How to Speak Japanese

Top tips to learn to communicate effectively

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Want to learn how to speak Japanese? Despite the rumors that it takes 2,000 hours to hold a decent conversation, learning Japanese is really very doable – with hard work, dedication, and a few tricks up your sleeve.

Whether you’re a beginner or have already started working towards speaking fluent Japanese, there are things you can do to make learning a little easier and faster for yourself.

But if you’d rather just jump into learning, you can skip all this talking and head straight to learning Japanese on Busuu – with help from native speakers and mnemonics galore!

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Whether you're a beginner or want to advance your skills, our free Japanese courses provide everything you need. Don't delay your Japanese language adventure any longer!

7 tips for learning to speak Japanese fluently

1. Don’t rush the basics

For some learners, the three Japanese writing systems can be intimidating. But, if you focus on learning to speak and skip the reading and writing, you’ll be missing out on a big piece of learning the language! Besides, getting started with hiragana, katakana, and kanji is really quite doable.

2. Find media you love

Find Japanese-language movies, TV shows, music, books, manga, or radio you love, and then return to them again and again. Doing this will help you learn how the language is used and spoken. Plus, going over the same material will give you a great marker of your progress as you understand more over time!

3. Practise with native speakers

If you want to master how to speak in Japanese, accent and all, nothing beats communicating with native speakers. There are native Japanese speakers all over the world, so it’s worth trying to find friendly native speakers near you who are willing to chat! And, of course, you can get feedback from native speakers directly when you learn Japanese with Busuu.

Connect with native Japanese speakers

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At Busuu, you can connect with a community of native Japanese speakers who can help and guide you along your journey in learning Japanese. Be part of our Japanese speaking community today and start learning Japanese for free!

4. Record yourself speaking

If you want to learn spoken Japanese, you’ll likely listen to native speakers, but how about listening to yourself? Our experts recommend recording yourself and listening back – once you have an ear for the language, you’ll be able to start making adjustments to make your Japanese sound increasingly natural.

Follow those four tips and you’ll have an easier time if you want to learn to speak Japanese fluently, but these next three are the icing on the cake...

5. Set goals

Studies show that clear goals and timelines make a huge difference in how far language learners get toward reaching their goals. Create a Study Plan and stick to it.

6. Use mnemonics

The use of mnemonics like rhymes, imagery, and associations is particularly helpful when learning Japanese. (That’s why we use them throughout our free and Premium Japanese courses!)

7. Stay positive

Last but certainly not least, don’t forget to celebrate your successes! Learning any language has its challenges, but if you stick with it, you’ll be saying nihongo ga hanasemasu in no time!

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Still have questions?

1. How can I start speaking Japanese?

Because Japanese has some challenging elements, the best way to get started is to look for a set of resources or an online course that’ll help you put together a clear learning plan and make sure you get off on the right foot. One of the first things you’ll need to do is learn Hiragana and Katakana and start learning the basic grammatical structures, since Japanese is quite different from English.

2. Is Japanese an easy language to speak?

The U.S. Foreign Service Institute (FSI) ranks Japanese as among the hardest languages to learn for English speakers.

This is in part because mastering enough Kanji (one of the three Japanese writing systems) to read a newspaper can take quite a bit of study. Getting formal and business Japanese right can be rather complicated as well. However, the other Japanese writing systems – Hiragana and Katakana – and basic conversational Japanese are relatively easy to learn.

3. Can I teach myself Japanese?

Yes and no. You don’t need to join a formal language school or sign up for a weekly course to learn Japanese, but you’ll need to choose how you’re going to learn and stick with it if you want to reach your goals for learning Japanese. Since Japanese is fairly difficult to learn, we recommend finding an app like Busuu that has a complete Japanese course – and supplementing your study with Japanese media and other online resources.

4. How long does it take to speak Japanese fluently?

While every learner is different, the FSI found that getting to basic fluency in Japanese takes about 720 hours of study. By basic fluency, we’re talking about the B2 level in the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR), which is what we use to mark a learner’s proficiency and fluency on Busuu.

Japanese, in particular, has a few more hurdles than most languages as it has three different writing systems, one of which – Kanji – has thousands of characters. However, that doesn’t mean those considering learning Japanese should be discouraged. In some ways, learning Japanese may be easier than you think.

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