Can Anybody Learn To Speak Japanese?

You don’t have to be born in Japan to learn how to speak Japanese. The truth is anybody can learn to speak this intricate, beautiful language. You may never rid yourself totally of your accent, but anyone who puts in the time and effort can become fluent. Understanding and speaking a foreign (even exotic!) language like Japanese is an amazing experience.  The pool of resources, knowledge, books, movies, music, etc for you to enjoy doubles.  It is an asset that may become quite useful to you in travel, for business, or just singing karaoke or watching anime. 

If you think you’re ready to learn Japanese, here are a few things to consider during your first few weeks. Your early studies will include hiragana and katakana, basic Japanese grammar, understanding Japanese sentence structure, and learning common Japanese phrases. All of these are important components for the beginning student of the Japanese language.

Once you are able to read the Japanese kana (hiragana and katakana) and have a sound grasp of Japanese grammar and sentence structure, you can begin creating sentences yourself. If you have friends who speak Japanese, try bouncing off a few of your creations on them.  If not, join our forums and try writing a few sentences for others to review.  Above all, read whenever possible.

One crucial aspect in knowing how to speak Japanese is mastering the five vowel sounds.  All other sounds in Japanese (except n) are based on the five vowel sounds. For those familiar with Spanish, this may be fairly easy since the sounds are very similar if not identical.

Because Japanese uses syllabaries—a single character is usually a syllable like a consonant and a vowel in the English alphabet—and not alphabets, it has many fewer sounds than the English language. This makes pronouncing Japanese fairly easy although there are a few difficult sounds not found in English.

Japanese also has different degrees of politeness. With a slight change in conjugation a sentence can be formal, normal, or rude. It is key to learn the difference between these degrees of politeness so that you do not mistakenly insult another individual. Most textbooks will teach everyday polite language.  It is best to stick with that until you have mastered the basics and can recognize when it is appropriate to speak otherwise.

Learning to speak this language is just like learning any other. It takes time, patience, and practice. There are many excellent Japanese textbooks out there (see here for a list of a few), and as a supplement, websites like ours help learners learn Japanese online and connect people with other learners. Every student is different, but when you soundly grasp basic vocabulary and grammar of the language, you will be able to learn to speak it much faster. Textbooks are an essential way to do this in a logical and step-by-step way.  Japanese may seem difficult to learn, but once you get started you will see that it is no different than learning any other language. Before you know it, you’ll be able to speak the language and interact with other individuals who can speak it as well.

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