Where To Start...
We've been learning Japanese ourselves since the start of 2018. Hai Hiragana is a passion project of ours. Designed by people learning Japanese for people learning Japanese, it's basically all our hindsight and things we wish we knew when we started learning the hiragana. So we often get asked what are our tips for studying the language. So here we go!
1. Learn the Hiragana first!
Might sound biased from us but there is a reason why we started with hiragana flash cards. We always advise to start with the hiragana as you'll get a grasp of all the sounds used in Japanese as it's a phonetic system. A lot of text books and apps will encourage you to read in hiragana for this reason so learning it first is a big advantage and helps with pronunciation. Plus its much easier to pick up than you might think and we've made that process as simple as possible with our method.
2. Watch Japanese T.V.
Basic tip here, but it really helps. Even if you put English subtitles on, it makes your ears get used to the sounds of the language and makes you familiar to some common words. I recommend to get hooked to a T.V show so you can watch it on a daily basis, something where the subject interests you and where the vocabulary isn't too complicated. Netflix has loads of options, Charlotte loves watching 'Terrace House" basically big brother, without the challenges & prizes and with real people acting genuinely & sweetly to each other. Lewis is an anime geek and reccomends watching some of the classics such as studio Ghibli, cowboy Bebop and Death Note. He could write a whole blog post just on anime and manga tips so we'll leave that for another day.
3. Go to conversation meetups
In a lot of cities, there are conversation meetups organised where natives come too to learn English (even in England). Go along and exchange with the two languages. It's a great way to practice with real native people without the pressure, as they are also learning a language, yours! Meetups is a great website to find local events in your area or you can also go on Tandem, an app that matches you with natives who speak the language you're learning, and willing to practise the language you're fluent in.
4. Get enrolled in a Language school
Charlotte finds going to a school every week helps to have the motivation to actually stick to learning, otherwise frustration comes in and going off track is so easy. Having a teacher is also the best way to get your questions answered, understanding grammar better and being corrected when it comes to accent and speaking.
5. Don't beat yourself up
People often get frustrated and say they are too old and only kids can learn a language quickly. What you have to remember is children are basically studying 24/7 for 10 years to get fluent at a language. They are also not afraid to try or ask questions, as there is no such things as "dumb" questions. The trick is repetition and perseverance. If you're stuck remembering that one hiragana symbol then put it at the top of your deck and look at it everyday until it's drilled in.
Visit Japan and go for it! Charlotte remembers staying in families and going to a language school when she was a teenager learning English and Spanish, and it did help a lot. It's a little scary but being totally engulfed is the best way to learn a language.
That's our basic tips to get you started. We'll share any cool techniques or methods we come across and would love to hear what you recommend as we're learning too! There are also so many great apps and products out there we'll have to dedicate another blog post to them. I'll quickly mention my favourite two to check out. First of all Memrise, which turns learning into games which level you up. Secondly Anki, which uses repetitive learning methods to naturally remember what you learn just before you forget it.
Lewis & Charlotte