One of the questions that fans of Japan often ask is how should one go about learning Japanese; this question is a bit harder to answer than you might think.
The Japanese language is unlike almost any other language, and learning it from scratch can be a difficult task if you don’t know where to start or what to learn. One of the difficulties most students of the language face daily is grammar; Japanese grammar is very confusing to most beginners, mainly because of its verb conjugation system.
Take the word “eat” for example, the Japanese word for eat is “taberu”. So, how would you express “want to eat”? You need to conjugate the word “eat”, taberu, into tabetai, which in turn means “want to eat”. How about ate? It’s tabeta. Starting to get the picture now? To express a verb in different ways, you need to learn verb conjugation.
Another obstacle that most students face is one of the three Japanese forms of writing, called Kanji. Kanji’s are characters that were borrowed from the Chinese (who call them Hanzi) thousands of years ago, and incorporated into the writing system. Because people from Japan pronounce things different then people from China, the Japanese people altered the sounds of the Hanzi to fit their pronunciation system, as well as changing how some of the Hanzi are written.
If you’re absolutely new to this language from the east, it’s highly advisable that you at least learn the two Kana’s – Hiragana and Katakana – first before attempting to even think about learning Kanji. The Kana’s are the phonetic alphabets in the Japanese language, with Hiragana being used to mainly express words native to Japan, while Katakana is used for writing non-native words, like foreign names, places, etc.
Once you have mastered the Hiragana and Katakana, you should then start learning grammar and words. The most effective way to remember words is to use them everyday in your conversation and thoughts. If you have a teacher to guide you, that’s even better. If you don’t, you can always find some friends who speak the language to help you, whether they’re local or people you chat with on the internet. The key to successfully mastering any language is to create an environment where you can think, act, and speak in that language. It may seem almost impossible at first, but if you’re persistent, the rewards will soon become apparent.
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