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5 Biggest Mistakes When Learning the Japanese Language

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Understanding that Japanese is already one of the most challenging languages to learn, it’s helpful to know where you can go wrong in your pursuit. We know that learning any language can be trying, but it becomes infinitely more complicated if you aren’t accustomed to using certain sounds or symbols.


Being aware of five critical mistakes that people make when starting can save you time and effort. If you want to know how to learn Japanese successfully, keep reading to find the common errors of the process.

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Every word that you devote time to studying should be words that you are ready to learn and employ.

1. Trying to Remember the Kanjis

If you’ve already begun your journey, you’ve probably heard about the kanjis. Kanji is a set of characters and symbols used for writing in Japanese. It comes from China, but it is the most commonly used script in the Japanese language. 


It is essential to learn the kanjis, but not all at once and not in rapid succession. As mentioned, it’s not easy to pick up and learn an entirely new way of writing. Using stories and pictures is an effective way to learn, but not in a lump sum. 


There are thousands of kanjis that you can and will learn naturally as you broaden your vocabulary. It’s more likely that you’ll get discouraged trying to study and learn these symbols one by one without attaching them to a story that will help create an association for proper use. 


Focus on a few new kanjis a week. Studying a long list won’t help you. Pick three per week and focus on understanding them, when to use them, how to use them, and using them in your writing and conversation. That is the most effective way to retain information.

2. Not Getting Enough Exposure

If you’re not getting adequate input from various sources, the tour learning experience will be greatly diminished.  What does this mean? Well, it speaks to the information that enters your brain through your ears, eyes, taste, and touch. For the most part, learning a language is going to be visual and auditory. 


You cannot learn a language without fully submerging yourself into the experience. The more information you expose yourself to, the more your brain has to compute and understand. That lets in new words and concepts in a variety of ways, reinforcing their meaning and usage. 


Let’s say you learn a kanji or a new term, if you read it and then hear it in a song, and then while watching tv, it’s more likely to stick. 


You have a greater chance to hear keywords repeatedly if you’re taking in several sources daily. 


If you truly want to become a master of the Japanese language in all nuances and forms, converse fluently, and so on, it takes initiative. 


It’s a mistake to limit yourself to only studying from a book, or only watching videos, or just one form of input in general. 


Read books, read websites and blogs, watch movies and videos with subtitles (different genres), listen to people’s conversations, and anything else you can find to take in Japanese.

Japanese's language

3. Looking Up Words You Don't Know

For starters, to learn a word that you rarely see is nearly worthless.


Along this train of thought, listening to any form of media attempting to decipher all of the words will only waste your time.


How come, you might ask? Take a book, for instance. When you look at every word that you don’t know, you stop the flow of reading quite frequently. Afterward, you haven’t progressed very far into the story, and the words you read stay relatively low.


Doing this will only aid in you losing interest in the story, and inevitably, you will give up reading altogether.


Moreover, if the word you studied so profusely only appears once in the book, was it worthwhile?


Every word that you devote time to studying should be words that you are ready to learn and employ. On the other hand, if you write down a host of unknown words, you’ll eventually end up with an arduous list to memorize. This will only serve to discourage you. 

Japanese's language

4. Learning Words Without Context

Learning words alone without seeing something to connect to it is a common mistake done by language learners alike. Our willingness to study in this ineffective way may derive from your antiquated language education system in middle and high school.


Learning a word in a sentence serves a far better purpose. It gives you an example of how to utilize a term or phrase in a real-life scenario. That allows you to understand its meaning in a specific context. All of these steps together make it exponentially easier to learn and reuse the word in regular conversation.


Additionally, because a sentence consists of several other words, this means that by going over sentences, you’re reviewing many terms at the same time. Learning a word with context allows the memory of the word to be much more permanent.

5. Procrastination

Sentiments such as I’m entirely too busy and I don’t have time or my work and extracurriculars keep me from giving the proper time to learning Japanese is a bit overdone with most people. 


In a day, there’s plenty of time to learn a new language; you only need consistency. Moreover, to improve at a language, you need to practice the language daily.


It is imperative to practice Japanese for some time each day. The real question is how to do it when you’re dealing with a full plate.


Below is a list of several possibilities to help you divide your time efficiently to fit Japanese into your daily schedule seamlessly:


Practice during lunch

When you’re driving in the car, play Japanese in the background

Wake up 30 minutes earlier than usual to listen, read, or watch Japanese content

Listen to a Japanese podcast as you cook

Use your weekend to immerse yourself in Japanese

Watch the news in NHK instead of your native language


If you can find multiple times throughout the day for Japanese immersion, you will quickly notice improvement with Japanese.

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Final Thoughts

Remember that the number one key to learning a new language is consistency. A close second is variety; that means getting as much exposure as you can from different places. Stimulation is going to be your best friend as you learn the Japanese language. 


The process will be a bit arduous, but you don’t have to give up if you find it’s taking you a bit longer to learn than you previously anticipated. Steer clear of these common mistakes, and you’ll be on your way in no time!

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