You are finally moving to Japan for work but not confident in speaking Japanese. You may think, hey Japan is an advanced country and learning English is mandatory from elementary school all through high school. Unfortunately, not many Japanese people have a communicative grasp of the English language. When communication is the “key” to surviving your daily life in Japan, how do you prepare? Knowing a few words and set phrases will go a long way. To overcome the language barrier, make sure to brush up on some basic Japanese expressions. You can take Japanese lessons before you leave your country but you can also learn once you are settled in Japan.
Studying in Japan
For beginner learners, know that you will have a variety of options to choose from. you can opt to take lessons taught by volunteers at your local community center. They will usually offer basic Japanese lessons throughout the week but only at a fixed schedule, so you cannot request a time convenient to you. These classes are either free or will charge you a reasonable fee which fits any budget. Community lessons are great to meet other foreign students and ex-pats living in your area.
Taking a course at a Japanese Language School is another option you may consider. They offer full-time (Monday to Fridays) and part-time (evening or weekends) courses throughout the year. However, if you are busy with work during the day and want to squeeze in some lesson time, most school also offer private lessons. This is great if you want one-on-one instruction, lessons designed to your level and progress, and have the flexibility to schedule lessons. The price range will vary depending on the course you choose, so check out the Japanese language schools in your area and inquire about a trial lesson.
Studying on Your Own
Many learners choose to study independently, either to save money or their schedules do not match with the Japanese language school’s opening hours. No worries, there are several free apps you can download, learning resources you can access online, and textbooks you can purchase to help you on the road to learning Japanese.
Free apps and learning resources
DuoLingo – If you want something to do while on that daily commute, try DuoLingo. You clear each lesson similar to a game and unlock new levels.
WaniKani – WaniKani is a Kanji learning app designed to increase your Kanji knowledge through simple and fun activities. WaniKani’s mnemonics can help with memory and vocabulary retention.
Dr Moku’s Hiragana and Katakana Mnemonics – Dr Moku teaches hiragana, katakana, and kanji. Remembering the characters are easy as the app also teaches you how to pronounce the characters accurately and in a fun way.
NHK – Yes, it’s the broadcasting company and yes they teach you Japanese, too. The website provides basic lessons with video teaching you basic Japanese you can use in your daily interactions at work, school or travel.
Tae Kim’s Guide to Japanese Grammar – The app covers everything you need to know about Japanese grammar rules. Tak Kim’s Guide is a good reference based on a native speaker’s point of view.
Studying using Textbooks
I know the idea of using a textbook is kind of boring but it is not all bad. Make sure to choose the right textbook that suits your learning style, so you will not feel overwhelmed and demotivated. Here are some books that have been tried and tested and utilized by many Japanese language learners both in Japan and abroad.
Genki – The most popular textbook used by many language schools around the world. Genki lessons are easy to follow and gradually increase in difficulty as you progress.
Minna no Nihongo – Another popular choice, Minna no Nihongo will set you up with a good foundation of Japanese grammar.
Japan for Busy People – Have trouble learning hiragana and katakana? Japanese for Busy People is available in romaji and teaches the basics of business communication rather than focusing on writing.
Other textbook to consider:
Learning at home and in a classroom is great and all but keep in mind that the best teacher is the experience of using the language daily. Go out. Make friends. Socialize with Japanese people and immerse yourself in the language and culture and you will find your Japanese communication skills gradually improving in no time.