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Learning a foreign language can be a daunting experience, especially one as intimidating as Japanese. Over my 3+ years of studying the language, I’ve learned what works for me, and what doesn’t. Which habits are good, and which habits are bad. There are a lot of things I really wish I would have known when I started studying all those many years ago, and now I’d like to share that erudition with you. Bask in this mighty font of knowledge, friends – and read on to see if your current study habits are setting you up for disaster (or success)!

Listen to as Much Japanese as You Can

Think about it – as a baby you listened to the English language constantly before you ever spoke a single word. By listening to Japanese all the time (TV, music, podcasts, etc) you prepare your brain for the great adventure ahead of you. It also helps out a lot with pronunciation. The more authentic Japanese you hear, the easier it will be for you to produce Japanese with little to no accent.

I listened to a lot of Japanese before I ever started seriously studying the language (TV, movies, music) and as a result I had a much more native sounding accent when I started taking classes. It really works!

As far as TV shows – dramas and talk shows are definitely the way to go. Watch them without subtitles, or just have it playing in the background while you do something else. Even passive listening can be a great help.

Anime can be good too, but for the beginner I’d say listening to real people talk in dramas and talk shows is best. The style of speech in anime is not always parallel with how people speak in the real world, and if you’re still just a beginner you might not always know if the styles and phrases used are practical. Wouldn’t want to develop any bad habits!

Don’t Use Romaji

Speaking of bad habits, let’s talk about romaji. Romaji is an unfortunate, unsightly crutch. Using English characters to represent the Japanese language will encourage you to speak with an English accent. And that’s bad. Very bad. There are even different “forms” of romaji (arigato, arigatou, arigatō), and that’s just confusing. Either don’t use romaji at all, or get yourself off it as soon as you can.

One of the first steps you should take in learning Japanese is getting katakana and hiragana down pat. If you can do that, you’ll never need to touch romaji ever again. And that’s a good thing.

One of my biggest gripes with the textbook we used in college was that it was chock full of romaji. Even in the third volume, everything was still in romaji. This really slowed down my reading speed and it wasn’t until I actually started reading real Japanese media on my own that I started to see great improvement. Check out the Tofugu Japanese Language Resources Guide for textbooks that don’t suck.

Sticking with romaji will really slow down your reading ability. If you get used to reading Japanese strictly in romaji, you will be very slow at reading Japanese in hiragana/katakana. The quicker you get used to reading in real Japanese, the better.

Use an SRS

SRS stands for Spaced Repetition System. They’re basically smart flashcards that track your progress for you. My favorites are Anki and iKnow. I use Anki for making my own flashcard decks, and I use iKnow for general vocabulary. SRS is really helpful because it automatically pays attention to which cards you get wrong and which ones you get right.

For example, if you keep missing one card, then the SRS will bring it up more frequently to give you more practice with it. And then if there’s a card you consistently get right all the time, the SRS will place it on the back burner and bring it back when it is ripe for review.

I use Anki when I want to make my own flashcard decks. I use video games, manga, and TV shows as material for getting new vocab words and phrases. As I’m going along, I make note of the words or phrases that I don’t understand and then later I put them into an Anki deck. That way, I can review the words and phrases that were difficult for me and speed up my comprehension. It really helps me focus and make the best use of my time.

Programs like Anki and websites like iKnow are very helpful for setting up a systematic schedule of study. They keep track of what you need to focus on studying first, and what you can save for another day. Anki also has a great community and a lot of premade decks you can download and check out before delving into the adventure of making your own. Using regular old flashcards is fine, but you’re really wasting a lot of time by not using an SRS.

Make Japanese Friends

While not as important as the other tips on this list (in the very beginning, at least), having real life Japanese people to talk to is very helpful, especially if you are self taught. And besides, what fun is learning a language if you have no one to talk to?

Having someone to send emails back and forth with, call, or webcam with can be a great learning asset. It prepares you for the real world of speaking Japanese, and you’ll have a native to immediately correct any mistakes you’re making. One of the online services that Koichi really likes is Lang-8. You can check out his review of it here.

Just make sure to let your new-found Japanese friends know that you actually want them to tell you when you mess up. A good amount of Japanese people are very shy and hesitant when it comes to correcting people and telling them they are wrong. This of course depends on the person. Our language partners in Japan had no problem telling us when we screwed up.

I made a lot of good friends when I studied abroad though, and I talk to most of them weekly. I still email with my home-stay sisters on a regular basis and talk to my other Japanese friends on Facebook. They help keep my Japanese skills sharp as well as improve my writing and reading comprehension. The Firefox plug-in Rikaichan can be a very useful tool for deciphering cryptic Japanese on the internet. Check it out!

Be Consistent

Don’t study Japanese for five hours on Monday, not touch it again for a week, and try to make up for it by studying ten hours next Tuesday. You need to be consistent. Study Japanese every day if you can. Figure out how much time you can set aside each day and develop a schedule. Studying a little bit each day is way better than studying for long periods erratically. Keeping a consistent schedule will help you learn faster and retain information better.

Out of everything on the list, this is what I personally have the most trouble with. There’s just too many video games to play and people to hang out with for me to stay focused all the time. Don’t be like me! Set up a schedule for yourself and stick to it!

Have Fun While You Learn

Most important of all, just have fun with it! You’re not going to want to do something if you’re not enjoying yourself and you’ll retain a lot more information if you’re having a good time. And once you find a study method that works for you, stick with it, but don’t overdo it.

For example, if you’re really enjoying a study session with your favorite manga, stop a little early. Quit while you’re still having fun. That way, you’ll be looking forward to getting back into it. Don’t study until you’re completely stressed out and frustrated – who would want to come back to that?

Study with your friends and learn with manga, TV shows, and video games you actually enjoy. As you start to have fun with it, you’ll actually start to look forward to studying. Suddenly studying seems less like a chore and more like an adventure! (Whee!)

Put It All Together

On days when I’m not slacking off, I try to get a solid 2-3 hours of real study time in. I really like the Core Japanese decks on iKnow, so I make use of those quite often.

Lately, I’ve been reading the manga Yotsuba&! and making Anki cards out of the words and phrases that are new to me. I usually start from the beginning of the manga every session just to practice reading with the new phrases I’ve learned because it’s good review.

When I’m not actively studying, I like to have Japanese TV playing in the background. I have a two monitor set up on my computer, so when I’m surfing the web, I’ll have my browser up on one and a Japanese playlist up on the other. My playlist is comprised of some of my favorite dramas and a handful of variety shows.

When I’m not at home, I try to listen to Japanese music. I’ve been listening to a lot of Imaginary Flying Machine lately, but it’s always good to listen to music where the lyrics are audible and easy to understand.

Listening to Japanese all day really gets your brain into “Japanese mode.” On days when I really immerse myself in Japanese media I’ll often find myself thinking and even dreaming in Japanese. Fun!

There’s also a lot of mobile apps that you can use to study Japanese on the road. Some of my favorites include Kotoba! (awesome free Japanese dictionary), Tae Kim’s Guide to Learning Japanese (super awesome for grammar and structure), and Kanji Study (great for studying kanji on the go).

With Japanese, anything is possible

And there you have it. Just keep these simple tips in mind and you’ll have no problem overcoming the obstacle of conquering the Japanese language. I’ve been studying for 3+ years now and I still make good use of these basic tips each and every day. Now get out there and JFDI.

So tell me, what are your best tips for someone starting to learn the Japanese language?

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P.P.S. Want to learn more ways to become a Japanese expert? Follow us on Twitter.

  • http://meroigo.wordpress.com/ Meroigo

    Try studying Japanese with this awesome song! :D www.youtube.com/watch?v=KdYms5pRwS4

  • Anonymous

    Really informative post :)  I’m having consistency issues where I am now studying like once a week.  I will change now, haha.

  • Catherine44123

    These are great tips! ^^ I totally agree with listening, watching, and reading japanese media

    When I am not home and my mum’s driving me someplace I usually put on some japanese songs and I have the lyrics (no romaji) on my iPod so it helps me with my reading as well ^^

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=223409014 Jasdev Sekhon

    All good common sense advice :-)
    I’ve been studying on and off for the past seven years, and I’ve worked and studied in Japan for a combined 20 months, and I’m still willing to bet you’re better at speaking/reading/writing/listening than I am!

    If there’s one thing I could pick from this list that I’d consider the most important, it’s consistency. I worked and travelled out there for 8 months, then totally stopped using Japanese for 16 months. Then at university I studied the same as you! (Econ/Jap major/minor actually) but didn’t take full advantage of my time abroad or the exchange students who’d come to my uni.

  • John

    DUDE! This IS awesome! Thank you for sharing this :D
    Do you know of any other J-music with a similar sound to this? I’ve been looking for a Japanese band like this for forever xD lol

  • John

    Yeah, being consistent is hard xD lol

  • http://twitter.com/kamokow Zachary D

    Kaiji OPs, on MY Tofugu? It’s more likely than I thought.

  • http://www.facebook.com/stephen.scheib Stephen Scheib

    I teach Japanese at the high school and college level here in Delaware. One of my biggest tips is use it or lose it! It’s great to use the vocab because it sticks much better! For instance, if you are learning て-form then use it when you are performing an action. When opening a door say, “ドアを開けています。”

  • Kiriain

    I really like to watch Japanese comedy, although it may not be the best source for listening practice. My faves are Gaki no Tsukai ya Arahende! and Razor Ramon HG.

  • http://meroigo.wordpress.com/ Meroigo

    Yeah, found them through Kaiji 2! :D Now I’ve got their album and Chase the Light EP!

  • http://thepretentiousgamer.blogspot.com Rachel

    Care to share your Yotsuba anki cards (is it even possible with picture cards)? I’m sure I’m not the only one who’d appreciate it. :-)

  • http://meroigo.wordpress.com/ Meroigo

    Japanese music with THIS kind of sound (screams and synths and upbeat etc…)? nope, this is the only one I personally know of, sorry. D: But I too will gladly take other recommendations! :D

  • http://www.facebook.com/Casanters Casey Harris

    Currently in Japan, and I am probably the worst student ever.  Got JLPT 1 quality Japanese by staring at hours of TV, games, and being drunk and picking up women.  Toss in my dirty Shojo manga habit, and there’s a well-rounded study regiment.

    I went to a Japanese language school, but I was mostly drunk or asleep through all of it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/nabububu Nabu San

    Agreed on the having fun whilst studying thing. The moment you start treating learning Japanese as a chore is the moment you lose your passion for it, you shouldn’t think of it as work. I think of it like acquiring a new superpower or something xD /lame. I don’t listen to Japanese nearly as much as I should, but I do use flashcards. All handwritten though, I prefer to carry them around rather than see them on a screen. And boy does it take YEARSSSS longer to do everything, but it pays off…eventually xD Really insightful post, thanks John!

  • http://www.facebook.com/nabububu Nabu San

    This is great, thanks =D John, perhaps Maximum the Hormone will be to your liking? My friend LOVES Dir En Grey, but I find their music a bit too screamy and not enough music-cy.

  • http://www.facebook.com/nabububu Nabu San

    This is great, thanks =D John, perhaps Maximum the Hormone will be to your liking? My friend LOVES Dir En Grey, but I find their music a bit too screamy and not enough music-cy.

  • http://www.facebook.com/nabububu Nabu San

    This is great, thanks =D John, perhaps Maximum the Hormone will be to your liking? My friend LOVES Dir En Grey, but I find their music a bit too screamy and not enough music-cy.

  • Tiffany Harvey

    I was really enjoying using Anki until I had a baby & was away from it for a few weeks. When I tried to get back into studying, I probably had about 500 cards due, which took forever to get through! Then I got too busy again (working at home while watching the baby, ugh!), the same thing happened again & I tried to catch up but finally gave up.

    Now that he’s a year old I’ve started working with my Japanese resources again. But I don’t know if I can face Anki… I wonder if I should just start fresh with a new deck?

  • http://meroigo.wordpress.com/ Meroigo

    Oh, Maximum the Hormone! I’m gonna see them, X Japan, Red Hot Chili Peppers among a lot of other bands at Summer Sonic (music festival) here in Osaka in like 10 days!!! ^^ so hyped… D: Fear, and Loathing in Las Vegas are coming to the Tokyo version of Summer Sonic but not Osaka… :(

  • John

    Yeah I’ve been into Diru for a long time and Maximum the Hormone is pretty good too. But Meroigo, seriously – thank you, haha. This band is awesome.

  • John

    Yeah I’ve been into Diru for a long time and Maximum the Hormone is pretty good too. But Meroigo, seriously – thank you, haha. This band is awesome.

  • http://www.twitter.com/christaran Chris Taran

    “Using English characters to represent the Japanese language will encourage you to speak with an English accent.”  is possibly the most inaccurate thing I’ve read today. Just because that made YOU do that does not mean that happens to others.

    Will never understand the BS reasons people keep piling on why Romaji is bad. There is no difference between using Romaji and kana/Kanji outside of the characters used.

  • John

    Haha yeah the Downtown guys are awesome.

  • John

    Haha yeah the Downtown guys are awesome.

  • http://www.twitter.com/christaran Chris Taran

    “Using English characters to represent the Japanese language will encourage you to speak with an English accent.”  is possibly the most inaccurate thing I’ve read today. Just because that made YOU do that does not mean that happens to others.

    Will never understand the BS reasons people keep piling on why Romaji is bad. There is no difference between using Romaji and kana/Kanji outside of the characters used.

  • John

    lol, well done sir.

  • John

    lol, well done sir.

  • John

    I don’t have that many cards yet actually, I’m not even all the way through the book xD

  • John

    I don’t have that many cards yet actually, I’m not even all the way through the book xD

  • http://www.tofugu.com/ Hashi

    gg wp

  • John

    Is the anime good? I’d never heard of it before.

  • John

    I never said it caused me to speak with an English accent. It’s just one thing to be wary of if you make the choice to use romaji. These are just my opinions – if you chose to use romaji, then that’s up to you! Some people like it, some people don’t.

    And just curious, would you encourage a Japanese person to use kana while they’re learning English?

  • http://twitter.com/Bbvoncrumb Stefan Bullivant

    You sir are what we call in the industry, a “boss”.

    Minus the not-learning-Japanese part.

  • http://meroigo.wordpress.com/ Meroigo

    I find it to be awesome. Watch the first season. The second one is ongoing and i recommend that you wait for it to end before watching it because it’s so cruel with the cliffhangers and you just want to watch moooaaar!!! It’s a show which you just watch episode after epsiode in a row because you MUST KNOW what happens! That’s why I’m recommending you waiting with S2. Haha. I’m personally watching it on a week-to-week basis with new episodes but it’s so painful to wait between the episodes… :(

  • http://meroigo.wordpress.com/ Meroigo

    Once you know kana/kanji it’s more bothersome, hard and slow to read romaji. Also it’s not as easily understood because of the lack of kanji.

    I’m not sure about the English accent part, but I’m agreeing with that you should start with the real Japanese characters right from the start.

  • Khanifinolu

    I totally agree with John however I would have say “english pronunciation”
    I have been learning chinese in Taiwan.
    In Taiwan, you can either learn pinyin or bopomofo (bopomofo is a new whole alphabet using unfamiliar (odd?!) symbols)

    When you learn pinyin (and you are not a native), you tend to prononce a new word like if it was an english word.
    I believe its the same in japanese.

    I don’t even understand why some people use Romaji ? By saying “I don’t understand” I mean I can’t even find  ONE good reason.
    No pros..only cons.
    Just my opinion though.

  • http://meroigo.wordpress.com/ Meroigo

    Language school didn’t improve my Japanese that much either. It was the things I did in my spare time that did. Haven’t self-studied super much either… Now I’m going to a school made primarily for Japanese, with not much problems with the language. But I admit I still must study much more, especially in kanji!…those darn kanji…

    If you passed JLPT N1, well then congrats to you! :)

  • http://meroigo.wordpress.com/ Meroigo

    Well, it’s good for people that don’t know Japanese. When we talk about Tokyo in non-asian texts, we don’t write it as 東京. Or any other word in Japanese meant to be read by someone not knowing the language. :)

    But I certainly think it’s a pretty stupid for someone wanting to learn Japanese sticking with romaji!

  • John

    Haha, awesome – I’ll check it out.

  • http://twitter.com/Bbvoncrumb Stefan Bullivant
  • http://twitter.com/Bbvoncrumb Stefan Bullivant
  • http://twitter.com/Bbvoncrumb Stefan Bullivant
  • Khanifinolu

    yes, but we are talking of romaji in japanese textbooks and stuff
    So, if you are using a japanese textbook, there is a high chance you are learning japanese.

    Im with you on this one, it makes no sense to learn japanese sticking with romaji.
    I don’t mean to offense though

  • John

    Yeah, English pronunciation, accent, etc – you know what I was going for xD lol

    But yeah I agree. The only time I think it’s ‘good’ to use romaji is like if you have to use it to learn how the kana themselves are pronounced – then once you know kana, I really see no advantage to using romaji anymore.

    And I’ve heard of pinyin before but I’ve never heard of bopomofo, lol. Sounds interesting! Thanks for sharing :D

  • John

    Haha, yeah totally!

  • Khanifinolu

    the pinyin / bopomofo problem is a bit different though

    Its “better” to learn pinyin coz people use it in mainland china.
    And it makes everything easier to type chinese.

    But when it comes to prononciation, using bopomofo is better.
    Its just a matter of a fact.
    When you see Zhang xiansheng …unconsciously you tend to pronounce it like an english word (if you are an english speaker)

    But i think, it’s an interesting parallel.

  • Silent89

    Lately I’ve been listening to a Japanese band called ORESKABAND. The awesome thing is that I can memorize vocab through their song’s lyrics…. like when I’m studying with iKnow and a new word comes up I often feel like I alredy know it and BAM I just sing the part of the song where the word appears.

  • B. Biscuit

    Where’s a good place to find/download Japanese music?

  • B. Biscuit

    Where’s a good place to find/download Japanese music?

  • B. Biscuit

    Where’s a good place to find/download Japanese music?

  • Silent89

    Lately I’ve been listening to a Japanese band called ORESKABAND. The awesome thing is that I can memorize vocab through their song’s lyrics…. like when I’m studying with iKnow and a new word comes up I often feel like I alredy know it and BAM I just sing the part of the song where the word appears.

  • Silent89

    Lately I’ve been listening to a Japanese band called ORESKABAND. The awesome thing is that I can memorize vocab through their song’s lyrics…. like when I’m studying with iKnow and a new word comes up I often feel like I alredy know it and BAM I just sing the part of the song where the word appears.

  • B. Biscuit

    Where’s a good place to find/download Japanese music?

  • B. Biscuit

    Where’s a good place to find/download Japanese music?

  • Silent89

    Lately I’ve been listening to a Japanese band called ORESKABAND. The awesome thing is that I can memorize vocab through their song’s lyrics…. like when I’m studying with iKnow and a new word comes up I often feel like I alredy know it and BAM I just sing the part of the song where the word appears.

  • Silent89

    Lately I’ve been listening to a Japanese band called ORESKABAND. The awesome thing is that I can memorize vocab through their song’s lyrics…. like when I’m studying with iKnow and a new word comes up I often feel like I alredy know it and BAM I just sing the part of the song where the word appears.

  • http://meroigo.wordpress.com/ Meroigo

    My first comment here wasn’t that serious. It’s pretty hard to hear what they sing to be honest. ;P

    On a more serious note, good Japanese artist I find not being too difficult understanding are for example YUI or GReeeeN. :)

  • John

    Yeah I stumbled across them too. Definitely not as electro-poppy as Fear, but still good!

  • http://www.twitter.com/christaran Chris Taran

    Japanese sounds can be easily replicated using the English alphabet. The same can not be said of Japanese to English.

    I’ve been studying Japanese for nearly 5 years (casually) and I still find Kanji to be impossible to pick up.

    I can read kana but no where near as easily as I can read the roman alphabet.

    Also, my interest in -reading- Japanese is significantly lower than understanding and speaking the spoken language.

    As I can’t imagine how people learn Kanji, I know I will never pick it up, so I’ve more or less given up on the written language.

  • http://www.twitter.com/christaran Chris Taran

    Japanese sounds can be easily replicated using the English alphabet. The same can not be said of Japanese to English.

    I’ve been studying Japanese for nearly 5 years (casually) and I still find Kanji to be impossible to pick up.

    I can read kana but no where near as easily as I can read the roman alphabet.

    Also, my interest in -reading- Japanese is significantly lower than understanding and speaking the spoken language.

    As I can’t imagine how people learn Kanji, I know I will never pick it up, so I’ve more or less given up on the written language.

  • http://www.twitter.com/christaran Chris Taran

    Japanese sounds can be easily replicated using the English alphabet. The same can not be said of Japanese to English.

    I’ve been studying Japanese for nearly 5 years (casually) and I still find Kanji to be impossible to pick up.

    I can read kana but no where near as easily as I can read the roman alphabet.

    Also, my interest in -reading- Japanese is significantly lower than understanding and speaking the spoken language.

    As I can’t imagine how people learn Kanji, I know I will never pick it up, so I’ve more or less given up on the written language.

  • Simon

    I also had a lot of trouble with kanji, which seemed impossible to learn. What worked for me was the book Remembering the Kanji. Try it, it makes learning kanji a lot more enjoyable.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000185670208 Nick Haupt

    For music, I love to listen to 91.8 The Fan online radio. They play some English and Korean, but a good majority of their music is Japanese. 

  • http://www.twitter.com/christaran Chris Taran

    Thank you for the advice! Will look into it :)

  • http://www.twitter.com/christaran Chris Taran

    I mean, I’ll be real here. You know what it comes down to? The frustration of trying to learn this language for years and still finding the written language impenetrable.

    While I can read kana I read it at a frustraginly slow rate. I have to think about almost every character as I’m reading it (の and a couple others are super easy, others not so much).

    I’ve picked up maybe a handful of Kanji, but I don’t actually know them. I know them in specific instances. I can read 今 with ease on it’s own as “ima.” In any other context I have no clue how it should be pronounced.

    After banging your head against a wall for so long it just becomes frustrating.

    Guess I’m just jealous that you can do it after 3 years and I can’t do it after 5!

  • Sotiris Oikonomidis

    Is there a japanese drama that is realistic and with lots of dialogue instead of cliches and repetitive storylines? Like The Wire, that would be ideal…

    I know i’m asking much :p, 

    nice article, quite thorough

  • Khanifinolu

    I don’t know about “The wire”
    but here is a drama you might be interested in.

    Its called IWGP (ikebukuro west gate park)

    The storyline is far from being “realistic”
    but the content of the dialogues is pretty realistic. They speak like young people do.
    The storyline is not full of cliches.

    +  Great actors
    –  It’s a little bit oldschool.

  • http://www.tofugu.com/ Hashi

    Haha, I’m not sure there’s a gritty Japanese crime drama like The Wire.

    We can dream, though!

  • Pingback: Twitted by japanobserver()

  • http://twitter.com/xharmony harmony

    Hey Tiffany, the same thing happened to me.. I had a baby last year, and so my Japanese studies had to go on the back burner for a while. I maintained my level by reading a little bit and listening to music… but I didn’t have time for much else. I’m sure you know what I mean! Now that my son is a year old, I’m getting back into my anki deck and studying more seriously. My study time is after he goes to bed. Well, I had a huge pile of cards that were due…and I basically just rescheduled all the due cards as new, deleted some, and set Anki up to only show me only a handful of new cards per day, so I could catch up. I think I would have drowned otherwise, haha…

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_C2XD5DWM65GS4ZVC52AERY2BZU mark

    “Anime can be good too, but for the beginner I’d say listening to real people talk”

    Damn you John, now I will have to study even harder so I can get the status of intermediate and start watching some more anime :)

  • Anonymous

    The link to the “Tofugu Japanese Language Resources Guide” is wrong, under the Don’t Use Romanji section, it leads to a 404 . The review link to Lang-8, under Make Japanese Friends, is also (probably) wrong, its not the review its just a blank-ish normal page, no text. 

    Thanks for these great tips and I agree with everyone of them, I also listen to Japanese TV in the background when doing other things, like making food and cleaning my apartment.  It really helps me get my Japanese brain on, when I’m studying Japanese it kind of feels like I’m thinking and studying differently then how I’m study for other subjects. It’s strange.  

  • Kiriain

    Have you passed any of the JLPT’s. If so, have you done it, drunk?

  • Matt Thorn

    Wow. Pardon me for being blunt, but if you declare that you’ve given up on kanji, you may as well declare that you’ve given up on Japanese. Can you imagine someone claiming to “know” English, yet being unable to read or write the language? Has it ever occurred to you that one reason you “still find Kanji to be impossible to pick up” is because you continue to rely romaji? You’re not a student of Japanese; you’re a dilettante. I seriously hope no struggling students out there take your words to heart. 

    People: unless you want to be like an adult who still has training wheels attached to his mountain bike, drop the romaji once you’ve mastered the kana (which is not that difficult, and shouldn’t take more than a few weeks), and keep plugging away at the kanji. I was a lazy student of Japanese, and even I picked it up. Today, Japanese magazines and newspapers hire me to write essays in Japanese. 

    Claiming that spoken Japanese is “good enough” is like saying a cup with no bottom is good enough. A cup with no bottom is a tube; Japanese without kanji is pale mimicry. It’s like a child who memorizes a Shakespearean soliloquy without understanding its meaning: a cute parlor trick that might earn you a “my-aren’t-you-clever” and a pat on the head, but it won’t earn you a spot at the grown-ups’ table.

  • John

    Hashi and Koichi keep moving things around and changing urls without telling me xD
    Thanks for pointing it out though, lol – I’ll get it fixed up

  • Matt Thorn

    John, excellent advice. I would think that learning Japanese today is (comparatively) easier today than it’s ever been. (Why, back in my day we had to chisel flashcards from the living rock–and we liked it! http://youtu.be/y1_NhnXMCKw

  • Mars

    If you already pick up Japanese women without knowing Japanese, what reason is there to learn, anymore? lol.

  • John

    Thanks! Glad you liked the article.

  • Michael

    Hey, most of my Japanese music is vocaloid… does that still count? A third of their songs sound robotic (but I’ve gotten used to it, is that bad???). But I have no problem transitioning from vocaloid to actual Japanese music like School Food Punishment and Megumi Nakajima.

  • Mars

    “Been studying Japanese for 5 years and can’t read or write, bro. Romaji is totally fine.”

    “Been studying for 3+ years. Currently reading the manga Yotsuba&! Be sure to stay away from that romaji, kids.”

    lol… Seriously…

  • http://www.facebook.com/Casanters Casey Harris

    Cleverer pick up lines in their language.  And you’d be surprised.  I know not only 2000+ kanji from picking it up in my chosen walk of life, but can also read that gyaru-phone language. 

    And I took JLPT n2 after a night of heavy drinking.   And passed.  Barely, but passed. 
    My kanji-reading is great.  My writing…haha.  I have horrible handwriting.  Even worse drunk.

    Passed JLPT n1 with a nasty type of diarrhea.  Also passed the curry that gave it to me, thankfully. 

    I find Japanese is like kung fu.  If you can do it drunk, you’re doing a pretty damn good job.  And you look like a boss.  Sick?  Eh, helps when you whine about…sick.

    Kanji are simple, just have to study them in a context relevant to you. 

    And for the gamers out there?  Pick up a japanese language version of your favorites.  Or nostalgic ones you’ve memorized, like FF-whatever, or Zelda.  You learn cool samples without having to translate. 

    Read magazines, talk to people.  Have fun.  Languages are about communicating.  Do it in the way that’s the most “you.”

  • http://twitter.com/EmpathyArt EmpathyArt☻

    i totally agree with the Romaji statement. That held me back so much! Thanks for the share

  • Matt Thorn

    What you need is immersion. You’re never going to learn Japanese by dabbling (just as I’m never going to learn Japanese Sign Language by dabbling; all those books and DVDs are just gathering dust).

    I started studying Japanese (in earnest) in 1984. I went to Japan as an exchange student in 1985-86. I went back for eight months or so in 1988. I started translating manga professionally in 1990. And, yeah, it definitely helped having a Japanese girlfriend (later wife), though it might have helped more if she hadn’t been fluent in English.

    In my life, I have met maybe two people who became fluent in Japanese without ever living in Japan. Both were already bilingual or multilingual, since childhood, before they started learning Japanese, and they say the brains of such folks are wired differently. For the rest of us muggles, there’s just no substitute for immersion. 

  • Mars

    Easily my favorite person on the internet. +1 to you, sir.

  • Mars

    Oh, and before I forget:

    Somebody just said “Japanese pick up lines”. lol. Please indulge me, just for fun.

  • Matt Thorn

    *”regimen”, not “regiment.” Maybe you can find time to work on your English as well.

    Passing observation: I find that white/black guys who brag about picking up Japanese women tend to be guys who couldn’t get a woman to look at them in their home countries. I knew an exchange student who obsessively picked up Japanese women, and became intensely depressed when, on returning to the States, found that women there treated him like the perfectly average and unremarkable guy he was.

    It should be noted that there is a certain small yet depressingly conspicuous demographic of Japanese women who are only interested in guys who are white. Or black. (There is not much overlap among those interested in whites and those interested in blacks.) These women, unsurprisingly, tend to hang out where white (or black) men congregate. Thus, a white (or black) man may begin to labor under the sad illusion that “Japanese chicks dig him,” when in fact these women would take just about any guy who isn’t obese or butt-ugly, as long as he’s the right color. Ironically (or maybe not), most such women are terrible in English, so I’m sure they’re relieved to find a foreigner (of the right color) who speaks a bit of Japanese. These women also tend to be pinheads who embrace the most laughable stereotypes about white/black guys and the world outside Japan in general.

    Just sayin’. Based on 26 years of observation. (This is one reason I avoid places where foreigners congregate.)

    A better trick is to successfully catch a Japanese person whose first instinct is to *avoid* a foreigner. (-_^)

    Having said that (says Matt, wiping the blood from his shiv), there’s no doubt that romantic involvement with a native speaker can be a huge help. I don’t know from kung fu, but I can say with confidence that if you can have a heated lovers’ quarrel in Japanese, you’re probably doing all right. But then you have the famous problem of picking up the “wrong” gender habits in your spoken Japanese.

    I can also confirm that lots of TV and lots of manga can be as valuable as any “book larnin’,” though the book larnin’ is important, too, if you want to make a good impression in more formal situations. Being overly colloquial in any and all contexts will make you seem like someone who can’t be relied on to do serious work. This is why I think anime is a generally bad way to learn Japanese. The foreign otaku who speaks “anime-ese” is quickly becoming an embarrassing caricature.

  • Anonymous

     Thanks for the great tips! I will share them with my friend that refuses to give up on romanji.

    Personally I use to love smart.fm, the new service isn’t worth paying for where the old free service was. It’s a shame really. I regret paying after they changed software.

  • http://blog.nihonnikonni.com Konni

    Japanese Chiptune-Electro-Metal – what else can you ask for! Awesome recommendation! 本当にありがとう!

  • http://blog.nihonnikonni.com Konni

    Japanese Chiptune-Electro-Metal – what else can you ask for! Awesome recommendation! 本当にありがとう!

  • http://www.facebook.com/Casanters Casey Harris

    I pick up women where ever I am.   Even in the states.  I picked up the habit long before I came to Japan.

    And my English is horrible.  I don’t deny that.  Or try to butter it up. 

    And I pride myself in my ability to fight and argue in Japanese.  And win. 

    And I picked up most of my conversational Japanese from male friends that call you a pussy for using them womenfolk words.  Makes things work out better. 

    My friends are all assholes that do that kind of thing.  Which is probably why I get better quickly.

    It’s like spell check.  They do it even on mixi/facebook/in response to texts.

    Formal Japanese is a weak point.  Because I have the nasty habit most people my age do of just sticking っす on the end of normal sentences.  Even tossing 俺 into the mix.
     And that slurred ねぇ thing for negative verbs/adjectives.   I have also not used the verb 食べる in a very long time.  Forsaking even 食べ物 as 食い物.

    Toss in a few rolled Rs, spices of Kansai-ben,  and I speak like any 21-year old Japanese guy.

    I also mix in English to show off.  And for stupid things, too.  Like “nice” and “thank you.” 

    Speaking to/texting to/hanging out with Japanese people Japan-ifies  your Japanese.  TV/Radio/Magazines/Manga all help to round it out .

    I do agree that Anime is probably a bad idea for study.  Manga being much better, because it atleast gives you kanji and readings for them.

  • http://blog.nihonnikonni.com Konni

    Interesting article and, apart from the odd trolling here and there, also very helpful comments. The things you pointed out make me believe that I should be on a good way to become fluent in Japanese, as all of them apply to me. And I absolutely second your position about romaji, John: they’re the devil! I too had to use a textbook that was full of them for the first two years of my study, and I started relying on them too much. Too much! And also, Japanese is written in Japanese script(s) for a reason: it just becomes way more legible! Just compare 文部科学書 and Monbukagakusho. Which one can you read out loud faster? (Given you know the kanji…)

  • http://blog.nihonnikonni.com Konni

    Interesting article and, apart from the odd trolling here and there, also very helpful comments. The things you pointed out make me believe that I should be on a good way to become fluent in Japanese, as all of them apply to me. And I absolutely second your position about romaji, John: they’re the devil! I too had to use a textbook that was full of them for the first two years of my study, and I started relying on them too much. Too much! And also, Japanese is written in Japanese script(s) for a reason: it just becomes way more legible! Just compare 文部科学書 and Monbukagakusho. Which one can you read out loud faster? (Given you know the kanji…)

  • http://blog.nihonnikonni.com Konni

    Interesting article and, apart from the odd trolling here and there, also very helpful comments. The things you pointed out make me believe that I should be on a good way to become fluent in Japanese, as all of them apply to me. And I absolutely second your position about romaji, John: they’re the devil! I too had to use a textbook that was full of them for the first two years of my study, and I started relying on them too much. Too much! And also, Japanese is written in Japanese script(s) for a reason: it just becomes way more legible! Just compare 文部科学書 and Monbukagakusho. Which one can you read out loud faster? (Given you know the kanji…)

  • Sotiris Oikonomidis

    Thanks, I’ll check it out!

  • Anonymous
  • Tiffany Harvey

    It’s nice to hear I’m not alone! I think putting in all of the work to catch up twice & falling behind again burnt me out pretty bad with Anki, but I think I’m going to have to get over it. I just need to make sure to do my review every day so it doesn’t get overwhelming again. Right now I’m going through RTK & reviewing all my Kanji, because if I don’t remember those I can’t read anything. I’m almost through & need to plan my next step.

  • Anonymous

     I noticed the smart phone apps listed are iphone, so I thought I’d share some droid ones I’ve found useful:

     * AnkiDroid:  http://code.google.com/p/ankidroid/wiki/Index
     * WWWJDIC:  https://market.android.com/details?id=org.nick.wwwjdic&hl=en
     * Master Hiragana: https://market.android.com/details?id=com.casmogames.JapaneseHiragana
     * Master Katakana: https://market.android.com/details?id=com.casmogames.JapaneseKatakana

    AnkiDroid is the smart phone app for anki. It’s great for on the go vocab. In line? Study. Boring meeting? Study. On the elavator? Study. :)

    WWWJDIC is the smart phone app for the wwwjdic website. Both are great dictionaries.

    Master Hiragana/Katakana are both great for practicing what they are intended for, but they have an extra feature I found invaluable. You can switch the font of the characters you’re studying. Some look like text book hiragana/katakana others look like sloppy hand writing that you might see in manga, on an ad, or other places, some look highly stylized, and when you’re done practicing with these there won’t be a weird way to write a character that you haven’t seen before. I downloaded these shortly before my first Japan trip, but hadn’t had a lot of time with them. I quickly found the text book fonts didn’t prepare me for what was on the streets. I started using this app heavily, and in a day or so I was fine.

  • John

    Somehow it’s still free for me, haha

  • John

    Somehow it’s still free for me, haha

  • John

    Awesome. Thanks for sharing!

  • John

    Awesome. Thanks for sharing!

  • John

    Not bad!

  • John

    Not bad!

  • http://twitter.com/xharmony harmony

    You just need more practice reading, that’s all. I was god awful slow after I first learned kana. Now I can read Japanese as fast as English (assuming I’m not getting tripped up on unknown vocab/grammar), but it took practice to get there.  It’s painful and slow at first, but it’ll happen.

  • http://twitter.com/nicksitruc nick

    I feel like I can write pretty well, however when it comes to speaking or putting sentences together quickly I am very bad at it.   What do you recommend to become faster at this?  I have a japanese friend I am teaching english and she helps me with Japanese but I always get stuck and feel like I am wasting her time.  Do you know of any good learning exercises that are good for two people?

  • Jon E.

    Did you screencap and then crop to get the pictures into Anki?

  • あんじぃ

    I chisel my flashcards out of the living rock and I love it. Granted, I’ve been “dabbling” for 9 months and haven’t learned katakana yet. In my defense I know my hiragana, roughly 25 kanji and can read children’s manga; along with working full time night shift.

  • Jon E.

    YUI~! She really enunciates super clearly in almost all of her songs, doesn’t she?? She’s probably the most easily-understandable Japanese musician I’ve ever had the pleasure of listening to, out of the hundreds I have on my zune.

  • Jon E.

    Thanks for the android apps!

  • http://hatchjapan.wordpress.com/ ざっちー

    This is one of the bands I mentioned in the Princess Ghibli post (btw, I’ve listened to the album a little less than a million-ish times). Fear, and Loathing are the type of Japanese music I’ve been searching for forever, too. Rock/Electronic/screamo. The problem is, FaLiLV seem to sing in English a lot. But the fact that there is a band like this gives me hope that there is an underground scene with a variety in a similar range.

  • http://hatchjapan.wordpress.com/ ざっちー

    I wish I had learned the KANA by seeing the Japanese character while hearing the native pronunciation. No ROMAJI at all. No English referrals. That way, I would’ve been 100% reliant on listening and developed a real sense of what sounds exist in the language. Even now, I know all my Japanese is based on an English background and there’s nothing I can do to change that, which kinda sucks.
    It might take longer, but, in the long run, I think that method would yield the most native like results.

    Whenever I see Japanese words in ROMAJI, I find it harder to read in general. There are twice as many characters [plus SHI, TSU, CHI, etc.], and I find myself trying to pronounce them with English emphasis. 
    Plus, I think the Japanese characters just look more B.A. and would rather tickle my face-balls with the sights of those.

  • John

    Basically, yeah.

  • John

    Just keep talking to each other and pick up new vocab wherever you can!

  • Syhyulki

    I used to remember the days of the week in japanese wih the song Weeek by NEWs. It was fun, but fast :x.

  • Meeks

    This will probably be something for your more upper intermediate to advance group but when I’m just goofing around on the net or waiting for someone or something I like to go here, http://japanese-speedtest.10-fast-fingers.com/ , and see what kanji I can remember and how fast I can type in Japanese.

  • Tawlar98

    Sometimes listening to Japanese too much can mess up your English. I was in a restraunt once practicing Japanese phrases inside of my head, and the waiter came to take our order, and I pronounced the name of my dish totally wrong.

  • http://twitter.com/Tyriar Daniel Imms

    The whole romaji is bad thing comes down to avoiding to learn kana/kanji properly I feel. If you get rid of all romaji (like I’ve tried to do) your kana reading speed will increase naturally. I’ve been at it for 6 months at uni and feel miles ahead of my class in kanji/kana reading speed because I practice reading/writing more and avoid romaji where ever possible.
    It’s not like there’s a special trick to it, Japanese kids learn by having nothing else available, so do the same. If you have time of course!

  • http://twitter.com/Tyriar Daniel Imms

    One of my friends didn’t understand a word that I used the other day and reposted it to me in romaji and it looked so foreign to me, whereas I would read it no problems in katakana. webbudeberoppaa yuck

  • http://twitter.com/Tyriar Daniel Imms

    One of my friends didn’t understand a word that I used the other day and reposted it to me in romaji and it looked so foreign to me, whereas I would read it no problems in katakana. webbudeberoppaa yuck

  • http://twitter.com/Tyriar Daniel Imms

    http://www.jpopasia.com/ I use that site a little to find groups I like.

  • http://twitter.com/Tyriar Daniel Imms

    http://www.jpopasia.com/ I use that site a little to find groups I like.

  • http://twitter.com/Tyriar Daniel Imms

    JED: https://market.android.com/details?id=com.umibouzu.jed&feature=search_result

    Really good dictionary, one thing I’ve found particularly useful as a beginner is it doesn’t just have the base forms. You can look up nomu, nomimasu, nomanai, etc. and they will all take you to the same page. It also has stroke order which is always useful if you want to look it up where you’re away from your computer.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Michi79kw Michi Kunugi-Wang

    I learned my kana but still read at an extremely slow pace. Once I quit using romaji and actually started taking my notes in kana I saw a huge improvement in my reading ability. This means actually writing out the words I’m learning by hand and after a while the letters start to make more sense. This has also helped greatly with defining the difference between the ones that look a lot alike such as  シ ,ツ, ン , and ソ. I also suggest fully learning the kana before trying to learn any other Japanese kanji or vocabulary. If you have an iPhone I found the  app below to be really helpful and it’s a good way to practice stroke order. I actually still use this sometimes to test my katakana because I don’t use it that much and don’t want to forget it.

    http://www.epochrypha.com/kanacomplete/

  • http://twitter.com/Adelaide_Ben AdelaideBen

    Very much appreciated your post…. lots of good stuff in there.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1652419195 Travis Dove

    Yo, I got some しつもん!

    1. Did you study abroad in Japan? 
    2. If so, how long?
    3. If so, what did you do about your economics major and engineering minor? Were there classes offered or did you just take a bunch of Japanese courses?

    ありがとう!

  • John

    Started watching the first season the other day. I like it so far! Thanks for the recommendation. 

  • John

    I studied abroad in Kobe last spring for 10 weeks. I just took 15 credits worth of Japanese pretty much. 5 language, 5 culture, and like 5 study abroad credit. I just put everything else on hold for a quarter because I didn’t want to pass up the opportunity. 

  • Kansaijesse

    I wish I had more Japanese male friends. Plenty of female friends which has its own benefits, but male friends to pick up male speech would be awesome.  Thankfully my Japanese female friends are quick to point out how much of a girl I sound like and they correct me.  So, at least I’m very lucky in that department.

  • clc88

    i knew listening to this isnt a waste of time
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dNHitUDJ1zo

  • Anonymous

    Very useful post John. I’ve found that “listening to as much Japanese…” coupled with “consistency” can get you pretty far. Sometimes it’s frustrating, not the learning part, that’s fun. The frustrating part is that you want to know more and you want to know it now! But as Koichiせんせい put it once “In Japanese, it’s all about the small victories.”

    Remember in “The Karate Kid” when Danielさん busted out moves and he didn’t even realize he was doing them as if it was berating or 2nd nature? At some point learning Japanese starts to be like that. You start with “です” (at least in TextFugu) and before you know it you are conversing with your Japanese friends, even if it’s small talk or basic sentences/questions, it’s still great practice.

  • Anonymous

    Very useful post John. I’ve found that “listening to as much Japanese…” coupled with “consistency” can get you pretty far. Sometimes it’s frustrating, not the learning part, that’s fun. The frustrating part is that you want to know more and you want to know it now! But as Koichiせんせい put it once “In Japanese, it’s all about the small victories.”

    Remember in “The Karate Kid” when Danielさん busted out moves and he didn’t even realize he was doing them as if it was berating or 2nd nature? At some point learning Japanese starts to be like that. You start with “です” (at least in TextFugu) and before you know it you are conversing with your Japanese friends, even if it’s small talk or basic sentences/questions, it’s still great practice.

  • Anonymous

    Very useful post John. I’ve found that “listening to as much Japanese…” coupled with “consistency” can get you pretty far. Sometimes it’s frustrating, not the learning part, that’s fun. The frustrating part is that you want to know more and you want to know it now! But as Koichiせんせい put it once “In Japanese, it’s all about the small victories.”

    Remember in “The Karate Kid” when Danielさん busted out moves and he didn’t even realize he was doing them as if it was berating or 2nd nature? At some point learning Japanese starts to be like that. You start with “です” (at least in TextFugu) and before you know it you are conversing with your Japanese friends, even if it’s small talk or basic sentences/questions, it’s still great practice.

  • Seline

    I totally agree with the “listen to Japanese to learn” part. Japanese music is what got me interested in learning the language, and I was already familiar with the different language sounds (like how ふ is pronounced like “hu” and “fu” mixed together and the characters that begin with a t sound are kinda like the Spanish t). I could see that my Japanese sounded a lot more authentic when I was already exposed to it. Also, a lot of Japanese songs have English words in them. Sometimes those same words are in Japanese in the song. It helps for learning a bit of vocabulary once you’ve already learned the fundamentals of a sentence.

  • Anonymous

    Just like those people who work on improving their English pronunciation, you can work on improving your Japanese pronunciation. There are many books available for improving your pronunciation such as コミュニケーションのための日本語発音レッスン from Amazon.jp. Good luck in creating that B.A. Japanese.

  • Jason

    How much Japanese do you read/listen to everyday?? I’m not talking stupid textbook, I’m talking actual Japanese novels/magazines, websites and stuff like that.

  • Anonymous

    Hey John. Nicely written post!
    I was like you. Completely immersed myself in Anime and manga through the last few years of elementary school. Got obsessed with jdramas in high school and started watching variety shows not soon after. Immersion works wonders. 
    I took a one year Japanese course after high school and by then I’ve sung so much Anime songs that I had no accent. I don’t pursue Japanese professionally but I’ve been dying to go to Japan.

    Lately I’ve noticed that I’ve developed an odd sort of accent when I speak Japanese. I think I should find a Japanese buddy who can webcam with me. Not sure where to find that.

    Regarding learning Japanese through romanji. I learnt how to read romanji lyrics to sing Anime songs. I learnt hiragana reading Japanese lyrics that romanji versions weren’t available. I once picked up japanese textbooks where most of the instruction was through romanji. I was dumbfounded that people actually expect students to _learn_ Japanese through romanji. I honestly don’t think it can be done.

  • Anonymous

    Hey John. Nicely written post!
    I was like you. Completely immersed myself in Anime and manga through the last few years of elementary school. Got obsessed with jdramas in high school and started watching variety shows not soon after. Immersion works wonders. 
    I took a one year Japanese course after high school and by then I’ve sung so much Anime songs that I had no accent. I don’t pursue Japanese professionally but I’ve been dying to go to Japan.

    Lately I’ve noticed that I’ve developed an odd sort of accent when I speak Japanese. I think I should find a Japanese buddy who can webcam with me. Not sure where to find that.

    Regarding learning Japanese through romanji. I learnt how to read romanji lyrics to sing Anime songs. I learnt hiragana reading Japanese lyrics that romanji versions weren’t available. I once picked up japanese textbooks where most of the instruction was through romanji. I was dumbfounded that people actually expect students to _learn_ Japanese through romanji. I honestly don’t think it can be done.

  • Anonymous

    Hey John. Nicely written post!
    I was like you. Completely immersed myself in Anime and manga through the last few years of elementary school. Got obsessed with jdramas in high school and started watching variety shows not soon after. Immersion works wonders. 
    I took a one year Japanese course after high school and by then I’ve sung so much Anime songs that I had no accent. I don’t pursue Japanese professionally but I’ve been dying to go to Japan.

    Lately I’ve noticed that I’ve developed an odd sort of accent when I speak Japanese. I think I should find a Japanese buddy who can webcam with me. Not sure where to find that.

    Regarding learning Japanese through romanji. I learnt how to read romanji lyrics to sing Anime songs. I learnt hiragana reading Japanese lyrics that romanji versions weren’t available. I once picked up japanese textbooks where most of the instruction was through romanji. I was dumbfounded that people actually expect students to _learn_ Japanese through romanji. I honestly don’t think it can be done.

  • MovementAndTime

    Awsome! thanks. =O

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  • http://anordinaryjpopaddict.blogspot.com/ Angi

    Thanks a lot for this entrie.
    It is a lot of help for a beginner like me! ^-^

  • Anonymous

    “Using English characters to represent the Japanese language will encourage you to speak with an English accent.”

    I am sorry to disappoint you but romaji are not english characters, it’s latin characters…

  • Anonymous

    “Using English characters to represent the Japanese language will encourage you to speak with an English accent.”

    I am sorry to disappoint you but romaji are not english characters, it’s latin characters…

  • kukisvoomchor

    You have a good point there (what the heck — I’m in the habit of calling them “Roman” characters), but technically that’s not correct since during those intervening centuries English added J [as distinguished from I], U [as distinguished from V), and W.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000321010101 Tom Landry

    Great job with this article. It has really helped me focus more. Lately I have been watching Japanese game shows and they are awesome.

  • DamienSan

    Wrong.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Latin_alphabet#Medieval_and_later_developments

    J for example comes from germany, moreover, the english one comes from french

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J#History
    “therefore, English J, acquired from the French J, ”

    Now if you want to speak about the letter usage:
    “Like J, K, Q, W, and Y, V is not used very frequently in English. However, it appears frequently in the Spanish (where its pronunciation is the same as B) and French languages.”

    Still, it’s latin alphabet but not english one. That was the point in my post. American people always think they invented everything. Another proof of that today.

  • Anonymous

    I just take it as it comes! The hardest part for me was getting started. I outright refused to learn anything that I couldn’t write, so I took very few, if any, notes in romaji. At the same time, that made hiragana a little groundless and a bit harder. It felt great when I could read without using my notebook for reference, though! I was less disciplined with katakana, I sort of skimmed the table a few times and then just looked them up whenever I forgot them.
    Learning kanji has been a tad directionless, but now that I’ve gotten a bunch down, it’s easier because I’ll often see words made up of one or more kanji I know and maybe one that I don’t. Usually if I see one a whole lot, I’ll take that direction to take note of it and practice it. Lang-8 helps a lot too!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Joshua-Mcdowell/1071311934 Joshua Mcdowell

    John, how do you recommend finding un-translated manga for reading/downloading on the computer? I really like the idea of screen-capping it into ANKI cards but everything I’ve been able to find is “scan-lated.” And while we’re on the subject, any recs for being able to read manga on theiPad (in Japanese as well, of course)?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Joshua-Mcdowell/1071311934 Joshua Mcdowell

    If that were true, he would’ve referred to them as American characters. 

    Thank you for enlightening us all DamienSan (I’m sorry to disappoint you but NO ONE refers to him or herself as -san) but I think he only meant it as letters from the English language.

  • John

    Google is your friend. That’s about all I can tell you, lol. Just search for RAW versions of whatever manga you’re looking for. I’m sure it depends on how popular the manga is you’re looking for though. I don’t have an iPad, but can’t you do something like importing PDFs and use it like an ereader or something? I’m sure there’s tutorials online or something. Best of luck!

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  • Tam

    Great article! I need to find a Romaji detox or something, because that’s my crutch, and it’s really keeping me for progressing in mt studies… Ugh… I know I need to stop using it, but it makes it so easy… Any suggestions?

  • Tam

    Great idea, Daniel! I going to try that – bye bye romaji!!
    Thanks!

  • Tam

    Great idea, Daniel! I going to try that – bye bye romaji!!
    Thanks!

  • Tam

    Great idea, Daniel! I going to try that – bye bye romaji!!
    Thanks!

  • John

    Just stop using it. It shouldn’t be hard for you to quit it especially
    if you recognize what a hindrance it is to your progression.

    Just stop using romaji altogether.

  • Kaname

    Asian Kung Fu Generation is up there for me…. I guess all you guys already knew about them though.

  • Perry Eubank

    My fav:
    おまえのはの間にのりがある”you have some seaweed in your teeth.”

  • John

    lol, yeah I just meant using the same characters that speakers/writers of the English language use whether they be American, English, Australian or otherwise.

  • http://twitter.com/1500Itachis 1500Itachis

    Thank you for this article!
    I am realy interested in japanese and began to learn it on my own first (a bit^^)
    the more i learned, the more i liked and was interested in it O.o
    i will learn hiragana and katakana first and **** on romaji as fast as i can :D
    romaji was confusing me too and EXACTLY the way you said it ”arigato, arigatou, arigatō”
    i didnt understand it and tried to form some logic out of it xD
    Listening to very much japanese wont be a problem, i realy love the ”sound” of this language

    like always: sorry for my unperfect english, hope you could understand it^^’
    THANK YOU JOHN