So you want to learn Japanese--ようこそ！ youkoso!
As you see with the above word* nearly all the Japanese found on this site has a recording. Take the time to listen, repeatedly, to each new word/phrase. Try to "shadow" the sounds by first repeating after and then speaking with the speaker.
Go ahead. Try it now with ようこそ youkoso.
Got it? Good. Do that with all the lessons and your pronunciation and vocabulary will improve.
* (youkoso means "welcome" or "nice to see you")
To learn any language, you need these things:
- Motivation -- Look for new ways to want to learn Japanese and enjoy it.
- Remember your personal reasons for wanting to learn Japanese. It may be an anime you saw that made you think learning Japanese would be cool. It could be a Japanese person you met. It could be a desire to read a novel or a newspaper in Japanese. Make a list of these reasons and review them often. This will help you get through the dark plateaus when progress seems painfully slow. These are your motivations.
- Take a moment to visualize yourself speaking fluent Japanese in Japan to real native speakers. Imagine yourself being interviewed on Japanese TV or ordering a Big Mac at McDonald's. Yes, Japan has McDonald's (everywhere) -- but don't expect a large soda to be really large. Imagine yourself reading a Japanese newspaper on a shinkansen bullet train. These are your goals.
Use your motivations (your personal reasons for learning Japanese) to guide you to your goal (visualizing your future self).
- Consistency -- Study every day, even if for only a few minutes. Don't forget to review! We recommend using the Anki flashcard software (see below) for daily review.
- Humility -- Embrace mistakes and learn from them. Mistake-making is memory-making if you review your mistakes.
- Focus -- Remove all distractions and concentrate on what you are learning. i.e. have discipline.
I'm not going to sugar coat it. Japanese is hard, and the sad reality is that most beginners of Japanese forever remain beginners of Japanese. Kanji is an obvious hurdle, but so is the very different grammar, sentence structure, honorifics, etc.
But if you can maintain motivation, create a consistent daily study habit, and embrace learning from your mistakes as you head toward your goal, you will achieve fluency. Along with that, you will have the satisfaction of achieving a difficult goal. Now THAT is something to be truly proud of.
The bear above has some good advice. She says, 一歩一歩 ippo ippo which means "one step, one step" or "step by step." Take your language learning journey one step at a time.
All of the above is important, I can hear you say, but are you ever going to get to the Japanese lessons?
Right. I'll get into some specifics in a moment, but let me repeat myself one last time: a positive mindset and consistent daily practice is critical to your success.
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How to Use TheJapanesePage.com + Other Tools
To get to it, here is our suggested path for the absolute beginner. All of these links are absolutely free (except Anki for iPhone, a textbook, and our last recommendation--Makoto+!)
- Learn Hiragana - depending on how much time you put into it, you should be able to learn hiragana in less than two weeks. You will also learn core Japanese pronunciation. Spend plenty of time with both the hiragana and pronunciation. Everything you learn from then on will be based on what you learn here. Although not as important, you may want to go ahead and learn katakana now too. Click here for our Katakana Master Lesson Page.
- Install the Japanese Language pack on your computer (and phone) - Click here to learn how to do that and how to use Japanese on your computer.
- Download Anki for your computer and/or your phone - Anki is the world's most popular spaced repetition flashcard software. Plus it's free! Well, except for the iPhone. The iPhone app is a little expensive but worth it in my opinion.
While you can use any of the many already created decks (all free), I would highly recommend making your main deck your own study deck. Take the time (don't be lazy!) to add an entry every time you encounter a new word or phrase you want to memorize. As you do your daily reading/studying add unknown phrases to your personal deck. Don't go overboard, but adding 4-5 new words/phrases a day and reviewing past cards should be a big part of our daily study-time.
Also, even if you just need to learn a single vocabulary word, I would recommend adding a full phrase or sentence to show context and usage.
- Order a Good Textbook - I define "good" as any textbook that you will actually use.
Textbooks will help keep your learning structured. While you can learn Japanese without one, and theJapanesePage.com will certainly help you along the way, using a textbook will most certainly be a more direct path.
Some popular choices are Genki, Japanese for Busy People, and Japanese from Zero. We stock Genki here, and we highly recommend Genki, but, to be honest, there are cheaper options that are just as good (again, if you use it). Japanese for Busy People is probably the cheapest option (I do not recommend the Romanized version). Japanese from Zero is also very popular now too. If you have used other textbooks, please post your recommendations in the comments below.
- FREE Daily Email Courses - We have several daily email courses available absolutely free. Click here to sign up for one or more for no charge. Each email is short and designed to take less than five minutes of your time. If you feel you have the time, consider signing up for the Kanji, Vocabulary, and Grammar email courses. Each day, spend some time copying the kanji and vocabulary on a notepad to help remember. Add any interesting words/kanji to your Anki deck.
Again, don't worry about memorizing now. This is you meeting new vocabulary and kanji for the first time. Review and time will make these strangers into acquaintances and then friends. We suggest starting to get to know kanji right after learning hiragana
One good thing about a daily email reminder is it encourages daily study time. Consistency is very important when learning Japanese.
- TheJapanesePage.com Super Pages - We have a growing number of "Super Pages," pages that focus on a singular topic and covers it well with lots of audio practice.
- Basic Beginning Japanese Phrases - Once you have learned hiragana, you can begin to familiarize yourself with important phrases that you can use immediately. You can also use our audio-only lessons here to play while you wash the dishes or walk the dog. Don't feel like you have to memorize anything here. Learning vocabulary (and kanji) is like meeting someone. You don't become best friends immediately. It takes time to go from new acquaintances to BFFs.
- (Very) Basic Grammar - While you are acquainting yourself with useful phrases, start introducing yourself to these 100 core grammatical points. Don't worry if you don't feel like you get each and every point. Just use the material here to begin familiarizing yourself with Japanese. You can also sign up for our free daily Grammar Email Course here. You can go through the material on the website and then again each day with the email version.
- JLPT N5 Kanji - We recommend acquainting yourself with kanji early on. Don't feel overwhelmed by it all, but begin to familiarize yourself with the most basic kanji. BTW, in case you don't know JLPT stands for Japanese Language Proficiency Test. This test is held twice a year all around the world and is generally recognized as the standard test for testing your ability. N5 is the easiest level and N1 is the hardest. N5 has about a hundred kanji. If you know (at least the meaning of) these hundred kanji, you will be amazed how much you can read.
- How to Count to a Million - Learn Japanese numbers and how to count.
- TJP Podcasts - We have two weekly podcasts for beginners and intermediates. Subscribe for free and go through one or both every week.
- Japanese Prefectures - Lastly, language and culture are hard to separate and with Japanese being only spoken (widely) in Japan, learning about Japan is a must. Check out our super page on Japanese prefectures to learn about Japanese geography.
- At this point, you know hiragana, basic Japanese grammar (even if only a little), and basic vocabulary (ditto). The best way to improve is to read, read, and read some more. But... reading native texts at your current level is a recipe for frustration. That's why most of our books are stories for beginner to lower intermediates. Here are a few free stories right here on TheJapanesePage.com. If you like that, please consider becoming a Makoto+ member (below). Makoto+ has many, many more stories like that. We also have nearly all our books on sale as digital discounted bundles at TheJapanShop.com here.
7. Once you know hiragana well and you are beginning to have a feel for basic grammar and vocabulary, please consider becoming a Makoto+ member. Not only will you get the monthly Makoto e-zine, but you'll also get near daily lessons and you'll help support what we are doing here at TheJapanesePage.com. Check it out for FREE for 7 Days.