Why would a doctor from Europe want to learn Japanese? why did I even bother?
Back in July of summer 2018, I booked my flight to Japan, personally, I didn’t know much about the country, as a guy who mainly studies anatomy and physiology and human beings, also I had no idea on how to study languages and neither was I interested in manga or anime as I never could be bothered.
During my trip to Japan, I managed to visit Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka, and this lead me to become interested in the culture of Japan, which I found to be fascinating.
I met loads of interesting travelers in Tokyo and this really made me question my future of the possibility of working in japan (not as a doctor but in some healthcare-related industry).
When it comes down to languages, studying Japanese can be hard and daunting however the best way I found to learn Japanese faster, is to break it down into small pieces, dissecting the language into parts makes it more manageable.
The following 3 steps will help breakdown the method I currently use to study.
Manage your time and use it wisely
The first thing I suggest is to learn is how to manage the time you have wisely and to use the time to build up a good study routine. study on the train, the plane, the metro, or in the toilet, wherever and whenever you can!
Most of us tend to waste way too much time. Every day we have at least 1 or 2 hours to kill and just wasting that time on TV, random YouTube videos or even worse just looking into to void while commuting is basically a killer for productivity!
Time is money and time will also make the difference between you getting N5 or N1
Learn the basics Hiragana and Katakana (should take few days)
Hiragana and katakana are basic alphabets used in Japanese and are the main readings. Although kanji are a major part of Japanese usually the reading requires previous knowledge of hiragana. When Japanese people type on their mobile phones the hiragana is automatically converted into kanji.
So what are the major hiragana and Katakana?
Below you can find a list of hiragana and Katakana:
This is in my honest opinion where you start from, when you master these two its time to move on to kanji.
Start learning some Kanji! However there are thousands of kanji, so how do you learn them?
The answer to this is to learn Kanji in Context or in actual texts. The reason for this is that kanji have multiple readings and are seldom used alone. Books such as Remembering the Kanji are great to understand the elements that make up the individual kanji and are super useful in order to understand the components of the kanji and to help study by association, however, I believe studying Kanji in context helps you identify how they are used in actual Japanese texts.
Some of the free reading sources I personally would suggest include:
Also another great way of learning kanji is to use a FREE flashcard app such as ANKI. Flashcards are a great way to help you learn the language by allowing daily reviews and therefore pushing the kanji into your long-term memory by daily practice.
You can also use Anki to build-up sentence decks and use them to simulate scenarios, as for example speaking in a store, buying clothes, or ordering coffee at a restaurant.
My personal favorite Kanji dictionary that also contains sentences you can use to build up vocabulary is Remembering the Kanji dictionary 2500 kanji, I find this really useful as it also gives to sentences at the bottom of each kanji.
Use language learning apps
Apps such as DuoLingo and lingodeer help you practice Japanese at beginner to intermediate level. In my opinion (as I personally used them myself) these apps are a great way to help drill basic vocabulary and sentence structure. Another app like Memrise is also really good as it helps you recall words in a similar way to flashcards and helps you review the week words you don’t know.
Use youtube and watch videos in Japanese
Take it easy, learn how to stop the video and look at the subtitles and then note the kanji using an application like Anki. Video is a great learning tool as it allows you to learn the listening part of Japanese which might take some time to build. There are great free learning channels on YouTube such as Nihongonomori which has tons of lessons that will help you pass the JLPT!
Another channel I would recommend which is great for learning kanji is Learning Kanji channel. This guy goes from JLPT N5 level, Kanji, vocab, grammer points up to the N1 level, so check it out i think its a great channel that helped me a lot.
USE dictionaries to look up the kanji
One of the best dictionaries that there is Jisho, i recommend downloading the app as it’s faster to use than using it on a pc or laptop, the great thing about this app is that it allows you to draw the kanji and provides you with a search and suggests the most likely kanji and readings for that kanji! pretty cool right?
Practice on a daily basis!
Practice is key and cramming is never going to work as out brain needs a constant reminder you must try to focus on using your time wisely.
I suggest learning at least 20 kanji daily + 10 grammar points + 10 Vocabulary words which is my (20 +10 +10 rule). Do this for a year and you would be able to learn 7000 kanji which of course is not needed, however you get my point I hope.
You need approximately 3000 kanji and 2000 vocabulary to become fluent near intermediate level Japanese so practice at least 1 or 2 hrs a day and do a mental gym, review and refresh and use flash cards, draw, write and read.
Of course have fun, studying language without enjoying the process is a waste of time and effort !