Learning to speak Japanese

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I started learning Japanese over a year ago and struggled to grasp their difficult alphabets and their word order.  Unlike English, Japanese orders their sentences with the subject, then the object, and finally the verb.  You have to listen intently since you won’t know what the action of the sentence is until the very last word spoken.  In English, we generally understand a sentence within the first few spoken words.

I found it very difficult for the first year, making little progress after the initial few months.  I have discovered that I made more progress in the last two months than the previous 6 months by solely watching Japanese television programming and movies.  I feel textbooks are very effective for learning the basic grammar rules and memorizing the alphabet.  You should also have a grasp of the most commonly used verbs, adjectives and nouns.  If your main goal is not learning to write Japanese I would stop using your time memorizing textbooks.  I found that watching an hour of Japanese progamming daily and occassionally referencing textbooks to be more a more effective method of learning.  Now, as I watch programming, I can’t always understand every word, but I know what the sentences mean.

The good news is that Japanese programming is readily available on the internet.  As long as an American company has not bought licensing rights for US distribution, it is legal to download Japanese television programs.  While watching these programs, you will see a vast difference in the words spoken than what most textbooks have you learn.  Textbooks generally are teaching you formal Japanese while most programs use an informal Japanese.  While I don’t discourage using textbooks, I have found that training yourself to hear Japanese and then learning the grammar to be a highly effective way of learning. 


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