Japanese is so difficult – you might enjoy it

Japanese is so difficult - you might enjoy it

Japanese is easier than you might think! Looking at a Japanese newspaper, one may think it is impossible to learn this language. I for sure did and still here I am speaking Japanese at work everyday now.

How long does it take to become fluent in Japanese? Is it difficult? Learning any language requires enduring effort, hours of studying, and lots of conversation practice. We all know that. Studying any language probably takes more hours than you care to count. So maybe we should ask a different question.

How much do you want it?

If you still want an answer, Japanese schools do put a price and time tag on it. According to them, you can go from zero to Business Japanese (JLPT N2) in 2 years if you maintain a daily study routine.

What really matters is your motivation to learn a language. With a clear goal in sight and a little endurance it is entirely possible to become fluent in Japanese. (Even if you mostly study by yourself, but more on that later.)

Will you become the next Haruki Murakami? Probably not.

Will you be able to explore Japan on your own terms, communicate with locals, make lasting friendships, or even build a life and a career here – most definitely yes!

Why Japanese is easy

Let me give you some reasons why you are not crazy for wanting to learn this language, and show you that it is entirely realistic to learn Japanese.

1. Japanese grammar is easy

Japanese grammar starts easy and gets more advanced over time. Mastering polite and business Japanese is an uphill battle, no argument here. Conversational Japanese on the other hand, is a completely different story. Get the subject-object-verb structure down, and without plurals, articles, or declination, you are ready to start to make your first staggering attempts at talking in no time. From there it is just practice, practice, practice, adding new pieces to the mix as you go.

Japanese girl, with katakana-print umbrella.

2. Writing Japanese is a breeze

Japanese is one of those languages, that once one gets past feeling overwhelmed by all these foreign sounds and symbols, one will start realizing, that the Japanese syllable alphabets (kana) are actually quite straightforward.

The Japanese alphabet, if we want to call it that, consists of 46 sounds that can be written in hiragana and katakana (but mostly hiragana). Once you learned these 46 characters you can write pretty much everything in Japanese. Will it make you look like a first-grader? It might, but your friends will still be impressed that you can write at all. Will your writing be full of mistakes? Probably, but we learn from mistakes so keep going.

3. Kanji, who needs Kanji?

Wait, isn’t the real struggle learning Kanji? To truly master Japanese, Kanji are essential. Even if you are only on vacation in Japan, knowing some Kanji will make your life a lot easier.

But do you need to be able to write them?
It is far easier to be able to read Kanji than to write them. Even Japanese people have problems writing Kanji they learned after elementary school.

That said if you want to work in Japan, knowing how to write Kanji might be a skill worth investing in. At least for the recruitment tests and business meetings, as for most other situations you can use a PC. Give yourself time, write a little bit every day, and slowly but surely these Japanese pictograms will come to life for you.

4. Engagement and communication

The biggest part in studying any language really, is using it. If you don’t speak it, don’t write it, the language will always stay foreign. Join a study group, find Japanese friends online or in real life, watch your daily video dose in Japanese. The secret of people who gained fluency is that they made Japanese a daily part of their lives. Don’t just study, go out and have some fun with it. Then come back to your textbooks, and find out how to express your thoughts and feelings even better next time.

Girl on swing, talking to manekineko.

Learn what you love

To sum it up, Japanese can be really hard to learn, especially if all the practice you get is with your textbook and you approach it like your least favorite math class?

If you hit a roadblock, ask yourself why you wanted to study Japanese in the first place. To make Japanese friends, live in Japan, really get to know the culture? What is your reason to study Japanese?

Remember that, it is your motivation for studying.
Use Japanese to do things you love.

Communicate in Japanese. Whether in person, on paper, or online. All it takes is some basic grammar, a few words and 48 signs. Make use of all the tech available to you to make the process easier. Your Japanese skill is like a Lego set. Your basic set might be limited but functional, and as time passes you can collect more pieces and keep expanding into greater things.

Check out our Japanese section for regular updates on Advanced and Business Japanese that is rarely covered in English.

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Madelaine

After traveling around for a while, I found my home in Tokyo. Now working in Shinjuku and discovering something new about Japan every day.