Tips to get you started with Japanese - My Japanese Journey
How I study Japanese
I study Japanese at least 2 hours a day. Though I am unable to achieve this each time, I try to sit down for at least half an hour. I study Japanese along with my mum, since she kindly agreed to study along with me. In my 2-hour study session I try to focus more on grammar, listening and exercises. To learn vocabulary, I write new words on a sticky note and stick it in my bathroom. In this way I can learn new words every time I go to brush or wash my hands, also, this gives me maximum time to focus on understanding the language and separates the memorization part of languages away. I keep two notebooks: one for grammar rules and vocabulary and one for sentences and revision. Now, here are some textbooks and websites I use to aid me...
Website and Resources
This was my first ever Japanese book. A well-illustrated, light-hearted approach to Japanese, perfect for reluctant beginners. If you are unsure and hesitant about learning Japanese, then this book might be the push you need. It is easy to understand and doesn’t throw much at you. Along with teaching you the Hiragana, it also teaches a few basic Kanji. If you are looking for an introduction to Japanese, then I highly recommend this book. Although it is aimed at kids, it is perfect for adults as well!
After completing "I’m learning Japanese," I decided to go with this book. Overall, it’s a pretty decent book, supported with YouTube videos by the author himself. It is well structured with a lot of vocabulary, grammar and an extensive workbook. The vocabulary in Japanese from Zero 1 serves as the base for Japanese from Zero 2. In total, there are 5 books in the series. Although JFZ may be slower than other books like Genki and Minna no Nihongo, I feel it is well paced in its own way. The first three books cover the three scripts, Hiragana, Katakana and Kanji, providing a solid foundation for what comes ahead. In conclusion - It is an easy to understand book if you are self studying.
Along with studying from Japanese from Zero, I recently started taking coaching classes for JLPT. Minna no Nihongo serves as a solid base for the JLPT exams. The book is meant to be bought along with its translation and grammatical notes (which is a separate textbook containing vocabulary, translations and grammar points) and a DVD. I haven’t bought the DVD since the audios are available online. The audio is extremely helpful for listening and speaking practise. With Minna no Nihongo it is better to have somebody to guide you along the textbook as some people may find it hard to understand.
Tips for progressing faster
Along with textbooks and coaching classes, I highly recommend that you should immerse yourself in the language. Listening to podcasts, watching tv shows in your target language, reading passages etc. will contribute significantly in developing your language skills.
Master the Basics/Particles
Try forming simple sentences as much as you can. If you do not know the words needed, just say them in English! Grammar is the absolute base of any language. If you can understand grammar rules and application subconsciously i.e without giving it a second thought, that means you are progressing towards fluency.
For example, the particle *wo* is placed after a direct object and indicates the object on which the verb is acting upon. This is an important grammar rule which helps you in forming sentences. However, if every time you form a sentence and think about which word is the direct object and which is the verb and that the verb will come in the end, so the particle must come between the verb and direct object, then you won’t be able to communicate naturally.
What you must do instead is practice using the particle WO so many times that its usage is second nature. Use it in English sentences as well! Bread O eat; water O drink and so on!
Language is not a code for another language
What is this
Tahw si siht
What you see above is a code. To understand what "waht si siht" means, you need to flip each word, only then will you understand what the code means.
Languages however are not a code. They aren’t created for the purpose to be translated into other languages. Sure, we can use English as a medium to learn Japanese, but Japanese is Japanese. To understand what a sentence says, you should not translate the sentences into English to be able to understand it. You should be able to understand it in its raw form. Obviously, this takes a lot of practice and effort, but this is, after all, the goal you should be working towards.