Learning Japanese, a tale of Mana and Odder Otter.

(This post will be regularly updated)

Before I begin on the topic of today, I would like to present myself. On internet, I am known as Mana Hime, and I am a Canadian university student in the field of Education. For the past 3 years, I have been studying the Japanese language. I have also immersed myself as much as possible in the culture of the Japanese people. Along the road, I have made close friends who have been helping me both on the personal level and on the educational level.

While the Japanese language is quite difficult from the perspective of an English speak, it is my belief that it is also a very rewarding language to learn. Today, I would like to discuss why I wanted to learn Japanese, and how I did it. I hope that it will help others who would like to learn Japanese but are not sure if or how they should do.

                First, let’s discuss why I wanted to learn a new language, and why Japanese specifically. I believe that learning different language is very important. Humans are very social beings. As such, language plays a very important role in our very being. This is demonstrated by how our brain is predisposed to learning and understanding language even before we learn any. As a result, human beings will tend to perceive the world in relation to the language that they speak. I believe that by learning new languages we can learn new ways to perceive and describe the world. The presence or absence of some words can allow an understanding of what a society considers an important value.

                I have always been fascinated by the Japanese culture. I was introduced to that culture by watching anime on English TV when I was a kid. This fascination continued until, one day, I became able to watch anime in their original language with subtitles. When subtitles became available to me, I instantly fell in love with the language. Like many others, I thought that “if I could watch anime without subtitles, it would be great.” Sadly, however, learning a new language just for the purpose of watching something on TV was not a good enough motivation for me to take the step forward toward that goal.

                As I stated earlier in this text, humans are social creatures, so it makes sense that what would push me forward was making friends. I used the online game Final Fantasy XIV to meet Japanese players and try to become friends with them. At first my interactions were fairly limited, but the inability to communicate pushed me to try my best to learn the language.

You may be asking: “why would I learn Japanese?” Sadly, I do not have the answer to this question. I think that the most important thing is that one should learn a language associated to a culture they are interested in. For me, Japanese is the obvious choice, but I know many people who chose to learn other languages. I also know some people who chose lesser known languages. Passion is the most important point here.

Now, let’s discuss how I learned the language. But first, let me warn you: “language learning rewarding, but it is not easy.” My path to learning Japanese has been, and is still, full of joy and frustration. I feel joy whenever I succeed at understanding or communicating something that was impossible before. I experience frustration every time that I feel unable to express myself correctly.

The first tip I will give to any language learner is this: express yourself! It may be embarrassing to speak in a newly learned language because making mistakes is embarrassing, but I think we should think the opposite. I think that making mistakes is important in the path to language acquisition. There is a theory that says that young children have a much better capacity of learning new languages than adults do. While the brain development allows children to more easily retain information, I think children’s ability to not fear making mistakes may be one of their greatest strength. A learner should do their best to practice their new language wherever possible, whenever possible, and as much as possible.

You might wonder where to look for resources to learn Japanese. I will write a post detailing all the resources that I have used so far. But I can suggest a few that I think are great:

  • Odder Otter Discord server: I will be shameless here and suggest that you join our Discord server. We’re a community of nice people and making friends has been invaluable to help me learn Japanese. It can be the same for you! Connecting with other language learners and natives can be great to learn from other people’s experience.
  • Tofugu guides on learning hiragana and katakana: If your interested in anything related to Japan, Tofugu is great. They have amazing guides for learning to read the 2 first writing systems that you should learn in Japanese. And they also make the amazing kanji learning website wanikani
  • Wanikani: Speaking of which, for a relatively low monthly fee, this website has been fantastic in helping my kanji reading ability skyrocket. It tries to gamify the learning process a little which is good for people like me who can’t focus easily.
  • Tae Kim’s Guide to Learning Japanese: Probably the best guide online for Japanese grammar, and it is free! It is not absolutely perfect, but it’s fantastic nonetheless. You should read it.
  • The Genki textbook series: Those books are used in classrooms in universities across the world, and there is a reason to that. Those books are well made, they slowly target higher and higher levels so that you keep improving. It’s not perfect for self learners because they’re made with classrooms in mind, but you should look for them. Also, they are relatively cheap from Japanese amazon, which also does international shipping.
  • Japanese Ammo with Misa: The last resource that I will link for now. Misa’s YouTube channel is great, and I love her videos. They’re a little on the long side for some people, but she goes really in-depth with each grammar points that she covers.

I hope that some of those information will be useful to you. This post will be updated as I keep re-writing it for clarity and to work on some specific points. I hope that you like Japanese, and I hope that by learning the language, you will be able to enjoy the culture. If there is any question, I can be contacted either on Discord or on Twitter: @ManaEternal

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