As the world’s largest language of instruction and communication next to English, Japanese plays an important role in Japan’s increasingly strong economic and industrial role in today’s globalized world.
Those who want to learn Japanese may wonder where to start. The first steps you take to learn are critical to laying the foundation for learning any language including Japanese.
For beginners, learning Japanese may seem difficult at first. Therefore, this article will guide you through the process of learning Japanese for true beginners.
However, there is no instant guarantee, it all depends on how much effort you dedicate into learning Japanese, I really hope this article helps you.
- 1. Learn Hiragana and Katakana
- 2. Learn the concept of Kanji
- 3. Learn Japanese grammar
- 4. Collect and use Japanese vocabulary
- 5. Learn Japanese pronunciation
- 6. Read easy Japanese news
- 7. Make Japanese learning journal as writing practice
- 8. Do speaking exercise
- 9. Join a Japanese learning community
- 10. Maximize the use of free online learning resources
1. Learn Hiragana and Katakana
There are 3 characters used by the Japanese: Hiragana (ひらがな), Katakana (カタカナ) and Kanji (漢字).
Beginners must start with the basic and simplest characters, Hiragana.
Hiragana (ひらがな) is mainly used by native Japanese speakers. Hiragana is a phonetic writing system in the Japanese language and consists of 46 characters.
Hiragana – the basic Japanese alphabet, is the initial letter used to read kanji. Usually, the kanji are accompanied by furigana. Furigana are small hiragana letters placed above each kanji character to help pronounce the kanji.
The ability to read hiragana is the most important foundation for learning Japanese through textbooks and other Japanese learning tools for beginners.
For the next step, you can learn to master Katakana. Katakana (カタカナ) is used in Japanese for a variety of things, but most often for taking foreign words, e.g., from English.
In addition, katakana is often used for scientific words, animal names, onomatopoeia, and others.
Katakana is pronounced the same as hiragana, only the symbols are different. If you are already familiar with hiragana, it usually does not take long to master katakana.
2. Learn the concept of Kanji
The next step in mastering Japanese for beginners is to learn the concept of kanji.
What are Kanji (漢字)? Kanji (漢字) is single characters composed of radicals in Japanese. There are at least 2,207 kanji characters that are commonly used in Japan.
It is important for you to remember that the elements that make up kanji are radicals or 部首, ぶしゅ about 214 radicals) that combine each other to make up kanji and have a certain meaning.
In the most cases, by understanding the radicals, you can be much more effective at remembering kanji than just rewriting every stroke over and over.
Then, the combination of 1 kanji with other kanji or hiragana will form one vocabulary.
3. Learn Japanese grammar
Many people say that learning Japanese grammar (文法, ぶんぽう) is difficult. This is not entirely true.
As long as you can start learning hiragana, katakana and then slowly learn kanji, then after that learning Japanese grammar will not be difficult.
In learning Japanese grammar, there are usually 3 things that you should pay attention to:
- The definition or meaning of the word
- The situation when and where it is used
- The example sentences that you can use as a reference
Nowadays, you can find everything with books, apps and various print and digital learning resources. All of them have the same concept.
Japanese grammar can also be learned based on the JLPT level. In addition to being your learning compass, learning Japanese grammar with the JLPT level can also be a measure of your fluency in Japanese.
What are you waiting for, start learning Japanese grammar today!
4. Collect and use Japanese vocabulary
Another important factor in mastering Japanese is vocabulary. The more and more Japanese vocabulary you have, the more fluent you will be in Japanese.
You need to have at least 10,000 Japanese words to be “fluent” in Japanese.
How to learn Japanese vocabulary, please look at the following 3 steps:
- Learn the kanji that make up the vocabulary
- Set concrete goals on how much vocabulary you need to learn every day
- Consistently repeat and apply the vocabulary that you have learned
- Read more articles, newspapers and others to increase your vocabulary
- Write if you find it difficult to remember
- Say the vocabulary over and over again with clear intonation
- Listen to the pronunciation of the vocabulary over and over again
Doing these 7 steps will improve your ability to master Japanese vocabulary and be able to remember it for long time.
5. Learn Japanese pronunciation
Japanese pronunciation is not a difficult thing to master because basically, Japanese pronunciation is a combination of vowels that are not many, according to the number of hiragana.
Then, the vowel combinations that make up these syllables are also relatively short, it’s just that each syllable has a different stress.
However, for the beginners, it is very common to have slight mistake, such as mispronouncing a similar vowel or different emphasis, that will lead to mispronounced words. It’s very much okay!
You can master Japanese pronunciation by doing the following tips:
- Listen more and more
- Practice shadowing, echoing what native speakers say 1 or 2 seconds after the they starts
- Practice pronunciation by looking at the script
- Pronunciation practice without looking at the script
- Pay attention to the emphasis of each syllable
By consistently doing the 5 steps above, you can accelerate your mastery of Japanese pronunciation in a relatively very short time.
6. Read easy Japanese news
Experience diverse and interesting Japanese newspaper – Powerful tool to practice reading comprehension, listening, pronounce!
To start your journey as a beginner in Japanese, you must find the best learning resources to absorb.
Well, one powerful way to improve your Japanese language skills is to read more. Read anything that can be a medium for you to learn Japanese such as reading Japanese articles and also easy Japanese news.
Currently there are various sources that you can use both print and digital. One example is that you can read NHK News Web Easy and learn new vocabulary there.
7. Make Japanese learning journal as writing practice
As a beginner, to familiarize yourself with the Japanese language, writing can be a very powerful way. One way is to try writing a Japanese learning journal.
Writing a journal in the learning process requires applying both sides of our brain to think analytically and think creatively at the same time.
According to some studies, journaling can even provide various benefits such as affecting your mood, reducing depression, and even improving your memory.
This is very supportive of your learning process as a beginner to find your rhythm and build a habit of learning Japanese in a fun way.
Try writing and journaling your Japanese learning materials for the day. And reap the benefits later!
8. Do speaking exercise
Besides writing, you also need to practice your Japanese speaking skills.
Although as a beginner, you may encounter some difficulties, rest assured that by practicing and continuing to practice every day, the more phrases and exposure you get from what you hear or read, the faster you will achieve fluency in Japanese speaking.
There are several ways you can practice your speaking skills such as practicing Japanese conversation through YouTube, online Japanese classes with native Japanese teachers, or even finding a community of Japanese learners to chat with and share tips with.
Or you can also read with a clear voice and intonation every passage of Japanese material that you read repeatedly to train your vocals and your tongue to get used to and be free in Japanese pronunciation.
Please choose the technique that suits you best and start doing it today!
9. Join a Japanese learning community
Continuing with the previous point, finding the right friends or even the right teacher in the process of learning Japanese is also important for you.
You can find various Japanese learning communities today through various social media platforms such as Facebook, twitter, discord and various other media.
This community will usually share their materials, experiences, impressions and suggestions during the learning process. Not infrequently, you can also find beginners who have just started learning Japanese just like you.
Don’t be shy, be active in searching and asking questions in the Japanese learning community. Because, with this method, you can get various insights that will certainly enrich your understanding and knowledge of Japanese language and culture.
10. Maximize the use of free online learning resources
This last point is really just a reminder to you. Never worry if you can’t get into an official school to study Japanese intensively.
Thanks to the internet that has broken down the barriers of access to information around the world. As long as you have internet access, you can access millions or even countless Japanese learning resources for free. I repeat, FREE! from various blogs, websites, YouTube and other learning platforms.
If you also have an extra budget, you can access premium teaching materials, but at a price that is relatively much cheaper than enrolling in an official language school.
We also have various recommendations for free Japanese learning resources such as Japanese learning apps, websites and others that are very powerful and completely FREE. Please click the button below to read the related article!
As long as you are respectful of your time, disciplined, focused and actively participate in the lessons, the sooner you will shed the title of “beginner” and move up to the “intermediate level” or even jump straight to the “advanced level” Japanese learners.
Start learning Japanese today, what are you waiting for!
To wrap up, let’s recall what are the key points to start learning Japanese for a beginner. Please check out some of the points below!
- In learning Japanese, beginners must start with the basic and simplest characters, hiragana and katakana.
- Understanding the radicals of Kanji will help beginners to build the strong basic understanding in learning concepts of Japanese Kanji.
- Learn Japanese grammar from the basic is a must as the next step after learning hiragana, katakana and basic Kanji.
- Challenge yourself to collect and apply Japanese vocabulary.
- Try to learn Japanese pronunciation.
- Read easy Japanese news as the best Japanese learning resources.
- Create Japanese learning journal as writing practice and enhanced the memorization ability.
- Do speaking exercise as much as possible.
- Find and actively participate in Japanese learning community.
- Try to maximize the use of free online learning resources.
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