Japanese Language Tips for Beginners

Minoru Aizawa, JCMU’s Japanese Language Coordinator in Hikone, discusses tips for students that are looking to go on a JCMU language program but have not formally studied Japanese yet.


To those who want to take beginning level Japanese at JCMU:

Japanese written language uses a combination of three different writing systems: hiragana, katakana, and kanji. Learning these for the first time, especially in an intensive language program like the one at JCMU, is always one of the biggest challenges for a beginning student.

Therefore, though students of all Japanese skill levels are welcome to participate in our programs, we strongly suggest that those who want to take one of our language programs without prior Japanese language experience do the following before traveling to Hikone:

  1. Memorize hiragana, the most basic Japanese writing system. This Genki self-study chart is a great resource to use in learning hiragana. Knowledge of the hiragana alphabet will go a long way towards preparing you for the academically intense environment of the JCMU programs.
  1. After learning hiragana, become accustomed to some useful phrases in Japanese. The Genki website has flashcards that can help students learn commonly used greetings in Japan.

Attaining at least a basic understanding of Japanese beforehand will go a long way in improving your overall skills. This knowledge will then help you become acclimated to your life in Hikone without overloading you in the first part of the program.

If you would like more language practice beyond what is mentioned above, then consider using Japanese language apps. For example, Genki has vocab, kanji, and conjugation apps available for purchase for about six dollars each on both the Apple and Android app stores.

In addition, the following sites may also be useful for a beginning student:

  • TenguGo Kana
    • App that provides basic charts for hiragana and katakana and contains details on the origins of the characters
    • Also available on the Google Play store
  • Memrise
    • Website that lets users create their own flash cards and utilize flash card sets made by thousands of other users

We wish you the best of luck in your studies, and we look forward to meeting you in Japan!

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