japanese learning strategy

For Learners: The Top 10 Japanese Learning Strategies

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Hey Junkies!

Let’s talk Japanese learning strategies. There is one extremely important strategy that you’ll see all over this article. It’s reviewing. And it comes in many forms.  So, today, you’re going to learn the top 10 Japanese learning strategies (we can make it top 20, top 5o – be sure to add your own in the comments).

These will help you speak, read, and understand Japanese better than ever.

But reading advice is one thing. Any loser can do that. Putting it to consistent use is where the magic is. So let’s get to it.

  • You’ll learn Japanese learning strategies.
  • You’ll learn how to read & say them in Japanese (which means you learn even more Japanese)
  • Feel free to print this out for your own review.

1. Listen and read along to understand Japanese better.

  • もっとよく理解できるように日本語を聞きながら読む。
  • Motto yoku rikai dekiru yō ni Nihongo o kiki nagara yomu.

japanese learning strategy

This my favorite Japanese learning strategy.

It’s one of the fastest ways to improve your reading, understand and speaking skills. And boosting grammar, vocab + kanji. All at the same damn time.

Screen Shot 2015-08-04 at 1.30.55 AM
An Audio Lesson

Sounds too good to be true. To make it possible – you absolutely need the text of the audio that you can read along with while you listen to an audio lesson. Most resources won’t give that to you. Here are some examples from my favorite learning system – JapanesePod101 – where you can listen and read along.

Screen Shot 2015-08-04 at 1.31.18 AM
The script for the audio lesson.

Why does it work so well?

  • For Reading
    • Simply put, reading is a lot easier when you can follow along with audio. You can also read faster if you practice again and again.
  • Comprehension and Understanding.
    • You understand which word is which with the audio.
    • You know which kanji to use for the word.
    • You get instant translations and instantly know what you’re reading.
    • Grammar comes a lot easier as you see it in action.
  • For Speaking & Pronunciation

    • If you read out loud – and do it again and again, you can speak faster.
    • Hearing the pronunciation helps yours.

Another tool you can use is NHK News Web Easy to apply this strategy. However, it’s more challenging because it’s all in Japanese. However, if you read strategy #9, challenging is a GOOD thing.

2. Record your voice and compare your pronunciation with native Japanese speakers.

  • 声を録音して、日本語母語話者の発音と比べる。
  • Koe o rokuon shite, Nihongo bogo washa no hatsuon to kuraberu.

japanese learning strategy

This is uncommon advice. However, if you record your Japanese… and compare the same word with a native speaker… you will INSTANTLY hear the difference. The result? You speak better Japanese.

Screen Shot 2015-08-04 at 1.30.20 AM
Voice Recording at JapanesePod101.com

Yes, nobody likes hearing their own voice. But, if you do this, this one tactic that will make you sound BETTER than any self-learner. How would you know how bad you sound… if you’ve never heard and compared yourself, huh?

3. Download dialog tracks and listen to the Japanese conversations.

  • ダイアログをダウンロードして、日本語の会話を聞く。
  • Daiarogu o daunrōdo shite, Nihongo no kaiwa o kiku.

japanese learning strategy

Imagine cycling through flashcards. You learn words or phrases.

That’s nice…. but empty. Words are just words.

Now Imagine having a playlist of Japanese conversations on your iPhone. Just Japanese. No English. You can listen and relisten and listen until real Japanese conversations are stuck in your head.

My Japanese playlist on iTunes
My Japanese playlist on iTunes

The magic here to is to re-listen many times over – a.k.a reviewing. I always add new dialogs to this list after I master then. Then, I’ll re-listen (and try to repeat) several times a day.

4. Repeat the phrases that you hear out loud again and again.

  • 耳にしたフレーズを何度も何度も声に出して練習する。
  • Mimi ni shita furēzu o nan-do mo nan-do mo koe ni dashite renshū suru.

japanese learning strategy

Why repeat? Well, in order to speak Japanese…. you need to open your mouth and… wait for it… SPEAK JAPANESE.

Repetition is the mother of all learning for a reason. It’s how brainwashing is done. It’s how marketing works on you. And it’s how people master a language. If you repeat a phrase once, or twice, you’re kidding yourself.

5. Review old lessons to master them completely.

  • 完璧にマスターするために前に勉強したレッスンを復習する。
  • Kanpeki ni masutā suru tame ni mae ni benkyō shita ressun o fukushū suru.

japanese learning strategy

As soon as people are done with something… they move on. Finished an App? Move on. Finished a video lesson or work book? Move on.

The magic to fluency is in reviewing (again, repetition). Noone remembers things on their first try. Or second. But with enough reviews – you’ll be mastering Japanese.

6. Stay motivated by tracking your learning progress grow.

  • 自分の勉強の進み具合を確認してやる気を保つ。
  • Jibun no benkyō no susumi guai o kakunin shite yaruki o tamotsu.

japanese learning strategy

How many Japanese words do you know? How many Kanji? How long can you speak Japanese for? You should know these answers.

I know how many lessons and hours of Japanese I've studied.
I know how many lessons, flashcards and hours of Japanese I’ve studied.

By tracking how much you know… you become invested in the language. It’s hard to quit when you’ve mastered 500 words. That’s a lot. And it tells you that you’re capable of 600. And soon enough, 800.

This is great for motivation.

If you sign up at JapanesePod101, you can track your progress (lessons, hours, flashcards, % of series completed) with the Dashboard as shown above.

7. Read lines slowly at first. Then re-read and increase your speed.

  • まずは文章をゆっくり読む。そして、もう少し速く、もう一度読んでみる。
  • Mazu wa bunshō o yukkuri yomu. Soshite, mō sukoshi hayaku, mō ichi-do yonde miru.

japanese learning strategy

This is reviewing as well. However, THIS is what helped me read FAST and speak FAST. Any new sentence I started – I started reading slow. Then, I’d read it a little faster.

Then a little faster.

Then, I could read it with a single glance. At the same time, you familiarize yourself with more words and kanji. This makes future reading easier.

Again, this is great with any reading material you choose. Textbooks. Audiobooks. Audio Lessons. It’s all okay.

8. Set small and measurable learning goals with a deadline.

  • 締め切りのある、小さくて適当な目標を立てる。
  • Shimekiri no aru, chiisakute tekitō na mokuhyō o tateru.

japanese learning strategy


  • Small: It’s realistic enough to do it. Most people fail at Japanese because they SET hard, vague goals. Easy goals are easy (duh), very reachable and give you confidence to keep going when you reach one. Here are some examples:
    • learn 100 words in 1 week
    • learn 50 kanji this week
    • finish 1 chapter of your textbook this week
  • Measurable: So you know if you reached it our not. If your goal is to learn 100 words – either you know 100 words or not. Either you finished 1 chapter this week or not. Done. No arguments.
  • Deadline: Believe me – nothing in school or in the working world gets done WITHOUT a deadline. If there was no deadline, nobody would do anything. Set your deadlines – by when do you plan to accomplish your small goal?

When will you learn some Japanese? Set a deadline!

9. Try harder lessons to challenge yourself and improve faster.

  • 早く上達するように、自分のレベルより少し難しいレッスンに挑戦してみる。
  • Hayaku jōtatsu suru yō ni, jibun no reberu yori sukoshi muzukashii ressun ni chōsen shite miru.

japanese learning strategy

Do you know what people do at the gym to get stronger?

They lift heavier weights.

Know how you can improve your Japanese? Try lessons that are too hard for you. Yes, you will struggle. You will feel discomfort.

However, struggling is a sign that you’re improving. See, most people don’t get this because its uncomfortable. It feels bad. But if you can understand that – when it “feels bad,” that’s when you’re learning – you’ll be much more open to struggle.

10. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes

  • 間違う事を恐れてはいけません
  • Machigau koto o osorete wa ikemasen

japanese learning strategy

Easy to say. Hard to do. There’s nothing I can write on my own that will convince you to make mistakes. See? You can read all you want, agree and feel smart and good about itbut putting advice into action is a different skill.

That’s where all the talented people are at.

However, here’s a nice story to think about.

A ceramics teacher announced he was dividing his class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right graded solely on its quality.

His procedure was simple: on the final day he would weigh the work of the “quantity” group: 50 pounds of pots rated an A, 40 pounds a B, and so on. Those being graded on “quality”, however, needed to produce only one pot – albeit a perfect one – to get an A.

Well, come grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity!

While the “quantity” group was churning out piles of work – and learning from their mistakes – the “quality” group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.

(source: https://sivers.org/qlq)

So if that tells you anything… it’s to churn out piles of work. Again repetition is the mother of all learning. You’ll make mistakes. Then, you’ll learn from them.

So, what are your thoughts?

What are your favorite Japanese learning strategies? Let’s make a HUGE master list of strategies for new learners. Add yours in the comments and I will add it to this list.

– The Main Junkie

If you REALLY want to learn to Japanese with effective lessons by real teachers – Sign up for free at JapanesePod101 (click here) and start learning!

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