I published an article yesterday on choosing the right materials when studying a language. The article was pretty long and focused on general language study. A friend mentioned to me that it would be very helpful if I could put together a short, easy to read list that focuses on helpful tips for learning Japanese. Here it is!

Tips for learning to speak Japanese

  1. Choose materials containing updated conversation and words. Languages change and studying from books 10 years old will not be very helpful. Choose materials that have very common Japanese words and phrases. Computer programs can be quite useful because many of them offer both listening and speaking practice and contain common Japanese phrases and words.

  2. Once you have chosen your Japanese study materials, get to studying. Repetition is the key. Study the words and phrases out loud this will help you speak the word and also hear the meaning. First learn from English to Japanese and then study the Japanese memorizing the English meaning. Failure to do this is why many people learn to understand , but are unable to speak.
  3. Start watching TV and movies in Japanese. Japanese movies and videos are a great way to learn how things are actually said and give you more listening practice. It is the Chance to drill into your brain all the words you have been learning. I recommend watching with Japanese audio and English subtitles.
  4. Use technology to your advantage. There are a number of website focused on learning Japanese as well as audio or video to download for your ipod or mp3 player. There are forums where you can meet other language people and even connect with Japanese people.
  5. Make lots of mistakes. One of the biggest reasons people fail to learn to speak the language is because they are afraid to make mistakes. Making mistakes is just part of learning and actually helps you learn quicker. And of course, have fun

Tips for learning written Japanese and kanji

  1. Practice, practice, Practice. One of the important parts in memorizing kanji is constant practice. You must actually take the time to put the pen on the paper over and over again. The good part is that writing the kanji will also help you memorize words and meanings.
  2. Use Kanji in words. It is important to learn how to write each kanji, but the best way to really memorize them is through the use of words. Using kanji in words will also help you learn the various readings
  3. Use association to create a relationship in your mind. This can be done by associating Kanji with words, their meanings, or even to how they look. Find the system that works best for you.
  4. Study on the go. Kanji is something that you will forget if you don’t constantly use it. This is even more true when you are first learning. Use flash cards or digital technology (the itouch/iphone has some cool kanji programs) to study on the go.
  5. Create a list of Kanji you come across that you don’t know to study later. This is even better for those living in Japan.

Learning Japanese can be difficult, but the rewards and great feelings that come along with communicating in Japanese and understanding the written language largely outweigh the hard work.


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