MY TIPS FOR LEARNING JAPANESE {& ERIK’S TOO!}

essellesse talks learning Japanese! Shannon Silver shares her tips on learning Japanese & a new language

Learning a new language has been a very raw & humbling experience. In fact, I wasn’t sure how “public” I wanted to be with it.

I actually started to share a bit of my Japanese journey through my stories, including writing in Hirigana for the first time – and I was SO NERVOUS.

BUT- that nervousness went away because the encouragement I got in my DMs were next level, especially from some of my Japanese blog readers!

I also got messages saying that I inspired others to learn a new language which were some seriously rad DMs to get. Thank you.

On top of that, I’ve met a few others online who are learning the language as well so it kind of becomes a little support group.

As I write this, I’m about to go to my last Japanese class of our session! We are definitely continuing on with our studies and enrolling in more classes which continue on indefinitely.

If you want to know the school we are learning in, reach out to me personally & I’m happy to give the information if you are in SF.

The style of the class is very kick the baby bird out of the nest. Very little is done in English except for explaining the language at times. All hiragana we do on our own & the teacher gives us her notes. It’s a VERY small class (5 of us total) & intimate. LOTS of speaking with each other & with our teacher.

We are considering enrolling in some of the classes at our local college in addition, since there will be exams, tests, etc where right now, all we have is homework & work to do on our own to stay sharp that we don’t even turn in – does this make sense?

Right now, I know casual, common phrases, questions, words, numbers, as well as hiragana. As far as katakana, I only know my name, & kanji I have not even begun with.

SO- I thought it would be an interesting post to talk about my personal tips for learning Japanese.

AGAIN- I am not fluent & I have a LOT of struggle points, BUT it is no longer foreign to me. I learned a lot in the past ten weeks

Ok so that’s a little description on where I am in my Japanese journey as I give these tips! As time goes, I’ll continue to add more and more and make follow up posts.

& even though this is for Japanese, I feel like the basis of the tips could apply if you’re learning any language?

essellesse talks learning Japanese! Shannon Silver shares her tips on learning Japanese & a new language

Here are my tips for learning Japanese:

ONE }: This is the most important one of them all, but to effectively learn Japanese, you have to COMPLETELY divorce English. There is no correlation or translation between the two languages. The alphabet is completely different, as well as sentence structure. Once I wrapped my head around this, it truly started to make learning it easier.

TWO }: Start with speaking & writing Romanized Japanese, then write in Hiragana, then Katakana / Kanji. You speak more than writing in general & once you learn all the Hirigana characters, it makes it easier to write if you know the Romanized. It’s been about 3 months & we haven’t even been taught Kanji yet. Knowing Romanized will make it easier to speak & grasp and makes it VERY easy to apply hiragana when you get there.

THREE }: This is our textbook & it is VERY helpful. It is a lot of repeating over and over in Romanized writing. One thing Erik & I do is say it out loud as we write it. I continue to say it out loud until I completely understand what I am saying & writing. When I get to that point, that’s when I try my hand at writing it out in Hiragana. I’d also recc this book for anyone going to Japan, as it’s very helpful in general!

FOUR }: This was advice from our teacher but she advised us AGAINST using Duolingo. This was very important for me to know because that was indeed what I was using before classes – she said it’s not accurate {& to be clear, she is Japanese}.

FIVE }: Having a partner to do it with is SO helpful. Erik will randomly ask me a question in Japanese – not only does it put me on the spot, but it makes me think about it when I least expect it. That said, if you are solo don’t let that stop you – an intimate class like ours is very helpful and there are services like iTalki. I’ve even heard tips to check for “language exchange” in the community section of craigslist… but of course, use caution 🙂

SIX }: This tip is kind of out there, but a fun one, especially since I am very passionate about Japanese brands, but SURROUND YOURSELF with as much Japanese brands as you can. For example, in my shower, I have this Hada Labo Face Wash & this Meishoko Exfoliator. I read it constantly & everytime, I can make out more & more. Same with writing. I use these Japanese notebooks, these pens, & these highlighters. I try to make out the characters on them constantly & it helps!

SEVEN }: Follow hashtags – go through the ones I am following & you will find PLENTY. This allows yourself to digitally immerse yourself in the language as you are scrolling through instagram. In fact, I’m considering unfollowing EVERYONE I currently follow & only follow Japanese accounts. That way, whenever I want to scroll mindlessly, it’s all in Japanese & educational {plus I’m just so bored with instagram these days so it would def make things less boring}… not to mention, it’s a fun way to find new brands and accounts. On Instagram, there’s also a “see translation” option – it’s not the most accurate but it’s a good starting point to get the jist of what is being said & applying that.

EIGHT }: For learning hiragana, this website has been invaluable to me. I use it daily. I appreciate the gifs for each character as the order in which you write it is VERY important. I visit this site daily.

NINE }: Frequent the local legit Japanese restaurants & bars. A lot of the menus will be in Japanese with an English menu on the back & if you ask nicely, the staff will probably let you keep it. Two restaurants in San Francisco I love are Izakaya Roku & Rintaro. It’s a fun way that helped me with reading hiragana with words I know… not to mention absolutely delicious!!

I also asked Erik his tips too so I wanted to include them also!

Erik’s Tips for learning Japanese

ONE }: find a system (including a class) that allows / requires you to practice daily, ideally with a partner, and holds you accountable

TWO }: say things out loud while you practice, and practice full sentences and adverb / adjectives / nouns to learn grammar too.

THREE }: Ask everyday things like the date, time, and where they are going or what they are doing today, when and how.  In general, speak it as much as possible

FOUR }” Get a workbook where you write things out over time.  Repetition is important {<<< co-sign, even if it’s writing things out you learn online or using this book}

FIVE }: work on numbers over time – there are several number systems (counting, money, big numbers, flat objects, tall thin objects, food, dates, and times) and trying to learn them all at once is confusing. { <<< tip from me re: numbers, learning how to write and say phone numbers really, really helped me learn the numbers.}

SIX }: Hiragana is really hard and really just a second full course of study.

I hope this was helpful! In about a year or so, we will probably do full on immersion – basically, live in Japan for an extended period of time like a month or two. There really is no better way to do so. And if we are dreaming big, I’d love to relocate there or split my time between California & Japan at the very least.

One thing I want to end on – & I understand that this is a very controversial statement – but if I could of done everything over in my life, it would be college. I wouldn’t have chosen my major which was Hospitality. I have my reasons which I won’t get into bc they will probably offend some people but I will say this: I do regret my major. Instead, I would have 100% majored in Japanese – zero question about it.

Not only would I likely be fluent by now, but part of education would have been immersion & much more worth the money spent. It would have been better for my job & career path in hindsight, & even if it wasn’t, being fluent in a different language is an invaluable skill… but on the bright side, maybe I would have never met Erik? Who knows.

OKAY – I hope this was helpful!!

& to anyone learning a new language, seriously, HUGE props to you. It’s so rewarding & challenging at the same time… not to mention a HUGE comittment.

Are you learning Japanese too? Say hi in the comments!!

Have a nice weekend! よいしゅうまつを 

x SLS

+++ buy our textbook here!

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