For people who want to learn Japanese but don’t know how to start!
NOTE: This is not a post for resources. I mention some in this post, but you can find way more on posts like this or this. Also, keep in mind that these are just my personal opinions and methods. I tried many different things to get over that beginner hurdle, and I found that this method was most effective. Take away whatever you think will work best for you. Good luck!
1. Make some decisions
First, come up with a couple reasons why you want to learn Japanese. These reasons must be specific and meaningful enough to get you through those times of frustrations. Write them down somewhere.
Next, decide whether or not you want to learn how to handwrite. Handwriting is definitely important and can help in the learning process, but it isn’t completely necessary in this digital age. It takes time out of learning other aspects of the language, and you probably won’t handwrite too often anyway. It really just depends on what your goals are and your reasons for learning.
Lastly, figure out which areas you want to focus on: reading, writing, listening, or speaking (any combination of them or all of them), depending on your reasons for learning. If your main goal is to be able to read Japanese books, you’d obviously want to work more on reading, and if your main goal is to be able to communicate with Japanese people, you’d want to concentrate most on speaking or writing. As with any language, input (reading and listening) is going to be much easier than output (writing and speaking). Of course, focusing on all four will be the best option, but realistically, it will take much longer to master all of them at once compared to focusing on specific ones.
2. Learn hiragana and katakana
In my opinion, romaji (English spellings of Japanese) should not exist in any textbooks at all. The very first thing you should learn is Hiragana, the most basic writing system of the three, so you never have to rely on romaji. You can put off learning Katakana until a little later, but Katakana should be memorized fairly early on as well.
Here is a really good guide to Hiragana by Tofugu. They also have a guide for Katakana here. Use mnemonics! If you like to doodle, make up and draw your own mnemonics. This website is a good place to test yourself. There’s also this website.
For both, aim to be able to recall the character almost immediately after it pops up, in under 2 seconds. You want to be able to recognize them as well as you recognize ABC’s!
When I started learning Japanese, the inability to pick up on words in anime, movies and music frustrated me. Aside from “Okā-san!”, “Otō-san!” and “Kusou!”, I had trouble catching words and phrases and my listening skills developed at a slow rate. I used to sit back and wonder, “Will I ever be able to understand what they’re saying!?”
A trip to the video rental shop answered my question. Instead of the anime, drama or comedy sections, I scoped out family and children’s DVDs. Among them I discovered Chibi Maruko-chan, Oden-kun, and other shows that served as more suitable learning material for a beginner. Although not easy, these programs featured language closer to my level, particularly when compared to the complicated plots of the anime and movies I had been watching.
At last I could improve my listening skills while being entertained! Some of these cartoons, like Anpanman, are made for toddlers and feature simple stories, simple Japanese and clear pronunciation. Others, like Nintama Rantarou, take aim at older children and feature a slight level-up in Japanese and plot. But all of the following shows can be used as study materials. But don’t take my word for it – give them a try!
For beginners to Japanese who are not taking a course I would definitely recommend looking at the Genki line of textbooks. They’re what I used in uni and from what I’ve heard they’re what most people use. They take you step by step through some mostly useful and natural sounding Japanese, so I would take a look at it if you’re wanting to get into Japanese.
Or if you don’t want to spend money, you can check out my new Youtube series ‘Half-Assed Japanese’ where I essentially try and explain Japanese in the laziest and quickest way possible to get you up and going without the fluff.
Today, I want to look at pronoun の. Just when you thought の was only possessive, it changes its function to something else. But, what is Japanese without a twist? Pronoun の replaces a noun when it’s clear what noun you’re referring to. It roughly translates to “one,” as in “I want the blue one.”
Kanji: 黒い自転車は高いです。赤いのも高いです。 Kana: くろいじてんしゃはたかいです。あかいのもたかいです。 Romaji: Kuroi jitensha wa takai desu. Akai no mo takai desu. English: The black bike is expensive. The red one is also expensive.
(の = 自転車)
Kanji: このシャッツが古いし、新しいのを買います。 Kana: このシャッツがふるいし、あたらしいのをかいます。 Romaji: Kono shattsu ga furui shi, atarashii no wo kaimasu. English: Because this shirt is old, I will buy a new one.
(の = シャッツ)
This pronoun can also be reduced in a Noun の Noun situation, where the second noun is dropped. But as mentioned before, this is only when the noun you are talking about is clear.
Kanji: 財布は誰のですか。 Kana: さいふはだれのですか。 Romaji: Saifu wa dare no desu ka. English: Who’s wallet is this?
Kana: ジョンのですか。 Romaji: Jon no desu ka. English: Is it John’s?
Kana: いいえ、ジェニファーのです。 Romaji: Iie, Jenifaa no desu. English: No, it’s Jennifer’s.
Kanji: バスク料理のレストランの方がアメリカ料理のより好きです。 Kana: バスクりょうりのレストランのほうがアメリカりょうりのよりすきです。 Romaji: Basuku ryouri no resutoran no hou ga Amerika ryouri no yori suki desu. English: I like Basque restaurants more than American ones.
Right now I’m mainly reading Level 1 books of the Japanese Graded Readers series (which I talk a little about in this post). It’s fairly easy for me to understand, so rather than just reading it, I go through a few more steps to learn from what I read.
Read without looking up words.The first time I read a book, I avoid the dictionary and just try to get the gist of what it’s saying through what I already know and the pictures provided, if there are any. This is a good way of measuring your level.
Transcribe the text line by line while looking up words you don’t know and looking out for grammar points.On the second read, I write down a line of text after I read it. I’m not too nitpicky about my stroke order because it’s not too hard to guess a kanji’s stroke order. I bought a notebook with squared boxes for this since I believe it helps with handwriting and spacing, but regular notebooks are fine. After writing down a line, I look up words I don’t know from that line, if any. I write the reading and definition on the side. For grammar, I take note on grammar points I’m currently studying by circling it. If there are any particle usages that I don’t understand, I look it up and jot down the usage on the side.
Write a translation. After I finish transcribing the entire book, I write a little summary of translation on the bottom. It isn’t really necessary, but it’s helpful for me to write out exact translations rather than just having it in my head.
Have a space to practice kanji characters.I always pick out ten or so kanji characters or compound words to practice my writing. It helps with memorizing the vocabulary as well as what exactly the kanji looks like so I have better recall when I reencounter it.
Read the book a third time, out loud. This time, I know pretty much exactly what every line is saying, so it’s just a final review. Reading it out loud is just helpful for speaking.
I hope this was helpful! I feel like I’m getting a lot more out of these books through this process. What do you do when you read a Japanese book?
As I mentioned last week, when first stepping foot inside a Japanese classroom you will be learning the vowels in hiragana ひらがな. Do you remember them? We’ll do a little test…
あ - ?
い - ?
う - ?
え - ?
お - ?
If you can’t remember them, make sure to check back to the post I mentioned - this stuff is vital - you can’t forget it! And what good is memorising what these characters are if you can’t remember how to pronounce them? Make sure you know exactly how to pronounce them! Pronunciation could possibly be the easiest part of Japanese because it’s always consistent and mostly simple for native English speakers (there are some exceptions, however; りょ ‘ryo’ gives me a lot of grief!).
So that you know exactly what you’re doing, you can watch this video:
This chick has a bit of a grating accent, in my opinion, but she will give you the exact pronunciation of each character and MOST IMPORTANTLY, she’ll show you how to write them with proper stroke order. Do not underestimate the importance of stroke order! Stroke order is important not just for hiragana ひらがな, but for katakana カタカナ and kanji 漢字, too. Before learning proper stroke order my あ looked like some sort of retarded mess, but following this video will hopefully prevent that from happening to you. Also, you have to practise! Don’t just settle for memorising how to read Japanese - writing it is just as important as it helps to strengthen pathways in the mind. You will remember twice as fast if you concentrate on both reading AND writing.
My final advice on beginning hiragana ひらがな and even for intermediate kana かな learners is to use this website:
It’s basically a flash-card system. Use it! It will count your right and wrong answers - so you can time yourself and calculate your percentage of correct answers. I gave this website to my sensei 先生, and she loved it.
Now, onto the next part of Japanese lesson 1 - aisatsu あいさつ
These, as I have covered before are your everyday expressions, some of which you will already know! As I list them I will give you the Japanese in both hiragana ひらがな and roumaji ローマ字, their meanings in English, and a little explanation about how to use each of them. Also, there are a lot of aisatsu あいさつ, so I won’t be covering them all in this post!
Konnichiwa こんにちは - Hello
Used after midday but before sunset. Konnichiwa can be used by anyone to anyone - friends, strangers, superiors - it’s universal.
Konbanwa こんばんは - Good evening
Used after sunset as a greeting; anyone can use this.
Ohayou gozaimasu おはようございます - Good morning
Used before midday as a greeting. Is a bit more commonly used than 'good morning’ is in English. Between more casual acquaintances you can drop the gozaimasu ございます.
Oyasuminasai おやすみなさい - Good night
Used when going to sleep, but you can drop the nasai なさい to be more casual.
Arigatou gozaimasu ありがとうございます - Thank you
Used the same way as 'thank you’ in English, though I feel like arigatou gozaimasu ありがとうございます carries a bit more weight than it does in English. You can drop the gozaimasu ございます for a more casual 'thanks’, but you can also add doumo どうも to make doumo arigatou gozaimasu どうもありがとうございます if you really need to show your appreciation. You can also say hontouni arigatou gozaimasu 本当にありがとうございます which is like 'I truly appreciate what you have done’ and is very humble in tone. For a super casual 'cheers’ or 'ta’ you can just say doumo どうも, but it’s somewhat uncommon.
Douitashimashite どういたしまして - You’re welcome
A very humble way of saying 'you’re welcome’. More casually you can say ieie いえいえ which is like 'it’s okay’ or 'no problem’
space out, daydream, stare off into space:ぼーっとする (written in kana alone)
sleeping soundly onomatopoeia: すやすや
This image was created by me, but has been checked by a native speaker for accuracy (Hajime Maeda, check out his tumblr). Please feel free to share* the image, if you do please link to my blog. Thanks!
Today I tried to figure out/understand how to use よう.
使用方法− how to use(something)
しようとする− to try and do something
There are many ways to use よう. I am just going to go over one at a time.
Please correct me if I am wrong!
(A) ように (B)
Do (B) so that (A). // In order to (A), do (B).
I will save, so that I can buy.
I will save money in order to(/so I can) buy a car.
Save money so you can be(/are) able to go to Japan.
This is all help from #JapaneseFromZero’s YouTube video about よう.
They explain different ways to use it fairly well.
Japanese Daily #136
I will go to bed early tonight so I can wake up early.// In order to wake up early, I will go to bed early tonight.
I will buy more book so that I can read more.// In order to read more, I will(/must) buy more books.
I just recently started up an Instagram account for myself to practice my Japanese so it all wouldn’t disappear. After posting a few things for myself, I wanted to start sharing it with my former Japanese classmates so they could get a refresher too! It kinda grew within that week and I had made multiple sites for the content so I can share with everyone! I love teaching and I love studying Japanese, currently I am teaching my girlfriend the basics of Japanese and I used to have an after school Japanese club at the elementary school I taught at. I had about 7 students, all 3rd graders, who adored coming to the club. Long story short, I would like this grow and am in some need of spreading the word. I already posted to my private Facebook and gathered friends there and have also reached out on Instagram as well.
So! If you or anyone you know would like to learn some beginning Japanese, please go to these links and follow/share/like!!