William Peregoy wrote this piece of advice: “The Japanese don't like speaking formally…Drop the textbook formality, drop the complexity of polite forms, focus on the dictionary forms of the verbs first, speak casually, and make friends. That way, you can start having fun in the language quicker, and not worry so much about being formal and polite.”
“Whether it be your significant other who won't speak to you in Japanese, or the cashier at the store who insists on practicing his 6th grade-level English despite the obvious fact that your Japanese is waaaaaaaaay better, never forget that you — and only you — are in charge of your language learning. If you need to enroll in Japanese classes or private lessons to get the practice necessary, then do so. If you need to immerse yourself in a Japanese-only environment, then go for it. But blaming others for not speaking Japanese with you is unfair,” says Amy Chavez.
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Japanese can fry your brain. Judith Meyer got in touch to offer some ideas for what to do when that happens: “If you're having an off day or if your brain is already tired of studying, see if you might be able to watch Japanese videos, for example your favourite anime. This is a way to keep Japanese active in your brain without the strain of studying a textbook or doing Anki. Some recommended video resources: For absolute beginners: Let's Learn Japanese. For upper beginners: Erin's Challenge. For everyone: Understand Your Favourite TV Series in 30 days. Judith's put down 71 other ideas for learning Japanese in a an e-book.
Why not? The Matador Network says: “Although it's pretty easy to teach yourself the finite syllabaries of hiragana and katakana, the essential stroke order is often casually discarded by language learning newbies. In English, writing your letters oddly is just a character quirk; in Japan it will be assumed that you couldn't be bothered to learn it correctly. This assumption of laziness can also be attributed to you if you don't learn to hold your chopsticks properly. There is a difference between finishing a pen stroke with a sudden stop or with a swoosh. Stroke order is an essential of learning the basics of kanji, so don't skip it!” Note from Olly: Kickstart your Japanese by learning hiragana in just a few hours. Click here to find out how.
Once you've finished the last season of Breaking Bad, start getting your daily TV fix with Japanese dramas. If you've been studying with text books, this approach will give you some valuable exposure to less formal, everyday language. Gooddrama.net is your one-stop-shop.
He adds: “Also, speak with a real native every single day! Private tutors who live in Japan on iTalki are only $5/hour – and you thought everything in Japan was expensive!”
Benny Lewis from fluentin3months.com sent me this contribution: “Controversial as this may be, and as much as others will definitely disagree with me, I highly recommend avoiding learning Kanji for the initial months (not always) if your goals in the language are more spoken based. If you are more focused on reading, ignore this tip, but working through just Kana (and Romaji) means that I have almost the same amount of work I'd have to learn a non-related European language to get to the same spoken level.”
John Fotheringham from Language Mastery got in touch with this interesting take on Japanese learning and motivation: “Today's Japanese learner has unprecedented access to high quality teachers and resources, but it is critical to understand that no book, course, or teacher can ever get the language into your head for you. This is not The Matrix, Neo. Languages are acquired, not taught, meaning that fluency rests not on how many hours your butt has been in a classroom, but by how much meaningful exposure and practice you've had. Fortunately, the Internet allows you to find interesting listening and reading input and opportunities to practice speaking and writing output no matter where in the world you live or how little money you have. The limiting factor is no longer access, but motivation.” John's written a guide on how to learn Japanese that is essential reading for anyone learning the language – click here to check it out.
NHK News Web Easy is the kind of site that the internet was made for. Up-to-date news made easier for Japanese learners, with audio recording and accompanying text (complete with furigana, definitions and some word filtering tools). Once you've mastered the easy version, you can click on the link to view the original full-length news report in black-belt level Japanese. Amazing stuff!