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The Art of Studying
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Chapter: 9 Lesson: 1 - How to learn Japanese the easy way
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Lesson added on: February 22, 2017 05:35pm
Let's Begin the Lesson!
There’s an old saying that goes “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” but ask any dog trainer and they will tell you that this is nothing but an old wives’ tale. There is no barrier for dogs for when they reach a certain age they can no longer learn new tricks. Imagine if a dog or human would be unable to learn anything new after a certain age, or for some reason the more we get older, the more difficult it is to learn new things, regardless on how many new tricks we pickup to help us. Thankfully, we can continue to learn as we did as children, and use our fully developed brain to its full capacity.


Children are very fortunate; they are blessed to have been given the opportunity to be immersed in a learning environment without even working for it. What I mean by that is how they are always learning day after day from the people around them, and the activities they take part of while their parents provides for them. It’s a cozy little situation, isn’t it? Children learn new words every day through immersion and they have the opportunity to practice over and over and over again.

But what about the rest of us? The ones whom are out of school, or perhaps in school but without the opportunity to explore something new because no one else is interested, or perhaps there may be money problems, or maybe it’s just not taught in school?

How can we learn anything new when the local environment is against us?

Many have tried to learn Japanese and given up after just a mere 2-weeks, this is very common but for most reasons, it has a remedy. The common problem is that people rely on expensive and ineffective programs, and don’t immerse themselves into a community that dedicates itself to learning together.

Without a learning partner or many partners, learning a new language is difficult and borderline impossible. Thankfully, here at Jappleng there’s not a single dime you need to spend in order to learn Japanese, and we have many resources on how to improve your learning experiences.
How to Practice
But how should you learn? Are there different methods for different people or is there a universal truth to learning something? Let’s look at children, they communicate with their parents about the language they are learning, they go to school and speak to other children and teachers of the same language, and on a daily basis they learn new things about the language itself.

Everywhere where the child goes, their native language follows them and this is what we call the immersion experience.Let’s take personal experience and look at how immersion really has made learning a new language possible. When I moved to the United States, I knew very little about the English language. But being that English is the national language, it only took a year’s time before I was fluent. I didn’t sit down and study English books day after day; in fact I simply immersed myself.

What I would do is try to speak only English, I would write novel ideas, play Role Playing video games (they have a lot of text), I would chat with many English speakers over Instant Messaging programs, and read a lot of English websites. My life was all about English for that year and it made the difference.

Tips on Learning a Language Fluently
Learning a language fluently in a year or two’s time through immersion is common and pretty much expected. You can all do the same with the Japanese language or any language you so desire without being in that country. It takes a little bit of prep-work but in the end you’ll thank yourself. Here’s a list on various things you can do to immerse yourself in the Japanese language and culture.
  • Bookmark as many Japanese-related websites that peak your interest, start with Jappleng!

  • Create a playlist of educational videos and audio help for your pronunciation. Look at YouTube or our Educational Videos section.

  • Become part of a Japanese-centric community. Dare we say we have a great one?

  • Buy or download/print various learning materials such as a Kanji or Kana chart, children books etc…

  • Collect various Japanese artifacts and keep them in your study room. The more you are surrounded by the things you are studying, the more you’ll be willing to learn. This is your artificial immersive environment, your personal “little Japan” if you will. Get bamboo, get a Bonsai tree, collect anime figurines, you name it just get creative!

  • Explore various aspects of the culture and become involved in it. If there are no local events, perhaps you can start your own at school, after work, wherever, whenever! We’re working on Club Jappleng to help with such an occasion.

  • Practice Japanese crafts such as Origami and Paper Dolls. There are so many different crafts, you can pick whatever seems most interesting to you. Try them all if you can.

  • Become friends with people with similar interest as you, this is why we have JSpot!, the forums, our Chat room, the friend system and so on… Without friends to help you, there’s no way to practice your conversational skills!

  • If you are fortunate enough to live near authentic Japanese shops (of any kind), you can go there and practice your Japanese with the staff, assuming they can speak Japanese.

  • TV/Music/Movies/Books etc… You name it, just surround yourself with Japanese entertainment. They won’t teach you anything about the language but the more you hear or read it, the better you will become. As an added bonus there are some structural patterns that you will begin to notice when you become more proficient with the language.
Jappleng's Japanese Language Learning Cycle
These are all suggestions and you’re free to cherry pick what you like and what other great ideas you have to immerse yourself in (let us know in the forums!). But it’s not all about immersion, there’s a 4.5 step process in all of this which we call the Jappleng Language Learning Cycle, in fact it’s pretty critical in the learning process and we went above and beyond to give it a ridiculous name and acronym so you can remember it.

Let’s take a look at the chart and see what it’s like:


THEORY / LESSON

Begin with the theory, as we always do in our lessons. Simply memorizing new words won’t cut it; you will need to understand the principle behind your actions. Understand what a verb or adjective means, understand why the word order matters or doesn’t matter. Theory gets the ball rolling and this is something that we always begin our lessons with.

SELF PRACTICE / MEMORIZATION

After understanding the theory behind what you are learning, it’s time to practice on your own. A good way to do it is through flash cards since flash cards can be randomized and portable. It’s a great way to refresh your mind about new and old words without having a partner. There are of course many other ways to practice on your own and it depends entirely on what you’re learning. Keep an open mind and work with what best suits you.

CONVERSATION PRACTICE
Now that you have gotten practice on your own, it’s time to practice it with someone else. These conversation pieces will be awkward in the beginning, and sometimes downright embarrassing but every single time you practice Japanese with someone, you will become much better at it. The more you practice what you have learned, the quicker you’ll be at it.

IMMERSION
Conversations are part of the immersion process but in this stage, you’ll be putting yourself in a situation like going to an authentic Japanese restaurant and ordering in Japanese. You might not have the confidence the first time or two to follow through with it but when you do, you’ll have become a superstar! Trust me, Japanese people LOVE IT when foreigners try to speak their language and show interest in their culture. It’s like you’re now part of their family as soon as you show interest. Remember that scene from Kill Bill where Uma Thurman wanted a Hatori Hanzo sword? It’s no exaggeration. Immerse yourself any way you can.

4.5 - MISTAKES, LOTS OF THEM

This is the .5 as mentioned earlier; it is the most essential component of all, making mistakes in every step. If you don’t make mistakes, what exactly are you doing? Don’t beat yourself up when you do, because you will learn from your mistake. You will embarrass yourself trying to order Japanese at a Japanese restaurant for your first time, you will embarrass yourself trying to hold a Japanese conversation or find out that you don’t know what the other person is saying, but that’s the learning process. You learn from your mistakes!
Conclusion
Learning Japanese or any language is not as hard as some people make it seem to be. Sure, it takes dedication and it’s much better if you can dedicate every day to practice a little bit at a time or even fully immerse yourself.

But the reality of it is, you’re likely a student or busy with work and it’s truly difficult to dedicate that much time into learning something new. In a few months of basic practice, you’ll have the basics to hold a pretty good conversation in Japanese and be more than able to follow your favorite anime or Japanese drama. This is of course assuming that every day you make a pledge to learn something new each day, so practice, practice and practice!

Thank you for taking the time to read this lengthy article, and I hope that it was both insightful and motivational to all of you! Please be sure to register as a site member (it's free afterall), and explore the many lessons we have, and wonderful community.
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