I have made several short, lackluster efforts over the past few years to study Japanese. I remember way back in junior high during my anime-obsessed days I rented a series of Japanese learning tapes from the library; however, I didn't dedicate myself to using them daily. Since then, my Japanese knowledge has been limited to phrases here and there that I've gotten from Japanese media, especially music and television.
Nevertheless, over the past year or so I've been making efforts to learn more Japanese. Compared to Chinese, I think it's certainly a more difficult language in terms of the grammar and writing systems among other things. At least with Japanese, when it comes to speaking, there's only intonation to concern yourself with rather than tones.
See how I use Chinese to learn Japanese here.
Although Japanese challenges me, there are five methods I use to casually study the language and check what I've learned or how much I know. I'm conversational in Mandarin, but not Japanese; I think my strongest Japanese skill at the moment is reading. Nonetheless, hopefully I will be able to hold a decent conversation in Japanese by the end of this year.
1. Learn Kana & Practice it Everyday
|A hiragana-katakana chart. Memorize it!|
There is simply no way one can learn to read and write Japanese efficiently without learning the kana systems, hiragana and katakana. Hiragana is used to write words of Japanese origin that do not have a corresponding kanji or Chinese-derived character. Katakana represents foreign/foreign-derived words and sounds.
While you still need to know several kanji to read most Japanese text past early elementary level, there's a host of words you can read once you learn kana:
- カレー (karē) - curry
- おにぎり(onigiri) - Japanese rice balls
- オレンジー (orenjī) - orange (the color)
- ドキドキ (dokidoki) - badum, badum; onomatopoeia for a heartbeat
- ハンバガ (hanbāgā) - hamburger
As you probably noticed, many of my examples are food items. Therefore, if you're taking a trip to Japan, I'd strongly recommend you to learn kana so you can articulate what you want to eat instead of pointing at displays! You can easily do it within a weekend.