Like every new language, learning Japanese can come off as intimidating to some while exciting or even exhilarating to others.
The language, with its rich culture, has a historical significance of its own.
Hence, only learning the language will not do it justice.
Instead, immersing yourself in it completely will help you learn faster and enjoy the process at the same time.
Still, deciding what is the best way to learn Japanese can be a taxing feat on its own.
Is the best way to learn Japanese on your own, in a class, or through one-on-one lessons?
Is It Hard To Learn Japanese?
With an uncertain origin, the Japanese language has a certain mystical aura of its own.
Some see it as one of the most challenging languages to learn and speak, especially for native English speakers.
However, linguists and other specialists agree that compared to other languages, spoken Japanese is much easier to learn.
This is primarily because the Japanese language consists of only five vowels and 13 consonants.
In comparison, the English alphabet has 5 vowels and 21 consonants.
Additionally, there are very few exceptions to the spoken rules of the Japanese language, unlike other languages, like English and Russian.
Basically, the basic rules of conjugation vary significantly.
What Are the Challenges of Learning Japanese?
Learning to read Japanese or write in the Japanese language can pose serious difficulties.
The writing system is a combination of five distinct systems that come together, including Kanji, Hiragana, Katakana, Arabic numerals, and some Roman alphabets.
If you thought this was complicated, wait until you get to the juicier part.
The Kanji writing system can have two sets of pronunciations depending on whether the word being used has a Chinese (“on yomi”) or Japanese (“kun yomi”) origin.
Additionally, if you want to become a functional Japanese speaker or learn to read Japanese, you may need to have an average vocabulary of 10,000 words.
Compared to English or Spanish, which require a basic knowledge of approximately 2,000 words to attain fluency, learning to read Japanese or write it can become a real herculean task.
Additionally, the primary reason behind the Japanese language having a vast vocabulary is that over the years, it has adopted many words from other languages to create neologisms unique to the Japanese culture.
So, what is the best way to learn Japanese? In the end, it all comes down to how much you want to learn it and whether or not you’re willing to put in the hard work.
How Can I Teach Myself Japanese?
As technology takes over every aspect of our lives, it has also put a spin on how we learn most things.
Gone are the days when you had to enroll for language courses in your neighborhood language institute and attend in-person classes or invest in paperback books and resources.
With everything mechanized today, you can now easily teach yourself Japanese with only a smart device and a stable internet connection.
However, like any new task, the best way to learn Japanese on your own is by establishing a few ground rules.
1. Set Learning Goals
Like any task you take on, you must set yourself some short-term and long-term achievable Japanese learning goals.
This is particularly important, as these goals and your level of adherence will also determine how long it will take you to learn the language.
For example, the main components of learning any new language include reading, writing, listening, and speaking.
If your goal is to do all of these, the best way to learn Japanese will be to make each of these a separate goal.
While some of these intertwine with one another, in some cases, learning to speak Japanese is often easier than the others.
For instance, learning to speak Kanji will not take you as long as if you were learning to write it.
2. Dedicate Time Spent in Self-Study
Dedication is key when opting to learn a new task or skill.
Learning Japanese will require you to spend some serious time practicing your lessons.
The language is complex, and the more you practice, the faster you will learn.
Those planning to take official Japanese language tests, commonly known as JLPT or Japanese Language Proficiency Test, are often required to spend a few hours every day studying for the language.
If this is not your purpose, finding the right combination of motivation and dedication will ensure you spend enough time to effectively learn the language.
3. Understand the Drawbacks of Your Native Language
One of the most important things when learning the Japanese language is figuring out how compatible your native language is with it.
This will also determine how long it will take you to learn Japanese.
Unless you have some background in any Eastern Asian Language, such as Hindi, the native language of India, chances are, you will be learning the Japanese language from scratch.
Most European languages not only sound very different compared to Japanese but also utilize a completely different writing system.
4. Get To Know Japanese Keigo
The Japanese language is notoriously known for acquiring words from different languages, therefore creating neologisms.
These make the language extremely rich but add complexity to it at the same time.
The Japanese Keigo is the level of formality you employ when using the language.
Basically, it establishes the level of politeness one is required to use in certain settings.
These are supremely context-dependent.
Therefore, when you start your learning courses, it is recommended that you do it context-wise so that you can learn to use the right form from the get-go.
What Is the Best Program To Learn Japanese?
If you find yourself often pondering over what’s the best way to learn Japanese, think no further.
Look at the world around you. Time is money, and you cannot spare even a minute of it in classroom settings and pondering over big, fat resource materials.
Like everything, an easy way to learn Japanese is only a few clicks and swipes away.
JapanesePod101 is dubbed as one of the best online learning resources easily available to those planning to learn Japanese.
Designed with a user-friendly interface, their companion application is compatible with both Android and Apple devices. It’s also available on Kindle via the Kindle Fire Store.
JapanesePod101 gives users an easy way to learn Japanese without having to leave the confines of their own homes.
What Do You Get From It?
The application features a plethora of resources, ranging from lessons, workshops, worksheets, downloadable flashcards, and even interactive quizzes.
Each of the lessons is designed in line with keeping the user’s learning capacities in mind.
There are a total of four levels from Absolute Beginner to Advanced, and the content is specifically designed to match each level.
Users of the JapanesePod101 can choose between different courses and go up the learning ladder at their own learning pace.
In the past, every lesson followed the basic premise of a podcast.
However, over the years, it has evolved into video clips and other resources to make learning the Japanese language more interesting and interactive.
Additionally, you also get access to several free printable materials, ranging from cheat sheets (for learning specific phrases with matching visuals) to writing worksheets (for practicing Hiragana and Katakana writing).
There is also a video bank, grammar bank, and dictionary at your disposal, of which you can customize your grammar bank according to your learning requirements.
Perhaps the most attractive feature of the JapanesePod101 is that every five- to 20-minute audio learning session is supported by a follow-along script available in the following writing styles:
This way, users can work on their reading skills alongside the listening ones.
Additionally, to help work on their speaking skills, the developers have incorporated an in-built voice recording system.
This feature allows users to repeat and record whatever they listen to and play it back with the original clip to understand areas of improvement in pronunciation and proper enunciation of syllables.
How Much Does It Cost?
Japanesepod101 offers learners a wide range of payment plans they can choose from depending on personal preference and need.
Those still looking to test out the resource can use the free materials easily available.
Here is a comparative chart that can help you choose the best payment plan for you.
However, as a premium customer, you have access to a wide range of resources and archival material without any time constraints.
This is very much different from those with free accounts. There may be new learning materials released every week, but these get archived just after three weeks.
Moreover, you also receive a premium monthly gift.
These may include phrases from hit Japanese movies and shows, New Year’s resolution cheat sheet, flashcards, and the latest Japanese shows with follow-along scripts.
How Long Does It Take To Become Fluent in Japanese?
Many believe that learning the Japanese language can take longer than 80 weeks.
Others suggest that the time it takes to learn the Japanese language largely depends on the skill that is being learned.
For instance, the time spent studying to learn to read Japanese will significantly vary from the time it takes to learn to speak the language.
More specifically, learning to speak Kanji will take you less time compared to when you are learning to write it.
Also, keep in mind that the time it takes to become fluent in any language, Japanese or not, depends on personal persistence, motivation, and dedication.
Statistically speaking, the average Japanese learner is said to spend approximately 10 hours of study per week.
However, this learner may not necessarily be learning the language for recreational purposes and may be doing it in a more formal capacity, such as appearing for the official Japanese language test.
Learning Japanese Quickly
If you are wondering what’s the best way to learn Japanese and become fluent quickly, in all honesty, there is no set formula.
However, if you can set yourself some ground rules that include achievable goals and time spent in self-study, chances are you will become fluent faster than others.
For instance, if you want to hold small conversations in Japanese, you will probably require a few months of study.
As mentioned, learning to speak the language is considerably easier than it is to learn to write it.
On the other hand, if you want to be able to read comics or any form of text in the Japanese language, your study time will increase to maybe over a year.
Finally, if you want to become native-level fluent in the language, depending on your learning progress, you may need somewhere between three to five years.
Similarly, you can also find ways to incorporate the learning into your day-to-day life with some of the following tried and tested ways:
- Watching Japanese soap dramas or series with subtitles
- Listening to Japanese podcasts on the way to work or during your everyday commute
- Try NHK News Easy to immerse yourself in everything that is happening locally in Japan. The site uses simple Kanji vocabulary for beginner-level learners so that you can easily work on your reading skills.
- Install Rikaikun on your laptop as a browser extension so that when you read Japanese text, it can easily translate any words you are struggling with by moving your mouse’s cursor over them.
Here is a small tip from one Japanese language student to another.
Make sure your goals are SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-based).
These will not only help you progress faster but also help you retain your lessons for longer.
What Is the Best Way To Learn Japanese?
While languages tend to come naturally to some people, others may struggle a bit more to grasp even the smallest of concepts.
Nevertheless, with the multitude of learning material and resources available now only a click away, users can learn the Japanese language much faster without spending bucket loads of money.
JapanesePod101 is a great resource for both paid and unpaid services.
With a user-friendly interface, learners gain access to a variety of materials so that they can opt for the best learning method that suits their capacities.
While many features are free of cost at the time of sign-up, you can also opt for one of the payment plans available to have access to specialized material.