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How do you try to learn Japanese
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F / America
Posted 12/25/15 , edited 12/26/15
I'm not a bad student, but I've always had trouble learning spoken languages. It took me until I was almost three to start speaking my first language, if that tells you anything. Over the years, since I'm otherwise a good student, teachers have tried to teach me several other languages, and all to no avail. In my adult life, I've found myself in several scenarios where I'm surrounded by German, Spanish and Russian for extended periods of time, but still, I never pick them up like most other people seem to do. At the same time, I seem to have no trouble understanding people who speak other languages because I find that body language usually says almost everything they're trying to communicate. I just can't speak back, or ask clarifying questions, which is annoying.

People usually end up assuming I speak their language because my reactions to their words SEEM to indicate I understood them, when really, I was just making logical inferences about what someone might want based on gestures, expression and eye position.

I've been searching for years for a way to make languages and words really stick in my head, and for years, every method I tried failed miserably. Classes. Books. Subtitles. Direct, prolonged exposure to fluent speakers of a language. Recordings. Memorization. Guided practice. Various combinations of these methods. You name it, I tried it. You name it, it didn't work.

Ah well, I told myself, I guess I should just be glad I can read body language well enough, I can usually guess what's being said.

Then I found a smartphone app called Duolingo and I actually started to learn French after failing to do so two other times in the past. (Third time's a charm?) It doesn't have a lot of languages yet, but it's fun. It does everything like a game, which makes it less tedious than if you had to memorize and study.

Duolingo doesn't have Japanese yet, but I suspect the company will be adding this language soon, since it's one that's in pretty high demand. (And they already have a version of the site in Japanese, which is a good sign, if you ask me.)

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23 / Northwestern Unit...
Posted 12/26/15 , edited 12/26/15
So I think the first thing anyone would recommend when it comes to language learning is to try and immerse yourself in the language as much as you can. Ideally that would mean going to a country where the language is spoken - in this case Japan - and staying there for a while, however, you can make do even in a city where no one else speaks Japanese. Immersion can look like anything from spending an entire day in nothing but Japanese, from television to music to speech, or it can look like watching a few episodes of an anime and taking notes on vocab. The level of immersion you want to undergo is totally up to you (and honestly the "full immersion" thing isn't something I've ever done in the seven years since I started studying Japanese, not even when I was actually in Japan). I think the important thing is to try and hear and see different ways that the language is utilized, different ways you can say certain words or certain phrases that convey different meanings. It's also a great way to pick up on slang, informal conversational dialogue, and idioms (which you still use in Japanese, despite what everyone says about "nobody talking like they do in animes", it's just to very specific people).

Next I would recommend that you have a solid understanding of basic linguistic terms in your native language. It's not necessarily a requirement, but it's extremely helpful to not have to constantly look up what a "predicate" or a "clause" is when you're studying your grammar books.

From there I would suggest investing in some quality textbooks. You may find that you don't like any of the textbooks that are recommended to you (I know I personally hate the Genki series), so you should feel free to look around to find a book that suits you and where you want to start learning the language. As others have suggested, it's essential that you learn hiragana and katakana ASAP, and start on Kanji as soon as you've completely memorized the first two "alphabets". As far as increasing reading speed and recognition speed goes, I found it helpful to make sheets of scrambled each set of kana individually and read through them as fast as I could several times a day. Once you've fully memorized hiragana and katakana and have moved on to Kanji, I would say that's the time to fully commit yourself to learning vocab and grammar rules. Invest in a decent dictionary and once you get there, a kanji dictionary might help as well!

I'd also recommend having someone with whom you can practice your pronunciation and conversational skills. There are several apps and websites you can use for that, so I'll include them in a resource list at the bottom of this post.

Once you've started to get the basics of the language, I think learning about the culture and history of Japan is something that's integral to fully understanding the language. You can do this any number of ways, even through anime in some cases. It doesn't really matter how you do it, it's just important that you do it so you can learn more about how to effectively use language, when the right time is to say certain phrases, what to do in certain circumstances, etc. You can never learn enough about culture and history, so consume everything you can!

Finally, since I can't really think of anything else to recommend at the moment, try not to get discouraged! Learning a language can be really difficult and involved, and some days it's going to seem like you're not progressing far at all, but just remember that you're learning the language for yourself and that you're allowed to make mistakes. Just keep pushing and keep trying! I've been studying Japanese for about 7 years now (though not consistently, admittedly) and there's still a lot I don't know. My friend studied it for three years in high school after having spent an entire year self-teaching herself the language, and she gives entire speeches in Japanese. Everyone learns at different paces and whatever pace you set for yourself is perfectly acceptable!

Recommended texts and links

Happy studying!
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28 / F / Canada
Posted 12/29/15 , edited 12/29/15
Well I took it in high school and my teacher believed you had to hear the language, so we watched a lot of animes and dramas. [Theres this one I've been looking for but I can't remember the Japanese title. It's basically Freaky Friday, but with a father and daughter after eating magical peaches]

Right now, I learn by listening to anime and slowly learning by hearing the same word a million times lol. Hiragana I'm rusty on but you'll write out sheets, then write basic sentences, and once you get use to hiragana they'll throw kanji at you and it's at that point I throw up my hands. [Actually it's the counting system I'm lost with. Japan has a different words for 'one, two, three' depending on if you're counting people, money, even pages in a book. My sensei tried explaining that but the whole class was lost] I suggest getting an audio CD and workbook to help you, and it also helps if a friend is studying also because you need to speak the language frequently so you don't forget. [I speak 3 languages, it gets hard some days when you haven't spoken to someone in 4 months to remember words]
Sailor Candy Moderator
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Posted 1/24/17 , edited 1/24/17
Forum Clean up. Old 2015 threads Locked.
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