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How long does it take for a European to learn Japanese?


Learning a new language is always a challenging task. Japanese is no exception, especially for Europeans who are not familiar with its unique grammar and writing system. In this article, we will explore the factors that affect the time it takes for a European to learn Japanese.

Factors that Affect Learning Time

The time it takes to learn Japanese depends on various factors such as the learner’s age, motivation, learning style, and prior language knowledge. Younger learners tend to pick up new languages quicker than older learners. Motivation plays a significant role as well. A learner who is passionate about learning Japanese will progress faster than one who is not. Learning style also affects the time it takes to learn Japanese. Visual learners may find it easier to learn the language through videos and pictures, while auditory learners may prefer listening to podcasts or music in Japanese. Finally, prior language knowledge can be an advantage if the learner already knows another language that shares similarities with Japanese.

Japanese Snack Box

Japanese Language Features

Japanese has several unique features that make it challenging to learn for Europeans. The first challenge is its writing system, which includes three scripts: hiragana, katakana, and kanji. Hiragana and katakana are phonetic scripts used for native Japanese words, while kanji is a system of Chinese characters used for words of Chinese origin. The second challenge is its grammar, which is different from European languages. Japanese has a subject-object-verb order and uses particles to indicate the function of words in a sentence.

Language Proficiency Levels

The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) is a standard used to measure language proficiency levels. The CEFR has six levels: A1, A2, B1, B2, C1, and C2. A1 and A2 are beginner levels, while B1 and B2 are intermediate levels. C1 and C2 are advanced levels. A1 and A2 learners can understand and use basic phrases and expressions, while B1 and B2 learners can communicate in most situations. C1 and C2 learners have a high level of proficiency and can understand complex texts and articulate ideas fluently.

Learning Methods

There are several methods to learn Japanese, including self-study, language schools, immersion programs, online courses, and language exchange programs. Self-study involves using textbooks, apps, and other resources to learn at your own pace. Language schools offer structured courses with teachers who provide guidance and feedback. Immersion programs involve living in Japan and interacting with native speakers daily. Online courses provide flexibility to learn from anywhere with an internet connection. Language exchange programs allow learners to practice their Japanese with native speakers in exchange for practicing the learner’s native language.

Time Frame for Learning Japanese

Based on the factors mentioned above, the time it takes for a European to learn Japanese may vary. Typically, A1 level learners can achieve basic proficiency in 150-200 hours of study. A2 level learners may require an additional 200-250 hours of study to become comfortable with more complex grammar and vocabulary. B1 and B2 level learners may require 600-800 hours of study to reach intermediate proficiency. Finally, C1 and C2 level learners may require 1000-1200 hours or more of study to reach advanced proficiency.

Effective Learning Strategies

To improve their learning efficiency, learners should develop effective learning strategies such as setting realistic goals, practicing regularly, immersing themselves in the language, using multimedia resources, and seeking feedback from others.

Common Challenges in Learning Japanese

Learning Japanese is not without its challenges. Common challenges include memorizing vocabulary and kanji, understanding grammar and sentence structures, and developing listening and speaking skills. These challenges can be overcome with regular practice and persistence.


In conclusion, learning Japanese is a challenging yet rewarding experience for Europeans. The time it takes to learn the language depends on various factors such as age, motivation, learning style, prior language knowledge, and the level of proficiency desired. By using effective learning strategies and overcoming common challenges, anyone can learn Japanese with time and dedication.

How long does it take for a foreigner to learn Japanese?

The US Department of State states that Japanese is one of the most challenging languages for English speakers to learn because it has a very different structure from English. It is estimated to take 88 weeks of learning or 2200 hours of practice to become fluent in Japanese.

Does it take 2 years to learn Japanese?

It takes approximately 2-3 years to become proficient in advanced Japanese. At an intermediate level, understanding what your teacher says and following TV programs is possible, but there are still limitations when using the language with native Japanese speakers. This information was last updated in June 2020.

Is 1 year enough to learn Japanese?

If you dedicate a certain amount of time each day to studying and practicing Japanese, such as using resources like Skype for conversation practice, listening to podcasts like JapanesePod101, and actively trying to use kanji, you can reach an intermediate level of proficiency within 1-3 years.

Is Japanese hard to learn as a bilingual?

For many English speakers, learning the Japanese language is considered challenging due to its three distinct writing systems, a sentence structure that is the opposite of English, and a complicated hierarchy of politeness. In short, it is a complex language.

How fast can an American learn Japanese?

English speakers find it challenging to become proficient in Japanese as the language does not share many similarities with English in terms of structure. It takes approximately 88 weeks, or 2200 hours of studying to achieve fluency. However, there are helpful tips and tools available that can facilitate and expedite the learning process, as discussed in this article.

Is 30 too late to learn Japanese?

There has been a recent claim that studying in Japan is not possible for individuals over the age of 30, but this is actually false. It is always possible to pursue one’s dreams of learning Japanese, no matter what age.

Benefits of Learning Japanese

Aside from the personal satisfaction of learning a new language, there are several benefits to learning Japanese. Japan has a rich culture and history, and understanding the language can provide insights into its literature, movies, and music. Japanese is also a valuable skill in the job market, especially in industries such as technology, finance, and tourism. Additionally, studying Japanese can enhance cognitive function and improve memory and problem-solving skills.

Tips for Learning Japanese

To make the learning process smoother, learners should consider tips such as setting a consistent study schedule, finding a study partner or tutor for accountability and practice, using flashcards for memorization, practicing writing kanji and hiragana frequently, and immersing themselves in Japanese media such as anime, dramas, and music.


In conclusion, learning Japanese can be a challenging but fulfilling experience for Europeans. With dedication, effective learning strategies, and persistence in overcoming common challenges, anyone can become proficient in the language. The benefits of learning Japanese extend beyond personal satisfaction to enhance cultural understanding, job opportunities, cognitive function, and problem-solving skills. By following tips and developing consistent study habits, learners can achieve their goals and become fluent in Japanese.

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