Learning a new language is a daunting prospect for anyone, especially on your own. However, the process will be more straightforward if you arm yourself with the knowledge to do it best before you take that first step.
This list will explain the most tried-and-true methods for learning Japanese. It will also help you figure out the most effective approach for your unique situation.
#1: Do Your Research
Japanese is a Category 4 language, which means it’s among the hardest languages for a native English speaker to learn. According to the Foreign Service Institute of the U.S. Department of State, that means it will take around 2200 class hours for an average student to learn fluently. That translates to about 88 weeks!
You can make the most of such a significant time investment by being fully prepared beforehand. For example, it’s a good idea to learn everything you can about the Japanese language before going forward with any of the methods mentioned here. Try going to Wikipedia’s article on Japanese to learn as much about it beforehand as you can.
#2: Go Abroad
What is the absolute best way to learn Japanese? According to Language Studies International, the best way to learn any language is to visit its home country. By doing this, you immerse yourself in the culture associated with the language. Doing so will help you learn every nuance of Japanese language and culture, helping you master both how to speak with and how to act towards Japanese speakers.
Remember that this is particularly important for learning Japanese. Japan has strict cultural etiquette guidelines that are important to follow. Learning a language on your own does not provide this level of immersion. You might miss out on learning some cultural cues.
#3: Download an App
There are hundreds of resources available that allow learning on the go. If you’re a person who has free time on public transportation or between classes, learning Japanese through your smartphone or computer may be a good option for you. Proven names in language learning, such as Rosetta Stone, have apps available on your smartphone. Apps like these will help enhance your learning process.
Downloading a language-learning app or program is the best way to learn Japanese online. If you don’t have a smartphone, Rosetta Stone and other programs are available for download on your computer, too.
#4: Take a Class
Taking a class is one of the most tried-and-true methods for effective language learning. Many colleges offer language-learning courses online. You don’t even need access to a school campus to take a class! Online classes are a good prospect for those who have limited time to learn, such as after work or on weekends.
Taking a class to learn Japanese is one of the best ways to motivate yourself. It can be easy to give up when things get tough if you’re attempting to learn on your own. Committing to a class creates a financial incentive to keep going. It also introduces a commitment to your teacher and peers. This will help discourage you from giving up.
#5: Purchase Resources
Some learners want to learn at their own pace. If this is the case, you may want to look into purchasing textbooks and other learning materials. There are many free learning resources on the web, but a full-featured textbook will result in a more structured learning experience. This makes it one of the best ways to learn Japanese on your own.
Take your time with your research and find a textbook written by a respectable instructor. Remember to take things like online reviews into account.
Many textbooks will also include activities or workbooks to supplement the learning process. Amazon is a great place to look for these books because of the sheer number available. Many of these textbooks also have verified user reviews to help you decide.
Keep in mind that for commuters and auditory learners, things like CDs and audiobooks are also available. They will sometimes even come for free with a textbook.
#6: Find a Mentor
If you’re unable to study abroad and immerse yourself in Japanese culture, finding a tutor or mentor may be a good choice. It will provide a lot of the same cultural and linguistic benefits as traveling to Japan would.
A mentor, especially one who’s a native speaker or previous resident of Japan, will know what cultural cues to teach you. They can also fine-tune your pronunciation, and they will have an insider perspective on the language that learning on your own would not provide.
While it’s usually more expensive than taking a class, having a mentor may be better for those who worry about their aptitude to learn Japanese. The one-on-one mentorship provided by a tutor can be invaluable for those who need extra help, or those who learn at a slower pace.
#7: Immerse Yourself
According to the McGraw Center for Teaching & Learning at Princeton University, practicing, reviewing, listening, and speaking Japanese is the best way to learn Japanese long-term. It’s also the best way to retain what you’ve learned. Even if you’re not able to visit Japan yourself, make some Japanese contacts with whom you can practice speaking. Some professors or mentors will be willing to do this for you.
Watch television in Japanese, and consume any media you can that will keep your brain thinking in Japanese. For any anime fans out there, this means you! Anime is an essential aspect of Japanese culture. Watching shows in Japanese with English subtitles will help supplement and affirm the language you’ve learned.
There are surely more methods to learn Japanese than we’ve listed here, but we’ve done our utmost to compile the best assortment of plans to choose from. The list here will appeal to any learning style and situation, as well.
Learning a new language is a serious endeavor, and rather than spending money and time on a method that may not work for you, it’s better to do your research first to find your best fit. We’ve done that research already; the rest is up to you!