Learn Japanese? Yes. You made the right choice. There is no other choice. Japanese Level Up was made for that. So just walk on over to the Walkthrough section of this site and you have everything from your first baby steps till you soar through the sky on a dragon. What happens when you click on that link? You end up on a page with 6 detailed worlds. But you just want a quick summary to figure out how to learn Japanese as a whole?
If you’ve decided somewhere in your mind you want to learn Japanese, I want you to see the full picture of the joys you are about to get yourself into, done in one page. The very first step in pursuing Japanese is so vital to your success. Getting overwhelmed in the first 5 minutes ruins everything. So let’s prevent that ruin.
Let’s talk about everything that you will need to learn Japanese and make all of your wildest dreams come true. It’s that simple.
*Note: everything doesn’t need to be done in this order, but it needs to be done.
1. Know your reason
This sounds like such a minor thing. Of course you want to learn Japanese, because of………………….. (Japanese awesomeness). Good. Write it down. Write down your goals. Write down your motivation. Do it often. Why? Because your goals and motivation are the only way you’ll ever discipline yourself through it all.
2. Pick your knowledge organization method
You will need some kind of organization of all your learning. This can be notebooks, spreadsheet, an app, paper flash cards, online flash cards, etc. However you work best is fine, but you need something.
3. Learn Hiragana and Katakana
These are the 2 major and simple(r) alphabets of Japanese. You need them both. Immediately. If you ever hear of something called Romaji (Japanese done in English letters), ignore it. Learn to read, write and pronounce them all.
4. Beginner Textbooks & Kanji
Kanji is the third alphabet of Japanese. It has over 2000 characters, and you will eventually need to learn every last one of them. There are 3 components to kanji learning: 1) Understanding the meaning, 2) Learning the pronunciation, and 3) Learning to write them.
A few beginner textbooks (electronic, physical, apps, programs, etc.) that cover basic vocabulary, grammar, and structure. Go through them using whatever knowledge organizational tools you’ve decided to go with.
The way you approach kanji will affect how and at what point you do it.
- Learn all of the kanji meanings in isolation first before ever touching the beginner textbook. Then learn the pronunciations at the same time as you go through a beginner textbook and as you continue into intermediate and advanced levels.
- Learn all of the kanji meanings in isolation and pronunciation at the same time as you go through a beginner textbook and as you continue into intermediate and advanced levels.
- Learn the kanji meanings and pronunciation together naturally as you go through a beginner textbook and as you continue into intermediate and advanced levels.
*Writing practice can be placed anywhere. Some people put more emphasis on it than others.
After you’ve gotten all the basics down, there are two significantly different paths too follow in the “learning” category. You start acquiring more difficult textbooks and study materials and either:
- Switch your learning to Japanese only (known as J-J or monolingual), where you completely remove English assistance. This is the method recommended on this site.
- Continue your learning using English.
6. Native materials
This can starts as early as towards the end of stage 4. In addition to your continuing “learning” materials, you start engaging in TV shows, movies, music, books, manga, etc. Anything that Japanese people enjoy that you can enjoy. You will also use this as a source for your knowledge organization tool, and start with material appropriate to your level.
Talk with Japanese people, online and in person, every chance you get, wherever you are. This can start as early as you want, but many people like to wait until they reach at least an intermediate level before going all out with this.
8. Enjoy Japanese
Your goal is to slowly phase out the studying aspects while at the same time increasing the fun and the whole reason why you started studying Japanese in the first place.
You’ve made it!
Learning Japanese is difficult and it isn’t. It takes forever and it doesn’t. It’s fun and boring. It’s painful and pleasurable. It is everything you decide it will be.
Hopefully you now have an idea of what you are about to get yourself into. I (and everyone else on this website) promise you that it’ll be worth it. Okay, now you are ready for the Walkthrough.
Founder of Jalup. iOS Software Engineer. Former attorney, translator, and interpreter. Still watching 月曜から夜ふかし weekly since 2013.