How to prepare for studying and learning Japanese as a foreigner in Japan
In Japan, there is a famous proverb that says, “If you like something, you are good at it.”
If you look up this phrase in the dictionary, you will find that it says, “No matter what it is, if you like it, you will naturally become passionate about it and thus improve.”
In other words, if you like something or someone, you can concentrate hard on it and naturally improve faster.
I am sure that there are many reasons why foreigners want to learn Japanese – for work, for study, etc., but if you have decided to learn Japanese, please find something that you like about Japan. It doesn’t matter if it’s an idol, a manga, a drama, or a musician, you can learn Japanese to understand it. If you think about it that way, you will naturally be able to keep your motivation.
You can study more efficiently if you learn without logic.
There are words in Japan that have meanings not found in your own country.
If you find such a word, I recommend that you make a note of it and look it up when you have time to ask yourself why it exists.
If you don’t understand a word, once you think of your own language and Japanese as two completely different things, you will be able to study it more efficiently. Exceptions are good to learn without reason. Do not try and find a reason for everything, especially in Japan.
Japanese is difficult. That’s why we should learn it in a fun way!
It seems that there are a lot of foreigners living in Japan who lament, “Japanese is just too difficult.”
First of all, there are hiragana and katakana, which are complicated. Also, it is difficult to use different words depending on the position of the person you are talking to, such as honorific, humble, and polite.
And the most annoying thing for foreigners is ……, yes that’s right, kanji. They are used in manga, novels, store menus, stamp cards, and many other places, so as long as you live and work in Japan, you can’t just ignore them and say, “I don’t care if I can’t read kanji.”
So, as a Japanese person, I feel once again that the Japanese language must not be easy for foreigners.
But please don’t give up just because it is difficult.
In the next section, I would like to share with you some tips on how to enjoy learning Japanese.
Learning Japanese through manga, dramas and movies
How can you learn Japanese and improve your Japanese quickly?
First of all, you need to read and listen to as much Japanese as possible, and just use and speak it a lot. Read and write in Japanese. It doesn’t have to be limited to Japanese textbooks. For example, manga, TV dramas, and movies are also great textbooks for learning Japanese, because you can learn the Japanese that Japanese people actually speak on a daily basis without being too formal.
For example, one word that is often used by Japanese people today, especially the younger generation, is yabai. Originally, the word yabai was used to express an inconvenient or unfavorable situation.
For example, “If I don’t finish this by tomorrow, I’ll be in trouble.”
Somewhere along the line, it came to be used for uncool things as well.
For example, “Isn’t today’s outfit a little uncool?”
And in the last few years, yabai has evolved in a new way.
Before we knew it, we were using it to describe things like “amazing” and “very nice!” And over the past few years, yabai has evolved into a new word with good nuances to express “awesome,” “very nice,” “cool,” and so on.
For example, after eating something, you might say, “This is terrible!”
As you can see, the language is changing day by day. But this is not only a story of the Japanese language, it is the same in other countries as well.
The reason why I recommend manga, dramas, and movies when studying Japanese is because you can learn the real Japanese used in those movies. Besides, if you just stare at a textbook, you will get bored and lose interest.
In such a case, TV dramas or TV programs will allow you to learn Japanese while enjoying the story. Of course, the first prerequisite is to learn the basics of the language from a textbook.
Once you have the basics, such as grammar, in your head, then try to watch and read a lot of movies, dramas, and manga to experience Japanese in a fun way.
Use a vocabulary book to memorize words.
In order to carry on a smooth conversation in Japanese, it is very important to memorize a lot of words. Wordbooks are useful for this purpose. It’s no exaggeration to say that Japanese students use them whenever they learn a foreign language.
In addition to the words in Japanese textbooks, you should also make a note of the words in movies, books, dramas, manga, and other “living, breathing Japanese” and write them down in your vocabulary notebook.
You can learn kanji by breaking them down and understanding how they are formed.
Kanji is one of the most difficult Japanese words to learn and is often dismissed as difficult. To be honest, the overwhelming majority of Japanese people are not very good at Kanji.
Especially these days, with the influence of computers and smartphones, more and more people can read but are not good at writing. This is true even for Japanese people, so it is quite understandable why foreigners find kanji difficult to remember.
Here’s a little simple advice. When memorizing kanji, it is important to think about the characters by breaking them down and understanding their origins.
When you know the shape of the kanji and its origins, you will be able to understand it better and learn how to use it.
Tips on how to study and learn Japanese.
The trick to getting good at Japanese is to …… just talk!
This is probably common to all language acquisition, not just Japanese. ……
No matter how much you learn in a textbook, you will never improve until you actually use it and speak it. It’s not good to become mute because you are preoccupied with things like, “My pronunciation might be bad,” “I might not be understood,” or “Is this word correct?” Whenever you have a chance to speak Japanese, don’t hesitate to speak in Japanese.
Japanese people are very patient people. Even if your Japanese is not perfect, they will listen to you and try to understand what you are saying.
So, when you get a chance to speak Japanese, don’t hesitate to talk a lot. The more conversations you have, the more you will discover new things that are not in the textbooks.
Toranomon Language School students on “How I studied Japanese”
At TLS, we have students from abroad. We asked one of them, a student from China, how she learned Japanese.
I have been a fan of Japanese dramas since I was a child, and I have watched various dramas, and as I watched them over and over again, I gradually became interested in Japan and the Japanese language. In order to better understand the content of the drama, I ordered Japanese textbooks and studied on my own while watching the drama. Eventually, I realized that I wanted to learn more about the Japanese language, and to do so, it would be important to live in Japan and actually speak the language.
So, I chose to go to a Japanese university. There were many foreign students at the university, but I tried to be with Japanese people as much as possible, both on campus and in my private life. If I came to Japan and talked only with Chinese people, I would not be able to improve my Japanese.
It doesn’t matter if you make mistakes, just join Japanese people and speak Japanese actively. I decided to do that before I came to Japan.
Learning Japanese while enjoying Japanese dramas and movies.
In order to further improve my Japanese, I just need to speak. Don’t be shy. That seems to be the quickest way to improve your Japanese.
To all foreign students reading this! If you have learned some basics, all you have to do is practice. Don’t be afraid and don’t be shy, just enjoy talking in Japanese!