The answer to “how long does it take to learn Japanese?” depends on your reasons for learning Japanese. According to the Foreign Service Institute, it takes an estimated 88 weeks of learning for native English speakers to reach fluency. Whether it’s for work opportunities, a short trip, or considering moving to Japan, understanding these factors will help you create and streamline the most time-efficient learning system. Also, knowing how to say some keywords and phrases such as hello in Japanese will help you integrate into society and perhaps even help you learn from native speakers.
1. Your Learning Goals
In terms of learning and understanding Japanese, there are four main areas of focus. These areas include reading, listening, speaking, and writing. All these factors will affect the answer to “how long does it take to learn Japanese ?”.
Speaking is one of the easy ones of the four to begin. When speaking Japanese, understanding the pronunciation of different characters and using formal or casual addressing helps students understand and progress in the other three learning areas.
Listening progresses in tandem with speaking. Once a learner understands how to speak Japanese, even if not at an advanced level, this allows them to then listen to Japanese podcasts, audiobooks, TV shows, and movies. Listening practices make it easier to understand spoken Japanese and correct applications.
A crucial part of understanding Japanese is learning Japanese characters. Reading these characters enables the learner to utilize formal and informal Japanese conversation. Reading is essential for professional settings as it is for casual settings with friends and would even make ordering your favorite Japanese meal easier!
The final frontier of learning Japanese is being able to write Japanese Characters. Writing requires a deep and thorough knowledge of the characters and how they relate to one another.
As stated previously, knowing why you’re learning Japanese is key to crafting the ideal study program for yourself and setting the learning times.
The table below categorizes how much time is needed to learn Japanese, depending on your goals.
|The Goal||What I Will Need To Learn||Approx. Learning Time|
|A Trip to Japan||Speaking, reading, and listening||Depending on the duration of the trip, at least a month should be spent learning the language.|
|Studying in Japan||Writing, speaking, listening, and reading||In order to complete your studies, you will need a complete understanding of the language. At least 6 months to a year should be spent learning Japanese.|
|For Business||Writing, speaking, listening, and reading||Understanding Japanese completely could make or break your business interactions. Especially if you’re hoping to work in Japan. Therefore as much time as possible should be spent learning the language.|
|Foreign Language / Second Language||Writing, speaking, listening, and reading||In this case, the goal would be to fluently speak and understand Japanese. Therefore long-term lessons for at least one year are encouraged.|
|A Job as a Japanese Translator||Writing, speaking, listening, and reading||As a translator, you may be dealing with high-ranking political and legal professionals. Therefore it is important to be completely fluent in every aspect of Japanese. Commit to at least 1-2 years of lessons.|
2. Your Mother Language
There are languages similar to Japanese, and that sense of understanding or natively speaking these languages might help newcomers to learn Japanese faster. Some of these languages are, as you probably guessed, other Asian languages, including Chinese and Korean, and perhaps this is a surprise to you, a Turkic language, Turkish!
For Turkish, this is because they both stem from the same Altaic language family. Their sentence structure, subject, object, and verb are the same. When it comes to Chinese and Korean, they all share similar sentence structures, verbal morphology, and honorifics. So the answer to “how long does it take to learn Japanese ?” will be shorter.
In contrast, some languages would probably make it harder for native speakers to learn Japanese. Some of these are English, Russian and German. These languages share no linguistic commonalities.
3. How Long Should You Spend Learning Japanese Every Day?
Determining the amount of time you should spend learning Japanese daily will depend on your reasons for learning in the first place and the urgency of those reasons.
English (2-4 hours):
Those who spend more hours daily learning and practicing will probably progress faster than those who only dedicate a few hours per week. So for those looking to learn the language as a secondary language, at least 2—4 hours should be spent in a day learning and practicing the language.
However, this can be split over certain days and not necessarily restricted to daily lessons. For those looking to learn Japanese for an upcoming trip, depending on the trip duration, studies should also be between 2-4 hours long but occur daily to maximize memorization and retention.
Romance Languages (4-6 hours):
For native Romance speakers (French, Italian, etc.), spending more time is advised. Romance languages tend to have a completely different structure from Japanese.
Of course, those who come from a background speaking Asian languages may have an advantage over those who do not. As many of the characters and phonetic sounds and sentence structures are similar, a newcomer would probably not have to dedicate as much time to learning Japanese as their minds might be more adept at identifying the similarities and adopting them.
Given all of this, it is best to tailor your learning schedule depending on your reason for learning and how much time you have before that goal should be met.
4. Previous Language Learning Experience
If you have experience learning another language, it might make learning Japanese simpler and faster. Because you probably have a clear understanding of the best learning methods for you and how much time you will need to dedicate to mastering Japanese.
Also, people raised in multi-language speaking environments had an easier time picking up and adapting to learning Japanese. It is probably also because their brains adapt effortlessly to learning additional languages.
5. Your Fluency Level
When it comes to learning Japanese, there are various levels of fluency. As stated earlier, those learning the language for a quick vacation do not need to spend much time learning and practicing.
However, for those seeking to speak Japanese as flawlessly as Japanese natives, an easy way to gauge how fluent you are and how eloquent you want to be is by using the Japanese proficiency test (JLPT). Using the test as a benchmark could be a valuable tool in helping you craft your perfect study schedule. So the question”how long does it take to learn Japanese ?” also depends on what level you want to speak that language.
The JLPT grades learners in levels N1 – N5 (N5 being the lowest fluency). N5 indicates the ability to read and understand basic Japanese katakana and hiragana characters. N1 is for the masters, which means that they will not only be able to fluently read Japanese characters but be able to converse in daily conversation about a broad range of topics at a regular speed.
Check out our article on the best apps to learn Japanese to have a head start.
6. How Motivated Are You?
Motivation is the main factor in picking up any skill in life, especially when it comes to learning Japanese. Japanese can be a complex language with various rules and structures to understand.
It can be challenging for learners who natively speak languages that differ immensely from Japanese. For these students lacking the proper motivation to learn Japanese could be the difference between persevering and becoming completely fluent or simply giving up and abandoning their goal.
The foremost aspect of building motivation to learn Japanese is understanding your reason for wanting to learn in the first place. If your reason for learning isn’t crucial enough for you, you will give up on the first learning curve you encounter.
7. Study Method
It is where the fun begins! Thanks to the internet, learning Japanese can be made so fun and interactive that the hard work hardly feels like it. It is down to finding your ideal study method that takes some personal understanding of how you best learn and retain information.
For some learners, audio is better; for other learners, visual stimulation works best. For those seeking more visual learning methods: the Anki deck allows learners to create their character and word flashcards. It is also for those who like to learn by watching Japanese TV shows or movies.
When watching, take notes of specific Japanese words and phrases on a flashcard and build the Anki deck of your dreams. Visual learners could also use online learning apps, and audio-focused learners could utilize podcasts.
8. Your Studying Location
Creating the perfect learning environment is the principal factor for learning Japanese. A Clean and clutter-free space allows you to focus better. You might even consider learning in a Japanese-speaking environment. Spending time in a Japanese establishment near your area will be beneficial. Not only will it be perfect for cultural immersion, but also that immersion might allow you to speak to and ask questions to native Japanese speakers.
When learning a language, one of the best ways to practice is speaking with a native speaker. However, sometimes exposure to an authentic Japanese environment might not be possible. AmazingTalker offers Japanese lessons with accredited, native Japanese tutors that will tailor the ideal learning schedule and program for learners.
9. Who is Your Mentor/Teacher?
Choosing the right mentor or teacher could make or break your Japanese learning experience. Having the right personality match is as important as credentials. On the other hand, a better choice would be learning from a native Japanese as they would be able to teach you the rules and ways of the language in everyday situations.
However, not everyone can access a Japanese community or native Japanese teachers. For those looking to integrate into Japanese culture while learning the language from a native speaker, one of the best ways is Japanese online classes. These Japanese classes by licensed Japanese-speaking teachers can offer students the next best thing to a real-life lesson.
10. The Mindset
Having the correct mindset when it comes to learning Japanese is as important as having the right tutor or learning environment. Your mindset determines how far you will go in terms of your studies. Similarly to motivation, if you lack the right mindset you might find yourself giving up the moment you encounter a difficult phrase or sentence structure. Figuring out whether you have a fixed or growth mindset will determine how smoothly the process goes for you.
For those people with fixed mindsets, whenever they stumble upon a problem, they give up. It is because, in a fixed mindset, it has been proven via studies that these learners generally don’t believe they can overcome whatever problem they face and therefore don’t even try. A growth mindset allows learners to see that, even though a problem is demanding now, with persistence, they will overcome this problem.
In conclusion, your mindset determines the answer to “how long does it take to learn Japanese ?” that we have been trying to answer throughout this article.
5 Tips to Learn Japanese Faster
In some instances, there may not be much time to learn Japanese. In those times, having a set list of techniques and learning methods, along with the right mindset and environment, can be the key to boosting your learning time. For those on an expedited schedule, here are some tips and tricks on how to learn Japanese faster.
1. Watch Japanese Shows
Watching Japanese shows can help with learning the language in the same way as learning Japanese from a native Japanese-speaking person can. In this case, it gives you a current, up-to-date understanding of how to speak in casual or formal situations. Most shows also come with subtitles, allowing learners to read the language.
2. Switch Your Phone Language to Japanese
Switching your phone keyboard to Japanese will help you to better understand how to write and speak the language by almost forcing you to do so. When your mobile keyboard is in Japanese it allows you to get more acquainted with Japanese characters and for those that have text-to-speech, it may even help with pronunciation.
3. Speak With a Native Speaker
As mentioned previously, learning Japanese from a native speaker gives you the chance to learn and understand how to use Japanese in daily situations. It gives you a more realistic way to use the language.
However, students don’t have to wait to make Japanese friends for this approach. AmazingTalker offers users Japanese online lessons, taught by native Japanese tutors.
4. Listen to Japanese Podcasts
5. Start a Japanese Journal
Starting a Japanese journal is effective. Similar to switching your keyboard to Japanese. It helps you become familiarised with Japanese characters. Journaling daily in Japanese will; not only help you become familiar and comfortable with these characters but also be a great way to learn how to write and spell new words and phrases.
However, sometimes for those with busy lives sitting down to journal may not be an option. In those instances, online apps are a great way to practice writing.
1. Kaizen Languages
2. Kanji Teacher
3. Kanji GO
Train Your Brain the Japanese Way!
When it comes to learning Japanese, you must care for factors such as your learning environment, the optimal times for learning, and the materials to help you learn. Whether audiobooks, written text, videos, or Anki characters and word flashcards, creating a system will help you achieve your goals of saying simple and complex words and phrases such as goodbye in Japanese in no time, especially with the use of Japanese lessons by AmazingTalker.