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Self-Learning Japanese: What you need to know

So you've finally decided to stop using subtitles whilst watching your favourite anime of this season. However, as soon as you hit the play button on the video, you realize that you can't understand what they're saying at all!

Wait! Don't enable the subtitles yet! Don't you want to be able to understand Japanese? When your favourite character says something cool, don't you want to be able to respond to him? Don't worry! By the end of this, I'll help you to form the basic knowledge as well as motivation to start learning the Japanese language all by yourself!

The Japanese Language is a hard language to learn once you have familiarized yourself with the English language since it has quite a few differences from the latter. However, don't let that bring you down! After all, learning something from scratch is always going to be challenging! First off, I'll start by explaining the basics of the Japanese Language, the writing system!

In the Japanese Language, there are various scripts, or "letters" that can be used. These are called kana and refer to the sets Hiragana and Katakana. Furthermore, Chinese characters, otherwise known as Kanji in Japanese are also heavily used in the Japanese writing. 

Hiragana are mainly used for grammatical purposes such as particles but can be used in the stead of Kanji for newer students.

Katakana uses the same set of sounds as Hiragana but is mainly used to represent newer words imported from western countries.

Kanji, on the other hand, can represent a lot of things. They can be nouns, verbs and adjectives. Learning Kanji is crucial because over 95% of written text consists of Kanji. 

Now that you know the basics of the Japanese Language, I'll skim over the details of self-studying Japanese. Starting off, I'll list the pros and cons of self-studying.


- You can set your own learning pace

- Resources can be easily accessed through the Internet

- No deadlines such as tests or homework


- No real interaction between yourself and a Japanese speaker

- There are no teachers/instructors to correct you

- Too many resources can result in a conflict of materials which can delay or halt your learning

With all that, I do still recommend that you give self-studying a try. After all, having some knowledge of the Japanese Language can help a long way if sometime in the future you resolve to take lessons. It would greatly speed up your learning pace. Now, if you do decide to start learning, below are some apps that can boost your learning speed substantially.

1. Duolingo

If you have not heard of Duolingo before, it is a language learning app that is free and really helpful. It is helping me to learn both Japanese and Korean right now and I do recommend any starter to use this app because offers simple lessons from the get-go and uses pictures as well as sounds to explain.

2. Japanese Dungeon

I promise, it's not what it sounds like. This app was actually the first app that I downloaded when I first started learning Japanese. Essentially, you are a warrior that has to fight through levels of dungeons which are multiple choice questions. This app taught me Hiragana, Katakana and even some basic Japanese vocabulary that are used in daily life.

3. Kana Town

Even if you have learned all the Kana "letters", it is still a good idea to revise them daily. This app does just that. Every few hours, it gives out random Kana characters that you must give the correct answer to. This helps to solidify your foundation and also helps you to identify Kana characters faster.

4. Tae Kim's Guide to Learning Japanese

This is the app that I use to actually learn Japanese grammars and special expressions. The lessons in this guide are really detailed with many explanations. Furthermore, if you prefer an audio guide, they also provide them in the form of Youtube playlists. So far, it has been helping me understand the Japanese Language better.

Do note that these are only some of the useful apps that can be found to aid you in your journey. These are the apps that I have particularly found helpful to me and are beginner friendly. 

To end it off, I'll send a few tips and tricks your way that has helped me in my journey. Firstly, is to always keep learning. If you decide to learn, you have to stick through it. That means consistent and consecutive learning. Learning isn't effective if you are inconsistent in your schedule. Also, start exposing yourself to more Japanese. By this, I don't mean to watch even more anime. In order to experience more, you need to expose yourself to things like streams, news broadcast, read articles. Doing this can actually help you to solidify you foundations in Hiragana and Katakana. Over time, you'll also start to recognize words and Kanji that you've looked up. Lastly, the most important aspect is to have fun. Learning isn't as effective if you're not having fun. Hence why I have recommended different apps for learning as well as pointed you towards news broadcasts, articles or even VTubers!

All in all, learning Japanese can be really fun and useful if you ever plan to use it in the future! Moving forward, I will post more about self-studying Japanese in order to help you all even further! 

Good luck!

Written by Kai Yuichi

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