I am studying Japanese! Yes, the language that seems so difficult associated with anime and sushi. On top of my normal English and Creative Writing degree course, I take extra Japanese classes as my university provides them and I didn’t want to miss out on the opportunity to learn Japanese from a Japanese teacher. I’ve been trying to learn it outside of a classroom by myself but a classroom environment motivates me to keep up my studies. In this post, I’ll share some of my tips and tricks I use to learn Japanese that might be handy for you too! I will soon write a post about what resources I use and the way I use my notebooks to study this language so keep an eye out for those.
1. Pick the right resources
If you, like me, learn Japanese in a classroom this might be fairly easy because the books provided in class will be your main resource. If you are studying on your own it’s best to stick with one or two main resources at a time. You don’t want to get confused and teach yourself something the wrong way. In class we use “Japanese for busy people” but my teacher recommended “Genki” too. She told me that if I want to continue taking Japanese classes next semester (which I do!) I should start thinking about getting a Genki book during the summer to keep up my knowledge. Apps, too, can be very helpful while learning Japanese. Think of Duolingo, Memrise or HelloTalk. I’ll write a whole post about these in the very near future!
2. Get more than one notebook
For my language studies, I always have more than one notebook. Usually, I use three, which is how many I use for Japanese too. One to create a vocabulary journal. Every single new word I learn I write down. It’s a way of practicing the new vocabulary but also a way of tracking your improvement. It’s like making your own little personal dictionary. The second notebook I use for grammar rules and examples. Languages like Japanese can be especially tricky because the grammar and sentence structure differs so much from English (and Dutch), which is why I like to have one place where I can find all the basic grammar rules for when I’m stuck. The third and last notebook is the notebook I take to class. It’s where I write down messy notes and quick language exercises. The last one is definitely the messiest one, whereas I try to keep the vocabulary and grammar notebooks tidy.
3. Write in Hiragana/Katakana/Kanji instead of Romaji (English alphabet)
Just like you would recommend a Japanese person to write in the English alphabet while learning English, you should write in Japanese while learning Japanese. Kanji can be very tricky, especially for beginners, but Hiragana and Katakana are very easy to learn. They are super useful to know when you learn Japanese and an absolute must if you want to get better. Memrise is my favourite app to practice the Japanese alphabet, it’s how I learned to read Hiragana and Katakana. Another way I learned to read these alphabets is to find a Japanese text in Hiragana/Katakana and just read the sounds. Don’t worry about the meaning but focus on the sounds every character produces.
4. Consistency is key!
As with everything in life, practice makes perfect. You don’t have to study for hours on hours every day, but make sure to set some time for Japanese apart a couple of times each week. Even if you only spend 15 minutes every day on revising some vocabulary it’s better than to study for two hours once a week. I’ve noticed how easily the knowledge slips away after learning it for the first time, you have to keep using it and keep repeating it in order to remember it!
5. Find out what methods work best for you
My high school teachers always tried to promote the use of flashcards while learning vocabulary but it always seems way too much effort to me. Now I’ve given it a go a few months back I am loving it. It takes a little bit of time to make them but once they’re done you can use them forever. I love using flashcards when my boyfriend helps me study for an exam or to revise on my own. Finding the way of studying that works best for you is essential. Some people learn best by writing down new words over and over, some need to use them in sentences, some use flashcards. Whatever you feel works best for you is the method you should stick to.
6. Find your motivation
Learning a new language takes time and effort. I started learning English 10 (?) years ago and I still make mistakes. You need motivation, dedication, and patience. That’s why it’s so important to find the right tools to keep you motivated. Why do you want to learn this language? For me, it’s because I’d love to teach English in Japan one day and I’ve always been very interested in the culture. I watch videos and read blog posts of people who are teaching in Japan now to motivate me. I read up about the culture and watch anime in Japanese. The studyblr tag on Tumblr is a great motivation for me too, seeing the pretty notebooks and study tips help me massively. Whatever your reason is to study a language, make sure to find motivation from it.
Over the summer I’m going to have to stay on top of the Japanese I learned last year and hopefully, I can get into the intermediate classes after summer!
Are any of you guys learning a foreign language? If so, what would you advise others?
Check out the list with resources I use to learn Japanese here!