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Learn Japanese: the Best Tips To Get Started

We tell you the best tips for learning Japanese.

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This ninth most widely spoken language in the world, with 130 million inhabitants, is also highly valued by companies. Photo: Pexels

LatinAmerican Post | Ariel Cipolla

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Leer en español: Aprender japonés: los mejores consejos para empezar

Many people want to learn Japanese. Generally, they are interested in the possibility of traveling to this country and learning about Asian cultures. The latter may be important if we take into account that Netflix, in recent years, has been making a large investment in anime movies and series.

Es de mi agrado recordarles que ya se encuentra disponible en Netflix el anime de Cowboy Bebop con sus 26 episodios.
Si no lo vieron se los recomiendo encarecidamente, es genial.
~ See you space cowboy pic.twitter.com/Fm9XukIcXi

— Martín (@Senjougartin) October 21, 2021

This is the ninth most widely spoken language in the world, with 130 million speakers, and is also highly valued by companies. However, many give up learning out of fear of the unknown. As Japanese can be a very different language from ours, it is common that many do not know very well where to start.

If you want to be successful learning this language, here are some tips:

Master oral language first

In English, you must first learn grammar structures. Only then do you start with oral language. That is not how you learn Japanese. 

Oral language is simpler than written Japanese. Learn to identify and pronounce vowel consonants. Then repeat them out loud. This language only has 5 vowels, with a sound similar to the English language. Here you can take advantage of some applications for listening and speaking, such as Duolingo.

Learn the Hiragana

Hiragana is one of the two syllabaries of Japanese writing. This is the first one that you should learn, as it is the simplest and will help you advance to the next one. Now, what does it consist of?

Basically, it has 46 characters that are easy to learn. They are usually used for the endings of verbs and adjectives, in addition to some propositions. These grammatical structures of the Asian language will allow you to show good progress in a short time, so start here.

Learn Katakana

Now, you have to learn Katakana. This Japanese syllabary, also 46 characters long, represents a more advanced step than the previous one. Mainly, because it is used in other sounds, such as onomatopoeia. It is important to mention that each sound of the Hiragana has its equivalent in Katakana.

Katakana is what will allow you to write Japanese words that originate from a foreign language. Remember that Japanese uses English terms. So, try to memorize the characters and learn the differences between them.

Also read: International Podcast Day: 5 podcasts to learn another language

 Learn context and grammar

You already know the two most important syllabaries. Now you have a relatively basic knowledge of Japanese. However, if you want to be able to start conversations or understand what you hear, you should learn pronouns, common expressions in this language and different adjectives.

This step will take time, so it is important to go slowly. It is recommended that you read some basic texts in Japanese or pay attention to the openings of your favorite anime. This will allow you to understand not only what is being said, but also the context in which it is framed, since Japanese is a very contextual language.

Once you know this, you can finally settle on grammar. Nouns, adjectives, and verb tenses will appear here. For example, you will know that the structure of any sentence in this language is subject-object-verb, unlike what happens in other languages which have a subject-verb-predicate structure. 

And now ... the Kanjis

The last step. It is important that you know that you will not have to learn all the Kanji of the Japanese language. No one knows them, since, in all their variations, there are believed to be more than 7000. However, 70% of written texts only represent approximately 1000 words.

Don't be scared: you don't have to learn them all, since you couldn't in Spanish either. A person with an intermediate level of Japanese knows about 250 kanji. The most basic ones are 214, which represent the radicals and their corresponding meanings, which will help you understand the rest.

The important thing is that you take your time to learn this language. As it has a different structure than Spanish, it is common that it takes time to take your first steps. However, the satisfaction of learning another language is exciting. We hope we have helped you!