Japanese can be a challenging language to learn. Without the commonalities that make Western languages comparatively straightforward to pick up, English speakers need to learn to think about language differently to begin understanding it.
However, many people have great reasons to understand Japanese. With the world’s third largest economy, Japan does lots of business on a global scale, and many English speakers will find opportunities for advancement in international business by learning the language.
Fortunately, just because Japanese can be difficult does not mean it can’t be fun. If you are looking to take it on, you can take a course that will covers the basics of Japanese using a contextual approach that will get you started quickly. And if you look through these tips, you might find you can even have a good time doing it!
Talk to other people
Often, instructors in Japanese recommend that students find a conversational partner when they begin learning to speak Japanese. With the web supporting you, you should have little trouble finding someone to start communicating with. This can be a lot of fun as you begin learning about another person. And as your language understanding grows, you can have more interesting and thoughtful conversations along the way. Enjoying this interaction might even begin motivating you to supercharge your learning.
Emphasizing your speaking skills, you will want to have some face to face interaction. So you can use Skype, Google Hangouts, or a range of other videoconferencing apps to enable real-time interaction.
If you are looking for a quickstart that will get you comfortable speaking Japanese, you can try a free course that teaches basic conversational Japanese and emphasizes casual and polite communication.
Get your manga on
Some Japanese cultural exports are very popular worldwide. And that is for good reason. Entertainment forms like manga and anime can be highly imaginative and interesting. They are also broad ranging, appealing to readers and viewers of different backgrounds and age groups.
If you are unfamiliar with manga, these are stories written in comic form. The animated version of them is called anime.
Judging by some of the most popular international examples of anime and manga, such as Dragonball Z and Naruto, you may have the wrong idea of these popular forms. Rather than being limited in appeal to children and teenagers, manga and anime offer content intended for virtually everyone. There are five main categories that will help you identify which books or videos would be good options for you to try:
Kodomo: Children’s manga that is simple and teaches moral lessons.
Shōnen: The type of manga for a male audience 13 years of age or older. This is the category where most internationally popular examples fall. They tend to be action stories focusing on a hero or group of heroes. They also often contain humor as a pronounced element.
Shōjo: Manga for a female audience in the 10-18 age group. Topics are varied in this genre, with the unifying factor being that they are created with this age and gender in mind.
Seinen: Manga intended for adult males. The typical audience target is ages 18-30 but extends upward from there. Much of the experimental, avant-garde, and philosophical manga falls in to this group. An example that reached international success is the cyber-punk classic Ghost in the Shell.
Josei: Manga for adult women. The audience ranges from 18-44, and while the content includes a range of subjects, it offers a more mature perspective on romance and relationships than in shōjo manga.
A word of advice for learning with manga and anime: make sure you are not using a book or film that uses a lot of controversial and impolite language. These exist, surprisingly in more than just the adult genres, and you want to be careful not to take your ideas from them. So you might start your search based on products that will help you learn properly.
Since anime videos include spoken Japanese, it might be best for you to begin with these, rather than manga books. You can take a conversational Japanese course that will give you the basic understanding you need to get started.
If you would like to try manga in addition, you might consider an online Japanese course that focuses on your reading ability.
With mobile devices powering so much of our communication, writing ability may be as essential as speaking if you are planning to interact with others in Japanese. There are some innovative ways to make the process of learning to write in Japanese fun as well.
One of the best is to learn the building blocks of the Japanese writing using rhythm. You can take an online course in Japanese writing that will teach you the two basic systems of symbols using a rhythmic approach.
Browse the web
As you begin working on your reading skills, there are some additional things you can do to have some fun while you learn. And one of those is browsing the web with some tools that are designed to help you learn Japanese.
If you are using the Firefox browser, there is an excellent tool called RikaiChan that you can use to learn about unfamiliar terms as you are looking through information. All you need to do is hover the mouse over an unfamiliar symbol, and information will appear. This is currently available for translation to English, French, German and Russian.
Google translate, of course, is another option you can use to support your browsing in Japanese using multiple web browsers.
Ultimately, a crucial part of having fun while you learn Japanese is to keep your patience. It is a very different language than you are used to, and some times you will find it difficult to understand a concept. Relax, find the help you need, and keep moving at a comfortable pace. If you keep from getting frustrated, you will find that learning Japanese can be a blast!