How to Start Learning Japanese

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Japan and the World

Japan, the world’s third largest economy, continues to expand its influence across the world even after the bubble burst way back in the 90’s. Despite it being a solitary island nation, with an aging population that is projected to greatly diminish in the coming few decades, more and more people find themselves fascinated by so many different aspects of the culture and people. This has led to an ever growing number of Japanese language learners, and while many of them don’t make the cut and quit after discovering that Kanji truly has no limits, there is so much to gain from the experience.

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You will find that many people jump into this world after watching their favorite anime or drama, so much so that a stereotype has even developed just to accommodate such a large influx. Others will have a friend or two that gets them interested, and still there will be many who love the music or food. Whatever the reason is, you’ve started a lifelong journey, and you can only gain from it.

Language Learning

When studying any language, the four biggest points to note are writing, speaking, reading, and listening. As obvious as it might seem, it’s important to distinguish the different aspects of these parts of a language, as they can often entail certain words or phrases or customs that don’t exist in other areas of the language. For example, written English and spoken English often have very unique distinctions, which only become present when engaged in either of the activities. We often simplify our English when we speak but tend to lengthen what we write by comparison. The same goes for virtually every language, and particularly with Japanese, which has various types of speech that are entirely dependent on who you’re speaking with or your social position.

Where to Start

When embarking on the path of Japanese language learning, the biggest challenge (and aid, later on) will most likely be the writing and reading portions. This is because of the existence of thousands of characters and even more ways to combine them into different words and phrases. There are three alphabets; Hiragana (????), Katakana (????), and Kanji (??). Hiragana and Katakana, which are known as kanamoji (????), both consist of 46 standard phonetic characters, while Kanji really has no limit. Learning to read and write Hiragana and Katakana is absolutely crucial when first studying Japanese, as they will be the entire foundation of your language learning. Some people only study the speaking and listening portions, but so much of the language and culture is lost without the ability to read or write. For any Japanese learners, it’s arguably best to begin with studying those two alphabets and their pronunciations before anything. Hiragana and Katakana can be thought of as the basic Japanese alphabet, and one important note to make about Katakana is that it is most often used these days to write foreign words, particularly foreign names. So if you’re not Japanese by blood, your name will most certainly be written in Katakana. Hiragana has many uses, and you’ll see it in every Japanese sheet next to Kanji.

The following is a chart of the Hiragana characters:

How to Start Learning Japanese, Seekyt

Next up are the Katakana characters:

Learning how to read, write, and pronounce these characters properly will make all the difference in your Japanese learning. As for Kanji, there are countless books and articles on how to start but the most common starters are the basic numbers, such as one through ten. Following these are simple words like bug (?), fire (?), day (?), house (?), book (?), spirit (?), etc. Opening any basic Kanji book will yield similar results.

The Speaking and Listening

In the beginning, the most easily accessible Japanese will be available on the internet. That is, of course, if you don’t have a Japanese teacher or friend who is willing to practice with you. From experience, as well as by recommendation from many certified Japanese teachers, one of the best things you can do is to literally surround yourself with the language. Short of moving to Japan, immerse yourself in music, television, podcasts, everything and anything. The more you listen, the more your brain will accustom itself to the language, and that will make a massive difference. Youtube is fantastic for this, and as interest in Japanese grows, so too will the available products in whatever market you reside in. The world’s third largest economy has a presence virtually everywhere; one must only look.

Why Japanese?

Why Japanese? Why Spanish? Why English for that matter? Every language offers the opportunity to explore different cultures and a view into another peoples’ perspective. No language is better or worse than the other, they are just different. The world is getting smaller every day, and the importance of learning another language continues to grow exponentially. There is literally nothing to lose by doing this, and the doors that will be opened are very much worth the hard work. Japanese as a language has its beauty, and so much of the culture and history is burrowed in it. The more you dig, the more you will discover. ?????

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How to Start Learning Japanese, Seekyt
General Contributor
Janice is a writer from Chicago, IL. She created the "simple living as told by me" newsletter with more than 12,000 subscribers about Living Better and is a founder of Seekyt.