My Japanese isn't perfect!In fact, it's pretty far from it. I'm still studying and trying to perfect it and I've got a long way to go. That said, my Japanese is fairly functional, so I can give advice from that standpoint!
Find a class! (If you can.)Self-studying Japanese is one of the hardest things I've ever done. If you can find a class, language partner, or study group near you then take the plunge and sign up! Self-studying can be a real challenge and without a teacher to correct your mistakes and put pressure on you to memorise vocabularly you have to be very, very motivated. That said, it can be done, so don't stop reading!
Learn Kana!Learning how to read and write hiragana and katakana is really important so start from there! Trust me, they're a lot easier than kanji is.
By the way, I learn kanji by rote memorisation. I sit down with a bunch of kanji I don't know and write them over and over. Then I write them without looking. Then I test myself, etc. After memorising them it's really important to go back to them later because kanji love to just up and disappear from your memory.
Find a Good Textbook!If you're part of a class then you'll probably have to use what the curriculum is written around, but here's my favourite:
For beginners: GENKI I
This textbook is logically-structured and easy to follow. The grammar points are explained in depth and there are tonnes of exercises to help you! Check it out on Amazon, I page through it in the above video.
Next up: GENKI II
Like GENKI I this is an awesome textbook and will help to fill out your elementary Japanese knowledge! Check it out on Amazon.
|My Studying Face|
These books are written to prepare you for the JLPT but even if you're not going to be taking the exam they are pretty good. I particularly like the grammar and kanji ones although I struggle with the vocabulary ones since they are basically just long lists of vocab you have to memorise. It's probably best to page through them at a bookstore (if you can) to get an idea of which level is right for you.
MINNA NO NIHONGO
This is another widely-used textbook series and I think it might include more situational, practical Japanese. However, I have never used this series. If you don't like the sound of Genki, check these out.
Intermediate/Advanced Level Resources
Once you reach a certain level I feel like there aren't any Holy Grail textbooks. It's probably better to move on to things like: Japanese magazines, books, manga, newspapers, and so on. Don't feel discouraged if it's really hard at first and try to find things that match your ability or are just slightly higher. If you try reading NewsWeek in Japanese right away you might just headdesk.
|White & Nerdy|
IMMERSION!You don't actually have to go to Japan to immerse yourself in Japanese but it does help! If you have the opportunity to come here as a student I recommend it 100% but even if you don't have the opportunity to come to Japan right now you can start by surrounding yourself with Japanese media: music, films, drama and anime. If you can make some Japanese friends or work in a places where you get the opportunity to speak Japanese that will help you a lot too!
Change your computer/phone/everything to Japanese (just memorise how to change it back first because all those kanji can be pretty overwhelming!). I have all my devices set to Japanese which is actually kind of tough when you're doing a lot of video editing!!!!
View FaceBook and Twitter in Japanese! Set your homepage to a Japanese website! Just go for gold!
And then check out some of my favourite Japanese things:
Music: LUNA SEA, Utada Hikaru, SID, HY, Otsuka Ai, Morning Musume, Plastic Tree (the links will take you to a song by the artist!)
Dramas: Hana yori dango, 1 Litre of Tears, GTO
Films: Tokyo Story, Nobody Knows, Children Full of Life, Taboo, All About Lily Chou-chou, Rashomon
(Some of these films have adult themes!)
Now go back to your own favourite Japanese things!
SPEAK.I'd studied Japanese a bit before coming to Japan but when I got here I found it so hard to form a sentence. I was devastatingly shy and terrified of making mistakes. These two things do not go well with language learning! You have to make mistakes in order to learn! I still screw up all the time. I remember how much it hurt when I messed up kage (shadow) with hige (beard) during a job and everyone laughed their butts off at me. But thanks to that I will never make that mistake again! So do not be afraid to say something ridiculously wrong. It's the way you learn. Laugh at your mistakes. Don't take them to heart.
One of the ways I learnt to speak Japanese was by making vlogs in Japanese. Once I had a Japanese audience I kind of had to speak Japanese even if it was really hard. Through this I learnt a lot and was able to keep my motivation up!
(Also talking to yourself is totally cool.)
Use the internet as a supplementary learning tool!Hannah talks about this in her video below:
Rikaichan is a great addon to help decipher kanji and unfamiliar words (just don't rely on it too much!!!).
Twitter is a great place to practice Japanese and talk to Japanese people.
My favourite dictionary is Jim Breen's WWWJDIC. It's free and really really good. Lang-8 is a site where people will correct your Japanese! I think it's free!
And of course there's always YouTube!!!
Just remember that the internet is a supplementary tool! You're still going to have to buckle down and study if you want to become better than me at Japanese (and I 100% expect you to become better than me, not even kidding around here).
DO A LITTLE EVERYDAY!It's so hard sometimes to sit down and immerse yourself in language learning so try not to forget how fun that time can be. Find the place you study best - for me it's in a cafe or library - and find time to go there and study! Carry your textbooks around if you have to! They might give you a backache but that backache will be nagging you to studying. I mean, you don't want to lug them around all day and then not study at all, right?
♥GOOD LUCK♥ or should I say がんばってください！