This post will be a small guide to learn Japanese and show you the steps needed to get onto the track of being able to converse, write and read Japanese.
If you already have knowledge of more than one language you will most likely be aware that there are a lot of things in common between the two languages that you know. This is especially true for closely related languages like the latin languages (Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian and so on). The problem is that the Japanese language has it’s own language try and is almost not related to any other modern languages. What this means is that the only language that unless you know Chinese or Korean, (Japanese uses Chinese characters and Korean pronunciation is a bit similar) you will have few things to relate to something you already know. In other words it will take a little more effort to soak in all the new words and grammar.
Let’s start with discussing reading. There is a reason why we should start with reading and that is that Japanese contains many loanwords from chinese imported together with the Chinese characters, Kanji, which are letters with a specific full fledged meaning attached to them. One Kanji can for example mean book: “本”. Pronounced “hon”. Using Kanjis in various combination then creates more complicated words. This is the first reason; you will have to learn reading to actually be able to speak properly since you will need it to recognise and identify words that are based on more than one “word” or Kanji. The second reason is the other two easier alphabets that Japanese use: Hiragana and Katakana. These alphabets are like ours and just tells the reader how to pronounce the written word and by that makes one able to guess what it actually means. For example “へ” exists in both of those alphabets and is pronounced “hé” (as in hesitate). As you can see most of their letters actually contains two of our alphabet’s letters. If you manage to master Hiragana and Katakana you can in other words know how to pronounce every word in Japanese, you see in Japanese there are less bending of pronunciation than in English and “へ” will almost always sound exactly like that.
↑The sign is written in Japanese, English and Chinese in order from top to bottom. Japanese uses Kanjis differently from Chinese as you can see.
In the picture above is a somewhat funny but important sign written with Hiragana and one Kanji in the middle. This is a simplified writing style often used in public so that as many people as possible would understand the meaning. Hiragana and Katakana are very easy to learn and could take anything from a day to a month to get the hang of depending on your study intensity. A recommendation would be to use http://realkana.com/ or some similar service to study Hiragana and Katakana(We do not have any ties with this site and we do not benefit from you visiting it and we cannot be held responsible for anything that would happen to you using their services, even though there should be no problem)
After mastering some reading (and some grammar) you are now ready to try and write or speak. Speaking could be very challenging and embarrassing to begin with since you will most certainly make weird mistakes and you have to find someone actually willing to talk with you in your broken Japanese. This is the important part though! You have to challenge yourself when using a language to get better in it. So to learn Japanese, the best way would be to travel to Japan and just go out and try to talk to people at different events and locations. This start to sound almost too good, doesn’t it? It is true though, as long as you challenge yourself when trying to communicate. Even flirting with people would be a very good practice. Challenge yourself and soak in how everyone around you uses the language and take notes, mental notes of course since you wouldn’t want to slam up a notebook in the middle of a conversation. Don’t be afraid to ask when there is something you find weird or don’t understand.
Finally writing is a skill you should not put too much weight in. Nowadays computers and phones help you with writing and the simple things you will have to write by hand are easy enough to remember from the reading lessons. When you really want to master the language you can tackle this beast though; it is quite a difficult process to learn writing (especially Kanji).
As a side note you will have to use some dictionary to look up words that has to do with your profession and other things that the regular person you meet in the street will not know. What words are used in daily conversation varies by countries quite drastically so don’t be surprised if you ask someone for a word you think they ought to know and they tell you that they don’t have a clue.
If all goes well, you will be speaking Japanese in no time and be able to work in Japan.
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