How to Learn Japanese Fast – Useful Tips and Tricks

If you want to learn Japanese fast and efficiently, then you’ve come to the right place!

Many students are looking to improve the pace at which they learn Japanese, so we’ll cover which tips and strategies you can do to help you master Japanese fluency in no time!

Kid studying and Learning Japanese Fast

Moreover, we break down the tools and tips to get this job done piece by piece within the article, so work your way through it from start to finish. This is where your speedy journey to learning Japanese begins!

How to Learn Japanese Fast

When it comes to learning Japanese fast, certain techniques always lead to results. Based on research, here are the most important points to consider if you want to learn Japanese:

1. Make Speaking Japanese Your Habit

Consistency as you learn Japanese is key. Small changes in your routine (a.k.a habits) slowly but surely change your overall behavior. These changes occur at a deep psychological level. By the time you realize the change in yourself, it’s too late! You’ve changed!

The effort begins to require less and less sheer willpower or even motivation – It’s just the new program. But the change starts small, and that’s the power of small habits.

Think about anything that’s a part of your daily routine… say, washing your face in the morning. If this doesn’t happen for some reason, your day just doesn’t feel to have begun.

In fact, it then takes more willpower for you not to wash your face than it does to wash it. That’s a deeply formed habit that becomes an engraved pattern of behavior. That’s where you want to be when it comes to speaking Japanese.

Study Japanese Everyday

Even if it’s only 10 or 15 minutes a day, make studying Japanese something you can’t do without. Use a cue, like a daily reminder on your phone, to trigger the start of the study process. After you’ve done the studying (the forming of routine), reward yourself for completing your daily goal.

Reward yourself a little bit more for completing your weekly, monthly, and yearly goals. Positive reinforcement is key here. In this way, cues and rewards become a priceless influence for effective habit-forming.

2. Develop a Love for Mistakes!

Here’s an analogy for mistakes as you learn a language: The brain is a muscle, and you’re its trainer. As your brain’s trainer, it’s only right to prescribe the appropriate exercises which keep your brain in shape. Without the weights and sweat and corrections in technique, that brain just won’t maximize its potential.

Well… you inviting situations to make mistakes when speaking Japanese is you being a good trainer for your brain! These situations are like healthy stress for growth.

Making mistakes is completely inevitable when studying a new language – it will happen, and it should! It’s about how you deal with the workout process that determines how well you’ll develop.

3. Have more Output than Input

As it turns out, feedback is a crucial component for effective development in a foreign language. Feedback only comes from helping hands (be it friends or books) as you trial and error along your path.

Some feedback will be positive and some negative, but either way, it’ll be helpful. But feedback only happens in hindsight – you’ve got to try first!

There is something called the “Output Hypothesis, which basically states that some parts of language accumulation can only be attained through output. This seems a bit counterintuitive since your output doesn’t actually add anything to the material you’re studying.

So then, how could it be part of the second-language learning process? Take a look here to see more into that–the short answer? It’s all about the brain.

Other studies have shown how output can actually enhance the input portion of learning a language.

This thought goes hand-in-hand with our last 2 points: The more you put out, the more mistakes you’ll make, and the more changes you’ll make to your mental habits. And yes, as you’ve guessed, this speeds up learning!

The Power of Writing

Sometimes output gets mistaken as speaking alone – probably because it’s such a nerve-racking hurdle as a language student. While speaking is indeed a crucial component of language output, so is writing!

Writing is a powerful tool to aid in the memorization of Japanese words, characters, expressions, etc. In truth, due to the stark difference between the writing systems in Japanese and English, writing is a particularly useful practical aid.

Also, remember that writing is another form of communication with its own cadence (and even learning vocabulary when it comes to Japanese). Carry a notebook wherever you go to maximize your potential for learning any language!

A woman with glasses using her laptop

Learning the Different Aspects of Japanese

Now, let’s talk a little more about Japanese specifically. It should go without saying, but the path you take for learning will ultimately determine how fast you learn Japanese.

Someone who starts building a house from the foundation up will do a much faster job than someone who starts from the roof down.

Learning a language is the same. In that vein, we’ve organized the different aspects of the Japanese language in order of importance when it comes to expediting your learning process.

We also provide some sturdy tips on how to maximize your time in each of these venues. Take a look down below!

Japanese Alphabet

Let the Japanese alphabet be considered as a combination of both ひらがな(hiragana) and カタカナ(katakana). It’s quite clear; you’ll want to start with the alphabet when taking on any new language. And luckily, the Japanese alphabet isn’t all that tough!

らがな(hiragana) is the alphabet allotted to Japanese-derived and incepted words. The other, カタカナ(katakana), is used for words of foreign origin.

The sooner you can read, the sooner you can do everything else. A diligent student can learn the entire Japanese alphabet in under two weeks’ time!

A straight-up drill study probably works best for mastering an alphabet – that and repetitive writing will help the strange symbols stick before you know it!

Common Words and Phrases in Japanese

We get it – when you’re dying to become a Japanese master overnight and learn every other insanely-super-rare-never-used-in-English word, the urge is too hard to fight!

Well, unfortunately, that way of thinking will only slow down your learning process! When you limit yourself to only the most common words early on, you give your brain/ears the highest probability of comprehensive exposure to the language. And that repetitive exposure is exactly what boosts learning.

Look up the most common Japanese words and start absorbing from there. Also, write a list of all the common words you’ve picked up through anime or movies or whatever you’re exposed to. While some of these words may not be so common, they’ll still expand your list and be at your behest when searching for that perfect Japanese word.

Also, remember that words are more than just nouns; verbs, adjectives, and all the rest qualify as words too!

How to Remember Long Japanese Words

There’s one weird thing about being a total novice in any language when it comes to common phrases. What is, oftentimes, the super common phrases are lengthy and quite difficult.

Take, for example, the Japanese word おはようございます(ohayou gozaimasu). This is the Japanese word for “good morning.” Whether you know Japanese words well or not, one can pretty objectively state that this word is pretty big. et, the expression is completely rudimentary, so it’ll probably be one of the first words you pick up.

Language beginners always face this rather “trial by fire” introduction – and it’s a good thing. Just by the nature of the process itself, you’re forced to absorb a mix of seemingly complex and obviously simple words all at once.

And, the more you pound on in the beginning, the faster you’ll get a feel for the language! That’s an important point. Practice those commonplace words/expressions diligently early on to quicken your Japanese fluency!

Japanese Sentence Structure and Grammar

Once you’ve learned how to read and have accrued a healthy list of vocabulary words, it’s time to start slapping some sentences together. This is when Japanese grammar makes its appearance on the stage. Thusly, this will probably be the bulk of your “getting it right” when it comes to learning Japanese.

Again, the best way to approach this for maximum speed is by taking firm and confident baby steps. Grab a basic Japanese grammar book and hit one point at a time.

Master the example sentences or dialogues before crafting your own. Then, move on to the next lesson. Try combining all your previously acquired knowledge as you progress forward (this will happen naturally).

Japanese Kanji

かんじ(kanji|漢字) are Chinese characters that were adopted by Japan many years ago. They’re as much a part of the Japanese language system as anything else. The path to Japanese fluency is just a dream without the inclusion of kanji. But in all honesty, they’re difficult to master – especially for native English speakers.

We’ve put them further down on this list because, technically, kanji isn’t needed to read or write any word… you can always use Hiragana or Katakana alone. That technicality aside, your ability to operate in Japanese will suffer without kanji.

Kanji’s purpose is to add quick clarity (and beauty) to what could otherwise be ambiguous or unclear. That holds true both psychologically and physically – kanji highlight meaning and clean up written Japanese at the same time.

Take, for example, the Japanese sentence:

きょうのこくばんはきたないです (kyou no kokuban ha kitanai desu)

今日黒板いです (kyou no kokuban ha kitanai desu)

Both sentences are exactly the same, except one is written completely in Hiragana while the other utilizes the power of kanji. For the trained eye, it’s far easier to read the sentence with kanji than it is to read the former. Now imagine a whole paragraph! Not to mention, the kanji makes the message more compact and graceful.

While technically it’s not necessary, be certain to include kanji as part of your learning routine if you plan to learn Japanese as fast as possible!

Writing and drilling are, again, best for recollecting the written portions of probably any language. And always include what you’ve learned into what you’re learning, so nothing becomes stale!

Advanced and Professional-Level Japanese

Advanced Japanese includes high-level Japanese grammar, specialized or rare vocabulary, and respectful Japanese, simply known as けいご(keigo|敬語). You won’t need this stuff to learn Japanese any faster. By the time this is of any concern to you, your Japanese should already be polished. Think of this as the extra icing on the already delicious cake.

A note: You may have noticed that the topic of pronunciation did not make this list. It’s really impossible to say how quickly anyone can pick up the pronunciation of a language. We will mention, however, that Japanese pronunciation is known to be rather easy for native English speakers on a general level!

Flashcards, a checklist, a target with a bow, and a smartphone

Tips for Learning Japanese Quickly

With a greater understanding of how to master Japanese language components quickly, here are some specific tips to help accelerate your learning even more!

Set Goals

There’s a really cool acronym for goal-setting called SMART. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. Set SMART goals in your target language to speed up your learning process.

Such a goal might look like, “I will be able to order a coffee confidently by the end of this month,” or, “I will have mastered 50 kanji by the end of this month”. As long as a goal qualifies to be SMART, well then… it’s a smart way to go!

Japanese Tip: In the beginning, it can be tough to know what a reasonably attainable goal looks like. After all, you haven’t yet learned how you interact with the language. If you realize at some point that a goal is too unreasonable or out of your league, just revise it until it works out!

Japanese Apps and Media are Your Friends!

There are tons of Japanese learning apps on the market these days. Most of the well-vetted, successful apps have been reviewed by high-level linguistic professionals and refined over the years. Due to the sheer amount of statistical data from their users, there’s a great understanding of what works and what doesn’t when it comes to languages.

Not to mention, the social network of contemporary learners invites you into a community of inspiration and aid. It’s definitely the way to go for conveniently improving your language skills quickly.

For feedback on your writing (which can be rare for some apps), we recommend Lang-8 or HelloTalk.

Using media as a learning tool is no surprise for most students. It’s a great way to get real exposure to a language–these programs were intended for native Japanese speakers, after all! Non-fiction dramas and films, in particular, are great for getting a grounded perspective on a language.

Japanese podcasts with a neutral or casual tone are also superb tools for listening training. The NHK radio is a popular choice for completely formal Japanese listening practice. And of course, Japanese music is always great too!

Those Good Ol’ Flashcards

Flashcards, flashcards, flashcards… the age-old study tool! Well, folks, they work! If you don’t know what a flashcard is, it’s basically a study card on which one side has the question/word, and the other side has the answer.

Flashcards work great with the help of friends or when studying alone. When you use flashcards with a timer, they emulate real-life situations where a word’s definition or translation must be conjured quickly. It’s a bit like speaking practice, but without the conversation.

Using a flashcard app is a perfect brain exercise for enhancing reliable word recognition!

Get a Language Partner

In language learning, a language partner is definitely one of the most powerful tools. In the same way, it’s helpful for mastering Japanese quickly. In a sense, a partner in learning a language fills the pants of being immersed within another country without actually being there. You get firsthand experience of a living, moving, thinking, feeling being and how their mother tongue can convey their own personal complexity.

Of course, you’d want to find someone who wishes to learn your first language themselves, so it’s a constant language exchange of teaching/learning.

A language exchange partner also offers accountability during the language journey. Accountability is a strong tool for keeping you on your Ps and Qs to strive toward your own expectations.

To make things a notch further, skip getting a language exchange partner and hire a professional teacher to provide one-on-one Japanese training. So long as that accountability factor is present along with pinpoint feedback into your comprehension, you’ll be heavily accelerating your learning!

A man holding a book talking to a woman using her laptop

Mnemonics

Mnemonics take the strain off of remembering common Japanese words. It’s when you associate a catchy rhyme, story, or song with a particular word.

For example, the word ほん(hon | 本) means “book” in Japanese. This sounds just like the English word “hone.” For help to remember how to say a book in Japanese, you might create a mental story of a book teaching you how to hone your skills. That’s the power of mnemonics.

Here’s a separate article on how to remember words in Japanese.

Wrap Up

And so there you have it – the ins and out of how to learn Japanese fast and easily.

Above all else, put in the effort to become aware of your own learning style. Are you a visual learner or an audio learner? Do you prefer to do things in a hands-on manner? During what time of day do you operate your best? What’s the best reward incentive to fuel your routines?

The better you can answer these questions, the better and faster you can learn Japanese!

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