Foreign languages other than western can be very intimidating. Many people who try to learn beginner Japanese become frustrated or lose motivation because they don’t have a proven plan to follow. Does this sound like you? In this guide, we will provide you with a plan to learn beginner Japanese faster.
It is important to self-reflect and evaluate your current daily routine even before picking up any study material to use and/or hiring a Japanese tutor. Consider the following:
Reason for Learning
Understanding why you want to learn Japanese provides a strong foundation for supporting ongoing motivation. It can be easy to become discouraged, so when that happens just remember why you’re putting in all this effort.
Some of the common reasons people want to learn Japanese are for travel, work, communicating with family and friends, along with understanding their favorite Japanese music and anime as a native speaker would. What’s your reason?
Level of Commitment
Commitment and motivation go hand in hand. Your reason for learning will help you determine the amount of time, money, and energy you want to invest in yourself to learn a new language. Many people say they want to learn Japanese but aren’t serious enough to spend any money on themselves for things that matter to them. What are your priorities?
No one can study for you, so you must ask yourself how fast you want to reach your goals. For instance, if your goal is to pass the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) level N5 beginner’s exam – it takes the average person around 600 hours of studying to prepare.
Now that you know what motivates you and how committed you are to learning Japanese – it’s time to make your study schedule. It’s important to set an achievable deadline for when you want to reach your goals. Then, set up your schedule to commit to as many hours as you need to get it accomplished.
For the JLPT 5 example, say your goal is to pass the beginner level exam in 12 months. When you do the math, it’s [600 hours/12 months = 50 hours per month/30 days = 1.5 hours per day. Part of these hours should be self-study and with your tutor a couple days per week. Find a tutor who is flexible enough to work with the schedule you have created.
Sticking to a consistent schedule will aid in better study habits and retention. Soon, studying Japanese everyday will become second nature and a part of your daily routine.
The Role of a Tutor
It’s true there are hundreds of free and paid ways to learn Japanese such as textbooks, websites, and mobile apps. However, it can become very difficult to retain the language if you don’t have someone to practice with. Many people find this fact out after studying for several months, and it feels like they are making very little progress.
Your tutor can guide you through structured lessons that allow you to develop high quality speaking, listening, reading and writing skills. It’s fine to do some self-study on your own with listening and reading materials, but you also need to practice speaking and writing skills with a tutor to get the full immersion experience.
It is recommended that the self-study materials you use are provided by your tutor to maximize your retention. Those beginner materials should help you focus on developing your vocabulary, memorizing survival phrases, pronunciation, and mastering writing and reading hiragana before tackling katakana and kanji.
There are problems that can occur as you become more advanced in Japanese if you don’t enhance your listening with speaking skills and reading with writing skills. You will find yourself in a situation where you can’t hold a conversation and reverting to English (or other native language) – even though you can listen and read well.
A tutor is like having a mentor and many successful people have them. A bonus is that whenever you have a question, you won’t have to look it up on a search engine like Google either! This will save you a lot of time because there is a ton of right and wrong information to sift through which can be overwhelming. A tutor can help you remain motivated and focused on your goals even when you want to slack or completely give up.
The Beginner’s Plan
Here’s your checklist to complete as a beginner student during the first 3 months.
1. Master hiragana/katakana right away
2. Focus on basic vocabulary, survival phrases, and sentence structures to gradually boost your learning momentum
3. Consume elementary school level quality audio/visual and reading material
4. Find someone to regularly practice your new skills with or you will lose them
The good news is you don’t need to live in Japan for the full immersive experience. We can help you accomplish the checklist above. Our beginner Japanese video courses are the best way to achieve items 1 and 2 on the checklist. If you want extra attention, we have one-on-one Skype Japanese lessons still by request only. Contact us for availability.
The bottom line is the only shortcut to learn Japanese faster ultimately depends on your habits. Be sure your reason for learning and your level of commitment, are aligned with your goals so that it reflects in your study schedule. There are several areas of the Japanese language that can be mastered – listening, reading comprehension, speaking, and writing. No matter the resources you choose to use to create your study plan, ensure that it’s a well-balanced approach.
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