Japanese is a wide-spread East Asian language with more than 128 million speakers around the world. It’s the national language of Japan, but it’s also spoken in Korea, the US, and Brazil primarily because of the significant immigrant communities.
How hard is it to learn Japanese? Many language learners believe that learning Japanese is significantly more difficult than learning any other language. In fact, every language learning journey takes a lot of effort and hard work on your part.
But, by taking Japanese lessons and using the helpful tools and resources in this article, you’ll surely reach your goal of Japanese fluency.
11 Simple Steps to Learn Japanese Fast
To make quick progress with your Japanese, start focusing on the core pillars of language learning. These include learning the basics, establishing a regular study routine, and (the fun part) immersing yourself in the culture.
Take a look at our 11 simple ways you can cover these bases, and start your Japanese learning journey.
1. Learn the Japanese alphabet
The best way to learn Japanese is to start with the basics: learning the alphabet. There are 3 basic writing systems you need to learn to be able to read Japanese: Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji.
The ability to read Hiragana is crucial for all beginners. Hiragana is primarily used for native Japanese words and consists of 46 characters or 51 phonetic characters. It’s the key to understanding how and why Japanese words sound the way they do. Because most of the characters have only one pronunciation, Hiragana is quite easy to learn. No doubt, once you learn Hiragana, you’ll create a firm foundation needed for a native-sounding accent.
Сompared to Hiragana, Katakana is used for non-Japanese or loanwords: a word adopted from a foreign language. These include technical and scientific terms, as well as the names of some plants and animals. Katakana can give you more trouble than Hiragana as it won’t be so frequently used, especially at the very beginning of your language learning journey. As your level increases, Katakana will appear more regularly. However, just being able to read Katakana is enough for a beginner.
Many learners believe that learning Kanji is the most challenging part of the process. On the other hand, it’s one of the most critical aspects of learning Japanese. Knowing very basic Kanji will enable you to understand, speak and write simple Japanese. Kanji consists of thousands of Chinese symbols that represent entire words, ideas or phrases.
Kanji comes with many complexities, as English meanings can’t always be directly translated from Japanese words. That’s why there can be many correct English meanings for a single Kanji word. We never said learning Japanese would be easy, but learning Kanji will give you a huge amount of ways to express yourself.
2. Practice grammar
How do you learn Japanese grammar? If you want to master it perfectly, you have to forget everything you know about English grammar as they differ dramatically. Unlike many of the romance languages, Japanese has only two tenses: past and non-past (present and future). However, there are two forms: polite and plain. The last one is used for casual speech.
We recommend that you start to learn Japanese grammar with the help of textbooks. The best books to learn Japanese grammar are:
- Practice Makes Perfect: Basic Japanese;
- A Guide to Japanese Grammar by Tae Kim;
- Japanese Hiragana & Katakana for Beginners.
It’s also important to mention that Japanese has an entirely different writing system: from right to left, from top to bottom. In these textbooks, you’ll find a lot of practical lessons that will help you get a sense of Japanese writing.
3. Learn some key phrases
How to learn Japanese fast? Start with the list of the most common words and expressions. Knowing basic phrases like “Hello”, “How do you do?”, and “Nice to meet you” allows you to begin speaking Japanese and quickly join conversations with native speakers. Take a look at the 100+ most important Japanese words — this will be extremely helpful if you ever decide to visit Japan, or if you need a starting point if you decide to relocate there.
4. Set up a schedule
How long does it take to learn Japanese? It’s probably one of the most popular questions many people have about this language. The truth is that it depends on the efforts you’re going to make to boost your level of Japanese.
The truth is, to see fast progress you need to start practicing every day! There are hundreds of useful apps and learning strategies to help you schedule daily lessons and find a learning pace that suits them. Ready to kick start a learning process with hourly lessons? Go for it! Can you only spend 15 minutes a day learning Japanese? No problem! Just make the most of this time.
5. Use apps to get started
Language learning applications will come in very handy when you start learning Japanese. Duolingo, Memrise, or Rosetta Stone are very simple apps for beginners to start learning basic Japanese phrases and vocabulary. Apps like these allow you to study wherever and whenever you want.
If you want to find out more about useful language learning apps, check out our review of one of the most popular apps on the market: Babbel Review: How It Can Help You Learn a Language.
However, most language-learning apps are great for a quick boost to your Japanese language skills. But they shouldn’t be the only resource that you use. If you’re only studying an app for 10 minutes a day, you won’t experience quick progress. No app is a substitute for real-world interaction! Instead, try to find a language learning partner or online tutor to help you speak on a regular basis. We have tutors that cost as little as $5 an hour— take a look at our expert Japanese tutors here.
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6. Pay attention to flashcards
Flashcards are perfect for language learners. It’s a card with information on it that you need to remember. To memorize a particular word in Japanese, you can use a flashcard with this word on it. When you flip the card over, you’ll see a translation into your native language.
If you’ve never tried flashcards, you should make them a part of your learning journey. With flashcards, you can:
- label items in your home with their Japanese names to see them every day;
- regularly repeat new words and quiz yourself;
- ask a friend to quiz you to see if you remember the words correctly.
The best part about flashcards is that you can purchase them online or even make them yourself. Whether you’re mastering skills in Hiragana, Katakana or Kanji, flashcards can be a great way to strengthen your vocabulary in all three systems.
7. Chat online with native speakers or other learners
The best way to learn to speak Japanese and strengthen what you’ve already learned is to practice regularly with others. Even if you don’t have a native Japanese friend, you have various options to put your knowledge into practice these days.
For example, you can opt for 1-on-1 video chats to find a language partner who speaks Japanese. Using your smartphone or computer, you’ll be able to talk or write online to native speakers or learners from all around the globe. Here are some tools you can try:
- HelloTalk is a language exchange app where learners can quickly find and chat with native speakers;
- LextTalk is the first social networking and chats app designed for language exchange;
- MyLanguageExchange is a platform which allows users to find conversation partners and improve their speaking both with native speakers and language learners.
If you want to start speaking Japanese from lesson #1 with a native,, browse Preply’s expert Japanese tutors. You can choose from a vast database of certified teachers who can customize an effective lesson plan for your level and language learning needs. Preply offers private lessons with experts via user-friendly video chat. It’s also surprisingly affordable, starting from just $5 per hour.
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8. Read manga
It’s time to start immersing yourself in Japanese culture! Apart from Japanese books and newspapers, learn to read Japanese with manga. Manga is a crucial part of Japanese culture with a long history. Today, it’s at the heart of Japanese pop culture and is also widely known outside of the country.
Manga is art in the form of comics or graphic novels, and can be especially helpful for language learners. These comics are full of contextual clues so that you can easily understand the meaning of the written words. Sailor Moon would be a great starting point for a beginner.
9. Watch anime
If you want to be entertained while you study, try to learn Japanese with anime!. Anime is a unique style of Japanese animation, and for decades, anime was produced only by Japan. Today, it has become an international phenomenon, attracting millions of fans.
Spending your free time watching anime will help you learn a batch of new words, including slang, and improve your listening skills.
You can find not only anime but also Japanese films and shows on Crunchyroll, Asian Crush, Netflix.
10. Listen to podcasts
If you want to learn Japanese, podcasts are an excellent way to add some extra listening practice to your daily routine and find out more about Japanese culture. Here are two podcasts that are great for beginners:
- Learn Japanese Pod Podcasts. Various episodes cover all sort of topics: from traveling tips to drinking etiquette in Japan. Each episode comes with the script in Japanese and a translated transcript.
- NHK. Each episode of this podcast for beginners tells a story of Anna, a fictional character who comes to Japan to study Japanese. The brief lessons provide scripts with an English translation.
Looking for more options? We’ve got you covered! Take a look at 5 podcasts to learn Japanese on the go.
11. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes
When you start to practice Japanese, you are always going to make mistakes. But if you don’t put a foot wrong, you won’t grow! Making mistakes and receiving feedback from others is the most effective way to learn a language. However, keep in mind that native Japanese speakers may not want to correct you out of respect, so make it clear that you’d appreciate some guidance.
Master Japanese faster with 1-on-1 tutoring
Whatever steps you take to enhance your Japanese skills, one thing is certain: nothing beats speaking the language from day one if you want to see rapid improvement!
That’s why Preply is an excellent way to practice a new language. With Preply, you can take 1-on-1 lessons through video chat with a certified Japanese tutor. Your tutor will be your language learning sensei—guiding you through the process, pointing out your mistakes, and developing a customized plan based on your level.
There are so many tutors to choose from. All you need to do is use our search filters to find the perfect tutor for your goals, schedule and budget. Just a few sessions will make a huge difference to your confidence, and will help you reach your Japanese learning goals faster than a typical learning app ever could!
Take a look at our Japanese tutors and book your first class today.
Frequently asked questions
How much do Japanese lessons cost?
Japanese lessons start from just $10 on Preply. Traditional language schools often charge much more than this because of the extra costs associated with running a school. However, Preply tutors set their own price per lesson and don't have any extra charges because they teach online.
What is the easiest way to memorize Japanese? ›
- Use repetition: reading, writing and speaking words over and over again.
- Associate words with drawings, pictures and funny scenes.
- Try to use the language routinely in the context of daily life.
- Reading as much as possible, especially the newspaper, helps you to remember words.
- Learn Japanese pronunciation, core vocabulary and basic grammar first. ...
- Use the best apps and resources to learn Japanese. ...
- Learn the Japanese that's important to you. ...
- Narrate your life in Japanese. ...
- Watch Japanese TV shows and movies. ...
- Use songs to learn Japanese.
Teaching your child Japanese is a great choice! There's absolutely no age limit to learning languages, but why not give them a head start…How old are Japanese 11th graders? ›
|14-15||JHS 3||Grade 9|
|15-16||HS 1||Grade 10|
|16-17||HS 2||Grade 11|
|17-18||HS 3||Grade 12|
How Long Does it Take to Learn Japanese on Average? With consistent studying and speaking, for about 30 minutes to an hour a day, you could speak at a conversational level in Japanese in about 3 months.Can I learn Japanese in 1 year? ›
It will take around 2-6 months to get through most beginner Japanese textbooks. Though, this does depend on how much time you have to spend on your studies and what grammar method you choose. You can even go through a couple different textbooks at the same time, if you want.How to start speaking Japanese? ›
- Don't rush the basics. For some learners, the three Japanese writing systems can be intimidating. ...
- Find media you love. ...
- Practise with native speakers. ...
- Record yourself speaking. ...
- Set goals. ...
- Use mnemonics. ...
- Stay positive.
Even experts agree that spoken Japanese is not particularly difficult to learn. The sounds of the language are limited (only five vowels and thirteen consonants) and grammatically it is quite regular, without case declensions or other complex issues that are found in languages like Russian, or even German.What grade would a 12 year old be in Japan? ›
|11-12||6||Elementary school (小学校 shōgakkō) Compulsory Education|
|12-13||1 (7th)||Junior high school/Lower secondary school (中学校 chūgakkō) Compulsory Education|
Primary education in Japan covers grades seven, eight, and nine; children are generally between the ages of 13 and 15.
What grade is a 15 year old in Japan? ›
The usual schooling in Japan is 6 years of primary school (from the age of 7 to 12), 3 years of junior high school(from the age of 13 to 15), 3 years of senior high school (from the age of 16 to 18), and 4 years of university education(from the age of 19 to 22).Which Japanese alphabet is easy? ›
Hiragana and katakana are easy enough to learn – and will be a big help if you're thinking about travelling to Japan, or learning basic Japanese. Learning kanji is a little trickier, but we'll come to that later.How can I be smart like Japanese? ›
- Understand the mechanics of remembering and forgetting.
- Focus on what you'll use most often.
- Prioritize improving your Japanese speaking and listening skills. ...
- Set good goals and have realistic expectations.
- Little and often is better than occasional marathon learning.
- Avoid procrastination.
- Learn from your mistakes.
- Study less and practice more. ...
- Learn actively, not passively. ...
- Prioritize grammar over vocabulary. ...
- Learn your native language better. ...
- Fully understand how particles work. ...
- Learn to differentiate “ni” and “de” ...
- Make time instead of trying to find it.
Children who have their 6th birthday on or before April 1 enter the first grade of elementary school of that year. School year starts in April and ends in March. For Japanese nationals, six years at elementary school and three years at junior high school (total nine years) are compulsory.What grade is a 4 year old in Japan? ›
In Japan, children typically undergo 12 years of formal education consisting of elementary, lower secondary, and upper secondary education. Before beginning their elementary education at the age of 6, children have the option to attend kindergarten between the ages of 3 and 5.What grade is a 16 year old in? ›
However, if you study only one hour per day and don't do anything else to learn Japanese, it can take you up to twenty years to learn the language! So if you don't want to be speaking Japanese only in 2039, keep reading to see how you can shorten this time frame.Does it take 2 years to learn Japanese? ›
The average length of time to learn advanced Japanese is 2-3 years. At the intermediate level, you can understand most of what your teacher says, and you can follow along with TV programs. When it comes to using the language with other Japanese speakers, however, you still have some limitations.What is harder Chinese or Japanese? ›
Japanese is slightly easier to learn. But, Chinese is much more widely spoken. Both languages have their pros and cons.
How long till I learn Japanese? ›
Japanese is one of the most difficult languages for English natives to master. This is because it does not have a lot of likeness in structure to English. Approximately it will take 88 weeks, or 2200 hours of studying, to become fluent.How much Japanese should I study a day? ›
Study Japanese every day
Grab a few recommended textbooks and knuckle down for at least twenty minutes a day (ideally an hour or two, but twenty minutes is better than nothing). This will give you the basics and the “correct” forms of grammar, situationally appropriate language, clear examples and practice exercises.
You should learn hiragana first, followed by katakana and kanji. Hiragana looks more cursive than katakana or kanji. It is used to write native Japanese words, conjugation endings, and grammar particles.What Japanese words should I learn first? ›
- Yes: はい (hai)
- No: いいえ (iie)
- Hello: こんにちは (konnichiwa)
- Goodbye: じゃね (ja ne)
- Thank you: ありがとう (arigatou)
- I'm Sorry: ごめんなさい (gomen nasai)
- Excuse me: すみません (sumimasen)
The Japanese language is considered one of the most difficult to learn by many English speakers. With three separate writing systems, an opposite sentence structure to English, and a complicated hierarchy of politeness, it's decidedly complex.Is learning Japanese worth it? ›
There are lots of social benefits of learning Japanese. Being able to communicate with more people means you are able to meet and get to know more people. If you know how to speak Japanese, you'll find it much easier to make Japanese friends than someone who doesn't speak Japanese.Why is kanji so hard? ›
Kanji characters are based on Chinese characters and are often almost identical to their partner words in Chinese. This writing system is one of the most difficult parts of Japanese to learn, as there are over 2,000 different characters to learn and many kanji have several different readings.Is it OK to learn Japanese? ›
Learning Japanese will help you to appreciate your own culture as well as your own language because it improves your communication and cognitive skills. Accessing a culture that is very different from yours will heighten your awareness that cultures and languages vary.What is Grade 10 called? ›
Sophomore Year (10th grade) Junior Year (11th grade) Senior Year (12th grade)What is 7th grade called in Japan? ›
Shōgakkō (小学, Elementary school) from 6 to 12. Chūgakkō (中学, Middle School) from 12 to 15. Kōkō (高校, High school) from 15 to 18. Daigaku (大学, University) or Senmongakkō (専 門 学校, Vocational school) in general with a duration of 2 to 4 years.
How old is a kid in 1st grade? ›
Children registering for 1st grade must turn 6 years old on or before September 1st.How old is a 3rd grader? ›
Students are usually 8–9 years old.How old is a 2nd grader? ›
Children are usually aged 7–8 at this grade level.Is school in Japan free? ›
Tuition for public primary and secondary schools is free, even for foreign students. However, you will be required to cover some costs for lunches, school materials, uniforms, and contributions to the PTA.
The age of adulthood in Japan was lowered from 20 to 18 on April 1, 2022. This makes it possible for 18- or 19-year-olds to sign a smartphone contract or take out a loan without parental consent, but also means that they need to take responsibility for such decisions.How old is a minor in Japan? ›
In Japan, statements by minors (under 20 years of age) in civil suits and civil mediation are made through legal representatives as minors do not have any litigation capacity.How do you count 11 in Japanese? ›
So 11 in Japanese is “10-1”, or juu-ichi / じゅういち.Can I learn Japanese in 10 days? ›
While it may not be possible to become fluent in Japanese in just ten days, it IS possible to learn the basics of speaking in a short period of time and move on to becoming fluent. Don't be discouraged. You can and will learn Japanese much faster than you expect.How can a 10 year old learn Japanese? ›
Duolingo. Duolingo is one of the most popular language-learning apps, and it has Japanese! In fact, there are two apps available, the regular Duolingo App for ages 13 and up, and Duolingo Kids for ages 3 to 6. It was designed by language experts and is tailored for quick and effective learning.Is basic Japanese easy to learn? ›
The Japanese language is considered one of the most difficult to learn by many English speakers. With three separate writing systems, an opposite sentence structure to English, and a complicated hierarchy of politeness, it's decidedly complex.
What is the kanji for 11? ›
11 – Eleven, 12 – Twelve, 13 – Thirteen, 14 – Fourteen, 15 – Fifteen, 16 – Sixteen, 17 – Seventeen, 18 – Eighteen, 19 – Nineteen, 20 -Twenty.Does it take 1 year to learn Japanese? ›
Learning Japanese isn't easy and it will take time. It's probably fair to say that you can expect a commitment of at least three years in order to achieve something resembling fluency. The average learner gets to the advanced level in three or four years.What grade would a 13 year old be in Japan? ›
Shōgakkō (小学, Elementary school) from 6 to 12. Chūgakkō (中学, Middle School) from 12 to 15. Kōkō (高校, High school) from 15 to 18. Daigaku (大学, University) or Senmongakkō (専 門 学校, Vocational school) in general with a duration of 2 to 4 years.What grade would a 15 year old be in Japan? ›
The school year consists of two or three terms, which are separated by short holidays in spring and winter, and a six-week-long summer break. The year structure is summarized in the table below. Primary education in Japan covers grades seven, eight, and nine; children are generally between the ages of 13 and 15.What Japanese do I learn first? ›
You should learn hiragana first, followed by katakana and kanji. Hiragana looks more cursive than katakana or kanji. It is used to write native Japanese words, conjugation endings, and grammar particles. Hiragana consists of 46 characters with each character representing a syllable.