HOW TO LEARN JAPANESE FASTER !( • ̀ω•́ )✧

Hello there! If you’re interested in learning Japanese language, let me share with you the techniques that I’ve been using myself to learn faster and to be able to handle a real conversation ! ( •̀ᄇ• ́)ﻭ✧ There’s a few tips that you can do while self-studying which can help you greatly with memorization and learning process!

( But just so you know, I studied 3 years with private lessons when I was in high school and learned a bit in university as well, so when I started to study by myself, I already acquired quite a few bases, so I’m just gonna talk about my self-study experience, and difficulties that I have while learning).

HOW TO LEARN KANJI༼ ༎ຶ ෴ ༎ຶ༽

Ok, this is probably the most difficult task while learning japanese : those da*n scary chinese characters. I’ve always tried to avoid learning them seriously because I could read just with hiragana and katakana, and just recognizing them was enough for me (and of course, because it was a pain in the ass). I’ve NEVER been able to write them, to remember their meanings until recently. The only thing that I have ever been able to achieve is that after seeing for the 500th time the same character, finally, I was able to read it correctly. Which made me think that I was probably dumber than everyone else, that I sucked at remembering stuff (ಥ_ʖಥ).

When I started self-study, I wanted to learn them more seriously and I kind of changed my mind about kanji : first of all, I wanted to be able to read materials that didn’t use furigana (which are hiragana written above the kanji that help to read), and second of all, trying to understand them was kind of like an interesting game. I just thought they were fascinating. (and gotta say that self-studying is way more fun than studying at school). So I just try to learned stroke by stroke, at my own pace, 5 KANJI a day (which is really not a lot) because that’s how school teachers want you to learn and they’ve never gave any other way to do it except like that (which makes me want to give them a massive finger now). The next day, I could barely write 2 and I wasn’t 100% sure about their meanings. That’s how bad I was at learning Kanji. Until recently.

I’ve been studying how to MEMORIZE.

(Something that should be taught in school by the way). There are a few techniques that ARE REALLY EFFECTIVE. I used to think I was dumb, now I feel like a freaking super human. Seriously.

If you’re not familiar with it, well let me explain what I’ve been using :

  • Memory Markers : it consists on memorizing by association : for example, let’s say I want to remember the word Helium. I’ll just think about a balloon.  You memorize a word with a “visual marker“. A picture of something that is familiar to you. Visual is said to be the more effective, but you can use sound (the sound of a word which makes you think about the word you want to learn), the feeling/taste of something … everything that can help you associate the thing you want to remember with something that you already know.
  • Memory Palace : You think about a place that you’re familiar with. Your house, your work place, whatever it is, you have to be really familiar with it. Now, the only thing you have to do is to put your markers IN that place as you “walk” inside it. And you make up a story to help you bind, remember everything.

So the fundamental tool to be able to achieve those exercises, is CREATIVITY. If you’re not good at imagining, picturing detailed objects, you have to work on that first.

To try these exercices, I thought to myself okay : let’s see if I can remember every prefectures in Japan. There are 47. In a little less than an hour only, I could remember 35. In two days, I learned them all. 1 week later, I still could remember them. And that is from someone who worked one night as a waitress and couldn’t remember the specialty of the day unless it was repeated 30 times. Hell, like I said before, even a few months ago, I could barely remember 5 new words that I was studying.

So in order to memorize these 47 prefectures, I took each word, and associated it with something I was already familiar with. And IT WAS FREAKING HARD because it’s japanese and how the hell am I supposed to associate “Tohoku” with something?! But if you use your imagination (that’s why creativity is really important for this task), well, it’s doable. And if you can’t remember correctly, try to change markers. (I realised that my marker for “Shiga” wasn’t really effective for ex). I used sounds and visuals, and made up a story (that’s actually what’s gonna take the longest time, and the more you repeat the story, the more faster you’re gonna be able to remember ).

For Kanji, it’s the same process: you associate the meaning with what you see. For that, I strongly recommend “ANKI” which is a flash card software. For more information just go to nihongoshark.

I’ve been doing the 98 days challenge for a few weeks now (which means that I have to learn 22 new kanji per day), AND IT WORKS. I can remember most of kanji’s meanings and the most surprising thing is that I CAN ACTUALLY WRITE THEM. Just by using my mind and without having to write them 500 times. I S*IT YOU NOT.

Here is an exemple of how much effective it is : when I was studying stroke by stroke, I couldn’t remember how to write 朝 and I wasn’t always sure about its meaning and was often confused (even though it is a really simple and basic kanji, yeah I know ). Now I use chunking and markers : I know that the kanji is formed like that : 十 +  早 + 月 = 朝 and every little kanji is associated with a visual marker or previous knowledge. I know that  十 is  ten,  that 早 is early and that 月 is month/moon. So in my mind I just imagine a clock that is ten in the MORNING, which is EARLY, and the MOON is still in the sky by that time, and the scene is in an apartment that I’m really familiar with. And if I use chunking by order, I can actually write the kanji stroke by stroke in the correct order.

As you can probably guess, this exercise is to remember the meanings of kanji, not the readings. But I still can associate the reading with markers from time to time.

Now, obviously, to be able to learn the readings, you’ll have to read in japanese and eventually remember them as you learn new vocabulary. But I find that knowing the meaning of kanji and getting familiar with them is definitely a good step to keep on going, to not give up and find the motivation to pursue learning. And it will helps a lot to since you will already know how they look. Because previously, I was so focusing on not to mess up the order of strokes, trying to desperately remember like a parrot each readings that it eventually annoyed me and disgusted me.

Now, of course, as you will study kanjis, you probably won’t remember each of them perfectly as time passes. That’s why it’s important to at least revise them everyday. To be honest, I had to slow down the challenge and decrease the kanji that I had to revise each day because it was starting to get too hard, too long and I realised that I had couldn’t remember as well as before. I now revise at least 50 kanji a day and learn 20 new ones.

HOW TO LEARN NEW VOCABULARY(ノ゚▽゚)ノ

I use everything as a source of study : app, games, anime, songs, blogs, children books, radio etc… it will help to learn new vocabulary but also grammatical structures. If you don’t know how to start, you can try the JLPT vocabulary, there’s a lot ;). What I like to do is translate for fun some of the materials. There’s always a bunch of words I don’t understand, but at least I’m having fun while studying and it helps me comprehend the material better.

HOW TO USE YOUR KNOWLEDGEヾ(`・ω・´)ノ

Now, this is the opposite way of the previous method. Just talk and write about yourself, what you did today, what you’re going to do next week. Make up stories or dialogues… Everything that can help you use the vocabulary and grammar that you know and want to know. And there are apps like Hello talk where you can get your mistakes (if there are) fixed by a native speaker. And every time, use markers. And that’s it, you pretty much gonna learn a LOT faster and in more effective way than just studying with ONLY a textbook. Plus, if YOU make up your own sentences, I’m pretty sure it’s gonna stick longer than just trying to remember a random sentences from a textbook. And it’s lot more fun 😀 (but yeah, be sure that there’s no mistakes haha)

WANT TO TRY TO SPEAK LIKE A NATIVE?

It might sound a bit obvious, but that’s not something that teachers tell you even though it’s freaking useful. (I mean, at least in France). Just practice by yourself. Listen to some audio material, and repeat. Read out loud. And then record yourself doing it. Listen to it, you’ll see the differences with the original, and try to correct the way you speak. Repeat again etc…As you will be doing that, you’ll think “okay it’s not that bad…” but then you will do it again and see the differences again (hopefully). It works for everything : by watching/ hearing yourself you can see how much you progress and how awful you look/sound (for ex, I know for sure that I’m not that good at singing haha). And it will help you get confidence to speak the language and to get used to it !

And try to make native speaker penpals. However, I’d like to insist on the fact that they shouldn’t be your FRIENDS if you really want to practice. So far, my best experience with penpals was when I wasn’t too close to them. Because at the beginning, they’re eager to teach you. But by the time I became friends with them, it was just a pain in the ass for them to answer my questions or correct me because they just wanted to talk casually. So if you want to improve, you should keep a “teacher-student” relationship…(but well… everyone is different so maybe you won’t face this problem).

 

I think that’s pretty much it. This post is probably gonna be edited from time to time, I hope it will be useful ! Meanwhile, let’s try our best shall we? (*ゝω・)ノ


If you have your own techniques yourselves, please let me know in the comments!