Social media can be a great tool for learning and practicing Japanese. Not just the language, but the culture and current affairs too.
Actually it has so many benefits for learning and practicing Japanese that I don’t know why people don’t do it more often.
This post will be focusing on Twitter, although can mostly apply to other social media like Facebook, YouTube, LINE, etc.
Benefits of Twitter for Japanese
- Learn vocabulary and grammar specific to your own interests.
- See native interactions & natural language usage.
- Find out about current affairs.
- Make friends.
- Able to practice writing and reading.
How to Use Twitter to Practice Japanese
1. Make a separate Twitter account just for Japanese.
I strongly suggest you make a separate Twitter. This is because how you interact with others and what you post on your feed will be different between languages. Also many English speakers you know probably don’t know Japanese.
You’ll also clutter your screen with Japanese and English posts, and your brain wanting to be laze will automatically get drawn to the English posts. Filling your Twitter with Japanese ONLY forces your brain to read only Japanese.
This also allows you to change your language settings and feed suggestions to Japanese, so your whole interface is in Japanese!
2. Avoid making bilingual posts!
Try not to write a post in English with the Japanese underneath. This is really tempting at first but don’t.
This is because when you start you’ll be tempted to translate the English into Japanese. This normally results in direct translations that don’t make sense in Japanese.
What you should try to do it use your knowledge of grammar to write something purely in Japanese. It’s hard at first but you’ll realize how Japanese language is a tool to convey ideas.
When you think about something in a “Japanese” way you can communicate your ideas better.
For example. “I’m so beat, I think I’m going to die” – A direct translation of this would be “負けられた、死ぬと思います” (makerareta, shinu to omoimasu). But that actually doesn’t mean what you think it means in Japanese.
負けられた = to be beaten in a game/match, NOT tired.
死ぬとおもいます = “I think to die”, Japanese people don’t actually say this! And it literally means “die” not “I feel like I’m going to die” which is what the English implies.
So a natural way to say this in Japanese is “疲れた。。。死にそうぐらい疲れた。。。” (tsukareta… shinisou gurai tsukarata) which means “I’m tired/exhausted… exhausted to the point where it looks like I’m about to die”
3. Find topics and people you like/find interesting.
The key to keeping up Twitter in Japanese is to find it interesting.
If you turn it into homework that you “HAVE” to do everyday, then it won’t be fun and you’re less likely to do it.
Instead keep it fun for yourself. Follow artists you admire and anime series you like. Give yourself reasons to go back everyday to post.
4. Post regularly and interact with others!
Of course you won’t get better if you don’t post. You can write about anything and the great thing is that your posts need to be kept short!
If people respond to your tweets then reply to them.
Reply to other people’s tweets.
Look at how other Japanese people are interacting/reply to other tweets. What kind of language/emoji are they using? If they’re being polite or not, why? How do you want to sound on Twitter?
There is no right/wrong way when it comes to using formal or informal Japanese on Twitter. I think what matters is how you want to sound.
Although it’s still important to think about your relationship with others.
For example, If you’re asking something from someone/general Twitter it might be better to use polite Japanese.
If you’re excited and want to show something, maybe you can use more informal Japanese? But it’s not something that’s set in stone.
Look at others and learn from them.
1. If you’re not used to using Japanese online and are particularly not used to kanji I suggest getting the apps rikaikun (Chrome) or rikaichan (Firefox). These let you hover over kanji/words and their meaning will popup.
(Sadly I don’t know if any similar apps for phones)
2. Combine Twitter with Lang-8. If you’re a beginner who’s unsure about their Japanese and are afraid to post something that doesn’t make sense, post your Tweet on Lang-8 first.
Lang-8 is a website where native language users will correct your Japanese, and where you can correct their English. It’s FANTASTIC for beginners who aren’t used to writing.
And is a great tool to get people to proofread your Japanese and explain WHY something’s not quite right.
Do you use Twitter in Japanese? Do you have your own advice for others? Let me know!