For those with Skype and a microphone add me if you want to join our study sessions. My Username is ShunjiHanazawa. If you need help with anything or just want to chat with the other members you can go to the chatroom located in the link below.
How to study Japanese
Many people who study Japanese as a second language never get the chance to visit Japan. Those who do go often only go once they've studied Japanese for some number of years. The problem with this is that the Japanese language and Japanese culture are undeniably intertwined. While it is possible for one to become proficient at reading and writing Japanese with only haven studied in a classroom setting, it is crucial that one understands Japanese culture and mannerisms to become proficient at speaking and understanding spoken Japanese. However, one doesn't have to live in Japan indefinitely just learn Japanese. A short 4 or 5 month stay is all that is need to grasp enough of the speaking mannerisms to understand how to properly study the language.
There is an infinite amount of resources, both on the web and in bookstores, to aid people who are studying Japanese. However, guides on how to effectively study the language are few and far between. Thus, I have created this study guide which should help both beginner and advanced students alike.
*note: This is a living article, so study tips will be added here periodically.
The first thing a beginning student needs to learn is hiragana, followed directly by katakana. These are the first and most important steps on what is a very long journey. Most "learn Japanese in 10 weeks" books tend to teach Japanese only in romanji. In my opinion, romanji is useless and inhibiting. If you study Japanese using romanji, once you get to hiragana, you will no doubt become confused. My advice would be to save yourself the frustration and memorize all 46 hiragana characters before you start to study vocabulary or grammar. Katakana is also essential for understanding foreign words, but that can be studied as you come across it. Failure to memorize hiragana early on will result in much frustration latter in your studies. I see this problem all the time with beginning students.
The majority of students who study Japanese would agree that kanji is the most difficult and time consuming part of Japanese to learn. However, it's also the most important part. When studying kanji, it is important to follow a guideline of some sort. Most use a Japanese kanji dictionary and study it cover to cover. While this method will undoubtedly cover all the kanji that one needs to know, I advise people to follow a different method. As some of you may well know, the standardized test for the Japanese language is called the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (or JLPT). The authors of this test have broken down the Japanese language and all its parts (including kanji) into 4 convenient grades. 4th being the easiest, 1st the most difficult. I would recommend that you start learning the kanji in grade 4. Once you've memorized them all, move on to grade 3. Rinse, and repeat.
A great way to memorize these kanji is to create homemade flash cards from normal index cards. Using kanji dictionary, write down the kanji character you're studying as well as a few vocabulary words which use that character on one side of the card. On the other side of the card, write down the kanji's On and Kun reading(s), as well as the reading of the vocabulary words in hiragana. Here is an example.
Vocabulary and grammar
Most of the vocabulary that you learn will come from new kanji that you learn. That is, if you take the extra step to put a few vocabulary words on the flash cards you create. As for grammar, the best way to study would be from one of the many JLPT books. Check out our Japanese Books page. A few different companies write these books, and they really do help with not only learning grammar, but everything else as well. You can test you grammar skills by downloading the PDF files from this site. Look them over for grammar points that you don't understand.
Another way to expose your self to new grammar is to read anything that is written in Japanese. I like reading Japanese literature (which I must say is much more exciting than American literature). The internet is excellent as well because of the endless supply of articles written on every topic imaginable.
Media, Movies, Manga, etc
Notice that I didn't list anime. Anime is pretty useless for studying Japanese. The reason being is that the Japanese being spoken in most anime isn't anything like normally spoken Japanese. Also, most anime is made for children. However, some anime such as Akira and Sentochihiro (spirited away) can be somewhat of a source of study.A step above anime is manga. With manga, you are at least able to read and study the kanji being used. And in most instances, the kanji is accompanied by furigana.
The best media to study from by far is television. Watching hosted Japanese TV shows (not drama/sitcoms) is an excellent way to study naturally spoken Japanese. You'll be exposed to honorific speech, casual speech, and all the slang you can handle. What's more, is that with most shows, about 80% of the speaking on the show is put in captions at the bottom of the screen. So if you misunderstand something, you can easily rewind the show and take a look at the caption to see what was said.
Memorize the following Instructor's Command & Classroom Student
Shitsumon ga arimasu. ー しつもん が あります。 I have a question
Moo ichido itte-kudasai. ー もう いちど いってください。 Please say that again.
Wakarimasen. ー わかりません。 I do not understand
Wakarimashita. ー わかりました。 I understand
Chotto matte-kudasai. ー ちょっと まって ください。 Please wait a second. Instructor
Kiite-kudasai. ー きいて ください。 Please listen.
Mite-kudasai. ー みて ください。 Please look at ( me,it, this).
Itte-kudasai. ーいってください。 Please say it.
Moo ichido (itte-kudasai). ー もう いちど いって ください。Please say it again.
Yonde-kudasai. － よんで ください。 Please read (it).
Kaite-Kudasai. ーかいて ください。Please write.
Renshuushite-kudasai. ーれんしゅうして ください。Please practice.
Wakarimashita ka? ーわかりました か。 Did you understand?
Hai, Wakarimashita. ーはい、 わかりました。Yes, I understood
Iie, Wakarimasen.ーいいえ、 わかりません。 No, I don't understand.
Shitsumon ga arimasu ka? ーしつもん が あります か。 Do you have any questions?
Hai, arimasu. ーはい、 あります。。Yes, I have a question.
Iie, arimasen. ーいいえ、 ありません。No, I don't
Ii desu ka. ーいい です か。Is that all right?/Is it ok?
Hai, iidesu. ーはい、 いいです。Yes, It is
Chotto... ー ちょと。No....
Hajimemashoo.ーはじめましょう。 Let's begin the class.
Owarimashoo. ー おわりましょう。Let's end here.
For the worksheets below...saving them to your computer and zooming in should help you see them better.
Hi Everyone, I've been trying to learn Japanese by myself but it is sooooo difficult. I can say a few words and phrases but get totally lost with reading and even listening =/ though watching J-Dramas is helping with listening I think =)
Just figured I'd say hi. I'm new! I've just started learning hiragana so I'm probably not ready for whatever you guys are talking about but since I've stumbled across this...I figured I'd go ahead and join