Methods for learning Japanese (any language)

Last time I posted about key points to learning Japanese which I can link to here. This is the second part to that post, this time talking about actual methods. I for one believe that the methods are not the most important part, but it is good to be doing something that will actually help you. Watching subbed anime and not paying attention to the actual Japanese will not help you very much. You need to be active, so let’s talk about that.

Side Note: Don’t sit around reading these type of posts too much. All that knowledge is useless unless you take action on it. Too much knowledge and too little action just demotivates you because you don’t see much change.

Immersion – A very popular answer. Going to Japan makes it easy, yes? Yet you don’t need to go to Japan in order to add an immersion element to your life. Immersion can be as simple as spending 30 minutes every day in an atmosphere where you are completely focused on the language. Immersion is very good thing, but you can combine it with these below methods to make it a great learning environment.

What not to do

1.Flashcards – Unless it’s for a test and you only care about short term, then not your best bet. Gets boring and the more and more you make, the more of a hassle it becomes.

  1. Write over and over – This is true for Kanji or anything really. It doesn’t really help that much. A little bit is okay, but don’t spend much time on it. Do something fun, that will help more. I do practice certain Kanji by writing them once a day and do that every day for a week, but that is so I can consistently see and think about it every day. It usually only takes me about 3 minutes a day and since I can do it so quick, its actually fun.
  2. Read textbook over and over – Don’t get me wrong, textbooks are very useful when you are first starting. I’m not saying don’t use them. However they are good for learning the structure of the language and getting a good base. You will get to a point where the grammar and the words you need to learn though are better learned from real examples and not your textbook. For a while I wondered if I should still be using one, but as soon as I set it aside and use real reading examples I saw a lot more growth.

What to do

  1. Listening (Podcasts, Dramas) – Listening is a huge part of Japanese. It will help you in so many ways, but you need to be active with it. I really encourage the use of podcasts. Japanese pod 101 is an amazing website when it comes to learning Japanese. They have so many different levels and so many different podcasts for each of those levels. Whether you are a complete beginner or someone who has some experience under your belt, many of the podcasts here are very useful. I listened to them all the time back when I use to live in Nagoya and even today still use them from time to time. JP101 is especially good because they have a dialogue as well as a normal conversation about the dialogue. That way you can learn both the vocab words, but also get use to just having a conversation in Japanese. Just go for a walk, listen while you clean your room, or sit down and analyze the conversation. Podcasts have helped me so much and helps you get used to hearing and then thus using natural Japanese. Another thing that is very useful is watching Japanese TV or dramas with JAPANESE subtitles. This is more advanced and if you are still new or even been studying for a year will prove difficult. Listening while reading the Japanese will allow you to understand much more than just listening alone. Generally much of the tv here in Japan does actually play the Japanese subtitles along with the shows.
  2. Read (Manga, Light Novels) – Reading consistently will bring you to new levels. Currently I am reading a light novel found online that has an extremely interesting story. It is challenging but not so far over my level that it takes too long to move anywhere. That’s a good balance to have when doing readings. It needs to be bringing you new words and phrases, but not so many that you can’t progress. If you can find a good story, than it just becomes something that is addicting. The one I am reading now is something that I would binge watch if it was a tv show, but since I can’t, I am forced into this addiction of reading to find out what happens. Reading is magical for language acquisition because it transforms your mind into thinking in Japanese or any language. Everything you are imputing into your brain is Japanese, so little by little it becomes easier to think in Japanese. A story is something that is simply fun to follow as well, so it’s easier to consistently do than say looking at flashcards.
  3. Conversation –
    1. Solo Conversation – You can run a dialogue through your head about a certain situation and practice Japanese that way very effectively. Maybe you were hanging out with friends the other day. Imagine how the conversations would have gone if it was in Japanese instead and act out both sides. It sounds weird yes I know, but I do it a lot and it really gets my mind going. I can think so much faster and speak so much better if I have been doing this earlier in the day. Some of my friends do it as well and say it helps them too. Just think more in Japanese, and using real life examples or potential future events as a base is a good place to start. I started doing this naturally, not sure why, but it is fun to act that type of thing out.
    2. Actual Conversation – This one is defiantly the hardest because it requires another person, but not surprisingly it is the best. It is also one of the most fun. A lot of the problems that arise when speaking a language are derived from a lack of confidence in that language. Some people who lack the knowledge of another student can speak way, way better purely because they have confidence. Even though they lack vocab their mind just connects things better because they aren’t scared and have put themselves in situations to practice it more. The main point here is simple. If you want to be better at speaking, aka be a fluent speaker, you have to actually speak the language. Studying on your own is great, but don’t expect to just finish studying after a year by yourself and find yourself fluent. I’ve known people who have studied the language for years upon years, but they just can’t speak. They have probably studied way more than I have, but if you don’t speak you will not just magically have the abilities one day. Confidence folks, you need confidence and that’s what makes it hard. It’s hard for me too, but it’s gotten easier and easier the less I care about making mistakes.

Maybe you have noticed by now, but the best methods are ones that have many different elements to them. Generally they are fun things to do as well. Stick to things that you will enjoy doing and make it a balanced, consistent practice. Following them will take you further and further as you continue to build on your experiences. Those personal connections will bring new meanings to every word for you. Thanks for reading and get out there and go enjoy life and the wonderful languages that fill it. Peace.




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