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How tough is it to learn Japanese by myself


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Im not planning to go into any Japanese course but I really do want to learn to learn Japanese. Everybody is saying that Japanese is probably the toughest language to to learn and it would probably take years to actually perfect the language. But all I really want is to read Japanese. Im really not interested on learning how to speak the language, so would that make it easier?

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Im not planning to go into any Japanese course but I really do want to learn to learn Japanese. Everybody is saying that Japanese is probably the toughest language to to learn and it would probably take years to actually perfect the language.

There's no such thing as the toughest language to learn and every language takes years to perfect.

But all I really want is to read Japanese. Im really not interested on learning how to speak the language, so would that make it easier?

I'm not sure. I mean, it's an unusual approach to language learning. It'd mean some less work, but still, you'd have A LOT to do. But if you want it, you should try. The good thing about learning Japanese by oneself is that there are many, many resources available online, many of them for free.

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Yeah I know its really unusual, but I mean after learning to read the language, which is really my number one priority, I will also study how to speak japanese which Im pretty sure will help me a lot because were planning to do a trip in to tokyo sometime next year, and I want to at least see some progress before that time.

Like what you said im currently using references online and apps from the appstore to learn the basic.

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It will seem daunting when you start but if you stay motivated and on track, you can make good progress through sheer persistence. As the other guy said, there are so many resources, and you can always find one that suits your style or interests to help with staying interested. Good luck

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Sounds like a really hard thing to do but I'm sure it can be done. Not having any tutelage can be difficult initially because you won't know where to start. Of course, there are plenty of self-learn books out there you can get and here at linguaholic where you can ask questions.

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If your only goal is to be able to read it's probably doable. But reading is by far the hardest part of the Japanese language. It's still a years-long task. Can I ask why you only want to read it? Please don't tell me you're considering taking up this years-long endeavour just so you can read manga in the original.

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It's gonna be tough but doable. Watch movies and TV shows. Read books. Study a lot. Stay patient and interested, it'll pay off. If possible, try to find an exchange partner and/or save up to go to Japan for at least a months worth of practice. Maybe you could find a language program to do.

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Only focusing on reading would actually make learning Japanese harder, I would think. The basic kana are phonetic so that, at least, is really easy to learn how to read aloud. Speaking is easy, so first I would learn the vowel sounds, recite the alphabet, etc. Listen to Japanese being spoken by native speakers. Then memorize hiragana, then katakana, then focus on learning lots of grammar and vocab and such. After you've gotten enough down that you can have a basic conversation aloud or written in kana, then you should try to learn at least a few kanji a week. That's what I did when I was first learning, more or less, and I assimilated quite a lot pretty quickly. I've fallen behind on my kanji and vocab studies and haven't done structured learning in a long time, but when I was, it was pretty quick.

Then again, I was in actual Japanese classes after I'd learnt basic sounds and kana, so there is that. But that much you can actually learn on your own. For the rest, if traditional learning is off the table, I would consult online guides and maybe books, and find some learning partners. Preferably someone roughly at your learning level who you can learn stuff with, along with someone very experienced who really knows the language well.

I wonder why you want to learn Japanese, if all you want to do is read it? If it's just so you can read manga, novels, or games and such, well... I can understand. That was my original motivation when I was younger, anyway. But it is such a large and complex undertaking that unless you have more motive than that (i.e. you find you really enjoy the language itself, and the culture, and the subtleties) I doubt you will be able to stick with it for very long.

Anyway, regardless of all that, I wish you the best luck!

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  • 2 months later...

Please don't tell me you're considering taking up this years-long endeavour just so you can read manga in the original.

Haha, why would this be a bad thing? I mean, is there really a good reason to want to learn japanese? I think wanting to learn japanese to read manga is a splendid reason, much better than "I may or may not move to Japan one day" or something shady like that.

The problem would probably be that one would find it hard to motivate oneself just to read manga.

I'm personally studying "only" to understand Anime, Manga, Light Novels, Visual Novels, and other forms of Japanese entertainment. (Note: A huge load of Visual novels and Light Novels are not, and never will be translated into English) I'm not learning to speak nor write, I'm focusing only on the passive understanding. Am I doing it wrong? lol

OP: Even if this is an old thread... Whatever. I don't think it's very hard to learn by yourself, atleast not if you're not trying to learn how to speak the language. As others have mentioned, it is useful if you know how the words are pronounced though, so even if you won't be able to think in the language and make your own sentences and all, you should probably learn how to pronounce the kana properly either way. The hardest part about japanese is probably the amount of characters you need to learn, but that's really not as hard as some people make it to be, it just takes time. Good luck!

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There's this boy in my class who self-studied and he got placed into my advanced Japanese class. He also speaks and understands Japanese better than me. Learning Japanese is hard, but manageable if you put your heart to it. In the end, it depends on how much effort you put into learning the language.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I'm self-studying Japanese too, and I'm getting by, even though there are parts that I find really challenging. I guess the key to this would be motivation and focus, plus practice. I practice writing and reading at least an hour or two a day. Then read any online resource that would come my way. I signed up with a website to help speed things up a bit. They have quizzes and lessons that are really useful. And I bought a dictionary, too, plus those other books teaching useful phrases for travelers. It really takes a lot of time and effort.

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  • 3 months later...

I guess you could just learn to read it, but you still know to learn how to speak it, so you recognize the sounds and letters when you read them aloud or in your mind.  Sadly you will have to master every aspect of learning the language, but don't worry, if you put the effort it will eventually pay off! Just keep on trying and don't give up until you can read it :)  I have heard isn't easy, but if you really want it you can do it, just ever forget the positive attitude!

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I think learning to read their text and learning how to speak their language probably go hand in hand for the most part. I don't think it's something you can pick apart and choose which lessons you can pick up or not. Though, it might still be possible, in the way that you probably wouldn't have to learn pronunciation as much since you'd only be reading, but I think for the most part you'd still need to know how to pronounce the words in your head. I believe it can be done since I've seen some anime fans master the language without any help from others.

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  • 1 month later...

I just enrolled in a beginner's Japanese language course.  Though I am learning Japanese through songs, anime, and movies, it is really difficult to grasp the entirety of the language.  You may get the idea, but the spoken language is another matter, so if you are learning to study the language itself, it will take more than just self-study.  I would need the guidance of a language instructor to help me as well.

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  • 11 months later...

Im not planning to go into any Japanese course but I really do want to learn to learn Japanese. Everybody is saying that Japanese is probably the toughest language to to learn and it would probably take years to actually perfect the language. But all I really want is to read Japanese. Im really not interested on learning how to speak the language, so would that make it easier?

Well you could try because we have lots of resources in the internet if you really want to learn and if you can find someone who can teach you, then so much the better. I guess you just need to really work hard though and this is very doable but takes a lot of your time and effort to learn what you are trying to do. I wish you well my friend. All it takes is patience, hard work, perseverance and luck. I hope you can truly make it my friend.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Learning Japanese by yourself is doable, but you have to be disciplined and motivated. I started when I was in high school and I've kept at it ever since. I learned with the Genki Japanese series of textbooks and they became essential for me. Burn out will happen, so be careful not to leave too much of a time gap between studying. Try to find a purpose for studying Japanese. For example, to read manga or to understand Japanese animation without subtitles, etc. 

These days, I recommend an app called "Human Japanese" that will teach you the basics without you having to go to another app or book. It might save you time. I've been through so many resources, so just ask me if you have a question!

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It all depends on your motivation and how much time and effort you want to put in it.
This isn't limited to just Japanese, it actually applies to every language.

If you want to learn Japanese for business, to pass an exam, to make people jealous, because you must, etc., you'll have a very tough time learning Japanese.
On the other hand, if you want to lean Japanese because you love the Japanese culture, their anime/manga/movies, their food, etc., you'll realise learning Japanese will be much easier than you think.

When you've got that out of the way, you'll need to find the right tools and materials that work for you.
I personally prefer speaking over anything, so Skype and FluentU are among my favourites, but I also use Anki and Memrise for the written half of the language.
And I also use YouTube and iTunes to find Japanese videos and songs respectively.

Reading stories doesn't work for me at all, so I don't even bother finding myself a Japanese version of "The Lord of the Rings" or something else and force myself in reading all of it.

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Learning Japanese on your own is not necessarily, hard. As others have pointed out, it depends on your motivation and passion for the language. Most people get a teacher because it gives them the extra push to study more.

I'm self-taught. I learned Japanese from reading language books and watching Japanese shows. If you want to learn Japanese, be sure to also watch something. Don't just read. Watching and listening to Japanese, helps sharpen your hearing senses to words and also gives you a better understanding on how it's spoken. :wink:

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Learning Japanese by yourself is doable, but you have to be disciplined and motivated. I started when I was in high school and I've kept at it ever since. I learned with the Genki Japanese series of textbooks and they became essential for me. Burn out will happen, so be careful not to leave too much of a time gap between studying. Try to find a purpose for studying Japanese. For example, to read manga or to understand Japanese animation without subtitles, etc. 

These days, I recommend an app called "Human Japanese" that will teach you the basics without you having to go to another app or book. It might save you time. I've been through so many resources, so just ask me if you have a question!

I've heard such wonderful things about the Genki series! I'm pretty sure I saw workbooks for them as well, right? I tend to learn best with things like that to accompany the text. :)

I saw some people online talking about Human Japanese before, too... I'll have to give that a shot if you recommend it!

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I've heard such wonderful things about the Genki series! I'm pretty sure I saw workbooks for them as well, right? I tend to learn best with things like that to accompany the text. :)

I saw some people online talking about Human Japanese before, too... I'll have to give that a shot if you recommend it!

Yep, the Genki series has workbooks as well! Going with the Genki series is going to be pricy at first, but the value of the series is worth it, in my opinion. If you're not sure and you just want to put your toes in the water, Human Japanese is pretty good too! Everything is included, so you only need to buy one thing. You can also use it on your computer or smartphone, so that's a bit more convenient than carrying around books.

Whatever you decide, please let me know what you end up going with! Or if you have any questions. I'd be happy to help!

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I tried Human Japanese before, it has some excellent explanation throughout the entire app.
The only problem is that some chapters tend to be way too long, making it boring at some point.
For this reason, I never finished reading the 2 apps.

I do like how they explain, but I think it should have been shortened by a lot if it actually went to the point more often.

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For me, learning Japanese was a very interesting experience. I tried watching Japanese movies and anime while reading comics for children (well when you're an absolute beginner what better to start?). I find that being in a Japanese-speaking environment helps tremendously, just the fact that you need to use the language to get by in your daily life was a tremendous push, so to speak. The problem for me was that I wasn't living in a Japanese-speaking environment. Sure, I used to work for a Japanese firm in Malaysia, but talking to the boss and writing formal emails in Japanese was a whole new ballgame.

Part of the complexity of course is due to Japanese culture. The way you speak with your parents is totally different from the way you speak to your siblings and this in turn is different from the way you speak to a stranger, to your boss, to a client etc. English has this as well, only not as strictly codified. In Japanese grammar, if you do not know WHOM you are speaking with, you literally cannot conjugate verbs. A simple sentence like, "Where are you going?" can have 3 or more different forms depending on these socio-linguistic factors.

For me at least, being in a non-Japanese-speaking environment meant that I could learn all these different grammatical nuances from a textbook (and practice with a Japanse-speaking colleague, on one of those rare occasions when we get to sit down and talk :) ) but I did not have practical knowledge of when to apply them.

For example, in manga, when a male character gets hurt, he often says "iteeee!" ("ouch!"). This when said by a young male in an informal situation is fine but for women, for example, it is considered quite rude and "itai" must be used instead. In more formal situation forms like "itai desu" might be more appropriate etc. etc. Knowing when to use these different forms of a word is a mark of fluent Japanese.

Just my two cents worth ) In any case, good luck!

Edited by BWL
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