How Long Does It Takes to Learn Japanese? The Truly Honest Answer & Guide

How Long Does It Takes to Learn Japanese? The Truly Honest Answer & Guide

How long does it actually take you to learn Japanese?

This is a very valid and common question that comes to mind. Because we may have heard that learning Japanese will take a long time. Is it true?

And the honest answer to the question about how long does it take to learn Japanese is..

There is no definitive answer, there is only an average time that can be used as a reference or at least only as a standard.

This is because it all depends on a variety of internal and external factors such as goals, motivation, methods, or even how intense you can spend your time learning Japanese.

For example, let’s take the “goal” factor as a baseline. Here, you need to have a concrete goal that you want to achieve. For example, “learning Japanese to pass JLPT N2”.

With this goal in mind, you can then decide on a suitable compass (such as books, online resources, apps, and many others), select what suits you best and start studying. And so on.

But then, what about the other factors? What is the essence of learning Japanese that you need to understand?

Also, are there any special tips to speed up your progress? And many more questions might be running through your head right now.

Don’t worry! You can get all the answers you need right here! Okay, let’s get started!

1. What are Your Japanese Learning Goals?

Why is it so important to decide on your end goal first and at the top of the list? Because it is very important to keep you on the right track and not stop half-way.

Setting “precise and concrete goals” will help you find the most suitable learning resources and from there you can start your mission.

Don’t be afraid to set a lofty goal like ” passing JLPT N1″ as it will keep you motivated. Fortunately, even if you can only master 50% of the JLPT N1 material, you can continue the rest later on.

At the very least, the material you have mastered can be used to develop your intermediate level Japanese skills for the time being.

In addition, setting a “target time” will also help you create a learning strategy so that every day you will have a clear compass and will not lose your way. This is closely related to the choice of learning resources you will use later on.

For example: You may decide to “pass JLPT N1 within 1 year”. Well as you know, to pass JLPT N1 you need to learn around 2,000 kanji, 10,000 vocabulary and around 400 grammar points in total.

For that, you can choose a book that represents everything perfectly. And please click the following button and read further our article below to choose the right JLPT N1 book.

Then, you can set a learning target based on the number of pages in the book or the amount of material covered.

For example:

  • You can decide to study Japanese during weekdays (Monday to Friday).
  • Learn 7-10 Kanji, 35-40 Vocabulary, 1-5 Grammar every day.
  • Saturday being a review day and Sunday being a day off.

You can do it whenever you can and how long depends on yourself. The most important thing is that you can achieve the target on each day. Within 1 year, you can surely achieve the target (Master 2.000 Kanji, 10.000 vocabulary and 400 grammar points).

And based on my past experience, this is what many Japanese language school students who passed the JLPT N1 did, setting a final target and consistently achieving that target from the start of school until graduation.

Surprisingly, they don’t see this as pressure, because they clearly understand what they need to do. Although the first 3 months may be challenging, after that, they will soon get used to it and start to feel more curious especially in the final year there is a reward from the school that will be given to those who can pass JLPT N1.

You can set your own target and reward yourself for this. Good Luck!

2. How Much Time Will You Spend for Learning Japanese?

For native English speakers, Japanese is one of the most difficult languages to learn besides Arabic, Mandarin, Korean (U.S. Foreign Services Institute).

Furthermore, they say that it takes about 4,800 hours or 88 weeks (1.5 years) to achieve fluency in Japanese and pass the JLPT N1 exam. However, if you just want to master the basic level, it only takes 23-24 weeks (6 months) on average.

According to the experiences of some learners who shared their stories in online forums, they reported that it took them at a minimum of 1 year to settle in and get used to the concept of learning Japanese, and then 2-3 years to become fluent and master the N2 and even N1 levels.

You can also use this timeframe to choose a Japanese language learning program at offline or online language schools. If you want to pass JLPT N2 or N1, then choosing a long-term program of at least 1 year at a language school is highly recommended.

With this data, you will already have an idea of how long it will take you to master Japanese.

By being committed and striving for just 2 hours per day, you will have mastered a difficult level of Japanese within 1.5 years.

Now the question is, how much time are you “going to” spend learning Japanese? The more time you can spend, the faster you can acquire Japanese. It’s all in your hands now.

3. What is Your First Language?

Another important factor that can determine how long it takes to grasp the Japanese language, especially pronunciation, is how similar it is to your native language.

If you’re a native English speaker, then it’s likely to take you a relatively longer time to become proficient. Because the writing system, pronunciation, grammar, sentence structure and other basic things are completely different from English.

But don’t worry. These differences and difficulties are very common for early Japanese learners, especially in the first 1-3 months.

The more you hear, are exposed to and immersed in Japanese, the faster you will absorb and pronounce Japanese like a native Japanese. Here, you just need time.

The problem is usually that you will compare your ability with your friends or other people. As much as possible, don’t do that.

Give yourself time to adapt and find your own way to master this Japanese language. Again, you just need time.

4. Previous Language Learning Experience

One other fact that has been found to affect a person’s performance in learning a foreign language is his or her previous experience of learning another foreign language. Research shows that having the experience of learning another foreign language before we start Japanese is as follows:

  • Improves the ability to process Japanese vocabulary.
  • Develop fluency in Japanese faster.
  • Higher cognitive ability and faster learning of Japanese.
  • Having high creativity in understanding the concept of learning Japanese.

However, even if you are not bilingual or have no experience in learning another foreign language before, don’t be discouraged.

This is just only one of the factors that are said to support the process of learning Japanese. There are other factors such as immersion, consistency, perseverance, commitment that also play a big role in supporting the acceleration of Japanese language acquisition.

5. Japanese Learning Methods

On your journey to becoming fluent in Japanese, you’ll need the best methods to keep you consistent but also keep you on track.

Don’t ever think that learning Japanese is an instant journey. Because learning Japanese is about becoming a new person with a different concept of thinking and culture. And it’s not easy.

If you find anyone out there who says learning Japanese without a smart method is easy, then they are trying to sell you something or deceive you.

So, what are some best methods you can use to learn Japanese? Here they are:

  1. Learn hiragana and katakana first.
  2. Slowly learn kanji and avoid writing in romaji.
  3. Try to write and practice speaking as much as you can.
  4. Listening to Japanese podcasts in leisure times.
  5. Singing Japanese songs to stay motivated.
  6. Make an effort to like kanji.
  7. Making a habit of reading Japanese news and analyzing the vocabulary used every day.
  8. Attending Japanese classes or finding the right tutor.

Please try some of the above methods, it’s okay to combine several methods or choose that really works for you.

6. How to Boost Your Japanese Learning Progress and Keep Motivated?

In the process of learning Japanese, of course you will feel bored or tired in the middle of it. However, if you remember the reason why you started this journey of learning Japanese in the first place, then you will still be able to continue this journey no matter how difficult and tired you are.

Never lose interest in learning Japanese.

To keep your passion for Japanese alive, you’ll need tips and tricks to make your Japanese learning journey faster and easier. You can use some of the following tips:

  1. If you are lazy to practice your Japanese reading skills then practice your Japanese listening skills For example: instead of reading Japanese articles or books, listen to relaxing music.
  2. Watching Japanese dramas or some comedy anime can also be entertaining while still giving you the opportunity to learn new vocabulary.
  3. Find a community to find Japanese conversation partners.
  4. Try writing the material you’ve learned in your journal with interesting pictures.
  5. Look up information about things you like in Japanese. For example: if you like cooking then try searching for Japanese recipes in Japanese, then you will find a myriad of interesting articles in Japanese that will add to your Japanese vocabulary.

And many other things. If you have other methods, please share!

7. Learning Kanji Takes Longer Time

You might be a bit intimidated by this fact. However, Kanji is the deciding factor in your success in mastering Japanese. Because kanji is the core and most crucial part of the Japanese language.

Why are kanji so important? Here are 3 crucial reasons behind it:

  1. Kanji represent the meaning and context of each word in the sentence as a whole. By knowing the meaning of just 1 kanji character, you can already guess where the context of the sentence you are reading is going.
    For example: The word 数学 (すうがく, suugaku) which means math in Japanese consists of 2 kanji characters 数 (すう, suu) which means number and 学 (がく, gaku) which means learning. Without knowing the meaning of the word, just by guessing the meaning of each character you can get an idea of what this word means.
  2. Kanji will help you to understand many Japanese words that have the same pronunciation but different meanings (homonyms).
  3. Kanji streamlines and shortens sentences. Being accurate, effective and efficient is part of Japanese culture. This is strongly represented by kanji. Imagine how long and time-consuming it would be if you had to write in hiragana.

Mastering kanji will not only allow you to pass JLPT N1, but you will discover the beauty and deep meaning that is essential in interpreting Japanese culture.

8. Growth Mindset in Japanese Learning

If you are someone who easily gives up, gets bored or stops midway when you have decided on something then you should probably instill this 1 mindset in your heart and mind. Especially in learning Japanese.

You can’t think that you can master Japanese in such a short time. This is not an instant thing.

Cultivating confidence in yourself that you can master Japanese with diligence, effort and focus on the journey is the key to your success in mastering this Japanese language.

This is the growth mindset. Being an individual who has this growth mindset will help you survive and keep trying until you reach the end point of mastering Japanese.

If you face failure, then rest assured that it is your opportunity to continue to grow and bounce higher and furthermore it will be easier to understand Japanese.

9. Immersion, Consistency and Urgency Effects in Japanese Learning

There are 3 other big factors that you should know in order to master Japanese in a relatively short period of time (1-2 years). Those are depth, consistency and urgency of your Japanese learning.

When you learn Japanese with perfect depth combined with your consistency to persevere in it, then this will greatly accelerate your learning process. But how do you learn Japanese in depth? You can do this by enrolling in a Japanese language school with a study period of 1-2 years with a targeted program.

There are currently many Japanese language schools that have great programs for foreigners. Please click the link below to find the best Japanese language school!

This in-depth learning system allows you to learn phrases, sentences and nuances directly with native speakers and practice them directly in your daily life.

In addition to this, urgency is also a driving factor in maintaining one’s passion for learning Japanese. If you do have a specific target within a certain time, then it is very good to be able to spur you to stay excited in the process of learning Japanese.

Of course it will not be the same, someone who wants to learn Japanese because he is being pursued by his company’s targets or studying to pass JLPT N2 for example with those who want to learn Japanese just so they can watch Anime. These 3 factors are very influential for your Japanese mastery and also your ability to maintain it for a long time.

Because without repetition, application in everyday life, an unsupportive environment, the Japanese language skills you already have may fade.

10. So, How Long & How Fast Can You Master Japanese Depends on YOU!

In this final part, once again I would like us to review together.

As you have read in the previous part, it takes about 6 months to master basic Japanese. Meanwhile, to be proficient in Japanese, let’s say passing JLPT N2, then you need 1 to 2 years.

To become advanced again, you will need more time than that.

The sooner you start this journey, and the more consistently you practice and maintain your perseverance in making your Japanese journey a success, the sooner you will reach that goal!

So, everything is now in your hands and shoulders! Start learning Japanese immediately and commit to doing so with dedication and consistency every day!

Conclusion

To wrap up this article, let’s recap the important points from our discussion above on How Long Does it Take to Learn Japanese, as follows:

  1. Setting the “precise and concrete goals” will help you find the most suitable learning resources and measure how long the time you need to catch your Japanese goals
  2. According to U.S. Foreign Services Institute, it takes 6 months to master the basic Japanese and 1.5 years to reach fluency in Japanese.
  3. Your first language can determine how long it takes to grasp the Japanese language especially in the first term starting the learning.
  4. Research shows having the experience of learning another foreign language before starting Japanese give several benefits.
  5. Finding and compounding the best methods will give great impact to boost your Japanese learning process.
  6. Find a way to boost your learning progress or at the least, please never lose your motivation in learning Japanese.
  7. Don’t be surprise that you will take longer time for mastering kanji because it’s super common thing happens among Japanese learners.
  8. Try to build growth mindset in conduction your Japanese learning journey.
  9. Immersion, consistency and urgency have strong benefits and effects in Japanese learning.
  10. To answer how long will it takes to learn Japanese only can be answered by yourself, because everything is now in your hands and shoulders!

Thank you so much for your kindness in reading this part! May your sincerity bear the sweet fruit of passing JLPT N1! Please leave your comments, messages and impressions in the comment section below! Good luck conquering JLPT N1! See you!

ABOUTこの記事をかいた人

Hi, I’m Eka. I’m one of the awardees of the 2016 MEXT College to College Recommendation Scholarship. I completed the one-year JASSO-Tokyo Japanese course (2016-2017) and won second place in the Japanese speech competition held internally at JASSO at that time. After that, I continued my education at NIT. Akashi College and earned a Bachelor of Engineering degree after 2 years of study. I love teaching children English and Japanese, writing blogs, designing graphics, and creating digital content. I hope you enjoy the knowledge I share here based on the experience I gained in Japan for over 5 years. Thanks!