Why and How I learned Japanese

Why and How I learned Japanese

Here you are, looking at your first Japanese lesson full of weird characters and designs just unreadable, and you’re like
“What the hell am I doing.”

Yep, that’s a language from another world (actually Japan is just like another far away galaxy).
And at first, there’s so much to learn, comprehend, a whole new logic to understand, that you can quickly get out of despair.

So, let’s go back to the question. If it’s so complicated why would I ever learn this language?


During my stay in Japan, people asked me this many times and were very curious to know what made me feel like learning Japanese.
“Do you like manga or anime??” was the first logical thing they could think of.

Because yes, that’s maybe the main important cultural aspect imported from Japan in many countries: animation.

Just after sushis.

In my case, I wasn’t so into animation or mangas, and the real cause which got me into Japanese is: Hasard.

Osaka dotonbori street neon lights

I was at university and had to learn something.
I always liked foreign languages and wanted to learn something really different, that would open my view.
My heart was hesitating between Chinese and Japanese. Many people suggested me to learn Chinese that is the most spoken language in the world, and would get me more business opportunities. So, I gave it a go.
But it was a total failure… I tried hard but really didn’t come to like learning it.
I gave up after 3 months.

The next year, I enrolled for a new degree and tried learning Japanese.

I might say I fell in love with it:
The more I learned about the more interesting it was, and the more I wanted to know about it! I loved the sound, the stories behind the kanjis, the culture.
At that time, I started to immerse myself a lot in the culture by watching an insane amount of documentaries, reading some mangas, or watching dramas, etc.

But the most fascinating thing was for me the whole new logic and thinking when it comes to speak Japanese.

I’m a native french speaker and just like in english, we use a common subject-verb-nominal structure.

But in Japanese the verb comes at the end, so you just happen to think in a different way.
Also, as for any language, many words and expressions are proper to the dialect and don’t exist in other languages.
Learning them is like learning new thinkings and emotions.
OK, I won’t get deeply in the subject that would be a theme for another philosophical article I think, but that part is truly interesting!

As soon as you get really interested in a subject, your ability to learn it, to make effort for it become naturally strong.
Yet of course that’s not everything.

I might have been a very lazy student, but, after my two years of Japanese course at university, I was barely able to make a full sentence. I could only make some greetings and pop up some words here and there.

How did I really learned it?

Well, not at university!
That was a good start to immerse me properly in the base and receive a support / guideline to follow from the teachers. But honestly, the scholar method my university used was very time-loosing and inefficient in my opinion.
We were there trying to translate some newspaper articles, learning those mega complicated kanjis, when we couldn’t properly make a basic daily conversation in Japanese.

I guess you hear this a lot when it comes to learn a language, but the key is to meet native speakers of the language you learn.

To listen to them, to talk with them (it’s ok if you speak like a drunken Teletubbies, the important is to try speaking).
I went to live in Japan with a working holiday VISA being only able to make some worth 4-5 words sentences…

I finally got to really speak it after 6 months.
During these 6 months, I met Japanese people everyday, I talked with them everyday. I took note of every word I didn’t know, I searched for it when I got back home, I simply tried to remember slowly the words useful to me. I tried to be careful about their intonations and to mimic them.

That’s simple, but requires a constant implication, and let’s say a real love for Japanese language and culture 🙂

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