Friday, August 3, 2007

Beginner Tips for Learning Japanese

I promised this site would be for beginners, and I intend to keep that promise. I've read many blogs that had some great ideas for beginners ( is one of them), and I thought I'd provide a few of my own.

Recently, I've taken a lot of beginner classes at a few different schools, only because each school uses a different textbook, and therefore, it's something I didn't want to miss. In doing so, I've noticed a lot of things that would make my classmates' Japanese a lot better if they would only do the following:

  1. LEARN hiragana and katakana as soon as possible. Romaji is fine, for the first few weeks, but you MUST wean yourself off of it as soon as you can for at least two good reasons: your pronunciation, and reading ability. Videogames, manga, and signs in Japan are not in romaji. :)
  2. Whether you study on your own or in a classroom environment, get yourself the CD accompaniment. I've noticed that those who listen to the CDs have excellent pronunciation, and those that don't, well, don't.
  3. Learn the patterns and internalize them. What do I mean? Well, for instance, one of the first patterns you learn is "X は Y です。”  (X wa Y desu). This example might be too simple for many of you, but for those of you that haven't learned it yet, once you internalize a pattern, you simply substitute the appropriate words into that pattern, and your Japanese flows much smoother. There are a lot more patterns than that, but each time you understand and internalize it, it makes learning a lot more enjoyable, and you won't stumble as much. (Perhaps I'll go over this in a future post.)
  4. Finally, be patient, but study, study, study. Studies have shown that at the college level, at least 2-3 hours for every hour you are in class. I followed this formula in college and got mostly A's, especially in Japanese. :) Try it for at least two weeks, and if you don't find that you are learning things a lot easier than before, then go back to your old methods.
  5. This last technique/tip can be used for any class you may be taking: READ THE NEXT CHAPTER, before class. Why? This gives your mind time to adjust to the new topic, perhaps form new questions you might want to ask, and makes the next class that much more interesting. If you read before the class, then you attend class, and finally, review your notes, you have effectively "seen" the material at least 3 times. It's much easier to absorb the material this way, instead of a cram session the night before a test.

I hope these tips get you started on your path to becoming an expert in Japanese!