Friday, July 2, 2010
Being in a foreign land where they speak a foreign language, it makes sense to try your hand at learning the local lingo. If you’re an English speaker though, it’s obvious how different Japanese is from English. It’s not like learning German or French where similarities with English abound. Even seasoned polyglots may find that their progress in Japanese may be slower than learning another European tongue. Having said that, learning Japanese is not impossible. In fact, no language is necessarily more difficult than another. All it takes is effort on the part of the learner.
So what’s the best method to be speaking Nihongo like a pro within months? Well, everyone is different so methods will vary, but most agree that immersion is one of the best ways to improve your oral abilities quickly. If you’re in Japan, then perfect. You have no choice but to speak Japanese wherever you go. If you’re not in Japan, try to find a Japanese language circle or course. Failing that, the internet is a great tool for Japanese language studies. Simple search engine searches will bring up useful tools like listening practice sites, grammar guides, dictionaries and even software for making your own flash-cards.
Many language learners and teachers agree that listening and speaking are among the easiest skills to learn in a new language. Especially if you are fully immersed in the target language. Reading and writing skills though often trail behind for most learners. This is often the case with students of Japanese. The writing system is completely alien to those whose languages use the Roman script. Many foreigners living in Japan can speak Japanese very well but struggle to read and write Japanese. This is due mostly to the thousands of Chinese characters or kanji used in Japanese writing. Rote memorization is pretty much the only way to learn kanji. Don’t worry though! Even Japanese people struggle with kanji from time to time.
The topic of language learning is vast and is filled with differing methods. Whatever method you choose, learning a little Japanese will make your visit or stay more enjoyable.