Learning Japanese is one of the most difficult things you will ever do. For Westerners, Japanese is supposed to be one of the most difficult languages to learn next Chinese and Korean.
Since the language is so different from English, you will have to work really hard to stay focused and really grasp a solid understanding of the language. You can still learn the language no matter what age you are, so don’t give up. As you progress on this journey, here are couple of ways you can learn the language.
1 College or High School Courses
College and high school courses can be taken to get a fundamental understanding of the language and writing system. Due to their structure, it is unlikely that you will come out of the classes completely fluent, but you will have a decent starting point. The only downside to this method is that they can be quite costly depending on the school and some classes are not as good as others.
2 Study Abroad/ Exchange Program
Study abroad and exchange programs can be good to help you learn the language and experience the culture at the same time. Since they usually last for 6-12 months, it will allow you to adjust and take everything in without feeling homesick for too long. Just research the program thoroughly before you apply and try to talk to other people who have participated in the past. The only downside is that they tend to costly and sometimes they can alter your college schedule significantly.
Self-study is one of the best ways to learn a language if you are self-motivated and short on cash. If you go to a library, you can get dozens of Japanese textbooks, cds, and guides absolutely for free. There tons of Japanese podcasts on Itunes and dozens of websites that will help teach you the basics. This can be more effective than classes depending on how motivated you are. This is by far the cheapest method, but the only thing is that there is no one there to explain things or make sure you are on track.
4 Private Tutoring
Private tutoring is a good way to go because you get personalized instruction from a native speaker. It is one on one contact and interaction on a continuing basis. This method is usually pretty effective, but just remember that all tutors are not created equal. Selecting the right tutor is the most difficult part because it depends on your learning style and preferences. If a tutor is not working, then you really need to move on to a new one before you waste any more of your money.
Immersion is the most natural way to learn a language. This usually means moving to Japan and becoming totally immersed in the language and culture for an extended period of time. This is only recommended if you actually have other business to tend to in Japan because it is very expensive to live there. Many people go to Japan to work as English teachers and attempt to learn the language at the same time. This can be very effective in learning Japanese and it works very quickly, however, it will only work if you are truly immersed. Some Westerners will live and work in Japan, but they will continue to surround themselves with English language media, music, and food and primarily associate with other Westerners. If you create an English bubble around yourself, then it is unlikely that you will become fluent in Japanese. This is also dependent on the level of commitment, dedication, and motivation you have. This is expensive, but it is highly effective.
Whatever method you use to learn Japanese, just stay focused and you will eventually become fluent.