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Tips on learning Japanese Posted by on May 19, 2015 in Culture, Grammar

Taking a break from learning this month’s theme: Kanji’s, I wanted to share these useful tips on learning Japanese as a second language. Some of these could be applied to any foreign language you might be studying besides Japanese. I would like everyone out there who is learning Japanese to be successful. Try these tips as you learn Japanese or any other foreign language.



Tips on how to increase language ability at home

Japanese is just like any other foreign languages out there. There are mainly two parts to the language ability. One is the ability to carry day to day conversation: Conversational Aspect. The other is the ability to read and write, what I would call, Academic Aspect. Which one is more important to you? If you would like to just simply be able to communicate with someone in Japanese, or would like to be able to understand spoken Japanese, you are more focused on conversational aspect of learning Japanese. However, if your goal is to be able to write a letter/emails in Japanese or be able to read a Japanese newspaper, you would need to focus on reading and writing aspect of Japanese learning.


Speak More Japanese at Home

Even if you are new to Japanese, try to speak what you already know over and over at home. Learn simple greetings in Japanese first, such as Good morning(Ohayo gozaimasu おはよう ございます), Good afternoon or Hello (Konnichiwa, こんにちは), Good evening(Konbanwa こんばんは), Good night(Oyasumi nasai おやすみなさい). Use these with your friends or partner throughout the day.

Slowly expand your knowledge to include, “Bon appétit,” (Itadakimasu いただきます) and Thank you for the meal (Gochi so samadeshita, ごちそうさまでした). At every meal, you can practice these two expressions before and after eating.

Depending on the vocabulary you might know, you could always try to use them even in your English conversation.  If you don’t know how to say a whole sentence in Japanese, try the following:

To say: “I bought strawberries today.”,  If you only know the word, strawberries in Japanese, which is Ichigo(いちご), You might just say “I bought Ichigo today.”  or “I ate mikan (orange) today”, ” I want gohan(rice) for dinner.”, etc… Important thing is to keep using Japanese words you know as frequently as possible so it will be natural to you to be speaking in Japanese.


If your focus is in academic aspect of learning Japanese, try


Using sticky notes…

to write simple reminder, a memo or message in Japanese. You don’t have to write a long sentence. If you would like to remind yourself to bring umbrella tomorrow, look up the word, umbrella in Japanese and write it on a sticky notes. (Umbrella will be Kasa, 傘、かさ in Japanese) If you do this once a day, imagine how quickly you can build your vocabulary! You can even save all the sticky notes you wrote in your notebook to look back what you wrote so far so you can keep learning new vocabulary every day.


Exchange a diary with your partner who is also learning Japanese

This is called, Kokan nikki (こうかんにっき、交換日記)in Japanese. You simply write today’s diary and give it to your friend the next day. Your friend will write his/her diary next and give the diary back to you to read it. Again, start small. You do not need to try writing long sentences to begin with.


Check out Japanese picture books from local library

To become familiar with written Japanese, picture books are great tool to get started. Since the expressions used in picture books are not as complicated as the ones you would find on the newspaper, reading Japanese picture books is a great place to start learning. Once you read the book, you can also practice writing them by copying the words in the book.


Create your list in Japanese

If you need to make a list of grocery items for tonight, why don’t you write them in Japanese? If you don’t know the Hiragana, then just use Romaji.  It will be a good review on vocabulary you already know.


Try writing a short essay for special occasion

Once you know most of Hiragana, write a short essay for special occasion in Japanese. Another way of increasing the writing time is to write a short essay for any special occasion. Your birthday, Christmas, New Years, and Independence Day, April Fool’s Day etc..  It doesn’t have to be a holiday to write. If you had a nice day, write a short diary or essay about the day to cherish it forever.

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About the Author: keiko

Born and raised in Japan. She currently lives in U.S. with her husband and two kids.