10 Ways You Can Improve Your Japanese Today
Hello, my fellow ninjas! Today I’m going to give you 10 ways you can improve your Japanese today. Ganbatte-ne!
一 Watch Nichijou –日常– with a Transcript
Nichijou is a fantastically bizarre anime about the lives of a group of schoolgirls in Japan. There’s also a talking cat, a five-year-old professor, and a robot woman with a giant key sticking out of her back. The anime is hilarious and if you are a fan of absurd humour like Monty Python then you will love this anime. It is so bizarre (although not to Japanese people) that many foreigners have nicknamed it Nichi-joint because they like to watch it whilst stoned.
This anime is great for learning Japanese because the language is very simple and not weird like it usually is in anime (kids in Japan, for the most part, actually speak like this). It can be frustrating not being able to find anime with Japanese subtitles anywhere but I managed to find this website in which some wonderful person has uploaded the transcripts. You can go to YouTube/Netflix in one tab, open up an episode of Nichijou, open the transcript in another tab, and a jisho in another tab. Make sure your Anki is open and pause the show every time you don’t understand something and enter it into your Anki deck. Once you get to intermediate level, many of the things you won’t understand are cultural references but you can learn a lot about Japanese culture and school by watching this. For example: Do you know what a tengo てんご is? What about shiritori しりとり?
二 Learn/Revise the Te-Form
The te-form really is one of the most important grammatical facets of Japanese. The moment you learn it, your ability to recognise and understand Japanese, as well as sound more native yourself, will rocket forward. It really isn’t that hard at all either! Make sure you understand it, write it out, and drill it.
A big ah-ha moment for one of my students came after 2 days of of drilling the te-form and watching しろくまカフェ Shirokuma Cafe (one of my most favourite anime of all time). He suddenly realised he could understand what those cute little cartoons were babbling about. So, yeah, the te-form. Learn it. Let it improve your life in a million different ways.
三 Write a Diary Entry in Japanese
It doesn’t have to be very long. Just jot down what you got up to at the end of each day and try to say what you want in Japanese. Do it in hiragana, katakana, and kanji too. Once you’ve got your entry down, find a native to help you. You can do this buy either paying someone at iTalki to go over it with you or uploading it to a site like Lang-8 where natives will correct where you have made mistakes and will aid you in sounding more natural. What this does is get you integrating Japanese in your every day life and get you familiar with creating Japanese sentences, thinking like a native, and using and recognising the writing system.
If you don’t like keeping a journal because it’s too boring, you could always use a writing prompt book and write some crazy stuff. I recommend this one.
四 Make a Vlog in Japanese
If you aren’t camera shy, this can really help give you confidence in speaking. A lot of the time, Japanese learners can understand stuff before they can articulate it themselves. However, the more you practice speaking, the more your brain gets used to pushing all that passive stuff out of your mouth. You can use this in combination with the diary entry. Use your diary as a leaping off point and just keep speaking until your brain melts. You don’t have to show anyone. I know I would be too shy. But hey, it helps.
五 Practice Katakana
Seriously, this part of the writing system gets neglected like a child the learner never wanted. People kid themselves into thinking that hiragana and a few kanji are good enough. But the longer you spend in Japan, the more you realise just how prevalent katakana is. It’s everywhere. If you can’t recognise it, you can’t read a lot of things. It’s on food packages, signs, adverts, and pretty much all around you.
It doesn’t make sense why people neglect this aspect of Japanese when it is so easy to dominate it. You can spend a couple of days using the right system and have katakana nailed. Check out my guide and video to get started.
六 Learn Kanji
Stop treating kanji like some mythical beast that you will never hope to slay. See it instead as a fascinating writing system that is beautiful, precise, and poetic and enjoy learning it. I highly recommend this series of books in which you learn kanji through stories. If you learn just one kanji today, you’ve improved your Japanese. Start with the simple ones. Check out my kanji videos to get you started.
七 Read Yotsubato よつばと
This comic is great and it’s at a simple level. Find a nice balance between intense study and relaxed enjoyment. Try reading a few pages and gleaning the meaning and what is going on (pictures help) and then go back over it and look up the words and grammar you don’t understand. Then read it again once you have researched the correct readings. This comic is great fun and makes learning Japanese a joy.
八 Try Shadowing Whilst Going About Your Day
This is another series of books I’ve just picked up. The idea behind this is that you listen to a sentence and then you try to repeat it immediately after the speaker or at the same time and improve your pacing, pronunciation, and understanding. This will make your spoken Japanese better because your mouth is getting used to saying common phrases and words.
You can do this whilst going about your day and doing other stuff. In fact, I recommend you to definitely do this whilst doing something else (e.g. Walking somewhere, cooking, etc.) It is easier to do this sort of thing whilst you are sitting still and concentrating but this method trains you to have good Japanese whilst doing other tasks. Super important! You want to be able to hold a conversation whilst making okonomiyake or navigating the subway, don’t you?
九 Check Out Japanese YouTube
If you are a YouTube junky, get your fix of funny videos by watching the videos trending in Japan. You can do that here. You don’t have to understand everything being said, just let the language wash over you and allow yourself to have exposure to the language in context. You can also check out my channel here.
十 Book a Lesson with a Sensei
Having lessons with a dedicated and professional teacher will boost your rate of progress by a million percent (or something like that). I’m not currently taking new students personally but there are many dedicated teachers on iTalki. Use that link and once you book your first lesson we’ll both get $10 worth of iTalki credits for free.