Speech and listening

Foreign Service Institute (FSI) has declared that Japanese language is one of the five most difficult languages for native English speakers to learn. Instead of focusing more on learning how to read and write these languages, it is easier to begin with speaking and listening. Once you get a grip on your listening capabilities and improve your speech, you may start learning how to read and write as well.

The tips provided below are to help you improve your Japanese speech and listening skills:

1. Invest only in good quality learning material
Don’t just try to make do with whatever learning material you find, rather, make sure you choose only the top-notch quality materials available. For instance, you may find a not-so-well known book that teaches easy English to Japanese translations, but what you may not know is that it contains a lot of outdated information. For a beginning student, spending a lot of time and effort on learning speaking techniques just to find out later that they are outdated, is really discouraging.

“Genki” and “Japanese for Busy People” are two popular books that have been known to be good guides for beginners. “Barron’s Japanese Grammar” book is also useful, and would really help you if you use it in conjunction with a dictionary that has kanji and each English definition as well.

2. Focus on Japanese entertainment
Japanese anime and manga (comics) have gained a lot of popularity among young adults all over the world. Many young fans don’t even wait for the official translations to arrive, rather take the literal manga translations word-by-word, which really help improve Japanese vocabulary. Although this may seem like a good way to learn only the slang, it helps a lot in teaching complex grammar patterns and vocabulary that is useful in everyday speech.

Listening to Japanese music and watching TV shows are also a great way of improving your language skills.
3. Go Karaoke!
Bear in mind that karaoke is Japan’s unofficial national sport, and there is nothing Japanese enjoy more than foreigners singing their favorite songs in karaoke bars. Pick out some of your favorite Japanese songs and follow their lyrics closely while singing them out loud. Not only will that help improve your accent, it will also assist you recognize kanji and kana. In short, it will make you conscious of what Japanese language should sound like, and will increase your reading speed as well.

Reference
Effective Language Learning. (2012). Language Difficulty Ranking. Available at: http://www.effectivelanguagelearning.com/language-guide/language-difficulty