The best way to learn Japanese is to start with these common Japanese phrases, add in specialty phrases like how to order a beer in Japanese (covered below), and then dive into immersive lessons.
Here’s the lowdown.
Tips for Learning Japanese
Some are the most common mistakes relate to using vowels and consonants as they’re spoken in English. More specifically, such mistakes see English speakers skipping stressed consonant sounds or long vowels when speaking Japanese.
Learning Kanji, the written Japanese language, is perhaps even more difficult. Unlike learning another Latin script language, an English speaker also needs to learn a whole new script for Japanese. Kanji, right, is made up of a number of strokes.
The issue faced by many coming from English to Japanese is attempting to learn Kanji by memorizing the strokes. But if one is to focus on the strokes of Kanji, it can become too complicated.
Take the Kanji on the right, for example. It’s made up of eight strokes. Often, when learning Kanji, people learn how to write at the same time as learning recognition. When learning how to write though, people often memorize the strokes. The risk from this method is that it can result in individuals attempting to recall strokes rather than Kanji.
Further, this increases the length of time it takes on to learn Kanji. Memorizing individual strokes is a lot more burdensome than learning individual pieces of Kanji. So, if you’re having trouble memorizing Kanji, perhaps try learning the individual Kanji rather than the strokes.
Building on the idea that Kanji is perhaps not best learnt by strokes is when to learn Kanji radicals. Often left as an afterthought when learning Kanji meaning learners confront the same issues as learning “stroke by stroke” – trying to memorize what each radical means.
Instead, learning the radicals with the Kanji, as opposed to after, could be much more beneficial to the student.
Learning a couple of hundred radicals earlier is not as difficult task as it may sound yet doing so can help students master the most difficult Kanji more easily compared to if learning as an afterthought.
Looking at some of the most very basic mistakes, English speakers often believe that sayonara means goodbye. Whilst in theory this is correct, in practice in Japan that is not the case.
In Japan, sayonara is generally used if saying goodbye to someone for a very long time, if not forever, as if breaking up or seeing a friend off at the airport.
The use of anata is also an issue. Some Japanese teachers tell students anata means you. This creates issues for English speakers learning Japanese who try to use anata as if it was a straight swap for you.
Again, in practice, Japanese people prefer to use someone’s name instead of anata – using anata is only used for a stranger or jokingly amongst friends. Japanese people like to hear the sound of the own name, usually!
The best way to learn Japanese: Memorize Common Japanese Phrases
Hajimemashite — Pleased to meet you, how do you do
Ohayoo gozaimasu — Good morning!
Konnichiwa — Good afternoon!
Konbanwa — Good evening!
Oyasumi nasai — Good night!
Ja mata – Goodbye, see you later
Mata ashita — See you tomorrow
Sayonara — Good-bye
O-genki desu ka? – How have you been? To be used when you haven’t seen a person for a long time.
Atsui desu ne/Samui desu ne/Ii tenki desu ne — It’s hot, isn’t it? or It’s cold, isn’t it? It’s a nice day, isn’t it? This isn’t always applicable, but quick expressions like this are common greetings in Japan and don’t necessarily require a well-articulated response. Much like saying ‘What’s Up’ in the United States.
Gomennasai — I’m sorry
Sumimasen – I’m sorry or excuse me in a more formal setting.
Litte kimasu – Used during a casual goodbye, essentially means I’m going out and will be right back. The person you’re speaking with will likely reply, itterasshai.
O-saki ni doozo — Go ahead
Ki o tsukete – Have a nice journey/trip.
Ki ni shinaide – You’re welcome/No problem
Ganbatte – Good luck!/Do your best!
The best way to learn Japanese is to memorize these phrases first, and then move on.
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Japanese is a language that takes immense practice and dedication. The best way to learn Japanese quickly is through immersion, and that happens with one-on-one communication. This is exactly what we do here at Live Lingua. By speaking with one of our native Japanese speakers, you’ll grasp the key words and common Japanese phrases, listening to the language, and getting the brain used to hearing and saying the words and phrases, you will find yourself moving along at a much faster pace than by practicing memorization alone. Your first lesson is on the house!
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How to order a beer in Japanese: the Japanese Drinks Cheat Sheet
Just as important as trying the local food! So what do they drink in Japan? Here’s a list of what the Japanese love to have with their world-famous dishes, so take your pick, alcoholic or not, bottoms up!
The next step in our guide to the best way to learn Japanese is to memorize basic restaurant jargon, like how to order drinks in Japanese.
Non-Alcoholic Drinks in Japan:
Meaning “green milk, or green juice,” this veggie drink is made from kale. Although not the most popular considering it’s acquired taste, it’s said to have healing abilities and has also become a dietary supplement.
Another healthy drink that’s commonly drank in Japan is Matcha. This strong green tea has an intense flavor and is sure to give you a real kick. They often don’t add sugar to this tea.
No caffeine and no calories, is this next popular tea made from barley kernels. This is a common summery drink to be served.
To give yourself the taste of beer without getting messy drunk is Hoppy. This beer flavored non-alcoholic drink is sometimes mixed with Shochu (alcoholic) if you’re looking to get a bit tipsy.
5. Pocari Sweat
Not as gross as it might sound and surely doesn’t contain sweat, is Pocari Sweat. A popular carbonated soft drink made in Japan. There is a slight grapefruit taste in this drink and it is often consumed by athletes to replace minerals.
Alcoholic Drinks In Japan:
6. Japanese Beers
Leading the pack, the most common alcoholic drink consumed in Japan is beer. You might have even heard of some of their famous brews such as Asahi, Kirin, Sapporo, and Suntory. A more recent ‘beer’ that is making itself rather popular is Happoshu which is a sparkling type beer. There is less malt, a lighter taste, and it’s cheaper.
Sake is a rice based wine. “Sake” is actually only used as a term for this drink outside of Japan. Sake actually means alcohol. So, Nihonshu, the real name of this beverage, is brewed using rice and water along with white koji mold. Sometimes this drink is served hot, and sometime cold. Either way it’s delicious!
Sakes stronger sister, is Shochu. This popular drink in Japan is also served either hot or cold and is a popular younger crowd type drink. It’s soften mixed with water or tea and rarely drank straight.
The wine we all know, is gaining popularity throughout Japan especially amongst women. They import wine from all the the popular countries such Australia, the USA, France, and Italy, but they are also starting to gain an industry from within its own boundaries and are making it more domesticated. The Yamanashi Prefecture region of Japan is the most famous for producing wine.
10. Other Liquors
While most liquor that’s served around the world is available in Japan, whiskey is perhaps the most popular of them all. It’s drank mostly by men, and is served at nearly any bar. This along with gin and vodka are the next popular liquor drinks in Japan.
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