- Learn hiragana to get the sounds right
The first useful thing that you can do to learn Japanese is to focus on hiragana. Determining the individual sounds will really help you to create a good base in Japanese because the hiragana chart is the full extent of every music in Japanese. If you can master the 48 sounds – you can pronounce the whole language!
- Don't be afraid to practice!
Even if you've only been studying Japanese for 3 weeks, getting practice is really important! Trying to talk to people, using your new Japanese, and learning new things through conversation with others will accelerate your progress and help you cement your knowledge of the things you are learning.
- Get a personal tutor or join a class!
It's essential to find someone that knows what they are doing to help you. Japanese is a vast language, you can learn a lot by yourself, but it's essential to find support for your language learning. You might be learning from a class, a tutor, or a self-directed Japanese course with Facebook communities and plenty of support like this one – but making sure you have someone to ask questions is essential.
- Make your own flashcards, write things down
Using pen and paper for note-taking helps boost memory and the ability to understand more than laptops.
- Talk to yourself
Talking to yourself counts as speaking practice! It's the easiest, cheapest, most convenient way to practice speaking Japanese, and gives you the perfect opportunity to practice things that you can use in conversation with others later on.
- Make friends, join groups
Making friends while learning Japanese is an easy way to practice using all the new words and grammar that you are learning. It's also a way to stay motivated, commit yourself to your goals, and share your common interests in Japanese – like anime, manga, or Japanese cultural events. You can also create stronger memories for the things you are learning by helping to explain them to other people. An added benefit is learning new words that you might not have thought about.
- Listen to a variety of things
You can listen to movies, podcasts, anime, pre-recorded listening clips, and YouTube videos. It's essential to listen to different speakers' voices, accents, and talking speeds to get used to real-life Japanese differences.
- Focus on kanji early on
It's estimated that you need around 1000 kanji to read a Japanese newspaper. If you want until your 3rd year of studying – that's a lot of catching up to do! One of the best things you can do to get a great base in studying Japanese is picking up 10 kanji a week for 1 year – that's less than 2 a day, and 530 kanji per year!
- Practice every day
Practice the Japanese language every day, through speaking, reading, writing & listening. Spend 15 – 60 minutes every day. This can be in a daily journal (writing about your day in Japanese), a Japanese workbook like this one, a textbook, class notes, chatting to a friend in Japanese, or watching anime! Practicing just a little bit every day and making Japanese into your daily routine means that your efforts can compound quickly, without massive amounts of stress, pressure, and hard work.