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Learning Japanese: Where to Begin

Updated on October 2, 2017
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Step 1: The Basics

Learning a new language can be a daunting task if you don't know where to begin. Learning Japanese is not an exception to this rule at all but with the right resources and information you can learn japanese and be well on your way to fluency rather quickly. Now, this is no "Learn Japanese in a week" or "Be fluent in Japanese today!" kind of article, the focus of this article is to get you started in the right direction and to provide you with the resources you need to really learn Japanese.

As with everything that we learn, when you're learning the Japanese language, it's best to start with the basics. Here is where you want to begin:

  1. Learn Hiragana and Katakana.
  2. Learn Kanji.
  3. Start learning grammar, practicing, speaking and listening.

That is the basic list of what you need to do to get started. Do not rely on Romaji, which is basically the way to type japanese words in english like "Arigato" instead of "ありがと”. Being able to actually read the Kana (japanese alphabet) will help you tremendously. This doesn't mean you can't use it on occasion to help you if you're stuck on something just don't rely on it too heavily. Using Romaji instead of actually learning the proper Kana can cause you to have issues pronouncing things correctly and give you bad habits when you're finally using your japanese to speak with others.


Step 2: Studying and Resources

Now after you've started to tackle the basics and get through Hiragana and Katakana focus on learning Kanji and start reviewing. This is also a good time to really dig into vocabulary and grammar and finding resources where you can practice your listening, reading, and writing skills.

A good way to learn and review Kana and vocabulary is flashcards. As old school as it may seem it's an easy way to help you memorize just about anything you need to, not to mention that the process of actually making the flashcards will help you remember them. Another perk of flashcards is that they are still available to you if you find yourself someplace where you can't access the internet. There are also several websites that let you make your own digital flashcards if physical ones aren't your thing.

For online learning of Japanese the resources can seem endless and a little confusing. One of the best websites out there right now is Memrise.com. It's a website where you can learn Japanese, as well as many other languages and other non language related things. It has a fantastic community and many of the courses are made by other users and you can even create your own courses to help others or use them for yourself. Memrise is a great resource because the courses they have cover almost every part of learning Japanese there are courses on Hiragana, Katakana, Kanji, vocabulary, grammar, phrases, and everything you could ever need to know from the most basic to the most advanced courses and there's a whole community right there with you.

If you're able to, finding a teacher who can help you learn Japanese in your area is also an invaluable resource. If you can't find someone close to home there are several websites where people can teach you and help you learn but they are not free.

The best thing you can do though is keep going! The biggest mistake people make when learning something new is getting frustrated and quitting, only to regret it later. Stick with it! you've got this!

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