Innovative ways of Japanese Language Learning

Japanese is a beautiful language yet it is relatively difficult to learn. It often takes time for non-Japanese speakers to recognize and differentiate between the kanjis. Keep yourself motivated by following a couple of innovative methods as suggested by our respondents and come up with some of your own unique methods for learning Japanese.

1 How do we keep our selves motivated to learn Japanese in the midst of our daily lives
Japanese is a beautiful language yet it is relatively difficult to learn. The most difficult part that foreigners face during their initial phase of language learning is the writing system. Though hiragana, katakana and the Japanese grammar are fairly easy to learn, it often takes time for non-Japanese speakers to recognize and differentiate among kanjis.
The biggest factor in trying to learn any language is motivation. How do we keep our selves motivated to learn Japanese in the midst of our daily lives and what difficulties do non-native speakers face while learning Japanese?
To understand these questions, we conducted a survey among our international residents on their reasons and methods for learning Japanese. We received over 20 responses from international residents, where most of them are international students. The results are shown here. If you are also an international trying to improve your Japanese, then read along.

2 When Japanese children learn kanjis for the first time, they learn them by the most commonly used
We noticed that most of the non-native Japanese learners have difficulty in reading and writing Japanese, and learning kanjis. There are thousands of kanjis and around 2,136 常用漢字 (jouyou kanji) which are learned by Japanese students through their junior high education. Kanji is usually more complicated than hiragana and katakana, and often have multiple readings and meanings.
When Japanese children learn kanjis for the first time, they learn them by the most commonly used first, thus they learn kanjis given in the Row 1 below in 2nd grade elementary school (小学校 shogakko) while they learn kanjis in Row 2 much later in 7 – 9th grade of junior high school (中学校 chugakko).

Elementary school 曜 ・ 線 ・ 鳴 ・ 算
Junior high school 乙 ・ 了 ・ 丈 ・ 勺

Surprising isn’t it! English speakers can relate it to the fact that we learn the word “drink” before we learn the word “gulp” though the former contains more characters than the latter. Thus, as an international resident, do not be discouraged when you see new kanjis. Keep yourself motivated by following a couple of innovative methods as suggested by our respondents and come up with some of your own unique methods for learning Japanese.

3 Innovative ways to improve your Japanese
Based on the survey, we summarized the methods our respondents use consciously and subconsciously to learn Japanese in their everyday lives.

< Speaking and understanding Japanese >
1. Think in Japanese
2. Try watching Anime without subtitles
3. Speaking with native speakers more often
4. Learn while having fun! Go for karaoke choose a Japanese song and learn new kanji with each new song
5. Correlate the words you hear with other languages that you know

< Reading and writing >
1. Try recognizing the kanji on things you see everyday. Such as the station name, street signs and have more conversations with a native speaker.
2. Learn by using interactive language learning apps
3. For new kanjis, look for the etymology and story behind it. For example, the name of Osaka ”大阪” was originally ”大坂”, it was changed to avoid the second kanji being misinterpreted as ”土反” meaning “samurai rebellion”.

July 5th, 2019
Edited by: Meguro International Friendship Association(MIFA)

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