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HomeInternationalLearn Japanese: A U.S. News Guide

Learn Japanese: A U.S. News Guide


Through the years, Suwako Watanabe has watched how anime and video video games can spark an curiosity in studying Japanese, main college students to discover new topics like cultural linguistics, poetry and drama.

Woman walks the streets of Tokyo

Getty Pictures

“I believe learning about Japanese language, tradition and society helps learners develop sensitivity to other ways of considering and approaching easy methods to do issues, whether or not it’s enterprise, human relations or the humanities,” says Watanabe, a professor of Japanese and the director of the Institute for Asian Research at Portland State College.

No matter brings you to the language – Japan’s popular culture, historical past or place as a worldwide enterprise participant – you don’t must be in-country to begin studying. Learn on for some recommendations on easy methods to embark in your Japanese language journey.

Studying easy methods to learn and write in Japanese begins with understanding its three alphabets: hiragana, katakana and kanji.

Hiragana and katakana are phonetic, that means they’re spelled the way in which they sound. Each alphabets have lower than 50 letters and canopy the identical group of sounds. Katakana is ceaselessly used to put in writing international phrases that make their method into the Japanese language. Since native English audio system will acknowledge some phrases written in katakana, the alphabet itself could be simpler to be taught.

However, kanji is derived from the Chinese language, with every kanji character representing an idea. There are roughly 40,000 kanji characters, however solely about 2,000 are used ceaselessly in writing.

My recommendation is to begin with studying and writing hiragana and katakana. The kanji can be there if you’re able to take your Japanese to the subsequent degree.

Subsequent, apply, apply, apply. Repetition is vital. Kids’s books are a terrific useful resource for studying to learn Japanese. The phrases are easy, and it’s enjoyable to see tales in a special cultural context. A fast Google search will yield on-line Japanese kids’s books and different strategies for studying apply.

Additionally search for on-line hiragana and katakana quizzes, charts and workbooks so you possibly can apply writing. You can also discover or make flashcards to apply studying the letters. Begin with particular person characters and construct as much as quick sentences.

Ideally, you’d be taught to talk Japanese with a local speaker, however that’s not at all times lifelike.

Studying Japanese on-line doesn’t essentially put you at an obstacle, says Momoyo Kubo Lowdermilk, a lecturer at Stanford College’s Stanford Language Heart. At the moment, the web may very well be thought of an immersive expertise that may join you to lecturers and fellow learners.

“What’s crucial is to maintain your motivation excessive,” Kubo Lowdermilk says. “To try this, you must change into a member of a learners’ neighborhood so that you simply aren’t the one one who’s learning Japanese. There are such a lot of different folks learning Japanese and making an attempt to get good at it.”

When you change into a member of a bigger neighborhood, others will share their data and the instruments they discover helpful. Kubo Lowdermilk says not each on-line neighborhood is identical, so whether or not you’re a teenager or an grownup learner, it’s to your benefit to search out the area you’re feeling is the most effective match.

Listed here are her suggestions for studying to talk Japanese:

  • Construct a neighborhood. If you happen to can, take a category domestically. If you happen to can’t, discover a class on-line, and construct your neighborhood from there.

  • Pay attention and apply. Take the quick, fundamental sentences you discovered at school and apply listening for them if you hear audio system or watch Japanese applications, corresponding to anime, which is Japanese animation. (However be warned, anime can use fairly superior grammar and be exhausting to observe.)

  • Try YouTube and Netflix. Kubo Lowdermilk says her college students love following their favourite Japanese dramas on YouTube and Netflix, and there are Chrome extensions for Netflix that help you management the subtitles. A approach widespread along with her college students is to look at first with the English subtitles, subsequent with the Japanese subtitles and a 3rd time with no subtitles.

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Reality: Japanese is difficult. With its a number of alphabets and complicated kanji characters, it’s not shocking that the State Division’s Overseas Service Institute categorizes Japanese as among the many most troublesome languages for English audio system to be taught.

Watanabe says a few of the complexities of the language could make it troublesome for starting college students. Korean and Chinese language, by comparability, have just one writing system. Japanese additionally makes use of honorifics, including suffixes and different changes to indicate respect to the individual being addressed or spoken of, one thing English-speakers can simply get improper. A kanji character can be utilized by itself, Watanabe says. However combining two or extra characters can change how they’re learn.

On the identical time, Japanese doesn’t often make nouns masculine or female like different languages, corresponding to Spanish. Additionally, Japanese pronunciation is comparatively easy and constant.

The FSI estimates it takes 88 weeks to be taught Japanese at a degree of “skilled working proficiency,” based mostly on expertise with the common diplomat learner.

However the time it takes relies on what you’re utilizing the language for, Kubo Lowdermilk says. A smartphone app may enable you to shortly choose up sufficient fundamental vocabulary to get via a visit to Japan, however you’ll want extra time if you wish to go deeper.

So, ganbatte kudasai! (Meaning one thing between “dangle in there” and “you’ve received this.”) As an alternative of fixating on studying Japanese quick, concentrate on studying it nicely. Earlier than you realize it, you’ll be on the street to Japanese fluency.

Listed here are some assets that will help you be taught Japanese:

On-line studying communities. On-line communities, like Reddit’s r/LearnJapanese, are nice for studying Japanese, Kubo Lowdermilk says. Free.

Tofugu. This is among the greatest websites on the net for Japanese tradition and language data. It gives in depth grammar “hubs,” articles and a podcast. Free.

I Will Educate You a Language. This web site gives newbie and intermediate Japanese programs and a Japanese studying podcast. Learners can subscribe to obtain customized e mail suggestions. Lessons price between $97 and $397.

Duolingo. The app delivers what it calls “bite-sized” quantities of Japanese every day to construct person expertise. Free for fundamental or $6.99 monthly for Duolingo Plus, after a free trial.

The Japan Society. The New York Metropolis-based nonprofit options on-line and in-person occasions and lessons associated to Japanese tradition, historical past and language. Some actions are free, whereas others cost a price.

The Japan Basis. Headquartered in Tokyo with places of work around the globe, The Japan Basis has a wealth of assets on language studying, arts and tradition, and Japanese research. Many assets can be found at no cost.

Japan Trade and Instructing Program. The JET Program locations English audio system in faculties throughout Japan as lecturers and cultural ambassadors. JET Program contributors obtain a wage and advantages.

Group organizations. Starting language lessons are sometimes hosted by artwork facilities, the YMCA, Boys & Women Golf equipment of America, and related personal and nonprofit teams.

Japanese language tutor. Verify with profession providers places of work, message boards and language departments at native schools for Japanese language tutoring contacts.

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