Learning The Language. Advice For A Non-resident

Discussion in 'General Topics - Life in Japan' started by JustSomeGuy, Sep 11, 2013.

  1. JustSomeGuy

    JustSomeGuy TAG Member

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    OK, I know, there are probably many more appropriate sites I could ask this on and it's probably a strange question to put out here but there's some good advice to be had on here.

    So, I don't live in Japan, only go there for holidays about once a year and at the moment I only speak, read and write very basic Japanese. And although I get by OK and have even managed some quite long conversations (though I'm sure I sound strange to the locals) without relying on English I'm getting tired of not being able to express myself and being limited.

    Obviously the best ways to learn are living in Japan or doing a college/university course. Unfortunately I can't even do a uni course since nowhere near me offers it and I can't take the time off work and other commitments to just go back to uni like a student. So I'm left to find alternatives. So far I've learned through books and generally exposing myself to as much Japanese media as I can through checking out stuff online, watching films/TV and listening to the music. But it's such a slow process that way. I've been doing this for about 10 years and I'm still at a beginner level. I did try Rosetta Stone but I didn't find it easy to get in to.

    If anyone has any tips, tricks or suggestions then I'd like to hear them.
     
  2. meiji

    Global Moderator

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    Well the first question is what do you mean by 'Learn Japanese'? Do you want to just speak? Be able to read? Be able to write?

    You need to break things down into small chunks and find some way to enjoy studying. If you don't know hiragana and katakana very well yet, that's your first priority. You are never going to get very far in Japanese using Romaji. After that, get a book like Genki or another textbook that gradually introduces various topics and grammar, and study them. You probably need to spend at least an hour a day studying/using flashcards/other techniques to start to advance at all. Say the words out loud as you study them. Learn Kanji (at least to recognize what Kanji are in what words) as you go instead of waiting to learn them later. Flash card sets like Anki, or iPhone apps like Japanese or KanjiBox are pretty good for vocab/dictionary/flashcard purposes. You can keep a journal in Japanese to just cover what you did that day.

    As you said, aside from being in Japan the best option would probably be a class. If you live in a moderately sized city, there might be a Japanese community center that offers Japanese classes. Look a little deeper into your community and you might be able to find something.

    Other options would be a local tutor or utilizing online resources like Conversation Exchange along with Skype. Just make sure that you get time to speak and listen to Japanese and not just converse in English. YouTube is pretty good for Japanese videos, and you can also try something like Crunchyroll, which are Japanese anime and dramas with English subtitles. Given the nature of this board, if you want to learn a lot of Japanese swear words and dirty talk, you can watch Japanese porn. :)

    It's really a lot of work, especially if you don't live in Japan. I live in Japan and my Japanese is still pretty crappy, although it's definitely better than when I first got here. Spend an hour every day studying vocabulary and see how that goes. Good luck!
     
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  3. JustSomeGuy

    JustSomeGuy TAG Member

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    Thanks Meji. Yeah, I can read and write kana without any problems now. It was one of the first things I learned. I know about 100 Kanji and I'm slowly learning more. I don't know if this makes sense, but the basics came fairly easily and then I seemed to hit a brick wall. I learned the kana and about 50 kanji in my first year self studying and also got to grips with the pronunciation differences between English and Japanese and learned quite a lot of different words. Then 9 years later and I don't feel as if I've learned much more except for more words and some basic phrases. And sadly I live in a small town with not much near either. Occasionally at a local college they have done 8 week basic Japanese courses but most of the stuff taught is what I already know and then by the time they start to get to where I am the course has ended. And even that hasn't been done for 3 years now. Living in a small town sucks sometimes.

    I guess what I'm aiming for is to be able to compose sentences. Sometimes I know all the words I need to use but not the correct case particles to tie the sentence together. Many times I have surprised people because I sometimes know obscure words that they don't expect yet I can't really think how to say something as simple as 'Where is the nearest train station?'. I know the words in that sentence but have no idea what case particles to use.

    I appreciate the tips. I think I'm going to follow your advice, set myself some goals and try and knuckle down at it for a good few months and see if it helps me. Conversation exchange would probably help me a lot too. When I hear Japanese people speaking I learn how they structure their sentences and I can learn from that. Kind of learning through mimicry.
     
  4. meiji

    Global Moderator

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    Yeah, speaking is really tough, especially when you don't have a lot of excuses to practice. Even if you 'book study' all the time, it's not going to get much better - the ability for words to be in your mind when ready to say them comes only from real-world repetition. Listening helps some, but the only way your mind really learns to speak Japanese is by speaking Japanese, even if it's crappy and incorrect at first.
     
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  5. oppai_seijin

    oppai_seijin TAG Member

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    try listening to Japanese songs and translate the whole song into english .
    have a japanese lyric of the song and a Japanese to eng dictionary by your side.
    this way you get to learn new vocabularies and how to make a sentence in japanese.
    i had a hard time when to use "ga" and "ni" in a sentence.
    have a notebook and write every new vocabularies you learn.
    this is a temporary method if you dont have a japanese speaking partner to learn with.

    this was how i learned to speak japanese(must learn how to read and write hiragana and katana first)
     
  6. Keiji

    Keiji TAG Member

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    When I first starting clubbing after getting 21 years old, I made a lot of friends in Tokyo (used to live in Gunma). Every new friend that I met had a few English speakers. Before that, I never used English at all. My first tries were horrible. After a long year passed away, I realised that some weekends I was entirely with foreign people. Now when people read me, not many realise I am not a native English speaker. My clubbing is different than what most people think of because I was going into underground parties (Gothic).

    I also met a lot of English speakers while doing Outdoor activities with race-mixed groups.

    So my suggestion is to share common hobbies, you should have enough vocabulary to talk with others and since you have same interests it might be easier to get into talks even if by small comments.
     
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  7. TAG Manager

    Executive Leadership

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    Immersion really helps, but if you have a situation where you can default to English, it hurts the learning process immensely.

    Self-study outside of Japan takes some serious dedication to achieve a reasonable level of Japanese. Finding as much Japanese TV, audio and reading material as you can will help move the process along.

    That said, my personal ability: Comprehension through listening is much stronger than my speaking and writing ability. Reading has mixed results, depending on the level of complication. I work in a 99.5% Japanese only environment, somehow I am successful and get along quite well.
     
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  8. TAG77

    TAG77 TAG Member

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    You mean Japanese right?...
     
  9. oppai_seijin

    oppai_seijin TAG Member

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    yup japanese songs.
    better have a album since it contains the lyrics of the song written in japanese.
     
  10. GoldenDalton

    GoldenDalton TAG Member

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    I didn't know you were a non- native English speaker. Impressive for sure.

    Props on Raiden also.
     
  11. Karen

    KarenKaren is a Verified Member Mistress of the Night

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    Language is a living organism. If you don't feed it, no growth will come and it will die. Feed it, care & nurture it, you will be rewarded. Works for any foreign language, just like muscle training. Flex it or lose it.
     
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  12. Zaphod222

    Zaphod222 TAG Member

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    It takes some effort in Tokyo though, because here it is so easy to stay in the English bubble. Japanese countryside is different.
     
  13. Karen

    KarenKaren is a Verified Member Mistress of the Night

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    Yes, I know people that never leave their little English bubble in Roppongi. That's another story for another time.
     
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  14. tokyo-n00b

    tokyo-n00b TAG Member

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    For language lessons, try your local community college or college extension. Almost all the colleges in my area offer Japanese through their extension (adult learning) programs.

    Karen is definitely right about not using the language and losing it. I took 18 months of Japanese about 7 years ago in anticipation of taking an extended work assignment in Japan. Which never materialized. I was quite comfortable in Japanese at the time, but now it's almost all gone. So I'm taking Japanese through a work program, hanging out with some Japanese speakers at work, and working my way through Japanesepod101.com.

    Japanese For Busy People seems a common and well-regarded text book.

    It will take some months to get get anything back, and that's too late for my next trip. But I'll be very ready for my Tokyo visits next year.

    Maybe I'll get some "special" Japanese language lessons while I'm in Tokyo :)

    Use it or lose it.
     
  15. Viera

    Viera TAG Member

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    For the self learner I used the Genki series textbooks. If you have both books (Genki I & II), and you can speak the language fluidly, you've pretty much completed the entire elementary school curriculum for Japanese (or so I've been told by the book store employee). It does require a lot of input just like Karen had stated. I live in some podunk country side village and I'm forced to use whatever skill(s) I have learned. In doing so I managed to get myself into a boxing gym and exponentially expanded my Japanese skill set while learning local slang.

    I tried Japanese For Busy People and it didn't work for me as well as the Genki books. I even went the extra mile and bought the workbooks associated with the Genki textbooks. The workbooks has kana and kanji practice sheets while reenforcing the material learned in a specific and/or previous lesson. Think of the work book as homework. I did the sheets in the workbook and then went to a local bar and had someone there proof my work. I even hooked up with a local female friend of the bartender after a few weeks.
     
  16. Lovein

    Lovein TAG Member

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    -Don’t study the written basics without some supervision
    -Don’t skip what’s hard
    -Invest in some quality learning material
    -Watch plenty of cartoons, movies, dramas and listen/sing to plenty of music
    -Do practice singing in Japanese and following along with lyrics
    -Get yourself a conversation partner from the beginning
    -Be wary of domestic immersion programs.
    -Learn tongue twisters and sound effects
    -Settle on one system of romanization
    -GO TO JAPAN, and get out of the cities
     
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  17. Raven

    Raven TAG Member

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    Read whatever you can get your hands on.
     
  18. dreams

    dreams TAG Member

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    Ag
    Agree with all this.
    Question:

    How to find a conversation partner, when you live abroad? Especially "from the beginning", that is when your level is quite low. I am at JLPT 4-5 for now...
     
  19. Solong

    Solong TAG Member

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    (Video Japanese Instruction- Ekubo)



    There is an excellent YouTube JLPT teaching series by Nihongomori Joey (above). Start with Ekubo Basic (which covers JLPT N5 to N4). Subscribe and check out their Playlists.

    However, they are a bit disorganized. So lessons can be out of order. You might want to make your own Playlists or get a YouTube downloader to save and organize the lessons.

    They have this from JLPT N5 to N1 LEVELS 0,0. This is the greatest free Japanese language study program that I have ever seen.

    Study for THE JLPT. JLPT N2 is accepted by Japanese companies, entrance into Japanese universities, and Japanese immigration gives you bonus points for having passed it.

    Eddie Chin made an excellent video of teaching both Hiragana and Katakana.

    (Kana)


    N3JLPT makes an excellent video series on Radicals and Kanji. Radicals are important, because they are the BASIC ELEMENTS from which all other Kanji are made from.

    (Radicals)


    (Kanji- Recommend Kanji to English only for beginners)


    If you have an Android, download:

    . AEDICT3

    Best Japanese dictionary with many example sentences and romaji (if needed). Has a notepad feature to SAVE words and sentences for STUDY and you can QUIZ on them. The sentences will start to naturally teach grammar (best way to functionally understand grammar).

    . JLPT Words

    Is a free quiz program with JLPT N5 to N2 words. Set it for Kanji and Romaji to English. Once you get good. Turn off the Romaji and quiz Kanji to English.

    . Learning Kana by i-Bridge

    Has complete kana and grade 1 Kanji. Excellent for learning Kana. Has the only Katakana VS Hiragana quiz.

    . Asahi Kanji

    Has Radicals (very important) and all Kanji. Excellent program. I would recommend to just learn Kanji to ENGLISH meaning at first.

    Don't screw around with On-Yomi or Kun-Yomi until you have MASTERED recognizing all the Joyo elementary school or JLPT N2 Kanji (about 1,200). You will naturally figure out the most popular ways to say the words by studying VOCABULARY.

    Some students try to master On-yomi and Kun-yomi and get LOST in a sidetrack that can take YEARS to recover from. Even many NATIVE Japanese, don't remember them all. If you sidetrack, study just the Kun-yomi, because many of those are actually the same as what you learn for vocabulary. Anyway, you were WARNED not to sidetrack. Learning vocabulary and sentences are relatively MORE important than just studying Kanji by themselves.

    . Obenkyo

    Very good free program, but a litte bit funky and eye straining. Aesthetics isn't their strong point.


    Happy Studying
     
    #19 Solong, Apr 4, 2014
    Last edited: Apr 4, 2014
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  20. dreams

    dreams TAG Member

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    Wouah, would never had guessed that the best place to get advice on learning Nihongo would be a sex site like TAG. But here it is.

    Srory for the short answer, but I now need to get back to my lessons ASAP!!
     
  21. Serena Vincente

    Serena Vincente TAG Member

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    if you have any japanese friends to help you mae the most of it!
     
  22. KeithOP

    KeithOP TAG Member

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    If you're living overseas then I recommend finding some manga you like and downloading it. You can get the raw scanned files at sites like jcafe24.net. As a method of learning Japanese it has its upsides and downsides, but if you find something you like then it's a lot more fun than doing work out of a textbook.
     
  23. Hamerare

    Hamerare Offa da street

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    Learn 5 new kanji every day and test yourself continually over the ones you already learnt. Make a religion out of it.

    When you can read kanji, you can read novels and newspapers, road signs and shop signs. That alone will improve all aspects f your Japanese. You can even hear new words and guess ther meaning in context from your kanji knowledge.

    Learning Japanese is a slog and everybody goes at different speeds but its not impossible 頑張ってね。
     
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