How to learn the Japanese language

In the Western world, the Japanese language is often perceived as difficult to learn. Here we take a closer look at the challenges and how to overcome them.

The Japanese language is often rated rather high on the "most difficult languages to learn"-rankings that can be found all over the internet.This apprehension comes from various fears: the fear of learning more than 2000 Kanji characters that need to be mastered in order to read or write Japanese perfectly, the two syllabics alphabets Hiragana and Katakana (48 characters each), or the fear of a vocabulary having nothing in common with European languages.

To get a more technical insight on this matter, we met with Ryuji Ezoe, Head of Communication at Shinjuku Japanese Language Institute in Tokyo.

Japanese, a language very different from English

It is certain that the Japanese language involves certain difficulties. "Its grammar is very different from European languages. The order of the discourse parts: subject, object, and verb, is very specific," says Ryuji. "The learner has to assimilate to an entirely new logic of sentence construction. Becoming able to speak Japanese imposes a great intellectual effort for western languages speakers."

Shinjuku Japanese Language Institute sometimes welcome students who, after learning Japanese in their home country and reaching a very good level of reading and writing, still have a really hard time speaking it. But after living and studying in Japan, for awhile, their speaking improves. It is truly the practice that becomes the key to the assimilation process.

Hence, Japanese is a language that more than others, requires a deeper immersion in its country of origin to be unlocked. However, Westerners generally find Japanese pronunciation rather easy, as most Japanese syllables exist in the European languages. It is also important to note that many English words exist in Japanese, although these words are transcribed with katakana (one of the syllabic alphabets). For example, the Golden Week, a Japanese holiday, does not have a Japanese equivalent. Golden Week is only called "goruden wiiku" or ゴールデン•ウィーク.

Immersion, the best way to master Japanese

Apart from motivation itself, we would say that learning Japanese would require immersion in order to reach an actual conversational level.

Students can enter Shinjuku Japanese Language Institute without having ever studied Japanese before. After only a few weeks, most of them can read and understand a simple text and write the two first syllabic alphabets Hiragana and Katakana.

The school uses an original method associated with exclusive digital tools (available for smartphones and tablets) that helps learners assimilate Japanese grammar faster.

Take a Japanese summer course in Tokyo

Students who participate in our Japanese Summer Course, a linguistic stay offered by our school, can benefit from these tools. This stay lets students enjoy a three weeks immersion alternating between Japanese classes in the morning and cultural activities in the afternoon.

Like with any other languages, immersion is, in fact, the fastest way to learn the basics, grammar, and conjugation.

In addition to the classes, the students stay in a 100% Japanese context: television, the Japanese students they will meet, shopkeepers, staffers and all their other interlocutors will speak Japanese. The school emphasizes the many subtleties that exist in Japanese when it comes to adapt your speech to the person you are talking to. Not only pronouns and verbs will differ when you talk to or about a friend or a teacher, but they will also be different when you talk about yourself.

At this pace, usual expressions and everyday vocabulary are assimilated rather quickly. This allows much quicker assimilation than with theoretical learning, sitting behind a desk, outside of Japan.

Applications for the summer course usually open in December. The stay is composed of small supervised groups, so the number of participants is very limited. So apply on time if you want to study Japanese with us this summer. We also offer long term courses if you want to come for a longer period of time.

Contact us for more information and a discount

Here you can read more and fill in an information request form about: Shinjuku Japanese Language Institute Students from DreamStudies are eligible for a discount of 30000 Yen on the long term course and 10000 Yen on the short term course.

Videos about the summer course in Tokyo

Here you can see a video with some example activities at Shinjuku Japanese Language Institute's Summer course.

Yukata wearing class

Student participation in the traditional Japanese festival of Bon odori.

More information

Read more about Shinjuku Japanese Language Institute. You might also be interested in our article study in Japan.

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