As an English learner myself, I know how hard it can be to study foreign languages.
In this blog, I have created a special blog page only for Japanese learners to fall in love and understand the Japanese language and culture. So your Japanese learning can be a bit less boring and more enjoyable.
Before we begin, please let me introduce myself for a little bit.
My name is Yutaro. I am from Tokyo, Japan, 29 years old soon to be 30 in a month. I am studying hospitality management in Australia. I started studying English when I was 22 and have been traveling and living in many countries in order to improve my English proficiency.
So, in a nutshell, I love learning English.
The reason why I decided to teach Japanese is that I can probably help you learn Japanese with the techniques I use for my English learning AND most of all, I am Japanese.
Let’s begin a journey with me until you can watch Japanese anime without subtitles!
I forgot to tell you that I love One Piece.
- Learn Hiragana First
- What You Should Do to Improve Japanese?
- Let’s Learn Some Useful Japanese words
Learn Hiragana First
If you want to learn Japanese, the first thing you have to do is to learn Hiragana.
I am going to explain why “you should learn Hiragana first” when you study Japanese.
There Are Three Writing Systems
One of the reasons why Japanese learners find studying Japanese difficult is because Japanese has three writing systems, Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji.
Kanji is a Chinese-inspired character, Hiragana and Katakana are two phonetic alphabets.
As Japanese people grow, we learn all the three types of Japanese symbols in school to make a sentence easier for the readers to understand by separating verbs and nouns.
For example, 私はオレンジが好きです。is made of all three symbols, Black is Kanji, Red is Hiragana, and Blue is Katakana.
This makes it so much easier for Japanese people to read and understand written sentences.
If the same sentence is written in Hiragana or Katakana alone, they will look like this.
私はオレンジが好きです。*All the three are used.
“I like oranges” *Meaning of the sentence.
I do not know if you find it easier but, it is way easier for us to understand it this way.
You Only Need to Remember Hiragana to Be Able to Speak Japanese
It is, indeed, better to learn all of the writing systems. But if you’re a beginner, you only need Hiragana to learn.
In fact, all Manga (such as Naruto, One Piece, and Dragon Ball) have Furigana which is Hiragana right next to Kanji for children to understand.
As a matter of fact, we do not know all the Kanji. If you do, You must be a genius. That is why we do need Furigana to enjoy Manga with as little stress as possible
Let’s find out if you need to learn Kanji.
This may help you too.
How to Remember Hiragana?
Ok, So how do we remember it?
First of all, you have to understand that Japanese and English are completely different languages. Especially, their pronunciation in phonetics is quite different.
You do not need to speak like Japanese people but, you may need to sound like Japanese in order to deliver your message to others.
Here is the Hiragana chart.
As you can see that the Japanese alphabet always ends in a vowel such as Ka, Ki, Ku, Ke, Ko finishes with a, i, u, e, o.
As well as most Japanese words and sentences are made with syllables witch are composed of one consonant and one vowel, or just vowel sometimes.
わたしのなまえはゆうたろうです。”My name is Yutaro.”
So Japanese alphabet is organized in rows and columns of a, i, u, e, o with K, S, T, N, H, M, Y, R, W.
Ka, Ki, Ku, Ke, Ko.
Na, Ni, Nu, Ne, No.
However, just like English, the Japanese have their own rules as well.
like Ya, Yu, Yo and Wa, Wo, Nn.
But they still follow the same tempo as the others, so it’s not so hard to remember, right? Just remember them as the exceptions.
Hiragana Helps You to Sound Like Japanese
As you know now that Japanese and English are completely different. By remembering Hiragana and its own rule, it will help you sound like a native Japanese speaker.
As opposed to English, Japanese sounds way more dry and crisp. Remembering the combination of a consonant and a vowel sound really helps you recognize Japanese words.
While English has more solo consonant combinations that make a sentence sound smooth and warm, Japanese doesn’t have a lot of them. So, it sounds a bit more sharp and dry.
What You Should Do to Improve Japanese?
Just like learning English, you should surround yourself with Japanese.
When I started studying English, I gave up on my language which is Japanese. Don’t get me wrong, I still speak Japanese from time to time. What I really meant was to commit to one language you’re studying. This really helped me pick up new words and be able to hear English words that sound way different from Japanese ones.
An Easy Way to Surround Yourself with Japanese
For example, you can change the language on your iPhone from English to Japanese.
This way you are unconsciously using Japanese in your daily life. So you can get familiar with the three Japanese writing systems; Kanji, Katakana, and Hiragana.
This may seem difficult at first since you just learned Hiragana. However, just like anything else, you will eventually get used to it and remember certain words.
Stop Speaking Your Own Language
You must be like “wow! I just started learning Japanese! How can I speak Japanese when I cannot”, right!?.
Yes, I know.
But if you do this, just because you are not allowed to speak your own language, you will force yourself to speak Japanese. And it really helps.
For example, you are talking to a Japanese friend and you are very tired.
So, you wanna deliver a message of “I want to go home” in Japanese. But you established this rule that you cannot go home until you say it in Japanese. In this way, no matter what it takes you will search for the meaning of “I want to go home” in Japanese and say it to your friend because you really want to go home.
By the way, “I want to go home” in Japanese is 「いえにかえりたい」(ie-ni-kaeritai). Now you just learned a new Japanese phrase!
If you do not have any Japanese-speaking friends, you can always talk to yourself.
I also use this Talking-to-myself technique to improve my English speaking skill. This may be a bit more suitable for intermediate-level learners, but it will be more effective as you progress and remember more words and phrases.
Watching Anime Every Day
What do you like about Japan?
Do you like watching anime? Let’s watch that every day.
I have met so many people who love anime and the main reason for learning Japanese is to be able to watch anime without subtitles. I also was a huge anime lover that I’d never missed One Piece every Sunday at 9 in the morning.
I am 100% sure that watching anime can help you learn Japanese faster. I also watch a lot of English movies and tv series to improve my understanding of spoken English. We Japanese all learn English in school but almost none of us could understand spoken English or be able to speak like native English speakers. Because it’s simply we don’t learn how to do that. That is why you need to listen to native Japanese speakers.
【You can learn Japanese with anime here】
【This is another one】
Anime Can Help You Develop Listening Skills
I have many friends who love Japanese anime. They don’t speak Japanese, but surprisingly they know some Japanese words which they remembered from watching anime alone, such as “Konoyaro”, “Bakayaro”, “Sensei”, and “Oni-san”. They don’t even try to remember them but just enjoy anime.
Unless you’re really a beginner and don’t understand any words at all, you may want to avoid putting the English subtitle on. If you are able to understand a few Japanese words, you’d better turn off the subtitles. This will help you be familiar with the unique sound of Japanese.
You may also want to use Romaji Japanese subtitle which is the Japanese language written in Latin letters.
It Helps Practice Japanese Pronunciation
The Japanese language has its own very specific rhythm and watching anime will enable you to learn the rhythm. Conversations in anime are usually repetitive so that you can remember the patterns used in a daily conversation.
If you want to accelerate the learning process, you may wanna stop at each episode and repeat phrases you just learned. Try to mimic the pronunciation and rhythm of each phrase. However, be minded that we do not speak like Luffy in One Piece or Naruto. They overdo the Japanese sometimes.
With its visual advantage, you can immerse yourself in the Japanese environment even if you are not living in Japan. Try to watch any anime for at least 30 minutes a day. This will make a world of difference.
Let’s Learn Some Useful Japanese words
Ok, so now you have some ideas of how to study Japanese. I also recommend you remember some useful phrases. It is always good to start with the very basics.
There are very basic Japanese words and phrases that are used every single day. Words in the parentheses are either the formal version or the informal version of Japanese.
Ohayo (friendly) Good morning
Ohayo-gozaimasu (formal) Good morning.
Konnichiwa Good afternoon.
Konbanwa Good evening.
Arigato (friendly) Thank you
Arigato-gozaimau (formal) Thank you very much
iiyo (friendly) You’re welcome
doitashimashite (formal) You’re welcome
Un (friendly) Yes
Hai (formal) Yes
Iya or Iyada (friendly) No
Iie (formal) No *I personally never said iie.
Iya-desu (formal) No *This I use in a formal situation.
Genki? (friendly) How are you?
Genki-desuka? (formal) How are you? *We don’t really use it
Genki-dayo (friendly) I am good.
Genki-desu (formal) I am good
Daijobudesu (formal) I’m fine/I’m ok
Thank you for sticking with me until the end of this post. I hope you enjoyed it.
Learning Japanese is not easy since Japanese is known as one of the most difficult languages to learn. It is, indeed, difficult to learn all three Japanese writing systems including Kanji, Hiragana, and Katakana. However, in terms of speaking, I think Japanese is relatively easier compared to other languages like Chinese.
I have many friends who are not fluent but, good enough to have a casual conversation with me in Japanese which by the way, all of them text me in English because it is hard for them to read and write Japanese. But their Japanese speaking is so good!
So take it easy and enjoy your new exciting journey of learning Japanese.
Let me know what you think about my post in the comment below or you can reach out to me on my Twitter account. Thank you!