to expanded what I listen to and found new songs to jam to. Here are some of my favorite artists: Yoasobi, Eve, Majiko, Kenshi Yonezu, Kobasolo
Second use case: Games
Japan is a really big market, so many games you most likely know have been fully voice acted in Japanese. Games such as Fallout 4, Skyrim, Cyberpunk 2077 and Genshin impact are fully voice acted in Japanese. Trust me, learning a language is a great excuse to play late into the night! 😉
Third use case: People
First through the language exchange sites and then through Nippoli, learning Japanese has allowed me to meet some incredible people, which have made my life 100 times better. Highly recommended.
I look forward to reading your comments! 😊
Great advice! Is wanikani free to use?
Let me throw in 2 more channels to watch as you progress in your YT studies 😄
Miku ( https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCsQCbl3a9FtYvA55BxdzYiQ ) is similar to ammo with Misa, but explains quicker (still good!) and started doing various useful types of videos recently
Sambon Juku ( https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC0ujXryUUwILURRKt9Eh7Nw )could be the best (but with limited amount of contect) – great explanations and all in Japanese, but simple and with subtitles
Wanikani is works in levels and is free for the first few levels, after which it runs with subscription model. Investing in yourself is the best kind of investment though 😎
A lot of great resources shared here, When I was a beginner in Japanese I watched a lot of youtube to learn grammar and vocabulary and later I watched videos to train for the JLPT. Here are some channels I remember watching.
For beginners and a bit advanced people I recommend Learn Japanese From Zero!
Mainly because I think George has often fun stories to go with the teaching.
Sambonjuku has excellent videos on grammar and they are very concise and visually pleasing. He makes his videos in Japanese but offers subtitles.
あかね的日本語教室 makes videos on Japanese grammar etc. and has more normal videos like vlogs or videos on Japanese culture. I think her channel is especially great for training Japanese listening comprehension. I watched her content as stepping stone before starting to watch content aimed at natives.
I watched live streams from 日本語の森 a lot before taking the JLPT exam and I think they are a very good resource for that.
Being part of Nippoli I have been able meet a lot native Japanese speakers and I have been able converse with them. To me that has been the most rewarding experience with learning Japanese so far. And it motivates me to become joozu.
I personally believe that best way to learn Japanese is through immersion, e.g. listening/reading Japanese content. I try watch/read something in Japanese everyday. This consists of mostly Youtube videos/comments, anime or drama. I especially recommend shows with Japanese subtitles.