If you have dreams of going to the land of the rising sun, learning the language is a must as Osaka, Kyoto and Tokyo- the mega cities of Japan – are “untouched” by the English language. Unlike other countries where English is used as a secondary language, Japan has proudly retained its Japanese language. While experiencing language barriers when in another country is a common occurrence, in Japan, the language barrier is particularly more difficult to break, as most citizens do not have a beginner’s grasp of the English language. If you’re a tourist in Japan, “signing” what you want – pointing to items you like when shopping – may help but it won’t do much in overcoming the barrier.
There are so many things to do and see in Japan but in order to have access to it you should have a basic working Japanese vocabulary. Even ordering a simple ramen or riding a bus may prove to be an overwhelming experience. So help yourself to enjoy the city of bridges and subways by learning basic Japanese. Here’s how to teach yourself Japanese.
- Study. First of all, do a bit of research. You can search online for a few common working phrases in Japanese. Some common phrases you should memorize are how to say, “My name is ______,” “I don’t speak Japanese,” “Please help me get to ______,” “Thank you,” and “how much?” There are sites online that do not only offer translations, but they also provide sound bites to help you pronounce the words. You can log on to YouTube, or for more videos. There are numerous videos that will help you with your pronunciation. Don’t get too caught up with the grammar. Focus first on building a basic and working vocabulary. From this, you can easily string together words to help you communicate in the vernacular. Don’t forget to research some of the types of food you will want to ask for such as takoyaki, ramen, and okonomiyaki.
- Practice. Search for worksheets online to help you memorize. The beauty of the net is that all types of information are just at your fingertips. So don’t overlook this highly rich source.
- Books. It would also be advisable to visit your local bookstore and search for a Japanese- English dictionary. If you’re planning a trip to Japan, it would also be advisable to pick up a travel guide and “picture” book of the places you want to visit. When language fails, a picture can speak a thousand words. Just point!
- Read. Aside from familiarizing yourself speaking common Japanese words, learn to read and write the Japanese characters of these words. This is important if you wish to learn the Japanese language and travel to the homeland, as most signages in Japan do not offer English translations. It would be advisable to bring placards with the common phrases written on it in Japanese.
Once you think you have a good enough working vocabulary, practice speaking in Japanese by having a conversation with a friend or Japanese exchange student. You may also want to practice by chatting with a Japanese-speaking individual online through web chat. Nothing will help you speak Japanese faster than actually practicing it.
You’re ready! Good luck on your trip!