Learning Japanese #1: Planning and Ranting

3년 전

Planning is important. Period. No matter what you are doing, you should have some sort of plan. That DOESN'T mean that you can't be fluid in your decision making or that you need to strictly adhere to that plan, but you should at least be able to see a path to your goal.

I'm a research freak. If I'm into something I've likely spent hundreds of hours reading about it. Instead of reading novels, you will find me reading research articles or digging up information on whatever strikes my fancy at that particular moment. And before you ask: Yes, I am insane.

I spend way too much time researching and planning when I do something. When I travel I usually come up with a list of things that I'd like to do there through research, and then once I'm there I run through the list depending on the weather forecast and how I'm feeling that day. I tend to run my life that way: Make a plan, be fluid and roll with the punches, accomplish end result.

Same is true while I'm learning Japanese. I'm studying Japanese for several reasons (detailed later), but I want to get into the overall plan to learn Japanese.

This is a plan to learn Japanese:

1: Research and plan how to learn the language (the subject of this post)
2: Prepare the proper tools and cultivate the proper mindset (this never really ends)
3: Learn PRONUNCIATION using romanization and pronunciation guides
4: Learn the written phonetic components (Kana // Hiragana & Katakana)
5: Learn the KANJI (Chinese characters, but the Japanese version) MEANINGS
6: Learn GRAMMAR and how to compose sentences/words
7: Build up conversational vocabulary by leveraging and building upon the Kanji learned thus far
8: Study for and pass fluency tests
9: Party?
10 & Beyond: Leverage what I've learned in Japanese to learn Mandarin w/ traditional characters.

I am in the middle of step 5 currently (~1400 characters learned) and have marginal speaking skills at best. I started in December studying on and off in preparation for a trip to Japan in May of this year, but my motivation in general has waxed and waned over the past year in general due to some reasons that I'm not going to go into right now. I have recently (roughly 30 days ago) rededicated myself to studying as a sort of "self-improvement" project.

I would definitely recommend learning the writing system from the start if you plan on learning Japanese (or any of the Chinese script languages). Sure, you could get by with just spoken word and Kana, but you would still be functionally illiterate. I think that the Kanji is the hardest aspect of the language for a westerner to learn, but it's definitely worthwhile.

I tend to be of the mindset that if there is a difficult aspect of something you are learning that you will eventually need to learn anyways, it is better that you start making steps to learn it from the outset. For example, if you are a self-taught master of guitar but you have no knowledge of how to read music and understand theory (a difficult undertaking), chances are you're not ever going to learn it unless you are extremely determined to. It's far easier to learn it as you go from the beginning.

Yeah, I have personal experience with this one as well... Hard lesson learned.
(side note: Worst part is I actually used to be able to read music and knew some theory, but it was never for guitar -- derp)

Anyways, I think it's a pretty solid plan to learn Japanese. It's more or less adapted from this guy Niko's course on learning Japanese, which I would recommend as it has a lot of insights into the language. It's USD$37 for his course and well worth it (link below), although from what I understand he's coming out with an updated version soon which will have an increased price tag.

It's important to note that it would be worthwhile to analyze your motivations for learning the language. As I've said before, it's pretty hard to give consistent effort towards something if you have lackluster reasons for doing it.

Learning a language requires CONSISTENT, DAILY effort.

You can't take time off, you can't ever stop pushing. If you do, you will only set yourself back further. If you're feeling lazy or circumstances happen, make a point of still at least doing review so that your brain remains at least somewhat engaged in the language. If you fall behind it will be just that much harder to get started again.

I have my motivations for learning Japanese. Curiousity and a compulsive need to challenge myself are a big part of why I want to learn Japanese. The desire to be different and the general interest/kinship that I feel with the culture are other things that motivate me to learn it. Plus it will pay dividends if/when I learn Chinese, which is my stretch goal.

Pragmatically, it would make more sense to learn Spanish or something, but it doesn't suit me. What can I say, I am driven to understand my Hentai Anime(?). Whoops, better put back on my newsman fedora...

There's just so much strange stuff to come out of Japan, and that kind of appeals to me... because I'm strange too.
In a granular assessment, Japanese is a difficult and time consuming language to learn. But for me, it's easier to learn than Spanish -- Because I am INTERESTED in it.

I am very curious about the culture and how the language works.

We all have that ingrained curiosity in our heads. Pretty much every child in every culture and every language goes through a "why" phase, where they constantly are asking questions about everything. While the constant barrage of questions eventually fades away, the curiosity remains somewhere inside us.

The curiousity remains, but people tell themselves that they can't learn something new. I've heard many people say that the only way to become fluent in a language is to learn it as a child... from people who have never learned a language. There's a huge amount of examples to the contrary on the internet, and I don't think that they're some sort of brain freaks that can inexplicably learn things into adulthood.

No, It's not impossible to learn a language as an adult. People will tell you that because they believe that THEY THEMSELVES cannot do it. I don't think that any perceived slowdown in learning capacity is enough of an excuse to stop you from learning new things.

That's a fallacy.

Inside of us, there resides the need to be challenged. It's easy to get comfortable and avoid any struggles, but it's not particularly fulfilling. Overcoming challenges and obstacles is exciting and gives you a sense of accomplishment.

I am challenged by my studies every single day, and I always feel some small accomplishment when I've reached my goal for the day. That is, in it self, a small victory for me.

I can't wait for the big victories!

This is intended to be the first in a series about learning Japanese. It will include information about study tools, techniques for effective study and memorization, and (of course) information about the language itself.

I'll be talking more about pronunciation and the Kana or study tools next time, so stay tuned for that!
(or don't. It's your call, sucka)

-- Brains



Japanese Flag silhouette
Frank Sinatra in a Fedora

Tell him Brains sent you, he'll probably be confused by it and it will entertain me.

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Thank you, Japanese Characters are easy to read once you understand they are pictograms like a Mountain looks like an upside down V. If it looks like ^S that is a mountain stream etc.... Now speaking it is way harder... but it is fairly easy to read it once you understand the meaning of the pictograms.....


A lot of them are ideograms, but some of have pronunciation components from Chinese that are useless in Japanese. It's pretty cool learning it though and putting yourself in the mindset of the time that the system was created. Very different from the roman script we read in English though.


Fully Agree! Following you and resteemed brother. Good luck learning, I would gladly be willing to learn with you and we can have convos! Do you know how to type in an english keyboard in a Chinese or Japanese script? I always wondered how it worked... or do they Anglicize the spelling?


Yeah, I have the Chinese and Japanese script installed on an English Keyboard (using Microsoft IME). You can type romanji, the output will be in Hiragana/Katakana and then the suggested Kanji will appear for you to select. That's what I used to type this: 頑張って!(though I don't really know enough to type anything of consequence at this point)


very good post, I really want to learn japanese language.



For me , it is much easier to learn japanese language than korean language . because japanese has "R" sound but in korean language they do not have it . Also i am anime lover so i prefer to learn japanese than other languages.


Yeah, the entertainment aspect of it is a big part of the reason why I'm learning Japanese. I want to learn Chinese as well, and have for longer than I wanted to learn Japanese, but I've gotten more immersed in Japanese through media so I've got an extra motivation. ;) The pronunciation seems way harder in Korean... Even the romanization of Korean words confuses me.

I think I'm learning Japanese, I think I'm learning Japanese, I really think so....


dah, dah , dah , dup, dup dup dup...🎵


Nice one! hehehe...

LOL!! Someone else has the same philosophy I do, if you are going to learn a language, first learn how to read and write in it.

Phonetics of the spoken language is a lot easier learn if you already know the nuts & bolts of a language.


Good to hear from you again. I think it's important to know what's going on with a language when you're learning it as an adult. Osmosis is fine when you're a kid, but they learn the other stuff in school. As an adult you kind of have to bridge that gap somehow, and I don't think that merely talking with people in a foreign language until you can have a basic conversation is the most effective way.

Awesome job man, keep up the good work!
I tried learning once and managed a basic greeting, a few expreassions and how to read hiragana(like a child).
However I had nobody to practice with or learn from so I gave up :-(


Thanks! There's a lot of places to find practice partners online these days, which is probably what I'll do when I get to that point. I am a bit of a nerd in this regard, but I find the Chinese characters and their etymology to be really interesting so that helps a bit as well. Also every day when I look at Japanese I recognize and understand more and more of it. Pretty cool to see progress.


That's awesome. If you can manage to couple your interests with your goals it will always be easy and fun!

  ·  3년 전

It's been a while since I dedicated myself to learning Japanese in the way I probably should. I remember years back when I would study at least an hour daily -- and the progress was so noticeable. It was a constant sense of progress, and it was pretty awesome picking up a novel and seeing the kanji I had just learned pop up.

I'll be visiting Japan in the next few months and it's made me try to pick up studying a bit again. Building that habit again is a challenge, but like you said -- it's a daily effort!


Yeah, I'm studying at least that much right now. I think that even if you don't end up doing anything new for the day, you should at least doing your review cards (if you're using SRS/flashcards, which you should be). That is what I do on Niko's suggestion and it keeps you from falling behind while doing something that it somewhat less intensive.

Have a good time in Japan! I had a great time when I was there a few months ago and I'm going to be going back again in the near future unless something changes to prevent it. Maybe I'll see ya there ;P

Nice post

very interesting and useful post you, I am happy when learning any language including japanese language .. i from indonesia want to know how to express the word thank you .. i have followed you @brains


Thanks a lot! Learning a language is shown to have benefits for your brain & ability to think, so I think it's good to learn any language.

Amazin post

great post like it and upvoted.......

This post has received a 23.53 % upvote from @booster thanks to: @brains.

I'm also in the process of learning japanese myself. The only formal training I've had was a class in middle school YEARS ago. I want to learn the language before visiting Japan myself and also have a small yearning to teach English using the JET program (need to know my student loans exist for a reason). I'm glad you are already at step 5 of your list. Thanks for the great article Brains!