AN ULTIMATE GUIDE ON HOW TO LEARN JAPANESE BY YOURSELF


How To Learn Japanese by yourself | Denwasensei

Do you know how to learn Japanese by yourself? It is hard, yes. But, with effort and dedication, you will surely learn!

Absolutely, to learn Japanese by yourself is achievable; millions of people worldwide do it every day, either for fun or professional reasons. However, anyone who claims that learning a new language is such an easy task is either lying to you or attempting to sell you something — maybe books or any Japanese-related merchandise. It would be best if you begin by doing things the hard way — and the right way — right from the beginning. Everything else will be a lot simpler if you take well-planned actions.

Read on and find out how to learn Japanese by yourself.

Why Should You Learn Japanese?

how to learn Japanese by yourself

After English and Chinese, Japanese language speakers make up the third biggest language population in the virtual world. The Internet is used by approximately 88 million Japanese people, equivalent to 9.6% of the world’s population of internet users. Learning Japanese can put you in touch with these persons right away. They might be future pals or colleagues, workmates, or even the client that you or your prospective company are hoping to reach.

Because Japanese is not as often introduced or taught as French, Italian, or Spanish, it will increase your career relevance. When you study Japanese, you’ll be in a better position to compete for jobs in sectors including economics, finance, arts, engineering, technology, and tourism.

According to 2021 data from Statista, the Japanese language has 126 million native speakers around the world. This makes the language belong to the top 15 languages with the most significant number of speakers. For a more comprehensive understanding of the frequency of the Japanese speakers in other countries based on the data from World Data, you may refer to the table of statistics below:

Estimated Number of Fluent Japanese Speakers

Country Region / Continent Number of Speakers
Japan East Asia 124,703,000
United States North America 659,000
Brazil South America 425,000
Guam Micronesia 3,000

Though most Southeast Asian languages are diverse from one another, they are easily distinguishable as a cluster from more foreign linguistic groups such as Indo-European and Afro-Asiatic languages. The syntax of both Japanese and Korean is incredibly similar. Like other Southeast Asian languages, Japanese is a highly logical and analytical language. It relies mainly on keywords rather than complex intonation schemes to convey linguistic elements.

Additionally, the Japanese kanji writing system is based on the Chinese ideograph technique. Because many of the principles underlying the languages are somehow identical, understanding Japanese puts you one step closer to learning other Asian languages like Korean or Chinese.

Top 8 Effective Tips on How to Learn Japanese by Yourself

The moment you start engaging with your favorite topics in their native language, the better. Sure, it might feel impossible or extremely challenging at first. But, in the end, it will be worth all the effort. Let’s face it: Japanese is a fantastic language to learn, but mastering it may be challenging. And, like any language you try to study, it will get tedious or boring if you don’t enjoy it. To get you through, here are the top eight most effective tips on how to learn Japanese on your own.

  • Create a timetable and progress tracker for studying Japanese.

Suppose you set an hour or two every day to spend studying Japanese. However, you do not have to stress yourself out! It can be broken down into small daily parts of your free time. Here’s an example: you can plan to study at least 10 new Kanji, twenty new Japanese words, and one new grammatical pattern every day. Then you may split it up according to how much you think you’ll be able to squeeze into a learning schedule.

Another option is to plan out what you want to learn on a specific day. For example, you want to learn Japanese vocabulary on Mondays, then Japanese common phrases and expressions on Wednesdays and Fridays, and Kanji on weekends. You are free to schedule your subjects according to your preferences. You can also track how well you are doing with self-studying Japanese by using a progress tracker where you can list down the Japanese words you are comfortable using or simply writing down the phases you learned throughout a day of studying the language.

  • Get both physical and digital copies of a Japanese dictionary.

You may purchase a Japanese dictionary from your nearest bookstore to help you understand different Japanese words while watching a movie or listening to Japanese music. While it is not always an efficient and recommendable way to bring a hard copy of your dictionary anywhere you go, especially when you are going out for dinner or don’t have a bag that fits your dictionary. But the best thing is you can have a digital copy on your phone! You can quickly search any Japanese word and look for its English equivalent, or vice versa.

However, while choosing and installing a mobile application takes only a few seconds or minutes, how will you know if the dictionary you chose will meet your needs when you need it the most? Simple — mobile apps with a Japanese name alongside them have a Japanese interface. Try challenging yourself by installing an all-Japanese application while learning hiragana and katakana and understanding the fundamentals of Japanese characters. Remember, you do not have to know everything all at once.

  • Listen to Japanese music or podcasts.

Singing along to Japanese music or listening to them will quickly help you recall basic Japanese terms and sentence structures. Repetition not only helps you remember things but also allows you to get more comfortable with listening to them. It can increase your listening skills, accent, retention, and capacity to learn new words significantly.

Songs can help you get a better sense of the words’ intonation, pronunciation, and phrasing. Plus, hearing how the vocalists say the lyrics and attempting to perform them yourself might help you understand not just to identify Japanese words and their meanings but also to make the sounds that can fit Japanese music. Additionally, listening to podcasts in Japanese can also help you catch Japanese phrases that can be used in daily conversations. You can quickly learn how Japanese words are pronounced and used in sentences.

  • Watch Japanese movies or anime.

Watch Japanese versions of your favorite films and anime series. Netflix and YouTube have tremendous amounts of Japanese shows available, ranging from anime to Japanese drama. It is indeed a fantastic method to learn Japanese while having fun by watching them without generated captions or subtitles. You can attentively listen to conversations, and write notes on what you understand from the characters’ dialogues.

  • Buy Japanese textbooks.

To level up your Japanese reading and writing comprehension, we suggest you purchase a beginner Japanese textbook. On average, it will take roughly two to six months to get through most basic Japanese materials. However, doing this depends on how much effort or time you devote to your lessons and whatever linguistic learning technique you use. If you like, you may even read a few various Japanese textbooks simultaneously since not everything is contained in a single book. If you cannot comprehend a topic or if you want to learn more — don’t worry — there are a variety of resources available to help you.

All of the factors that used to hold you back should now be a lot easier to cope with. You will no longer be wasting your time and energy searching for Kanji and phrases or terminologies you’re unfamiliar with. Instead, you’ll simply do it as you learn day by day. Finding a book or program to study becomes less critical once you have a basic understanding of Japanese words and expressions. However, there are still numerous “excellent” textbooks as much as how many “poor” textbooks are out there. Most will offer you the same material in some form or another. Choose one that best suits your study habits. You may also take Japanese language proficiency exams to see if you genuinely grasped what you learned from Japanese textbooks.

  • Keep notes of commonly used Japanese words or phrases.

While watching your favorite Japanese movie or anime, keep a notepad with you or use your phone to jot down catchy Japanese words. You can look up its definitions using your Japanese dictionary, and you can also use these words when you finally understand their meaning and how they can be used in daily conversations. Doing this can help you retain common phrases without memorizing everything from textbooks and dictionaries.

  • Immerse yourself in the Japanese culture and talk to people.

Do you have access to Japanese news while scrolling through your phone? Or do you have a Japanese channel on your television where you can watch about Japanese culture? If yes, these are only some of the best methods to incorporate Japanese culture into your daily routine. It would be much better if you could change the language audio of a show from English to Japanese while watching it on TV. Or look up Japanese topics or hashtags and read the descriptions rather than browsing your favorite social media apps in English. You can also tune in to Japanese episodes of talk shows or J-Pop radio stations during your free time instead of listening to mainstream Western music.

Undoubtedly, the ultimate goal is to learn the Japanese language, no matter how fluent you can get. Anyone who has accomplished all of the previous words and phrases should not need to be concerned about this learning even more complex Japanese language topics. Speaking, on the other hand, necessitates interactions and communication with Japanese people. Thus, it would be better to have a little bit of a chat with your food server in a Japanese restaurant or talk to anyone knowledgeable of the language.

  • Download a language-learning app on your phone.

The modern world makes it easier for most people to learn new languages for free. Thanks to developers who make applications accessible to the public, people can learn primary — or even intermediate-level — languages without full-time assistance from language tutors. And the best part here is that it can be carried anywhere you go, as long as you have your phone!

Smartphone Apps that can Help You Learn Japanese by Yourself

To help you learn to speak in Japanese and develop your own responses to different conversations or questions, Pimsleur uses a special call-response-feedback technique. As far as mobile applications go, it is the closest you’ll come to real-life communicative tasks without actually conversing with a local. The primary benefit of this method is that you master Japanese vocabulary through speech patterns. You don’t need to follow stringent language rules and grammar guides. Pimsleur gives you the opportunity to practice the Japanese language in a natural and conversational tone.

Language learners are first introduced to hiragana by studying phonetically written texts and listening to the local language’s audio. Pimsleur provides five stages of Japanese courses, ranging from beginner to intermediate levels. Users may have access to all five-course classes for $14.95 per month.

What is Kanji Study?

Kanji Study is one of the excellent applications for practicing Japanese reading and writing skills. The program offers a full and comprehensive strategy that will take you from an N5 reading level (beginner) to an N1 reading level (advanced). And yes, beginners can access the application for free! Users can study kana, radicals, and first-level Kanji at the beginner level. In addition, they will have access to a complete and comprehensive Japanese dictionary. Then, users can learn Kanji for a one-time fee of $12.99, which is divided into ten tiers. Each level is divided into kanji sets. Most subsequent levels feature about two to three hundred different Kanji that are arranged into groups, whereas the beginner level has eight sets of 10 kanji.

Furthermore, Duolingo is a famous language learning app that provides lessons in various languages, not just Asian languages. It has a long history of being one of the top language learning applications for countries that are linked to the English language. It operates on a “freemium” basis, which means you can access a lot of material for free but with pop-up advertisements, and you’ll have to pay to unlock all of the app’s services and remove the ads.

Set Your Language Learning Goals — And Stick to Them

What really matters is what you want to achieve in the end. As a result, deciding what “fluent” implies to you will be beneficial. If you want to comprehend anime without using subtitles, you’ll need to focus on improving your vocabulary. Or, if you want to learn the language to communicate with the locals when you travel to Japan, you have to learn the proper pronunciations of Japanese words. In reality, there are various factors to think about when estimating the duration of learning Japanese. Mastering the Japanese language (or any language, for that matter) takes a long time.

Although you put in a lot of work, you cannot anticipate quick results or proficiency in a couple of days or weeks. It’s crucial to remember, though, that learning another language is a remarkably long journey. Achievements and goals are attained one step at a time as you develop, not all at once! Keep in mind that you are not in a school. There are no requirements to go at the fastest or slowest all the time; there is no speed limit!

How many hours per week are you prepared to commit to studying Japanese? It’s self-evident that the longer you spend practicing, the quicker you’ll pick up the language. Casual individuals who devote only a few hours per week to learning Japanese will progress more slowly than serious learners who devote a few hours per day to improving their abilities. However, we aren’t suggesting that you devote eight hours or more every day to your language lessons! You’ll achieve your objective sooner if you sit down and concentrate on finishing it rather than doing it whenever you feel like it, just as you would with any other activity or project.

Learn Japanese with Denwa Sensei!

Don’t overwork yourself if you don’t think you’ll be prepared to answer your Japanese topics on your own. You’ll be able to focus on the ones that a language tutor can assist you with: speaking, reading, and responding to questions, now that you’ve established a basic foundation of Kanji and vocabulary. You’re not supposed to look for a tutor or an instructor at this point, but if this is something you’ve been looking forward to, now is the best opportunity to do it. Everything after this does not need you to have access to a language instructor, tutor, or native Japanese speaker. Therefore you can continue without completing this phase.

But, should you choose to seek assistance from competent language tutors, we’re here to help you achieve your goal! Denwa Sensei aims to teach or assist English-speaking individuals with learning Japanese, or vice versa. And not only do we focus on language teaching, but we also share experiences we had while teaching in Japan. The beautiful culture, cuisine, tourist spots, and everything about Japan — we’re going to talk about them! If you want to know more about the language and Japan itself, feel free to reach out to us. It doesn’t matter if you have little to no knowledge of speaking Japanese; we’ll be happy to work with you as you reach your goal of learning a new language!

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How long does it take to learn fluent Japanese?

Yes, you can master the Japanese language by yourself. Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji are all possible to learn without a language tutor. However, the US Department of State claims that Japanese is one of the most difficult languages for English native speakers to study since it does not have many structural parallels to English. They believe that gaining proficiency will take at least 88 weeks, equivalent to 2200 hours. Another source indicated that it takes an average of two to three years to learn advanced-level Japanese. You may need lots of patience, a skilled Japanese tutor, and lots of practice with native Japanese people to truly acquire and grasp the language’s complexities.

  • What is the easiest way to learn the Japanese language?

The best way to learn any foreign language is first to know what suits your learning style. If you are more of a reader type, then you can learn more quickly with textbooks, manga, newspapers, or magazines. If you are more of a visual learner, then watching Japanese movies, shows, or anime can help you better. Lastly, if you are more of an auditory learner, then tuning in to Japanese radio or listening to Japanese podcasts can make the process easier for you. There is no specified or best method of learning the language — it solely depends on you and how much effort you put into it.

  • Why is it important to know basic Japanese?

People must be educated in order to become culturally and socially involved, as proper communication and language are at the heart of human experiences. When you study Japanese, you do improve not only your communication skills but also acquire insight into the country’s culture. When visiting Japan, understanding simple Japanese terminologies and expressions might also help you communicate with the natives. In terms of the professional field, understanding the Japanese work attitude, etiquette, and cultural preferences to avoid may considerably affect an important business transaction.

 

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