Have you ever found yourself wanting to learn Japanese? You’re not alone. By learning a new language you can also get a glimpse at the culture behind the language. Without the ability to communicate, you can never understand a culture on its own terms. Discovering and learning about Japanese language and culture is easier now than ever thanks to Nihongo Master. Learning a new language is a logical step to expand our own horizons. There are lots of reasons to learn Japanese. Let’s find out why.
Figuring out how to stay motivated learning Japanese isn’t an easy thing to do. Language learning is hard, it can be super frustrating, and there will always be a million things you could be doing instead of studying. Of course if you’re in high school or college taking a language class means if you don’t study, you don’t pass. But self-learners have a whole other problem. How do you stay motivated when you’re the only one making yourself study? How do you stay motivated when your friends are going to the beach or to see a movie? How do you stay motivated when you just got a new video game you’re dying to play?
These are all great questions, and with summer just around the corner we thought we would a handy guide to help you stay on top of your studies this summer, and the whole rest of the year as well!
Use It or Lose It!
One of the strongest motivators to keep you learning should be the fear of forgetting what you already learned! Taking a break and coming back only to realize you have to review SO MUCH that you already learned should be a powerful reason to keep at it every single day.
Everyone Has 15 Minutes a Day
Should you study for more than 15 minutes a day if you really want to get better? Of course. But if 15 minutes is all you have, it can definitely make a difference. On Nihongo Master this might mean just coming in to do some drills and keep things fresh!
Schedule Your Learning Time and Stick to It
Telling yourself “I’m gonna study later” is great if you actually do it, but making loose, unspecified plans is a great way to break them. When planning your studies for the week be sure to set aside specific tasks for specific times. “From 6-6:30 I’m going to do Nihongo Master drills.” “From 6:30-7 I’m going to do my WaniKani.” Most people who are self-studying use multiple tools and websites so building out your study plan at the beginning of the weeks means you know exactly what to do and when each and every day. When you have that time set aside, you can be sure not to have anything else scheduled and you will be much more likely to complete your tasks!
Feeling Frustrated? Take a Japanese break!
Learning Japanese is HARD with confusing grammar and thousands of kanji and sometimes you just wanna give up! If you start feeling like that, then take a break to do some FUN Japanese stuff. Watch your favorite anime or J-drama. Leave the subtitles on so you’re not working so hard. Dance around to your favorite J-Pop band. Whatever reason you love Japan and Japanese culture, it can help you stay motivated. Working too hard and getting burnt out is a surefire way to give up.
If you’re not into Japanese culture and are just learning for work or for family then remind yourself why those things are important to you! Go spend some time with the person you are learning Japanese for. Or make a list of reasons why this new Japanese job is the best thing ever! Everyone has a different reason for learning Japanese and sometimes you just need a little reminder!
Get a Skype or Email Buddy
Having a set date (weekly is best, but every other week works too) to speak or write Japanese can keep you on track even if the rest of your study time is falling by the wayside. Letting your studies slip is a great way to feel like “Well, it’s too late now, may as well give up!” But it doesn’t have to be that way! Just having your weekly Skype date with a Japanese friend, or another learner, means your brain will be using all the Japanese you’ve already learned. Like we said before, use it or lose it!
Get a Study Buddy
Find someone else to join up with and set times you will both be on the site. You can chat together while you’re learning and you won’t want to let your teammate down!
If you don’t have a study buddy on the site, then at the very least you should tell other people about your plan. Tell your best friend, tell your mom. Write it on your calendar and post it on Facebook! The more people you tell your study goals to, the stronger the will to keep up with them will be.
Record Yourself Speaking Japanese Every Week
Whether it’s just a few sentences or a 10 minute YouTube video, recording yourself is the best way to practice your pronunciation AND track your improvement. You don’t have to post it anywhere or share it with the world, but HEARING your own progress each week is a great source of motivation. It can be both validating (when you hear how much you’ve improved) or inspiring (when you realize you need to practice more to get better)! If you have a Japanese friend, send it to them and have them grade your pronunciation.
If you are old maybe you have one of these cassette recorders…but the microphone on your computer should also work just fine 🙂
Make an Inspiration Board
OK, so this one might seem a little girly, but whatever. Boys can make cool inspiration boards too! Put up pictures of your favorite anime, the places you want to visit in Japan, anything!! Add fun or inspiring quotes (maybe in Japanese AND English) and put it somewhere you’ll actually see it. Every. Single. Day. Being reminded of the WHY behind your choice to learn Japanese is the best way to keep your motivation levels high. Obviously, if you forget why you’re learning Japanese, it won’t matter much to you if you give it up.
Here are some good motivational quotes to get you started:
“It doesn’t matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.” – Confucius
“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” – Chinese Proverb
Don’t Get Frustrated!
Frustration, feeling inadequate, and feeling like Japanese is too hard is something EVERY learner goes through. Japanese is tough! But if you’re coming up on some grammar you just don’t get, don’t beat yourself up. Instead, just go back a little bit in your learning. Maybe read a kid’s manga children’s book that is easy to understand. Try practicing with a beginner learner so you can help them while feeling better about yourself! Reminding yourself of how far you’ve already come can jump start your motivation to keep going forward.
Create Rewards for Your Achievements
Rewarding good behavior is called positive reinforcement and it’s a technique that almost all teachers and parents use to help encourage good behavior. But there’s no reason you can’t use this technique on yourself! Set specific goals each week and month and build in small rewards for accomplishing them. This could be things like studying for an hour a day for 6 days means you earned a night out at the movies with your friends. Or if you get above a 95% on your next quiz, you can get that pair of shoes you’ve been saving up for. Whatever prizes will help you stay on track, it’s totally up to you! The trick is to be strict with yourself and never reward yourself if you didn’t really complete the challenge! Self-studying requires a level of honesty and self-discipline and no one is there to hold you accountable except yourself!
Figuring out how to stay motivated learning Japanese is going to be different for everyone. What works great for your friend might not work as well for you. The key is trying as many tactics as po
Learning a foreign language can be difficult. A language like Japanese with three writing systems can be an even greater challenge! The different writing systems, or “kana”, are hiragana, katakana and kanji. Hiragana is usually the first Japanese syllabary children learn in Japan. You use hiragana when writing native Japanese words. But why would you use katakana?
In Japanese, you would use a different writing systems for borrowed words. Borrowed words come from different languages. In Japanese, these words use katakana when written. How can you tell the difference?
In Japan, your social status means a lot. And how you talk to people depends on where you stand in this social class. If you are talking to someone in a higher social class than you, you would use a more polite form of the phrase.
If you aren’t familiar with Japanese onomatopoeia (or any onomatopoeia for that matter) here is a quick introduction. Onomatopoeia is the word for when we take a sound and make a word out of it. In English, this is words like BOOM! SLAP! or HAHAHA! The spelling of these words is based on the sound that the action makes. Every language has onomatopoeia, but in every language they are slightly different. For instance, in many languages, the onomatopoeia for laughing isn’t “hahaha” but is often “kkkk” in Asian languages or in Spanish, “jjjj.” This may seem strange to English speakers, but of course it makes perfect sense to the native speaker!
The Japanese seem to like onomatopoeia even more than other languages (they have over 1,000!) so we are devoting a whole post to teaching you the most common Japanese onomatopoeia you might find. Japanese onomatopoeia aren’t just written, but they are also crucial to speaking and sounding fluent. There are 3 types of onomatopoeia you will learn in Japanese. 擬声語
(giseigo, animal and human sounds) like MOO! or YAAAWWWWN and 擬音語 (giongo, inanimate objects and nature sounds) both exist in English. The harder part about Japanese is that they have onomatopoeia that describe mental states, movements, and even feelings. Since we don’t have words for these in English they can be a bit harder to learn.
擬声語 (giseigo) Animal and human sounds
These are mostly what you will think of in English like MOOO! or ACHOO! or Sluurrrrrp.
擬音語 (giongo) Sounds made by inanimate objects and nature
What sound does the wind make? WOOOOSH! A beating heart? Thump, thump, thump.
擬態語 (gitaigo) Describe conditions and states (things that do not make sounds)
Gitaigo are onomatopoeia that we do not have in English. They describe feelings or states of being that make no sound at all!
To break down the names of the various onomatopoeia we can see the kanji 擬 means mimic + (insert type of sound) + 語 (kanji for word or speech).
You will see all the onomatopoeia written below in both hiragana and katakana. While there isn’t a hard and fast rule, usually actual sounds (like animal noises or doors slamming) are written in katakana and soft sounds (like ones that describe emotional states) are written in hiragana. Of course this isn’t a real rule, and you can see any of these sounds written either way depending on the context!
Japanese Onomatopoeia Forms:
Double Form: にこにこ (niko niko) -> For the double form, it is usually used as an adjective. For instance, “彼はいつもにこにこしている” meaning “He is always smiling” BUT it can also be used as an adverb to verbs that follow them.
TO Form: にこっと (nikotto) -> For TO form, it is mostly used an an adverb to verbs that come after. For example, “彼はにこっと笑った” (For this one there isn’t a literal translation because にこにこ is a representation of sounds/state of being) but this can be translated as “He pleasantly smiled” as “にこにこ” always has positive meanings.
RI Form: にこり (nikori) or にっこり -> Nikori can also be used as an adverb just like nikotto. So what is the difference between nikotto and nikori? Not much really, they are interchangeable and mean pretty much the same thing! “彼はにっこり笑った” meaning “He pleasantly smiled”
OK! Now we’re ready to learn some onomatopoeia and watch some fun anime gifs while we’re at it!
擬音語 – Sounds made by inanimate objects and nature
どきどき／ドキドキ – dokidoki sound of throbbing
ぺらぺら／ペラペラ – perapera – sound of flapping in the wind
ざあざあ／ザアザア – zaazaa – sound of rain falling
パリパリ — Paripari – crunchy; crisp
ずどん／ズドン – zudon – THUD! BANG!
へろへろ／ヘロヘロ – herohero – flimsy plastic flapping around – im tired, im beat
くしゃくしゃ – Kushakusha – Crumpling sound of paper
ギシギシ/ぎしぎし – Gishi gishi – Squeaking noise of beds or old floors
ぱちぱち／パチパチ – pachipachi – snapping closed, sharp pop or ping like pachinko!
擬態語 – Describe conditions and states
ラブラブ— Raburabu – Lovey dovey; head-over-heels in love
Often used to poke fun at classmates!
にこにこ／ニコニコ – nikoniko – the sound a smile makes!
きらきら／キラキラ – kirakira – twinkle twinkle (water, gemstones, or stars)
オタオタ/おたおた — Otaota – shocked speechless
じー／ジー jii – staring and motionless
そわそわ — Sowasowa – fidgety; restless; have butterflies from excitement or nerves
うとうと – Utouto – To doze off
ちくちく – Chikuchiku — prickly pain; needle-like pain
ぎゅうぎゅう – Gyu gyu – Jam-packed like a train during rush hour
Image Credit Yeow Kwang Yeo
おろおろ – Orōro — too flustered to think or move
ワクワク/わくわく – wakuwaku — Excited; thrilled; to get nervous/anxious from excitement
うずうず — Uzūzu – to itch with desire; squirm, struggling to resist an urge
イライラ/いらいら — irairai – edgy; testy; ticked off (especially when being made to wait)
ごろごろ — gorogoro – stay idle; laying around; loaf around
つんつん — Tsuntsun – to be cross; cranky; aloof
クラクラ/くらくら — kurakura – feel dizzy; light-headed
ねばねば — Nebaneba – sticky; gooey
ぞくぞく – Zokuzoku Excited; to have an adrenaline rush
うとうと — Utōto – drowsy; nodding off
のろのろ — noronoro – Sluggishly, lazily, draggingly
きびきび – Kibikibi – Energetically
ぬるぬる – Nurunuru – Slimy like a fish out of the water
びっくり — Bikkuri thrilled; surprised; frightened; shocked
ズキズキ/ずきずき – zukizuki — throbbing pain
ぐっすり — Gussuri – soundly sleeping
すやすや — suyasuya – sleeping peacefully
くたくた — kutakuta – weak with exhaustion; worn out; beat tired
ぐしゃぐしゃ – Gushagusha – Messy hair or clothes
擬声語 Human & Animal Sounds
ガブガブ — Gabugabu – gulp vigorously; swig
ごくごく — Gokugoku – gulp down a drink; drink in long gulps
ズルズル — Zuruzuru – slurp
がつがつ/ガツガツ — gatsugatsu – eating ravenously; devour
ぺこぺこ — Pekopeko – Be hungry; starving; famished
ぱくぱく/パクパク— Pakupaku – heartily eating; quivering lips. This is also the origin of where Pac-Man came from!
むしゃむしゃ — mushamusha – to munch or to chomp on something
ちびちび — Chibichibi – to nibble on food; to sip a drink
がみがみ/ガミガミ — gamigami – nagging (loudly); scolding
ぺらぺら/ペラペラ — perapera – Speaking fluently
ぶつぶつ — Butsubutsu – grumble; muttered complaint
はきはき/ハキハキ — Hakihaki – unhesitating; talk clearly and briskly
もぐもぐ／モグモグ – mogumogu – chewing food, also mumbling
ワンワン — wan-wan
ウォーッ – U~ō~tsu
ニャーニャー – Nyānyā
ゴロゴロ – Gorogoro
Purr (cat), but in hiragana ごろごろ “to be lazy”
モーモー – momo
ヒヒーン – Hihīn
ケロケロ — Kerokero
ホーホー – Hōhō
チチチ – Chichichi
チュンチュン – Chunchun
リンリン – Rinrin
チュウチュウ – Chūchū
ブーン/ぶーん – Būn
Buzz (bee), also used for cars
ブーブー – Būbū
Here are a few more as well…can you find some anime or manga that shows these 擬態語? Share it in the comments!
しーん／シーン – shiin – the sound of silence
In manga this is most often used when someone tries to say something funny and it isn’t funny, to describe the sound of no one laughing!
こそこそ – Kosokoso – Sneakingly; secretly
ねばねば – Nebaneba – Sticky like okra or raw egg
ぱさぱさ – Pasapasa Dry; lacks moisture
ぐずぐず – Guzuguzu – To procrastinate; act slowly
しくしく — Shikushiku – dull pain; gripping pain
This is also used when someone is crying
ぐちゃぐちゃ — Guchagucha – pulpy; soppy; soggy
ぼそぼそ — Bosoboso tasteless, bland, and dry; muttering under your breath
Here at Nihongo Master, we loooove talking about Japanese holidays! While some holidays Japan adopted from the West (like Christmas and Valentine’s Day), every country also has holidays that are only celebrated by them. Golden Week in Japan ゴールデンウィーク (gōruden wīku) is not just one holiday, but FOUR holidays that align each year to provide a week of vacation for everyone! Hooray! Golden week is the third busiest travel season in Japan, after New Year and Obon.
These Japanese proverbs may sound funny, but in every language there are certain sayings that just don’t translate quite right! Here we have collected 22 of the funniest Japanese proverbs, but they each have very real lessons to teach! At the bottom of this post we have collected some familiar English sayings…can you match up the English to the Japanese? Remember, not every Japanese saying has an English equivalent!
That’s right everyone, you finally made it!!! We have learned 1,008 kanji of the 2,136 joyo kanji! THAT IS SO MANY KANJI!!! Did you remember them ALL? Neither did we, that’s why we’re going to review every single kanji from Grade 1 through Grade 6 before we move on to high school. If you aren’t signed up for the email list yet, now is the time!
The kanji challenge will be moving to a daily email format so if you want to continue learning (or reviewing) go ahead and sign up! The email will be customized just for you which means no matter what day you join, you’ll start at Day 1! Awesome, right? Click the button below to join the list!
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In addition to the daily emails, we of course will still send out our weekly recaps with your free printable flashcards and links to study lists and printable writing sheets.
OK, now let’s get to our last 19 kanji in elementary schoool:
Almost half of our kanji this week utilized the 言 (訁) radical. 訁 almost always appears on the left and is one of those rare radicals that is almost always connected to its meaning its kanji! Hooray! That means if you see a kanji with this easy-to-recognize radical, it probably has something to do with words or speech, but can also take on more intangible meanings like honor or visit. Check out this kanji radical guide to dig in a little deeper!
While we learned kanji with 10 different radicals this week, most of the kanji were either silk 糸 (糹) or meat 肉 (⺼). While we have learned about the silk radical before, the meat or “flesh” radical is a little trickier. While the standard variation 肉 is easy to recognize, the radical is most often seen in this variation: ⺼. There are only TWO kanji that use the original variation. Unfortunately, the common variation is basically impossibly to distinguish from the radical for moon: 月. Yes, they look different when typed alone, but when used in a kanji…not so much!