“What do I do once I’ve learnt hiragana and katakana?”
In a post last year I advised that the first thing a person starting to learn Japanese should do is learn hiragana and katakana. This post listed various resources you can use to study hiragana and katakana as each person is different in their study approach. It’s important to learn hiragana and katakana as it opens up so many more opportunities for learning the language and helps with pronunciation and reading ability.
Since then I’ve seen a lot of people asking “what next?” It’s difficult to pick a direction when you don’t know where you’re going or what you’re doing.
So where do you go once you’ve learnt your kanas?
There are many different roads a beginner to Japanese can take. There are many different resources online that list all kinds of ways you can do and each person has their won method. Personally I find it SO much easier to pick just ONE resource to work from. Don’t buy a huge pile of books, or sign up to all the websites and apps, because you won’t have time to get through them all quickly unless you study Japanese 9-5 every single day.
It’s therefore good to do some of your own research and think about how you learn, why you want to learn Japanese and what your priorities are.
Research – what is good for you?
I’ve already written some posts on resources to help you with Japanese so you can use them to get an idea of what you’d like to use:
- Apps for Japanese Learning
- Japanese Textbooks for Teaching Yourself Japanese
- Study Methods and Resources of JLPT N5*
*You might have no interest what so ever in exams. But the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (or JLPT) is the most widely used Japanese language exam. Using content designed for the tests can help you as a beginner. The tests are designed to cover a wide range of Japanese vocabulary.
The following is my own advice for people. It’s not a huge list of things you could do (that’s in the above links with research), but my advice for a single route you take take to get you started. And remember, this isn’t something you need to stick with forever. Studying is fluid and how you do it will change over time.
Personally, after studying Japanese for so long, I think this is a good way to build up your basics.
Core Resource: Memrise
I know I bang on about Memrise a lot, but once you get into it it’s an amazing resource and one of the few where I’ve found myself willing to study a little bit of Japanese almost everyday, rather than putting it down and forgetting about it.
- Memrise is Free to use
- Available to everyone
- Lots of different courses
- Can use on internet, android and iphones when out and about
Step 1 – Learn basic vocabulary
You can start doing this with any course on memrise! The following are some of my top suggestions (and they’re not all J-Talk ones). I recommend picking just ONE though and don’t try any others until you’ve completed it.
- Anime Japanese for Beginners – comes with romaji if you’re still not confident with the kanas
- JLPT N5 Vocabulary and Kanji – covers 800 basic vocabulary and 100 kanji over 8 weeks
- 180 Basic Japanese Phrases
- 125 Most Useful Japanese Verbs
- 124 Most Useful Japanese Words
- Introduction to Japanese
- Japanese Numbers
Explore memrise and courses people have made before picking one you want to do. MemoryFox has a lot of good courses for beginners.
Step 2 – Learn some basic grammar
Grammar is, I think, tricky, because although there are lots of guides online but not many opportunities to practice unless you’re studying in a class. That’s why I made…
This covers all the basic grammar you need with some explanations. It helps to have completed something like the 125 Most Useful Verbs first because in Japanese grammar is based on the verbs changing.
But there are lots of people who swear by Tae Kim’s Japanese Grammar Guide for learning the rules and uses of grammar. The above memrise course will help you practice those grammar points.
(Optional) Step 3 – Find people to talk to
“But I can’t even say ‘my name is’ yet!” That doesn’t matter. Find someone, whether it’s a friend, teacher, or someone on skype and just say a bunch of sentences at them and ask them to correct them. Don’t be scared, make mistakes and you’ll learn. Make the same mistakes multiple times and you’ll learn even faster!
I say this is optional because it might be hard to find people who speak Japanese. Or you might be nervous. But it’s high recommended to get good fast. For ideas on how to find native speakers see this post: Practising Japanese with Natives
That’s it! Working through vocabulary courses and then alongside the grammar course will begin to give you a good basis in Japanese langauge. Work on it regularly and you’ll find yourself learning more and more, and you should have the basics (JLPT N5 level) learnt in 3-6 months.
But remember that practising is important! If it takes about 140 hours to learn all the materials for N5 and you only study Japanese 1 hour a week it will take you 140 weeks (which is 32 months aka 2.5 years). If you do 1 a day that’s only 140 days or about 5 months.