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Learning Japanese for beginners: a practical method

Learning a language means above all opening yourself up to new opportunities to meet people. Learning a language is also an opportunity to discover a new way of speaking other than your native language. Finally, learning a language means showing that you are interested in the culture of a country.

We started by learning English, because it is the language considered universal in the world. Then a choice had to be made to choose a second language for our studies for most of us.

If for some people learning languages is a piece of fun, for others, it's a different story.

For my part, I am in the second category. I have never been good at languages, both French and foreign languages.

How many of us have already been frustrated to see our classmates being as comfortable speaking as they are writing? And then when you try to talk, why doesn't it look like anything?

So it was after several years that I finally found a solution. It took me time to understand how I became much more comfortable in English. The same is true for any other language.

Today, I would like to suggest that you learn a new language using my method: Japanese.

Learn Japanese in a fun way without hassle! (Source: Tofugu)

Although this language is radically different from French, in my opinion it is the one that sounds good to the ear. By that I mean his musicality, the pronuntations, the intonation. Combining all of this forms a language that really makes you want to learn it!

For all fans of anime, manga or those curious about Japanese culture, this may be the gateway to an unknown world for you. Because in fact, you will have to learn new notions, vocabulary, sounds.

But don't worry! Because I have put together the best tips for you to get started with Japanese smoothly, without taking a lot of your head and while being interactive.

This is what we are going to see in the rest of this article.

What is your motivation for learning Japanese?

Many of them taught us new languages out of obligation. Between Spanish and German, there are no photos, there will be those who really want to learn these languages, while others don't care.

In my opinion, the in-between does not exist. Either you really want to become good, or you don't learn it because it would be a waste of time.

Some will tell you that learning a few sentences may be enough to integrate with the locals. But you know as well as I do that this is by no means the best way to really elevate your travel experience to the next level.

That's why I invite you to really be honest with yourself about the real motivations that drive you to want to learn a language.

For my part, I have never been good at languages, but nevertheless, I had this deep desire to want to learn Japanese. Why?

First of all, I was lulled by Japanese animations and manga. Classic

But in 2017, I decided to go to Japan alone for about 45 days. Between studies and a lot of existential questions, I wanted to temporarily escape a reality that I no longer liked. In my opinion, travel was the solution.

It was during this trip full of unforgettable cultural encounters and discoveries that I finally swore that one day I would be able to speak Japanese and be able to maintain deeper relationships.

Amis japonais dans un izakaya
All means are allowed to make yourself understood in Japanese, even if you have to go through funny faces

This is my real motivation that led me today to explain to you how to allow you to learn Japanese. Because I believe that the experience I have been able to benefit from can be beneficial for others.

I especially hope that you can have interesting conversations with the Japanese and that one day we can show them that we French people respect their culture.

Start by learning hiragana and katakana

Through the application Kanji Burger, whose founder is Benoit of the YouTube channel Here Japan, you have the opportunity to learn syllabaries (equivalent to the Latin alphabet) in a really fun way.

He is known in particular for his career as a globetrotter and then moved to Japan to set up his business, which is now in full expansion.

The Kanji Burger app available for free on iOS and Android

Learning them via this application will help you memorize them much better because it is based on a mnemonic method, that is to say that we will associate each syllable with an image that speaks to us.

It is a very intuitive application to allow you not only to learn syllabaries, but you can very well learn kanji if you feel like it.

However, I recommend that you first learn hiragana and katakana as you will need to learn hiragana and katakana later on. The Kanji can wait for now.

But if you are the type who really wants to challenge yourself to have a good level in Japanese writing, then the application gives you the possibility to have access to all the Kanji and other features that you don't have in a free version, and this for $3.99 per month.

Comparaison des offres d'abonnement Kanji Burger
Comparison of subscription and non-subscription offers on the Kanji Burger app

At this you can practice via quizzes to test if you have retained them well. To be used without moderation! ;)

The link to download the application: Kanji Burger.

Learn grammar and vocabulary on Marugoto's site

The site of Marugoto Online is very well done for beginners in the Japanese language. Indeed, the process is very smooth so that you are really comfortable with grammatical notions.

Le site officiel Marugoto pour apprendre le japonais
The official Marugoto site for learning Japanese smoothly

In addition, you will gradually have new vocabulary that will be introduced to each section in example sentences so that you can use it in a given context.

You will have the opportunity to listen to real dialogues between Japanese in order to both familiarize yourself with the concepts learned, and put yourself in real life situations.

In parallel, practice with the grammar part to consolidate your knowledge based on the topics you have studied. And if you still have trouble memorizing syllabaries, a section is dedicated to hiragana and katakana to allow you to review them.

Marugoto also offers a grammar section to learn the basics.

In particular, I recommend the grammar part. Because this will allow you to better memorize certain grammatical points by practicing on blank questions and multiple choice questions.

Section grammaire du site Marugoto
Example questions in the “Grammar” section of the Marugoto site

It is therefore a site that few people know about because many prefer books to learn Japanese. Personally, I have never managed to make good progress through the exercise book because it was too boring.

In addition to being a free site, you have the opportunity to progress with Marugoto up to level A2. This is a level that will normally allow you to express yourself correctly in Japanese, but not yet sufficient to understand Japanese people in everyday life.

In addition, by registering on the site of Minato, you will be able to access more resources, including the Marugoto site. Additional content is presented to you in order to deepen your knowledge, or learn new vocabulary words, etc.

So if you tend to get bored quickly because the lessons are too theoretical, then I can only advise you to start learning Japanese through Marugoto!

The link to Marugoto's official website: Marugoto Online.

Improve your listening comprehension and speaking skills with HelloTalk and Italki

One is free, but does not allow you to take advantage of a teacher to correct your pronunciation and possible mistakes in your speaking.

The other one is chargeable, but the prices are very affordable. You will be in direct contact with real Japanese people who are only waiting for one thing: to see you improve and to be able to have good conversations.

HelloTalk: a social network dedicated to language exchanges

Le site officiel HelloTalk
The HelloTalk app is available for free on IOS and Android

With HelloTalk, you will have the opportunity to interact with native people from all over the world. In this case here, you can choose to exchange only with Japanese men and women. All you need to do is create a profile and choose your native language and the language you want to learn.

You can then start sending your first messages to those who want to learn your language. In exchange, he or she can help you improve your pronunciation, or correct you in writing your messages.

The application also allows you to post videos, images, or comments and interact with other posts. It is finally a Facebook-like social network, but with a view to linguistic exchange.

To access the application, it is via the official site: HelloTalk.

Italki: a platform to find a native teacher at a competitive price

Le sitte officiel Italki
The official Italki website for taking private lessons with a native person at a very affordable price

To go further in your learning, you can turn to online courses with native speakers via the Italki website. Several teachers offer different rates depending on what you want to do.

For example, you may only pay to exchange orally and pay much less than if you take master classes. It is an alternative that many language students use to only focus on speaking and listening. This is something you won't always find for language courses at university.

However, you can combine the two platforms, because HelloTalk is more of a messaging application in order to connect with Japanese people who want to learn French, for example.

In the other case, you can choose a Japanese teacher to help you quickly progress in listening and speaking.

To access the application, it is via the official site: Italki.

“Trust the process”: stay the course by learning new words and grammar points every day

Even if you have some basics in the Japanese language, that's when you have to persevere.

It would be stupid to drop everything if you started out pretty well! In which case you will have to start again lower if you start speaking Japanese again after a few months. It's wasted time that you could have spent on something else.

As with everything, results will only come with personal investment, even during periods when your desire to learn Japanese is waning.

I write down all my learnings in a notebook for future reviews in public transport

Creating habits is where you can make the biggest difference. Between a person who learns for hours in the first few weeks, then stops learning after a certain period of time, and a person who trains or revises 30 minutes a day, the difference in level will widen over time.

“Trust the process”, as the Anglo-Saxons would say. Aim for the long term rather than the short term, and you will reach your end goal: being able to hold a conversation in Japanese.

Optional point: take private lessons with a Japanese teacher

I am adding this part for those who would like to be able to test their level of Japanese after long hours of self-study.

In my opinion, it is really interesting to be able to assess yourself and be corrected by a teacher so that you can improve yourself, both orally and in writing.

Admittedly, this is a fairly expensive investment, but it can be a very good choice if you want to raise your level more quickly.

Access to a teacher can also push you to have to work regularly and discipline yourself to avoid making excuses in your learning.

There was a time when I was learning Japanese by myself. And since I know myself well, I tend to put things off until tomorrow when I know full well that I have time to devote to Japanese.

It was only at the beginning of the 2023 school year that I decided to take on a private teacher. Because it's a way for me to commit myself to continuing to speak Japanese and not giving up on my final goal.

Each week, it is therefore 1.5 hours of class where I practice orally the concepts that I learned in the previous course, in addition to the things that I had the opportunity to have learned in the past.

Conclusion

Learning a language is accessible to everyone, even to those who are not good at it. While I was able to be one of those people who loudly proclaimed my low level of language, I nevertheless managed to get out of the water and be able to prove to those around me that with will and effort, you can become good.

I am currently learning Japanese to prove to myself that I can relearn a new language starting from 0. Of course, I have had ups and downs in my apprenticeship several times. I gave up several times after a few weeks. Very often, these were resources or books that did not meet my expectations. Some grammatical concepts were either too complicated to understand or not clear.

For these reasons, I then tended to put things off until tomorrow, telling myself that I would continue later. What a big mistake!

But at some point, I had to make a choice: either I give up definitively because I will make efforts without real results, or I continue to reach a minimum level to be able to maintain long conversations with Japanese people.

So I opted for the second choice by adopting an effective solution: taking regular private lessons with a teacher. In this way, I will be able to always be consistent in my learning. An investment that will pay off in the long term.

Karaoké à Fukuoka
One of my goals when learning Japanese is to be able to sing Japanese songs at karaoke

Finally, I already feel much more comfortable speaking Japanese, even though I know it's not perfect. But as with everything, you learn by making mistakes. Then you correct yourself so as not to do it again. And so on.

The learning process takes time, but we all know that long-term efforts pay off.

If like me you want to prove to yourself that you are capable of learning a new language from the beginning, then embark on this journey with me!

Who is behind the Le Solo Backpacker blog?

Hello! My name is Toan, and I am the founder of the blog Le Solo Backpacker.
I started solo travel at the age of 19, and my aim through my articles is to offer you the best tips for getting off the beaten path, meeting open-minded travelers and discovering travel from a different perspective.