December 3

How to Learn Japanese Quickly

As the saying goes, “Good things come to those who wait.” But we’re living in the age of one day delivery, hot-n-ready pizza, and swiping right to find life partners – ain’t nobody got time for learning an entire language before they can use it. You need to learn Japanese quickly.

You need tactics

Like, street-level, tried-and-true-strategy tactics.

We got you.

There are a lot of different ways to learn Japanese, and not all of them are created equal. Some are much faster.

These are the ones we want to capitalize on. Some people may try to convince you that you should take it slow, by pelting you with some Tortoise and the Hare BS, warning that rushing your Japanese learning experience will result in some sort of disastrous situation. I’m here to tell you that that’s just not true. Be the hare.

I mean, be honest. If you’re playing Mario Kart, are you going to skip the shortcut just because your little brother tells you that winning that way is cheating? Hell no! You’re gonna hop of the edge of the Rainbow Road and get yourself that much closer to your goal, the finish line (or in this case, functional Japanese).

Today we’re going to talk about three ways to crush your Japanese study quickly. No more wasting time taking the full track when you’ve got shortcuts right in front of you. Your bag of tricks will be your key to making huge language gains in ever shorter timeframes once you get the hang of this.

#1 Make mistakes

“Haha, yeah, just go start talking in Japanese, right?”

Yes, exactly that. It’s not a joke. There’s a general consensus among average language learners that you need to master some amount of input synthesis before you ‘graduate’ to the output stage.

That’s your inner sheep talking, when you actually need to go full Tyler Durden on yourself and get uncomfortable.

Benny (The Irish Polyglot) from Fluent in 3 Months talks about this in an episode he did recently with Steve Chou from the “My Wife Quit Her Job” podcast.

Mistakes are golden

The gist of this is that you immediately run into mistakes and issues, and are forced to power through them. Instead of wasting months to get to the point where you can say, “excuse me, could you please point me in the direction of the nearest washroom,” you start out with, “where is toilet?” and start engaging in actual discourse.

This creates momentum. It often creates confusion and awkwardness, but THAT is why it helps things stick. The other person might rephrase what you said to try and clarify, and BOOM, that’s your go-to phrase for that situation from now on.

So instead of spending potentially months to get to the point where you can say the thing nicely, instead you get on-the-spot feedback to your 2 word sentence and you begin to grow your language skills.

This writer has personally benefited from this tactic when I was trying to learn Japanese quickly as a new exchange student in Tokyo maaaany moons ago. I’d walk up to staff in stores/train stations (sorry, captive audience) and ask questions about products, schedules, locations, and all sorts of stuff. Especially if I already knew the answer – that way I could start tying what they said to what I knew and make some solid mental connections.

#2 Don't set goals. Set patterns.

If you’re trying to learn Japanese quickly, you need focus. You need a strategy. You need… nah, I’m just messing with you.

You do need focus and some willpower, but to learn Japanese quickly, it’s more about consistency than having the world’s best textbook and a laser-honed project plan.

So many Japanese learners, especially as they crest the beginner stage and start to feel progress towards a more intermediate level, start to set hefty goals for themselves.

“I’m going to have 500 kanji under my belt by summer.”

“I’m going to get my N3 this year!”

“My high school sweetheart is going to see my fluency in Japanese and come back to me…”

These are fine. Like, you should probably just move on if you’re still thinking about your old bf or gf, but you do you. Goals are great, and they give you direction.

However, the danger of having goals like these is they start to feel attainable right from the get-go.

That’s great, though, right?

Not necessarily so.

People tend to slow down before they cross the finish line

So let’s say you’re aiming for N3 this year. That’s awesome, and you should definitely do it.

However, the goal can’t be the goal. Make sense? It’s a measure.

If you were to say that N3 was your measure of progress, then your goal should be the pattern of habits you put in place to get there. Studying a bit every day. Crossing rows off of you kanji poster set each week. Hanging out in online Japanese chat groups or games with Discord.

By engaging with the language consistently, you’ll be on the right path to learn Japanese quickly. On the other hand, if you know you have 3 months until your test, you might skip a week. You might skip a month because, “oh, I can catch up on study later and still be fine.”

Been there, done that. Doesn’t work. You won’t learn Japanese quickly. You’ll cram to get your cert and have no long term skills to show for it.

#3 Learn to love kanji

Yeah, so you’re still checking how to read ラ again on your phone in a moment of need at the train station because you haven’t seen it in a while, and here I am telling you to love kanji. It can feel daunting and impossible.

But in all honesty, it is the ONE thing that separates people who spend years studying to no real avail from those who actually learn Japanese quickly.

By getting to know kanji – to really know them – is the secret sauce that makes learning Japanese feel manageable.

Yes there’s still tricky grammar.

Yes there’s keigo.

Yes, you’ll still flub your words on a date or in a meeting.

But the number one thing you can start doing immediately to set yourself up for success and to learn Japanese quickly is to make kanji part of your study “diet”.

Just do it. Read them, write them, copy them, do all the painful stuff that makes them stick in your head. More than anything, don’t skip over them when you are exposed to them because, “oh, I’ll learn that later when I’m ready.”

You’re ready now. In fact, as soon as hiragana and katakana feel reasonably comfortable to you as a learner, you should start incorporating kanji. It’s that important to you successfully learning Japanese quickly.

If there’s one type of person I have met a lot of in Japan, it’s the long-term, functional speaker who is illiterate at best outside of menus and the station names on their commute.

The magic that happens when you are comfortable engaging with kanji is that you can start to (at least kind of) read everything around you and online. It’s amazing.

You will inevitably start out in a place where every kanji or every other kanji results in a dictionary lookup, but that exact pain is what will force your mind to just accept them and their multiple readings. Then you will be free to start taking on input at a pace faster than you imagined possible.

If the above tricks make sense to you, here’s a bit of a curveball (at least coming from a self-study proponent).

Bonus #4: Get yourself enrolled in an intensive Japanese language school

“Wow, so you’re telling me if I study in a Japanese language school, I’ll learn quicker? What a hot tip.

No, for real though. If you’re absolutely committed to learning Japanese as fast as possible, I would argue that most language learners will never learn as much as they will by committing to being in country in an intensive language program.

Listen, people learn all sorts of ways. If you told me you met a guy who’s friend became totally fluent in Japanese in a year just from online self study, who am I to say he’s a liar? Maybe he’s a unicorn. It does happen.

But quite frankly, as someone who has actually benefitted from intensive study at a language school in Tokyo, it does make a difference. It kind of forces people like me (distracted, ambitious in many projects all at once, and some would even say reasonably attractive) to just bear down and get through the tricky bits of Japanese.

It is a ticket to learn Japanese quickly IF YOU COMMIT AND DON’T SLACK.

Plus, you’ll be in Japan, which is more than half the battle as a Japanese learner.

For more information on this topic, check out our guide on how to choose the language school that is right for you.

We’re here today however, not to talk about taking time to choose the perfect language school to suit your learning needs.

No, we’re here to kick names and take ass.

You need an intensive study school. (Check them out here)

I’m talkin’ twelve hours a day, six days a week, piles upon piles of homework…

Well, maybe not that intense, but you get the idea. You need to find a language school that is going to help you learn a lot of Japanese in a short period of time. Generally these schools are going to have fast curriculums and full weeks, focused on pounding as much information into your skull as humanely possible.

Japanese is a Category IV language. This means that it takes about 88 weeks, or 2,200 hours in order to become proficient. Intensive language courses generally try to get you about half-way there, in a quarter of the time.

This is often done through various methods, including full immersion. This means that everything you do, from speaking, to taking a dump is going to be done in Japanese. The downside of this is that the “full immersion” is a bit of a facade. It’s created by forcing everyone around you to do everything in Japanese as well. The only problem is, the people around you are taking an intensive language course as well, so they might just suck at Japanese too.

You will get out of a program like this, what you put into it. You can’t just show up and expect to benefit. If you’re intent on learning Japanese quickly, get thee to a proper Japanese language school and dive headfirst into the language for at least 3 months. Future-you will thank today-you.

We're excited to be partnering with Japanese schools across Japan next year.

COVID-19 has sucked. We get it. If you wanted to get to Japan for vacation, work, or study in 2020, odds are those plans got cancelled.

That's why we are partnering with major Japanese schools throughout the country in 2021 to be able to provide the connections you need to succeed.

Interested? Sign in below to receive emails from Risu Press and be first on the list to know when our Japanese School Connection Program is launching. No spam, just the info you're looking for. Promise.

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