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Saturday, August 8, 2015

The Best Ways to Learn Japanese Casually

There are three kinds of people learning Japanese. First, there are the hard core learners. These people have their heads in the books like crazy trying to learn the language. Some even take a big step forward and move to Japan in order to learn and surround themselves in the language. The second kind of people are the ones who took the introduction classes to Japanese in school but never pursued it further, so the only Japanese they know are the extreme basics. This also goes for the people who only watch anime and just retains the basics. And then there are people like me, the ones who casually learn Japanese. These people are not fluent in Japanese but they shouldn't claim to not know Japanese because they've retained and gained more out of the language than most people.

Today I'm going to be discussing my learning process in hopes to help those of you in my situation and for those who simply would like to learn some Japanese easily and with no stress.

Let me explain my situation first. I'm in my mid-twenties right now. I've graduated from college and have a full time job that has nothing to do with my major. I'm happily married and have a ton of friends I still keep up with from college. I've had the wonderful opportunity to study abroad in Japan for a summer and to go back to Japan for my honeymoon. So here's the question, how am I going to learn Japanese? I'm not planning to move to Japan because of my developing life here in America, so I won't learn that way. I can't take classes because it'll cost money that can be better used for life stuff and actual trips to Japan. There are my old textbooks from my Japanese classes I could use, but who has the time to sit down and focus on studying? I wake up, go to work, get home in the evening, blog (my life goal is to become a writer), take care of our dog, spend time with my husband, and then go to bed to do it all over again. One weekends we can substitute work with hanging out with friends since that's the only time I get to see them. I have no time to look at textbooks and learn Japanese that way. I have other ways of learning Japanese and I'd like to share it with you!

Japanese Dramas

Hana Yori Dango
"Boys Over Flowers"

I know what some people are already going to say. "What about anime!?!" There are two things wrong with anime. 1. Anime mostly has casual speaking that can be considered very rude, and if there is polite speaking in an anime it's a soldier of some sort speaking to a captain. This is not useful. 2. Anime is getting so imaginative lately that the vocabulary in them are useless to people wanting to speak Japanese. Now dramas on the other hand are great study guides. With dramas, you are watching real Japanese people speaking Japanese that you should be learning. Listen to their pronunciation and what they're saying. Pause the drama and try to repeat what they said. Watch the same episode of the drama again to get a feel for the vocabulary being used. You'll start to get a grasp of what the actors are saying and you'll be able to say it too.

Maiko Fujita, a J-pop singer.

Japanese Music

I love listening to Japanese music. Not only is it fun but you can learn Japanese this way too. Listen to the words and how the singer is naturally getting his/her words out. Repeatedly listen to the same song over and over again and try to sing along to the music. Then look up the lyrics to the song and sing along with the lyrics in hand. Once you've got the song memorized go back to the lyrics and try to translate them yourself. Look up the real translation and see how you did. Then you can go on to another song and start the process over again.

Phone Apps

Screenshot of the apps on my phone.
And yes, that's my doge.

I finally found an important use for my phone. There are phone apps available to teach you Japanese! Yeah, there are some that are not too good, but I found a few that are actually worth using and that are free!

AnkiDroid- this app is used like flash cards. there are a ton of downloadable flashcards to practice Japanese with. I use the flashcards titled "Human Japanese." These specific cards help me with vocabulary and sentence structure. And just like flashcards if you don't know the answer you can put the card back in the pile to try to answer it again later.

Obenkyo- This is another great app I use. It's a study guide app that let's you test on the material you studied. The tests are multiple choice. The app even takes your score and shows you your progress on the tests. You can test yourself on hiragana, katakana, kanji, numbers, vocabulary, and particles.

Japanese Manga

Japanese and English manga side by side.

This is definitely for the more advanced. To study this way you have to know how to read hiragana and katakana and you have to have a lot of vocabulary down. I have Japanese manga of manga that was translated already in English. What you do is you read the English manga first to get a feel for what kind of vocabulary you'll be using. Then grab a notebook and pen to write your translation of the Japanese manga. Once you're done translating, you can go check yourself using the English translation. I have used this way once so far. It's difficult so only study this way when you are confident about your Japanese reading skills.

I hope these methods help you study Japanese. They're fun and non-traditional ways to study and learn Japanese. These are the only ways I study due to my schedule and I find it helps me retain the Japanese I've learned so far and gain a little more. Remember, if you don't use it you'll lose it. So keep studying and have fun with it.

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