When I decided to learn Japanese, I know that it's not going to be easy and until now I'm still a newbie when it comes to speaking and understanding Japanese. The most I can do is catch the meaning of the sentence but most of the time, my guesses were waaaaaay off the mark. As someone who is studying the language (self-taught), I noticed a few things that might help my fellow learners. Although I can't tell you how to learn Japanese, I can point out the things that might prevent you from learning the language.

Here are some of the things that you should take notice when trying to learn the Japanese Language. Of course, these are just my opinions and it may or may not apply to everyone.

1. When Learning the Japanese Kana (Hiragana and Katakana) you must write them on paper.

I think this is the most basic of the basic. When trying to learn a language, you should start with the alphabet. Unfortunately…the language doesn't consist of letters from A-Z. It consists of three sets of characters namely Hiragana, Katakana and Kanji. For now we will talk about Hiragana and Katana (these two are sometimes called Kana).

When learning Hiragana and Katakana it is advisable to learn Hiragana first. While you're doing that, you must make sure to WRITE THEM ON PAPER. Why should you do it? Like I said, I self-taught myself to learn Japanese and while I can recognize the characters at a glance, writing them is another matter.

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After I learned hiragana (visually) I tried to write them down and I didn't even know where to start. It was a weird experience and I felt so stupid afterwards. I then went to watch a few videos on how to write it properly (their proper stroke order per se). After you finish writing hiragana, take a good look at your work and say these words “Amazing! These beautiful lines, these perfect strokes… could I possibly be a Genius?!”. Yes, you need to say those words and escape to the world of your delusions.

Your first doodles that is no better than a 4-year old should be laminated and set it aside on a picture frame. After you learn Japanese make sure to look at this treasured memory. It's impossible not to remember all the hardships that you went through while learning the language, you should at least commemorate your first rough sketches. Unfortunately, my first work was crumpled and thrown away (Don't do what I did! Commemorate your work! It will be a wonderful keepsake in the future!).

Don't worry, you'll get better with time! Just keep doodli… I mean, keep perfecting those stroke orders. Some of you may say “Why should I do that? I mean I can just type it on the PC and things will work out.” Yes, that would probably work out, but not everyone can access a PC “every single time” that they need to write something in Japanese. Besides, it won't hurt you to learn to write Japanese characters right?


This is probably the hardest part of learning the language. As you trudge along learning hiragana and katakana and conquer them, you'll be facing the DREADFUL KANJI! Yes, this is the wall that must be overcome in order to fully comprehend the language. As of now I only know a few (I think not more than 50?) and these kanji's are the basic of the basics. I often call them "simple kanji's" because they're not too “complicated” and easy to write and remember.

Kanji is a Japanese writing system that was derived from the Chinese. The interesting fact about these kanji's is that they make up a word. One symbol can mean something, for example the symbol of Yama or Mountain in Japanese. It's quite simple to write and with a few strokes, you'll be able to portray the word mountain. Yes, simple right? Unfortunately not all kanji's are as simple as the character of Yama.

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So how many kanji are there? How many kanji do we have to learn? When these questions start popping into your head, it will either make you or break you. Well to put it simply, “No one Knows” how many kanji's there are. Ok, I know what you're thinking. First and foremost, I am not joking and this is something that you will understand sooner or later.

To give a rough estimate, some experts say that you only need to memorize 2,000 – 3,000 to be proficient. Isn't that great? You only need to learn a few thousand kanji and you're good to go. Ok, now you're going to ask me if there are other alternatives. In my opinion (this is my personal opinion) as long as you are able to properly hold a conversation in Japanese, then that's already good.

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I mean don't get me wrong, having not been able to learn more than a hundred of them and my motivation has reached a bottleneck. Like I said, you need to motivate yourself in order to push through with your studies. There are ways to do this and one of them is applying for a proper class in Japanese. Believe it or not, but sometimes a sense of rivalry can give you a strong push in the back.

What do I mean by rivalry? For example a fellow student is learning the language better than you, at times it will light your inner fire of not wanting to lose to someone else. I know that it may sound silly and childish, but there are times when this sense of rivalry will help you (I know from experience).

When your sense of motivation goes down, learning the language becomes a chore. You must not let that happen (Yes, it happens to me even now). Try to find ways to motivate yourself and get better.

3. If all else fails, learn to DISCIPLINE YOURSELF

This is SPARTA! No it's not, but when all else fails proper discipline can make miracles. What do I mean? Learning the Japanese for an hour (or even 30 minutes) a day will work wonders. When you discipline yourself to learn on a daily basis, it becomes a habit. You should nurture that habit because your hard work will not fail you.

Disciplining yourself is like doing an exercise. When we get fat, we want to slim down so we exercise to burn those extra fats in our body. There are times when we only do this “when we get fat”. In simple terms, we only learn Japanese when we feel like it. But what if you discipline yourself to exercise everyday? Aside from gaining a drop dead gorgeous body, you'll feel great as well.

The same can be said for learning Japanese. Although you won't get a body that will make girls swoon over you, you will still get benefits by learning it for an hour (even 30 minutes) everyday. Wouldn't it be cool to know a language that your friends do not know about? Yes, it's cool and it will bring you a sense of satisfaction and fulfillment knowing that you are learning the language step by step without fail.

With everything said and done, you only need to Motivate and Discipline yourself to learn Japanese. Make no mistake, you won't learn Japanese in a day, not in a month and probably not in a year. There is no easy and quick way. You can't just snap your fingers and think that everything will work out when you wake up in the morning.

Oh! There might be a shortcut though. Go to Japan and live there for a time. When you're forced to learn the language out of necessity, your survival instinct will kick in (Wait! what? Survival instinct?!). When everyone around you is speaking Japanese, it's almost impossible not to pick out a word or two and build your vocabulary from there.

At the end of the day, everyone may learn the language using a different method or practice of their own. Like I said, these are the things that I noticed as I learn the Japanese language. The hardships that I encountered, the problems that appeared, and the wall that I can't seem to overcome at this point in time. All those countless excuses as I tell myself that I will learn tomorrow, next week, a few days from now, etc.

I'll say it again, these are my personal opinion. Whether this holds true for you, only time will tell.

Well then, till next time じゃまたね!
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