I get emails every day about how to learn Japanese. Usually they are very specific – “I’m a beginner wanting to focus on conversational Japanese. Which textbook would you recommend?” or “Do you know of any CDs or DVDs for beginners to practice listening comprehension?”. These are excellent questions and I usually spend about an hour a day answering them. But occasionally (for example this morning) I get emails like this one:

hey im from texas and i was going to go to japan when i graduate from highschool and i wanted to know what japanize people are saying and to tell them what im saying but in japanize. so can u please teach me how to speak japanize ? thank u

(an actual email unedited – name and email withheld as to not embarrass the author 10 years down the road)
This is an example of how not to write a question. Allow me to translate:

Please give me a magic pill that when swallowed, I will be able to speak Japanese

Folks, there is no magic pill, but learning Japanese isn’t difficult either. It just takes time. It may seem difficult just as walking a thousand miles seems difficult. But really, it is just a series of many, many single -and easy- steps over a long period of time.
My advice to the above beginner is this:
1) Buy a textbook – just about any one will do, but find one you like. See here for comparisons.
2) Collect favorite phrases and words and memorize them (get a notepad to jot them down)
3) Study your textbook and your favorite phrases consistently.
4) Practice with real, live people (preferably native speakers, but other learners are also great)
5) Repeat #2, #3 and #4

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