Japanese culture holds a very strong fascination potential for the rest of the World because of its uniqueness and beauty but also because of the country’s economical power. This has lead many people in pursuing the study of the Japanese language for either business reasons, career improvements or simply to satisfy their own curiosity regarding Japan and its language. And let’s face it; the awe-factor from your friends and newly met people is a lot larger if they hear you talking Japanese than say, French or Spanish, which are more common languages. If you do manage to learn Japanese (which to be honest is not the easiest of tasks) then the other languages will prove to be a breeze and you’ll be regarded as a true polyglot in no time.
Difficulties in learning Japanese
From a Westerner’s point of view, learning Japanese is quite difficult because of the rules that the language enforces in terms of grammar, politeness rules, writing (using a combination of three scripts – Kanji, Hiragana and Katakana) and so forth. These rules are not that hard per say, but it’s quite hard for us to put aside the system that we normally take for granted and replace it with something radically different.
Another showstopper when it comes to learning Japanese is that the language is an agglutinative one. What this means is that it’s a “synthetic” language where each affix represents one unit of meaning rather than have the root of the word change. This concept is not easy to understand, or at least not until you get used to it. Most “Learn Japanese” courses try to avoid making a comparison between Japanese and any other Western languages, simply for the fact that doing so would do more harm than good to the learning process.
Learning Japanese Online
Although the recent craze for learning Japanese has brought forth a lot of institutions and companies that set up organized Japanese courses, you can also learn it online, at your leisure and usually without spending too much money in the process. There are virtually dozens of companies offering free Japanese lessons online and these are a great way to start learning. Another option would be to try out some vocabulary games, despite the fact that they won’t be as useful as a full lesson course. Still, you can try them out since you might memorize words with more ease and improve vocabulary over night.
Last but not least, if you already have a basis to work with, you could try reading translated texts and making a correlation between the two versions to spot new words, determine politeness forms and so forth. After a while, combining all these methods will dish out a noticeable vocabulary increase and you’ll be awing your friends with your Japanese language skills in no time.