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How Do I Learn Japanese?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Nancy Fann-Im
  • Last Modified Date: 29 November 2018
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There are a number of resources available to learn Japanese, ranging from traditional language classes to language clubs for enthusiasts. People with an interest in Japanese should think about why they want to learn the language, as this can help them decide on the best learning method. For example, a doctor who wants to be able to communicate with Japanese patients needs different skills than a manga fan who wants to read work in the original Japanese.

Language classes can be a highly effective way to learn Japanese, and they come in a variety of formats. In class, students will have an opportunity to learn spoken and written Japanese, and will be able to practice in an environment where the teacher can correct them. This can prevent the formation of bad habits like pronunciation mistakes. Language classes may meet a few days a week or can take the form of an immersion course, where students spend all day every day learning Japanese for several weeks.

Immersion courses can be taken in Japan as well as outside of it. People preparing to move to Japan for work or volunteer opportunities may want to consider an in-country immersion course. When they are outside of class, they will still be in an environment where Japanese is spoken and written, so they will be forced to practice constantly. Many such courses also offer homestays so students can practice with a family and get a chance to learn more about Japanese culture.

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Language software is another option. Such software can be formatted in a variety of ways to provide language training. Students complete exercises on screen and can work at their own pace. The software usually provides examples of spoken and written Japanese for students to use. Some software companies provide free trials, and these can give students an idea of whether the program will suit their needs.

Another option is to visit Japan. While many Japanese people learn other languages in school and may be able to communicate with visitors, travel to Japan will provide ample exposure to Japanese speakers. A student who wants to learn Japanese in Japan may find it helpful to study some phrasebooks before traveling. While the learning curve can be steep, the environment can provide a form of cultural immersion as well as language training. Tutoring can be a way to supplement in-country education, where a student meets with a tutor regularly and then applies skills while she is out and about.

Japanese language clubs also provide learning opportunities. Such clubs usually have members with varying language skills who help each other learn Japanese and refine their skills. People who want to learn the language for a specific purpose, like watching anime, may be able to find a club tailored to people with the same interest. This can make learning more enjoyable. Students who need to learn Japanese for a specific reason can also find courses geared to their needs, like Japanese for doctors or Japanese for law enforcement personnel.

Many colleges and universities offer formal language training. Japanese majors will learn Japanese as part of their coursework and may apply it to theses and research. This can be an option for a college student with a particular interest in Japanese society, culture, and history. The school may also provide opportunities to travel, visit Japanese-language archives, and take advantage of other learning resources.

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