Because of its rich culture, Japan and its language are a topic of fascination for so many people around the world. Learning Japanese is a quickly growing trend, and is up there as one of the most studied languages in the world.
Travelling Japan is probably your best to learn the language well. Japan is the kind of country that tries to strongly preserve its culture and its language, so you are bound to immerse yourself in Japanese even if you only travel there for a short time. This week, our languages around the world series hands it over to Tim to tell us all about his experiences learning Japanese in Japan.
My name is Tim Davis. I am from Spain and my native language is Spanish. Although I spent most of my youth in Mauritius and Africa, I always had an inclination towards Japanese as I loved Japanese cartoons and games.
Since I already liked their culture, I opted for Japanese as my third language in my school (after Spanish and English). There was no looking back from there. I loved learning Japanese so much, that I cleared N5 level within 2 years.
After graduating, I decided to stay in Japan for 3 months so I could experience the craziness Japan is famous for and I must tell you I was not disappointed. My current level is N3.
How and Where to Stay in Japan
For many countries, free entry to Japan is granted. Check if you need a visa to stay in Japan.
Since my stay was just for 3 months, I can’t tell you how can one settle down in Japan but I have talked to some westerners there and many opt to teach English through the ESL program.
If you want to fully immerse yourself in language and ensure you are really learning Japanese in Japan, it might be worthwhile to enroll yourself in a Japanese language school while in Japan. Find and compare Japanese language schools in Japan.
The Japanese government sponsor the stay of students who show great interest in the Japanese language. You can find out more about that programme, and see if you are eligible here.
I stayed at a hostel in Tokyo because that is where the real action is at. Back then, we did not used to have websites to book hostels and hotels so it was definitely not easy to find a hostel as I had to first reach there and then find a place. I recommend staying in the Shinjuku area though.
In my opinion Tokyo and Kyoto are the best parts to stay in Japan. In Tokyo you can easily find teachers to learn Japanese from, and in Kyoto you can visit the temples where you can talk to the monks. You will get to practise Japanese and learn a lot about Buddhism from them!
Languages in Japan
English in Japan
Not many people speak fluent English here. Japanese is the more dominant language even in business. I would say general level of English in Japan is pretty low. You will just get by. You won’t be able to hold a proper conversation though!
Japanese in Japan
Japanese is the official language spoken in Japan. It is not spoken in any other country. Japan has a big thank you culture so you will hear a lot of “arigato” which means “thank you”. Make sure to greet the people you know with “ohayo” – you will see the brightest smiles!.
Some common phrases are
- Konnichiwa: how are you
- O namae wa nan desu ka: what is your name?
- X ga hoshi desu: I want X (In Japanese, ‘want’ is an adjective not a verb. With verbs we use “o” but with adjectives we use “ga”.)
Japanese has a small number of consonants – k, g, s, sh, z, j, t, ch, ts, d, n, h, f, b, p, m, y, r, w. The consonants are pronounced just like they sound in English. There are only 5 vowels – a, i, u, e and o.
People and culture in Japan
The Japanese people are very respectful. They are known for their hospitable nature. This really helps you be at ease while talking in Japanese and learn it even faster. Japanese government promotes Japanese in schools all around the world which reflects Japanese people’s attitudes towards foreigners trying to learn Japanese. The Japanese government encourage cultural exchange and sponsor keen Japanese language learners to stay in Japan. They host proficiency exams in many centres all around the world. They send in their teachers all around the world so students can learn Japanese from native speakers.
When I visited the place, I deliberately tried to talk to everyone in Japanese and I must say people were really patient with me. I often pulled out a dictionary in the middle of a conversation!!
How to learn Japanese in Japan
The best piece of advice I would give to someone who wants to learn a language is to speak more than you read. I know it sounds stupid but just like in business where you could read about a hundred ways to grow your business, it is much better to pick one and just do it. Even if you are not in Japan, I would suggest you to find a language partner and have a chat for at least half an hour (needless to say only in Japanese). If you can’t remember the right word, stop right there, pull out the dictionary, find it and say it. That is how you will learn.
Being in Japan for those 3 months not only helped interact with the natives but also made me realize that I have a second home now. and that very inspiring to keep on learning Japanese.
Before you go to Japan, it might be a good idea to enroll in a Japanese language school to make sure you really perfect your Japanese while you are there.
If you want to teach yourself Japanese, there are many online courses that teach it, including Pimsleur, Linkword Langauges, Rocket, Japanese Pod 101, Rosetta Stone and Fluent U. You can find out more about these courses and decide which one is best for you in this article.
This article was written by Tim Davis, who writes a blog at Amazon Creek.
Have you been to Japan or are you thinking of going? What do you think of the Japanese language? Leave a comment below and let me know.
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