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Travel, Teach, Live in Japan

Learning Japanese - How to Start
By:Adam J Johnson

The first thing you need to tackle when starting your journey into learning Japanese is a quick run through pronunciation. But WAIT! Before you tune out and the "boring" lights start blinking, it's much easier than you think. One of the great things about Japanese is that there are only 47 characters with 50 basic sounds. There are also another 55 variations to those sounds, but they only consist of simple changes like a 'ka' becomimg a 'ga', or a 'sa' a 'za'. When you compare that to English, which has over 500 sounds, it's not that bad at all right?

After you get the general gist of the pronunciation (just a few runs through the alphabet is fine to start) you should start adding a few basic words to your vocabulary while practicing your Japanese pronunciation at the same time. Most people start with the 'konnichi wa's' and 'arigatou's' but I say go with whatever tickles your fancy. Of course you will have to learn the pleasantries to really start delving into the language, but there's no reason why you can't mix it up by learning Japanese words of particular interest to you. Remember, learning a language is meant to be fun! Plus, you are much more likely to remember a word that you want to learn rather than one that has just been shoved in front of you. I started learning Japanese when I was 15, and being of 'that age', I wanted to know all the rude words. But because that was what I was interested in, I never forgot them!

After you learn the general greetings, phrases and some words of personal interest you are eventually going to run into that disgusting four letter word, grammar. But again, DON'T STRESS! You needn't put anywhere near the emphasis most text books and teachers will have you believe on grammar in order to get to conversational level in Japanese. Think about it, when you started speaking English at the age of about 2, did your Mum whip out the textbook and start teaching you about conjugating your verbs?! Of course a little background on the basic sentence structure will help accelerate your learning a great deal but don't get too bogged down on the technical stuff. Remember, you already learnt a language well enough to have a reasonable conversation before you ever opnened a textbook. You learnt by observation. By watching and listening to your parents and the people around you and by eventually repeating what you heard. So trying to replicate that environment is a great way to learn Japanese. The best possible way to do this is to go Japan and study there, surrounding yourself with Japanese 24/7. But I understand that is just not an option for most people. The next best thing you can do is to start an online or classroom course and combine that with a couple of the following:

* Chatting with Japanese friends. (face to face or through online chats or forums.)

* Reading Japanese manga or books. (children's books are very good for building your vocabulary and for learning to read Japanese.)

* Listening to Japanese music / radio. (again, children's songs will be easier to pick up on to begin with.)

* Watching movies or TV shows. (you can watch ten minute episodes of shows like 'Anpanman' on you tube. It's a cartoon aimed at 2-3 year olds but again very good for learning the language.)

GANBATTE! (good luck) and HAVE FUN!

Adam has been living in Japan for twelve years and runs his own school teaching both Japanese and English. For more FREE LESSONS and articles, please visit http://bestwaytolearnjapanese.blogspot.com or check out http://learn-japanese-online.info for the best online Japanese course.

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