When you’re setting out to learn a language it can be very daunting knowing how much don’t know… and the more you learn the more you realise how much you have to learn, so by learning a language it can seem like you’re even further from learning it, though that probably makes no sense. SO, of all the many crazy things to learn in Japanese, where is the best place to begin? Obviously, at the start, but heck where is the start?! Pretty much where you choose it to be! But, from my experiences with learning Japanese there is a certain learning route I would say is best to get started off, to give you some momentum on a long and exhausting uphill journey of language learning (not really selling this am I).
Step ‘0’ – Have some motivation!! Some real motivation, a desire and a reason to learn. For some the enthusiasm comes from their love of anime or manga. For me it came from Japanese music and wanting to understand.
Step 1 – Pronunciation. Pronunciation is a great think to get stuck into right at the start before anything else. It’s not too complicated and will keep you from getting into hard-to-break bad pronunciation habits. It can also help you get a feel for the language.
Step 2 – Greetings and Introductions. Easy and fun to learn, greetings and introductions are a good second step to get you started. It will give you some every day useful phrases that you can play with and use to show off to your friends.
Step 3 – Numbers. Learn numbers 1-100 in Japanese. They’re quite easy so once you know 1-20 you’re pretty much there.
Step 4 – Pronouns and Sentence Structure. Learn pronouns like ‘i’, ‘you’, ‘he’, ‘she’, ‘they’, etc. It’ll add to your foundation. Also get a grasp of sentence structure/word order (SOV rather than SVO) – it’ll give you a boost later on when it comes to particles.
Step 5 – Talking about Yourself and Family. This is a good, broader topic to get your teeth into. It’ll help you to expand you’re vocabulary with more useful things. Take the chance to learn some set phrases or questions you could ask too.
Step 6 – Particles. These can be terribly tricky to get your head round, but once you do, you’ll by flying off with your language learning. Since by this point you will have given introductions a go and talking about yourself and family etc. you should have already seen particles in use, so it should be easier for you to get a quicker more natural grasp of it.
Step 7 – Expand Your Vocabulary. Increase your vocabulary as much as you can. My advice for this task would be to buy yourself a Japanese beginners dictionary and a small text book purely for vocabulary. Use it and keep looking back at it and testing yourself. That’s what I did and it helped a ton. We’ll divide this into 3 more parts:
Part 1 – Nouns. Learn through categories such as ‘fruit’, ‘days of the week’, ‘sports’, ‘school subjects’, ‘hobbies’ and so on.
Part 2 – Verbs. Memorise a list of common verbs. Also learn the different kind of verbs – ‘Ichidan’ and ‘Godan’.
Part 3 – Adjectives. Memorise a list of common adjectives. Learn the 2 types – ‘na’ and ‘i’ adjectives.
Step 8 -Grammar – Conjugations. Learn how to conjugate verbs and to conjugate adjectives – Past, Negative, and Negative-Past forms. Also learn the difference between polite and plain forms, and how these conjugate differently.
Step 9 – Hiragana and Katakana. These are 2 of the 3 Japanese alphabets that I recommend thoroughly learning at this point. Of the 2 I would say learn Hiragana first as you will use it the most. Of course it helps if you’ve already been writing down the vocabulary you’ve been learning in Hiragana as well as English letters, but if not, start now. It can be tricky to learn the alphabets so click here for some tips.
Step 10 – Revise and Advance. Look back at all the things you’ve learned. Take a look at where exactly you are at. Revise. Practice, practice, practice!!! And make it fun! Then advance forwards – increase your vocabulary even more, improve and increase your grammatical understanding, practise some more, learn some kanji etcetera, etcetera. By now you will have picked up plenty of good language learning habits, and be more aware of how you learn so keep going and improving! If you’ve even got this far, well done! Be proud of yourself.
Final Tip – Push Yourself but don’t Rush Yourself.
Of course you can do these things in whatever order or way that you are most comfortable, but for those who are unsure and need a structure for where to begin I hope this helps.