So you’re considering embarking on the Japanese learning journey? Great! It’s a long road (like, years… maybe forever) but incredibly rewarding. But before you dive in, I want to quickly explain a couple of things and give you some tips. If you’re looking for how to actually get games to play in Japanese, check here.
Japanese has 3 Writing Systems
That might sound odd but I can explain. First are hiragana and katakana. These are syllabaries where each character has a syllable associated with it. hiragana and katakana’s characters represent the same sounds, but katakana is mostly used for words that are borrowed from other languages. For example, か (hiragana) and カ(katakana) both make the ‘ka’ sound.
These two syllabaries are going to be your foundation and are where you should start your studies. Without knowing these characters and their associated sounds, even a textbook won’t have much to offer you. There are 46 characters in each so I would recommend taking a week or two to memorize them. There’s no need to rush. You want this foundation to be as solid as possible. Maybe go with 5 or 10 a day by writing them a few times each throughout the day and reviewing a bit during the following weeks.
The third writing system is kanji, which are characters from Chinese that are used to write Japanese words. kanji look a little something like this: 漢字. This is the kanji for… ‘Kanji’, which is made up of two characters. There are a lot of kanji. Thousands of them, actually. Fortunately, the Japanese government has a list of 2,136 kanji that are called Jouyou Kanji or Regular Use Kanji. Jouyou Kanji are a great goalpost for Japanese learners like us, but we’re bound to learn some more while grinding through JRPG’s. What’s another handful when you already have over 2,000 to learn anyway? Your first few weeks of study probably won’t involve much if any kanji though so I’ll spare you the details of how to study them for now. You can check here when you’re ready.
Get a Textbook
There are a lot of textbooks and online resources to make use of. The one I used when I started was the Genki series. It has a very positive reception online and comes with a CD to help with listening. I listened to those CDs on a lot of commutes. Good times. Anyway, after learning hiragana and katakana, this book will help you jump into grammar and ease you into kanji. It also covers a lot of basic vocabulary and phrases that will make up your foundation in Japanese.
The goal of this site is be used alongside a textbook like the Genki series or to go along with your study routine to help making gaming in Japanese a little smoother than it would be otherwise. The textbook is going to be your companion for a long time, but don’t let that stop you from dabbling in things like games and manga to help make studying more fun.
That’s it for this post though. You can also use some of the basic grammar lessons on this site to help get you started while your textbook is shipping 🙂 Don’t forget to check back for vocabulary lists as well. As you learn more words, the language opens up and becomes a lot more fun.
*Super Final Hot Tip*
To practice reading katakana I used to go to Bulbapedia (website) and scroll down the list of Japanese Pokemon names and try to read them. We also have a series that features text from Pokemon Crystal side-by-side with translations here. This is another great way to start reading hiragana and katakana. You may learn some new words as well!