How To Learn Japanese In 10 Simple Steps

So you want to learn Japanese? Great. That’s the very first step in learning Japanese. So how do you learn Japanese? That’s also the very first question you’ll ask in learning Japanese.

How To Learn Japanese In 10 Simple Steps

After hearing this enough times, I realize people sometimes want a simple answer. An answer that they can easily comprehend without diving into too many overwhelming and possibly discouraging details from day 1.

So here it is. 10 simple steps to learn Japanese.

1. Figure and plan out your goals and why you are learning Japanese.

2. Learn how to read, write, and pronounce the kana (hiragana and katakana), which are the 2 basic alphabets of the Japanese language. Most people use romaji (Japanese written out into English characters) as a temporary aid.

3. Get yourself a few basic intro textbooks and learn the vocabulary, grammar, structure, and sentences.

4. Use a separate source to learn the kanji (the third massive alphabet), and continually work with those thousands of kanji for several months to years.

5. Find a good Japanese to English dictionary that matches your style. Eventually find yourself a good Japanese to Japanese dictionary.

6. Use some sort of efficient tool/program/technique (ex. Anki) to organize your learning information for easy ability to review over the long term.

7. Practice speaking and writing with yourself and others.

8. As you advance through all the beginner (and possibly intermediate textbooks), you eventually move away from “learning” materials like textbooks and on to “native” materials, such as movies, anime, manga, video games, books, etc.

9. Balance work vs. fun. You will have both. But you can find ways to make your work more fun.

10. Make Japanese a natural part of your life.

And there you have it. You are fluent.

Now ready for the details? Walkthrough!

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Founder of Jalup. Spends most of his time absorbing and spreading thrilling information about learning Japanese.


How To Learn Japanese In 10 Simple Steps — 7 Comments

  1. Great condensation. I’m thinking I’m going to put that on a little card, laminate them, and give them to people who ask me how on Earth I think I can learn Japanese without going to a class and/or moving to Japan.

    Seriously. I think I’m really gonna do that……..

    • Hehe, nice. I’ve linked people the walkthrough before in response to those questions, but I guess the condensed version would be good for fielding in-person inquiries =)

      • I think some people get overwhelmed by the walkthrough, which is why sometimes I think a simple list like this puts it in easy reach for everyone.

  2. So I started learning in October and did the Kana in Anki along with the JALUP RTK Mod deck. I’ve finished both. I almost quit RTK so many times because I crammed it in 2 months, ugh.

    Right now I’m just doing reviews of the Kanji and Kana and it takes only about 30 minutes a day. This is all I’m doing though.

    Not sure how to best supplement the JALUP Beginner 1000 deck that I bought when I started. Have yet to actually start it. I’m at the point where I’ve sunk so much time into this that I continue on because of that time commitment.

    So when I start the Beginner 1000 what can I do to bring some fun into my studies?

    And thank you for the site. It’s what gave me the courage to try learning my first language.

    • Major props on pushing through RTK so fast. I’ve been at it for almost 9 months and I’m still not quite done XD

      If you’re starting from zero on vocab/grammar, it’ll be hard to supplement at the very beginning with “fun” stuff, but you’ll get there quick enough. One option is to try and watch a Drama whose plot you can follow without understanding the words. I found this surprisingly enjoyable in early J-E, and it was great listening practice too. Check out the Media Guide here-

      Make a list of the 1-2 star options and pick out one or two that sound interesting, then give ’em a try.

      For reading, Yotsubato is often recommended as a great starting point, and I’d encourage you to check it out. More info here-

      Beyond that, you could try playing a video game in Japanese that you’ve already played in English. That way, you can get some solid exposure (and repetition) without being terribly hamstrung by lack of knowledge. Final Fantasy X is a good example, but really anything you’re a fan of will do as long as you can get your hands on a Japanese copy.

      Also, you might be surprised how enjoyable the JALUP Beginner deck itself is. Adshap did an awesome job making it interesting and engaging to work through. I look forward to my sentence deck time because the “puzzle-solving” aspect is fun for me =)

      Hope that helps!

    • I think you’ll be surprised at just how fun doing the beginner series is! I’ve been doing it for about 4-5 weeks now and am just starting the final stage.
      You’ll enjoy the challenge. Some times you’ll find it just clicks and you instinctively know how the next sentence reads, other times you’ll pull your hair out trying to make sense of the whole.
      Regardless, when you understand a sentence before you turn the card over, you are reading in Japanese, and as a beginner, that sure does feel rewarding.
      Coupled with immersion, it’s just a very satisfying form of study. Hearing something in your favourite anime and understanding it really does give you a sense of achievement and constantly reassures you that you ARE learning and you WILL learn more.
      So, stop pondering and start doing. Don’t watch the clock, just do what it does. Keep going.

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