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What should I learn first for Japanese?


In this article, we will discuss the most essential things you should learn first when studying Japanese. Learning a new language can be a daunting task, but with the right approach, you can make significant progress in a short amount of time. Whether you are learning Japanese for business, travel, or personal growth, this article will provide you with the necessary information to get started on your journey.

The Japanese writing system

The Japanese writing system is composed of three scripts: Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji. Hiragana and Katakana are phonetic scripts used to write Japanese words and are relatively easy to learn. Kanji, on the other hand, is a set of Chinese characters that are used in Japanese writing. It is essential to learn Hiragana and Katakana first before diving into Kanji.

Japanese Snack Box

Basic grammar

Learning basic grammar is crucial when studying any language. In Japanese, word order is different from English, and sentence structure can be complex. Understanding the basics of subject-object-verb (SOV) order, particles, and verb conjugation will help you communicate effectively in Japanese.

Vocabulary building

Building your vocabulary is essential when learning any language. In Japanese, there are many homophones (words that sound the same) that have different meanings depending on the context. It is crucial to learn vocabulary in context and practice using them in sentences.

Polite expressions

Japanese culture places great importance on politeness and respect. Learning polite expressions such as greetings, apologies, and thank-you phrases will help you navigate social situations in Japan.

Counting and numbers

Counting and numbers are essential when traveling or conducting business in Japan. The Japanese counting system can be tricky, but with practice, you can master it. It is also important to learn how to tell time and use dates correctly.

Basic conversation skills

Learning basic conversation skills such as introducing yourself, asking questions, and giving simple answers is crucial when starting to learn Japanese. Practice speaking aloud with native speakers or language exchange partners to improve your conversational skills.

Common phrases and expressions

There are many common phrases and expressions in Japanese that are used frequently in daily life. Learning these expressions will help you connect with locals and make your stay in Japan more enjoyable.

Listening comprehension

Listening comprehension is an essential skill when learning any language. You can improve your listening skills by watching Japanese TV shows or movies with subtitles or listening to podcasts or music in Japanese.

Reading comprehension

Reading comprehension is another vital skill when learning Japanese. There are many resources available for beginners, including children’s books and manga (Japanese comics). Reading aloud can also help improve your pronunciation.

Cultural awareness

Cultural awareness is crucial when learning any language. Understanding Japanese customs such as bowing, gift-giving, and chopstick etiquette will help you navigate social situations in Japan.

Practice and immersion

Finally, practice and immersion are key to mastering any language. Practice speaking aloud with native speakers or language exchange partners regularly. Immersion programs such as studying abroad or living with a host family can also provide valuable opportunities for language learning.


In conclusion, learning Japanese requires dedication and persistence. By focusing on the essential elements outlined above and practicing regularly, you can make significant progress in your language learning journey. Remember to have fun along the way and immerse yourself in Japanese culture whenever possible.

Does it take 1 year to learn Japanese?

Learning Japanese is particularly challenging for English speakers. However, if your goal is to communicate on a basic level with Japanese speakers and establish friendships, you can develop conversational skills within a year. This is especially possible if you focus on casual Japanese and skip over the hiragana and katakana scripts.

Is 3 months enough to learn Japanese?

On average, it takes about 3 months of consistent studying and speaking for 30 minutes to an hour a day to reach a conversational level in Japanese.

Is Japanese hard for beginners?

Many English speakers consider the Japanese language to be one of the most challenging to learn due to its three distinct writing systems, sentence structure that is opposite to English, and a complex hierarchy of politeness. All of these factors contribute to its complexity.

How long till I learn Japanese?

For English speakers, learning Japanese is a challenging task due to its dissimilarity in structure compared to English. It takes around 88 weeks or 2200 hours of study to achieve fluency in the language.

Can I learn Japanese by myself?

Learning Japanese on your own has become more accessible due to the abundance of online resources available today. One person, for example, started from the beginning and reached an advanced level through dedicated studying with a structured plan, online courses, a notebook, and hard work.

Is 30 too late to learn Japanese?

There have been rumors that studying Japanese in Japan is not possible after the age of 30, but this is actually not true. Anyone can pursue their Japanese language goals at any age, and it’s never too late to start.

Advanced grammar and vocabulary

Once you have a good grasp of the basics, it is time to move on to more advanced grammar and vocabulary. Japanese has many levels of politeness, and learning these nuances can greatly improve your communication skills. Additionally, expanding your vocabulary to include specialized terms related to your interests or profession can help you better express yourself in Japanese.

Regional dialects

Just like any language, Japanese has many regional dialects that can vary greatly in pronunciation, vocabulary, and grammar. Exposure to different dialects can enrich your understanding of the language and culture. Additionally, learning a region’s dialect can help you connect with locals and show appreciation for their unique customs.

Writing styles

Japanese writing styles vary depending on the context and purpose of the text. Formal writing styles, such as those used in business or academic settings, require a higher level of formality and precision than casual writing styles. Learning these different writing styles can help you better understand written Japanese and communicate effectively in writing.

Idioms and expressions

Japanese has many idioms and expressions that are unique to the language and culture. These expressions can add depth and nuance to your communication skills and help you better understand Japanese media and literature. Learning these expressions can also make you more culturally aware and appreciative of Japanese culture.

Etiquette in business settings

Japan has a strong business culture with its own set of customs and etiquette rules. Knowing how to conduct yourself in a business setting can greatly enhance your professional opportunities in Japan. Some customs include exchanging business cards, bowing, and using formal language. Learning these customs can show respect for Japanese business partners and help build lasting relationships.

Certification exams

For those who wish to demonstrate their proficiency in Japanese, there are certification exams available such as JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test) or J-Test (Japanese-Language NAT-TEST). These exams measure your ability to read, write, listen, and speak in Japanese at various levels. Obtaining certification can be beneficial for those seeking employment or higher education opportunities in Japan.

Continued practice and learning

Learning a language is a lifelong journey that requires continued practice and learning. Even after achieving proficiency in Japanese, it is important to continue practicing regularly to maintain your skills. Additionally, staying up-to-date on current events and popular culture in Japan can help you stay engaged with the language and culture.

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