I recently stumbled upon a Japanese phrase site containing a large number of very common phrases used in everyday life. I realize the site isn’t designed great, but the content is pretty good. The reason I think so is that the quicker you learn the real common language the better you will be able to converse and learn even more through conversation. It is also useful for anyone traveling to Japan as a tourist. Obviously this isn’t for hard-core Japanese language learners as it is written all in English, but it’s a start.
As the world is getting smaller, the ability to speak language has become very important. I came from a small town in California, and my ability to speak Japanese has opened up a number of opportunities I couldn’t have had otherwise. Here is a list that has helped me and others in the pursuit to become better speakers. This list is focused on Japanese, but should be helpful for any language.
1. Study at least every other day- it is better to study a little often than a lot once and a while
2. Watch movies- first in English (or your native language) and then in Japanese.
3. Set goals- Set realistic goals such as learn 100 kanji in 10 weeks and then study 10 per week
4. Speak with Friends- this will make it fun, and when it’s fun it doesn’t feel like learning
5. Monitor your overall progress- doing so will help give you the confidence to keep going.
One of the difficult parts with language is sticking with it until you reach a level of fluency. This is particularly true with a language like Japanese. Not only do you need to learn the vocabulary and the grammar, but you must also learn the kanji and how to read them. As you are learning, you will come to barriers that seem to stop or slow your progress. Especially once you start looking at obtaining higher levels of fluency, what would be considered business or native level. Below I have given a small list of things you can do to push yourself through the difficult times.
- Set Goals- Decide to study a certain amount each day or each week2. Planning to take the JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test) can be a great way to do this since it is held once a year and has a set number of kanji you need to study
- Break study down into smaller segments. It is better to study four days a week for 30 minutes than 1 day a week for 2 hours.
- Get involved in activities that excite and remind you why you started studying.
- Try to study in a fun way, such as watching a Japanese movie or speaking with a friend.
- Lastly, measure your progress overall. You will have a lot more motivation to keep pushing forward if you realize how far you’ve come since the beginning.
Persistence is a key factor in language success. If you stick with it, and keep working hard you will eventually get there. How fast you get there, only depends on how much you put into it. There have been a number of times, where I felt I would just stay at the level I was. It was usually a fun interaction or experience that gave me the renewed energy to keep going. 頑張りましょう。
- Learning Japanese Language – So if your thinking about studying Japanese try Pimsleur Japanese. ….
- On Studying Japanese: Disappearing Electricity – Studying Japanese, or any other language for that matter, is a challenging and frustrating experience, but quite rewarding if you put the time in.
- JapanNewbie.com – Japan Blogging – Now that I’m in student mode again, time to break out the notebooks, pencils and dictionaries. One unique study method you have probably seen if you’re in Japan is what Japanese people call the (tangocyou), or Word Cards.
As the world becomes smaller and more connected, learning other languages has become extremely important. Understanding multiple cultures and speaking multiple languages will open a number of opportunities for someone entering the workforce. Having the ability to work in multiple languages and in different countries can also protect you from economic downturns and downsizing.
So how do we get comfortable with a language? Hard work and continuous study are important, but those alone will not get you there. To really improve at a language you need to get out there and not be afraid to make mistakes. In fact, mistakes will actually help you learn quicker. You have to get out of your comfort zone to gain the confidence that allows you to relax and feel comfortable in the language. During my study at Waseda University in Tokyo, Japan I watched a lot of great students study hard, but not really raise their language ability. They understand the material, but were not willing to put themselves into circumstances that really allowed their abilities to grow.
One great way I have found to learn a language is to find something that you really love to do, where they only speak the language you are trying to learn. When you are enjoying the activity, you don’t think about learning the language, and that’s when you really learn. However, for those of you who are unable to get into those types of situations due to locations, there is a new intuitive program put out by a company called Cerego. Cerego is created my the same people who created the Princeton Review here in Japan. They are now starting a new a new online site, “iknow” that will be somewhat like a mix between a language learning program and a social interaction site like Facebook. The service is currently offered for Japanese speaking people who want to learn English, but they will soon be adding other languages as well.
Other helpful links
Growing up as a child, I always knew exactly what I wanted to be. A fireman, a ninja, a biologist, a soccer star, a basketball player, a lawyer, a race car driver, etc. Though I changed my ideas and goals (when I had them) as a child quite often, I was completely focused on what ever it was that I was interested in at that time. When I wanted to become a basketball player, it was all I ever thought about. I played, I read, I watched, and I lived basketball. There was nothing else in my life that seemed to be more important. I was able to become good at many of these things because I would devote all my efforts to just one thing.
As we get older we seem to lose this ability. We try to do so many things that we never really become good at any of them. I believe the same thing can be said for multi-tasking as well. We could all do things a lot better if we focused on them one at a time. In order to do this we all need to figure out what’s really important to us. I find that I have so many interests that I that I am going from one thing to the next while never getting the full enjoyment out of each. Always rushing though one to get to the next. In his book The Dip, Seth Godin talks about how most of the benefits of doing something come from the last 20 percent of the task. And it’s those who really get good at something who reap all the rewards.
After reading this book I realized I had been doing a lot of things, but switching to something else before I really got good. I have decided to devote myself to the things I really want to learn and that I think will be important in my career. I am currently living in in Tokyo, Japan and so my main focus will be Japanese. I currently speak well, but the there is a big difference between speaking well and being able to do business. So Japanese will take presence over all other activities. This will still leave plenty of time to keep studying management and business practices as long as I cut out the things I don’t plan to pursue till the end. So I guess the point of this post is you can try to learn many things, but make sure you put in the time to the things that are really important to you. Because being really good at those things will allow you to reap all the rewards.
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