Frequently Asked Questions:

Introduction to the Introduction:

This page is essentially the Frequently Asked Questions page of Living Japanese. It covers general topics about the process of learning Japanese and should help to clear up any confusion.

If you have a question that isn't addressed here, please feel free to email me at:

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What is the main idea behind the Living Japanese system?

Living Japanese is about surrounding yourself with Japanese and learning by living. It's about turning learning Japanese into a fun and exciting journey by doing the things you already love to do - in Japanese.

The core of the learning method comes down to two goals: reduce time spent in your native language and increase time spent in Japanese. Language learning is nothing more or less than an investment of time. You can make your use of time more efficient by adding mnemonics and study programs like Anki, but after a certain point they lose their efficacy. When that happens, it's time to get out and experiencing more Japanese.

The articles on this site will help you find Japanese media to learn from, as well as teach you good methods for learning from those materials. Methods for learning the hiragana, katakana, and kanji are covered first, as reading is one of the best ways to encounter a variety of Japanese.

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What order should I read the articles in?

There is overlap between many of the later topics, but for beginners you will want to work through in this order:

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How do I start?

During the earliest part of the learning process the focus is on using the flash card program Anki and mnemonics to master the writing system for Japanese and begin learning common vocabulary. This initial investment is the most difficult part of the process, but if you make it through to the other side you are essentially guaranteed to reach fluency.

I'm not saying that you will be fluent after that, but you'll have learned the habits needed to succeed and learned the most difficult part of the Japanese language: the kanji. After the initial investment in learning the writing system you will be able to learn vocabulary with ease, and therefore be able to dive into media for immersion learning.

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How can I succeed at learning Japanese?

Success in learning Japanese is decided within the first month. You need to be working at learning Japanese every single day. Not every weekday, not every weekend, every day. Initially if you can devote an hour or two to studying the writing system each day, then you are doing well. The occasional day with only thirty minutes of study time would also be acceptable, as long as you did some studying. The goal is to spend almost all of your time in contact with Japanese, so if your immersion environment is set up, you should have no problem studying each day.

So why is the first month so important? If you can keep up studying every day for the first month, then you should have no problem continuing to study daily from then on. Once you fall out of the routine, it's going to be much harder to come back. If you find yourself slipping from studying daily, then you need to ask yourself if you really want to learn Japanese or not. If you still want to, then you should move your priorities around to make time for your studies.

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How long will it take to learn Japanese?

It's difficult to say in terms of months or years, as it depends on how much you study each day. I would say that typically after three years you're passable at the language, and then you'll be polishing and honing your abilities from then on. There's never really an end to language learning. The Japanese Language Education Center says that it takes 3100-4500 hours of study for a person with no prior kanji knowledge to pass the highest level of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test. That's twelve years if you study one hour per day, six years if you study two hours per day, etc.

To be honest though, who cares about an exam? What really matters is when can you begin using Japanese to experience Japanese culture? In the case of Living Japanese, you should be doing that after six months at the latest. After six months you should be well into your immersion learning with Japanese media, which means you will be reading books, watching TV shows, and talking to Japanese people. You're going to suck at first, but that is how you get better: by being horrible at it for a while and sticking with it.

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Can I learn on my own? Don't I need to take classes?

Yes to the first question, and no to the second. Language classes really can't teach you how to be fluent, they can only ever supplement your individual studies and efforts to learn the language. With Japanese, beginner level courses are (by necessity) focused on learning the kana and a handful of basic kanji, and they take a while to do get through them. They might even try to teach you romaji Japanese, which is a waste of your time.

All that you need to learn Japanese is access to Japanese people and Japanese media. With the internet, you can get both of these without ever leaving your house, so it is entirely possible to learn on your own. Language classes can be helpful. You get access to a mentor who can answer questions and peers that you can practice with, but again, at the early stages peers are really only going to slow you down. So if you don't have access to classes, don't worry about it. If you do have access, I'd try holding out for intermediate level before enrolling.

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How can you be immersed in Japanese without living in Japan?

You won't be able to make everything Japanese, but you can make enough of your life Japanese to still be immersed. In practice this means cutting out all use of your native language (except where you have to use it), and replacing it with Japanese. Take a long vacation from your native language books, music, tv, etc. It's hard to give it up at first, but once you find media that you like in Japanese you'll have a much better time of it.

The purpose of doing this is to force yourself to learn Japanese. If you only allow yourself to read Japanese books, then you're going to eventually start reading and learning new vocabulary as a result. Same goes for music and TV; if you don't allow yourself access to native language media, then you will start looking for stuff you like in Japanese, and then learn Japanese as you try to understand it. Yes, you will be horrible at first, but you will get better! That's the point! You have to crawl before you can walk, etc. Embrace that you're going to be bad at first and then get better.

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