How to Become Fluent in Japanese
- Gain a mastery of Hiragana and Katakana as you familiarize yourself with the fundamentals of Japanese grammar. While many Japanese language learning materials may advocate using Romaji to aid with pronunciation, this is effective only to a certain point. In reality, written Japanese rarely makes of Romaji. Instead, it makes use of a mix of Hiragana, Kanji and Katakana. Once you are acquainted with Hiragana and Katakana, it will be much easier to learn Kanji. This will eventually open the door towards enhancing your Japanese literacy skills, and qualifying you to pass the JLPT.
- Get serious with learning Kanji. Kanji pertains to the characters in the Chinese language. If your goal is to become totally fluent in both written and spoken Japanese, you will need to commit to memory at least 1,500 to 3,000 Kanji. There are many ways to learn and these include graded formal lessons, downloading apps on your iPhone or iPad such as Scribe: Origins or Study-Chat, and using flashcards. Well educated Japanese people know as many as 10,000 Kanji! Note that Japanese Kanji differs from Chinese Kanji in meaning and usage.
- Expand your vocabulary as much as possible. There are many different ways to do this and the most effective option would be the one that appeals to you the most. If this means reviewing flashcards or creating your own, poring through textbooks, reading Manga, or watching Japanese films, etc. If it works for you, stick to it.
- Listen to as much Japanese as you can. There are countless ways that you can do this. Whether this means hanging out at a restaurant owned by native Japanese speakers, volunteering at a Japanese community, listening to podcasts or audio tapes, and more, the list goes on and on. When watching films, use the English subtitles but not to depend on them too much.
- Veer away from the slang. One of the hitches to learning Japanese is the frequency and pervasiveness of slang. While there is nothing wrong with picking up a few slang phrases, it is highly advisable to stick to Standard Japanese which is the medium used in textbooks and other learning resources.
- Visit Japan if you get the chance. There is not a more effective way to learn a new language than to immerse yourself in the language’s country of origin. This gives you the opportunity to understand Japanese culture, expose yourself to the locals, practice your skills, and more. If the opportunity presents itself for you to live, work, study or even tour Japan for a short while, seize the opportunity.
- Take the Japanese Language Proficiency Test. How can you know if you have succeeded in achieving fluency in Japanese? Take the JLPT. This can be taken in almost every country in the world. Conduct an online search and schedule a testing date. Good luck!