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Tips for Japanese learners feeling that they’re not making progress

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These days there are increasing opportunities for Japanese learners, mainly expatriates relocated in Japan to talk with native Japanese speakers (via online, or in real life). However, even those that have been there for some time often say they tend to be anxious about making “casual conversation” with them. Here’s what can be done about that.

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It depends on your mother tongue. Usually, for native speakers of European languages such as English, French or German, which are linguistically very distant, Japanese tends to be more difficult. However, for Korean, Turkish, and Mongolian speakers it is a lot easier.

What are the reasons for any difficulties?

Differences exist between colloquial Japanese and written Japanese.

Japanese study materials tend to focus more on the written language than its spoken form and as a result, learners may be overly obsessed with grammatical accuracy.

  1. Japanese often has multiple expressions for expressing the same issue.
  2. Japanese has three kinds of letters: “平仮hiragana”, “片仮名(katakana)”and “漢字(kanji)”. Often, single “漢字(kanji)” is read in multiple different ways.
  3. Japanese words are mixture of 3 types – namely, words of ancient Chinese origin, ancient Japanese origin and recently, imported words of European origin.
  4. Japanese has rich expressions of “onomatopoeia擬態語 (gitai-go)”, often repeating the same sounds, such as “ton-ton” (e.g. sound of thumping doors etc.);  “doki-doki” (sound of heart beating); “waku-waku”(feeling of thrilling expectation.) Japanese learners tend to feel amused at learning them and that may even help them to memorize these unusual words.
  5. Gender differences. There are masculine or feminine spoken words in Japanese. Therefore, if you do not speak the language that matches your gender, it will sound strange.
  6. There’s a complicated system of honorific expressions and polite speech.


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So what is the best way of overcoming these challenges?

  1. Get familiar with various types of conversation e.g. through watching Japanese “anime”, “movie”, “drama,” etc.

  3. Note down Japanese new words and buzz words you have heard of, to enrich your vocabulary.
  4. Take every opportunity to talk with native Japanese speakers, try using the words which you know without hesitation and ask their advice.


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Where can you take Japanese lessons?

Introducing our overseas Japanese language cooperation classes. We recommend taking lessons online with a school with good reputation in teaching Japan to expatriates and executives. BiCortex Languages is a school operating in more than 60 countries and teaching more than 30 languages, which can teach Japanese and provide face-to-face classes, online classes one-to-one and online group lessons.

Written by Sakiko Nagaie and Luke Mcleod, BiCortex Languages

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