Well, despite what this blog may lead you to believe, I don’t want to learn Japanese. I want to be able to speak and write Japanese, but the learning part never really entered into it. Still, you can’t get something for nothing (or so I’ve been told). So, if you’re like me, you’ll have a very simple question to answer. Do you want to speak and read Japanese enough to go through learning it?
If the answer is yes, then hopefully this little portion of my page will be able to help you.
I’ve seen a lot of people asking how difficult it is to learn Japanese, and it’s not really an easy question to answer. I guess the simple answer would be to say, “Yes,” and then walk away while they’re confused, but that doesn’t really help them out. =P
To be fair, Japanese is a very logical language. From everything I’ve learned, all the the rules involved in Japanese make sense, and once you’ve learned them, a large variety of sentences can be created with relatively few words. I think the biggest hurdle with learning Japanese is more of a design issue. It’s not so much that Japanese is more difficult than other languages, it’s more that it’s so different from them. So, do I think it’s easy? No. But that shouldn’t stop you if this is something you really want to do.
Now, one of the most important things I’ve discovered in my time studying Japanese is that you must study. I know this seems like an obvious concept, but you’d be surprised at how easy it is to just put it off until
next week tomorrow. So, to follow the time honored tradition of guides on language learning, I recommend that you spend at least one hour every day practicing.
Another rather important step is to look into how the various different programs out there work. A lot of people might cut down some of the cheaper language learning products, but I assure you (almost) all of them can teach you the language. I’ve had to teach things to a variety of people over the course of my life, and I’ve found that it’s easier for each of them when they find a method of learning that suits them. So, while I personally like the class/teacher environment where things are explained to me, you could prefer to learn via repetition, mass memorization, or even immersion.
For a quick rundown, I’ll list several programs that provide different methods. I can’t really guarantee that these are how they are set up, as I don’t own all of them. Still, it’s what I learned while looking around for different methods of learning.
Living Language: Seems to use a textbook based mass memorization. It relies on a repeating CD to cover pronunciation while using the book to provide you with plenty of words and sentences to drill.
Learn In Your Car: Seems to be your standard audio CD that repeats the words/sentences in English and then Japanese, relying on repetition to make it stick.
Let’s Learn Japanese Basic/Yan and the Japanese People: If you can find it, this program uses a system closer to a language class or school. However, in addition to the more standardized class structure, it contains skits used to reinforce not just the new sentence, but also the situation that it should be used in.
Rosetta Stone: This program relies entirely on the immersion technique. The entire language learning portion is done in Japanese and they rely on pictures to convey the general meaning of the various words and sentences.
There are obviously many more programs out there, but this should at least give you an idea of some of the options available.
Now, at some point or another, I think you’re going to feel truly overwhelmed at the sheer amount of Japanese you still have to learn. It happened to me just a few weeks into studying, and it made me almost give up on learning entirely. Sure, I still wanted to speak Japanese, but I just found myself lacking the will to continue. You know what made me go back to it? I understood a complete sentence on a show I was watching. It wasn’t a particularly interesting sentence or anything like that, but I understood it. And you know what? It was a lot of fun.
I think that’s the single most important thing to convey in all of this. You’ve got to just have some fun with it. Be it the little joys like what I mentioned above, or maybe you know someone to practice and joke around with.
For those of us who don’t have someone we know that speaks the language, there are ways of meeting others that know/are learning Japanese. Thanks to the Internet and voice over IP software, you could likely find a language exchange partner who would be glad to help you along with your Japanese. Another recommendation would be to call a local college. Many colleges have student-run organizations that would either know local places to go to meet others learning Japanese, or would have a group themselves.
I know this seems like a rather short little guide, but I think that’s kind of the point. There’s no wrong answer about the various different methods of learning a language, so it really comes down to personal choice. There’s also no shortcut to learning a language. Just remember, if time is relative, then having fun will make the whole process that much quicker. =P