Friday, June 12, 2009

5 Tips on How to Effectively Improve Your Japanese

When I enrolled in the exchange program, I had many goals in mind that I wanted to achieve. Among them was of course a desire to improve my Japanese.

Going to a foreign country doesn't always entail becoming fluent in a language. You have to work at it if you really want to achieve good results. Just going to Japan and staying in a hotel for six months while working as an English teacher won't get you very far. You have to put effort into learning the language.

Today I'm going to give five pointers on how to improve your Japanese faster during your stay.

  1. Surround yourself with Japanese people. If you're an exchange student, DON'T lock yourself up in the ryugakusei room. Being exposed to the Japanese language will tremendously boost your listening skills. It will also push you to speak Japanese, because in most cases your Japanese buddies won't understand English.
  2. Don't be afraid to use Japanese. Investing time in studying Japanese is awesome, but not putting your skills into use is just wasteful. Now that you've finally dragged your butt into the country, don't wait for any perfect moment to start speaking Japanese (because it's never going to come!) Just try not to care about making mistakes! Everyone makes mistakes. Be proud to make mistakes. The more mistakes you make without embarrassment, the more confident you become.
  3. Don't be afraid to make mistakes. I already mentioned this but I want to emphasize it more. If you're ashamed or embarrassed of making mistakes, it will GREATLY hinder your progress. The more you shy away from speaking the language, the greater a problem it becomes. We gaijin are all blessed with the gift of using hilarious Japanese, so let the natives have their fun! We too are constantly getting knocked off our bicycles after passing by signs written in Engrish.
  4. If you have the option to choose between English or Japanese, choose Japanese. Whenever you have to talk to the international staff on campus, don't use English - use Japanese. Don't take the easy way out.
  5. Keep a journal (and something to write with) with you at all times. It's good to have a small journal in your pocket for jotting down notes. Whenever you learn something new from a friend or a random person, make a note of it so you'll remember it later.

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