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Published on 03.31.2016
For those of us who are from the West, learning another language that does not have any kind of romanized characters can be a challenge -- and this would include Hebrew, Greek, Arabic, Chinese Mandarin as well as Japanese, as these are but a few languages that rely on strokes and characters to get the message across. Of course, you can always date a Japanese girl and marry her, picking up the nuances of the language along the way, but that's not quite the best way in picking up Japanese. If you are tight on your budget and yet would like to learn some Japanese, here are some free options that are available online -- virtually letting you learn wherever you are, as long as there is a decent Internet connection in the vicinity.
Generally speaking, picking up Japanese (or any other language for that matter) would involve focusing a lot on listening, reading and speaking. We will not focus on writing at the moment, since there are other means to improve on writing, and the easiest would be to listen. Immerse yourself in the Japanese language by listening to their music, watching movies, reading the news, as well as enjoying long and drawn out dramas. It would be best to simply live among them though, and be surrounded by the language.
If you are not too big on reading, hanging out with a Japanese crowd and repeating phrases would also be a good way to start, not to mention make friends. Do take note that language is a tool, and it is not something which you can simply study, learn and not use it. Like all other tools, one needs to use it in order to be proficient.
You will be able to join in on an online language exchange program via Skype, and a good place to start would be Japan Guide. On the other hand, another way to speed up your learning would be to indulge in some blogging language exchange. Basically, you get to write on any topic in Japanese, and those proficient in the language would make the relevant and necessary corrections to your grammar, et al. In order to return the favor, you do the same for others who write blog articles in your native language, where you would then play the role of a teacher. Definitely one of the more fun ways to make friends from all over the world, too.
Tae Kim's Guide to Learning Japanese would be a good place to start, although you would have to do a whole lot of reading. If reading is not your cup of tea, then it would be better to take the conversational approach as mentioned earlier. At least it will not be as rigid, and more often than not, the street style of a language differs greatly from the formal, written form.
Kanji & Vocab
Anki is a downloadable flashcard program allows you to learn Japanese the children's way, through flashcards, of course. Eventually with enough practice, you should be able to get the hang of it and best of all is, this is virtual -- which means there is no need to look for more storage space in your home to stash those flash cards when not in use.
The Japanese language is no doubt a visual one as you can tell by now, and visual association (mnemonics) would work great when it comes to picking up Japanese words. Memrise is another option that will let you figure out words for yourself as you associate items an objects with a particular word.
Gamers will probably find the incentive of picking up bonuses and leveling up attractive, which is why quizzes with a ranking system posted up for all and sundry to see might just work in Japanese Class.
Online Forums for Questions
Online forums are another fantastic way of picking up the language, and you would not be able to go wrong with this Reddit channel, as native Japanese speakers as well as those proficient in it will be able to provide you with the necessary pointers.
Last but not least, Japanese news is another good place to begin. Not only do you get to put your finger on the pulse of things, as well as peer into how Japanese think, you can also pick up the more formal nuances of Japanese faster. Adults can always check out this website, but if you are not too confident with your proficiency, fret not -- there is always a kids version, with the likes of Asahi, Children's Express, Mainichi and Yomiuri being readily available options.
Source: Rachel and Jun (Youtube)