New to Japanese Advice

Some basic advice for beginners just starting out with Japanese

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Learning a foreign language is a fantastic journey. It can however be intimidating at first. But if you are diligent, the intimidation quickly turns into excitement!

Basically the majority opinion for beginners is: 1) get a textbook and 2) learn Hiragana (& Katakana)


There are tons of resources for learning Japanese (and other languages) avaliable FREE on the web and elsewhere. Buy a good textbook to follow, but resist the temptation to go overboard and buy anything that says ‘Learn Japanese’. Genki is undoubtedly the most popular now, but read about the pros and cons on many textbooks by our own Infidel. After you have a good textbook in hand, look around! The internet is full of good, FREE information ( and much bad, free information also!). If you don’t live in Japan, find an exchange student and make him or her a conversation partner. Foreign students are often very eager to practice English and they will trade off by speaking a little Japanese with you.

A few Popular Textbooks
(Click to read about each one)

Genki Japanese TextbookJapanese for Busy People TextbookMinna no Nihongo Japanese TextbookJapanese for Everyone Textbook

Take a look at our online shop for more recommendations


“Japanese is one of the most difficult languages in the world!”

So, why should you study Japanese?

  • Its FUN!

  • Simple conversational skills can be learned in a short period of time – really!

  • Japan has a rich culture which can become a lifetime interest

  • Japanese is spoken or studied by millions of people

  • Very few non-Japanese have mastered the language – Could you be one of the few?

If you make the language fun the ease or difficulty of learning the language really is not a factor.

Let’s look at the Japanese language:

Written Japanese consists of 3 writing systems

  • HIRAGANA – Hiragana & Katakana are phonetic “alphabets.”

  • KATAKANA – Very similar to Hiragana but with harder angles (used mainly to write foreign words and names phonetically)

  • KANJI – Adapted from China many, many years ago. You only need to know two thousand of these suckers to be totally literate in Japan! <But don’t worry! with only a few hundred under your belt, you can read quite a lot >

When writing, all three systems are mixed together. This may sound frightening to the new student, but there are specific rules they follow. For example: Kanji are used mainly for the roots of words and the rest of the word is Hiragana. (An English illustration: the root of ‘establishment’ is ‘establish’ which would be written in Kanji, the left over ‘ment’ would be written in Hiragana.) Foreign loan-words are almost always written in Katakana.


Well, first you may want to take a look at our introduction to Japanese video:

Then take a little 10 question quiz to test your basic knowledge of Japanese! You may be surprised! Also there is a 15 minute crash course into Japanese here (includes the above video)

To begin your official Japanese language studies, I suggest starting with Hiragana (unless you are going to Japan soon, in which case Katakana may perhaps be more immediately useful). For Hiragana go here . It is possible to learn in as short as 2 weeks if you study & review everyday.

After that find stuff that interest you, whether it be here or elsewhere (we prefer here of course!). The purpose of this site is to encourage people to learn interesting Japanese together. Pop into the forums and introduce yourself. If you have any questions many people on the forums will be happy to help, but please do a quick search to see if your question hasn’t already been answered a hundred times. 🙂

Here are a few pages that are of interest to the beginner:


  • Rikai-chan – If you use Firefox, use this to instantly get word translations
  • Japanese Learning Suite – by our own Phreadom! (Excellent FREE software for learning vocabulary and grammar)


What to do Next?

See our Japanese in 15 minutes page

or facebook your comment here! 😀




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