I forgot I wrote this blog post a while ago about some fun ways that have helped me learn Japanese. It’s all about using the language in context to communicate with people, while having fun!
1. LINE messaging app
This is the social media app of Japan. You can practice your Japanese by texting in Japanese, posting status updates to your timeline in Japanese, etc.
Bonus tip: Get some LINE stickers (AKA super leveled-up emoticons) with Japanese writing! They come in animated or not, free or paid, different characters, cute to weird or both, etc. Awesome, fun way to pick up common Japanese phrases!
2. Write Japanese captions on social media
I like making captions/statuses in Japanese on Facebook or Instagram – not only is it helpful for your Japanese friends that don’t speak English, but it’s also a really easy way to practice forming sentences!
Twitter is pretty popular in Japan (especially among young people) so that might a good way to get yourself to tweet a couple sentences in Japanese everyday.
At one point, I tried using this book 日本日記 (Japan diary) to write a short journal entry everyday. It has a lot of useful sentence patterns and examples, but it lacks the communicative aspect so I prefer practicing forming sentences on social media sites.
3. Oyaji gyagu (Japanese puns)
I LOVE puns and bad jokes. Fortunately, the Japanese language is great for making puns! Although it’s a little bit different than punning in English, many people enjoy oyaji gyagu (or old men jokes… basically dad jokes), or enjoy hating them. >.< Whatever their feelings about puns, Japanese people will be impressed by your language knowledge!
Learning Japanese puns is a really good way to remember vocabulary. E.g., I remembered the word for elephant, “ゾウ zou” through the oyaji gyagu sentence “ゾウだぞう zou da zou” or there’s an elephant. See this Japan Times article for more examples.
Next time when you’re going home, try telling people “ja, kaeru! gero gero.” (帰る kaeru means ‘go home’ and カエル kaeru means ‘frog.’ Gero is ribbit. Learned this one from a Doraemon episode!)
4. Experiencing Japanese culture
Learn new vocabulary by going to quintessential Japanese events like festivals (祭り matsuri post here), experiencing New Year traditions (post about お正月 oshōgatsu here), cherry blossom viewing (花見 hanami), etc.
Review the vocab you’ve learned with tip #2 by posting pictures on social media & writing some Japanese captions about your experience!
5. Taking the JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test)
Okay, this one isn’t as fun, but you can make it fun!
So I knew very little Japanese when coming here (only basic greetings and hiragana), and I ended up taking the N3 (intermediate level) 1.5 years after arriving. I did pass, but just barely.
Although taking the JLPT caused me a lot of stress, it did force me to crack open a book about Japanese for the first time since I came to Japan. Studying for the N3 was helpful in two ways:
- I was able to review stuff I’d learned from daily conversation (and explain rules for things I’d been picking up here and there)
- I learned a lot of useful vocab and grammar patterns that I was able to use in daily life
Making it fun: I remember better if I make a bunch of example sentences and ask Japanese friends if I can say that. The weirder the sentence, the better! E.g., I made a lot of sentences about vampire snowmen drinking human blood… It’s more memorable that way!
Of course, anime is a classic way to learn Japanese. Here’s a way to make watching anime less passive.
1) Learning popular catchphrases (セリフ serifu)
- Watch some episodes of the classic ones like Doraemon, Detective Conan, Gegege no Kitarō, etc. and learn some of their catchphrases! From Sailor Moon, I learned “tsuki ni kawatte oshioki yo!” or (In the name of the moon, I’ll punish you!) and that’s always fun to say in conversations.
2) Pay attention to any writing
When they have writing (like the title screen with the episode name), I try to pause and check out the kanji because they often have the furigana (hiragana to show the kanji pronunciation). It’s a good way to practice reading kanji and learn new vocab! I was watching Kodomo no Omocha recently and I learned that karate is literally ’empty hand’ (空 kara + 手 te). Whaaaat. Mind blown. Totally makes sense though, right?