How to Learn Japanese Insanely Fast: 11 Smart Language Hacks (2023)

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So, you decided to learn Japanese. Congrats!

But that’s not enough. Maybe you started studying, you bought yourself a textbook or an online Japanese course, and now you’re starting to despair.

Japanese is hard! Progress is slow! Why are there so many kanji?!

Now you don’t just want to learn Japanese. You want to know how to learn Japanese fast.

Don’t worry, my friend. Yes, studying a language does take time, and there’s no fast track to real fluency.

But the good news is, you can get to a very good level of Japanese faster than you think.

Here are 10 savvy language learning hacks to help you learn Japanese fast:

Table Of Contents

  1. 1. Identify your goal – and FOCUS
  2. 2. Learn the most common words first
  3. 3. Make use of Japanese words you already know
  4. 4. Listen, listen, listen
  5. 5. Use dead time
  6. 6. Swap out your everyday habits with Japanese ones
  7. 7. Know your language learning style
  8. 8. Use mnemonics
  9. 9. Stop being a perfectionist
  10. 10. Speak as much as possible
  11. 11. Think in Japanese
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How to Learn Japanese Insanely Fast: 11 Smart Language Hacks (1)

1. Identify your goal – and FOCUS

Take a few minutes to think about why you’re actually learning Japanese. What specific goal do you hope to achieve?

  • Do you need to know conversational Japanese to communicate with your new girlfriend’s family?
  • Do you want to apply to a Japanese university?
  • Do you need to know Japanese for work?

Then think about which aspects of Japanese you need to prioritise in order to reach your goal.

In most cases, you do not need to be 100% fluent.

You do not need to know every word in the dictionary, and you don’t need to write in perfect calligraphy.

For example, if you need to learn to speak Japanese (perhaps to communicate with family or take a trip), do you really need to spend time learning kanji at this stage?

Yes, you will need to learn a certain number of kanji at some point if you want to become fluent – but they are actually not essential to everyday (spoken) communication, and you could save yourself a whole lot of time and stress by postponing that part of Japanese.

Similarly, if you need to learn Japanese for business, focus on learning vocabulary relevant to your field of work. Many Japanese courses start with words related to travel and tourism, which may be a waste of time in your case.

2. Learn the most common words first

Not all words are created equal!

Have you ever come across a crazy word in your Japanese textbook and thought ‘why do I need to know this? I never use this word in English!’

Well, if you want to learn Japanese fast – just don’t bother! The language police aren’t going to come after you for not learning every singe word in the dictionary!

Instead, it makes sense to focus on the most useful words.

JapanesePod101 has a list of the top 100 most common words in Japaneseso you can safely learn those first without worrying about wasting your time. (You can also access the top 2000 with a premium membership).

Learn the words that actually come up the most in everyday conversation, and you’ll be on the fast track to being able to communicate in Japanese.

3. Make use of Japanese words you already know

On the topic of learning vocabulary in a smart way, did you know that a lot of Japanese words actually come from English?

There are hundreds, if not thousands of Japanese words that are borrowed from English. So if you learn to recognise and make use of these words, you’ll automatically have a huge vocabulary!

Here’s a huge list to start you off.

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And if you know any other languages that have influenced Japanese – such as French, Portuguese or Chinese – you have an even bigger head start!

How to Learn Japanese Insanely Fast: 11 Smart Language Hacks (2)

4. Listen, listen, listen

Play something Japanese all the time. ALL the time.

Music, radio, movies, it doesn’t matter – but Japanese should be the new soundtrack to your life.

Lots of listening to authentic Japanese can really improve your pronunciation and intonation. Plus, it will help reinforce new vocabulary and grammar points that you’ve studied.

Some people claim that if you listen to enough Japanese, you will eventually start to understand it. I’m not sure about that – I think it will take a very long time to learn a language passively, through listening only without any formal study.

But if you are also studying from books or courses, there’s no doubt that lots of listening practice will help accustom you to the sounds of Japanese, and can seem to accelerate your learning.

There’s even a school of thought that claims you can learn a language by listening to it in your sleep! If you’re interested, give this video from JapanesePod101a try 🙂

And for a step up from passive listening, try FluentU. It’s a platform that lets you watch authentic native YouTube videos in Japanese, complete with interactive captions so you can study as you watch. I recommend trying it out!

5. Use dead time

Learning Japanese shouldn’t be something that happens once a week in a classroom. If you want to learn Japanese fast, you need to study as much as possible. And if you don’t have time to study, you need to make time.

Don’t worry – I’m not telling you to get up three hours earlier or give up all your hobbies (although that is one way to make more time…)

I’m talking about making use of dead time. This is the time we lose every day, when we aren’t being productive. For example, when you’re commuting to work or school, or while you’re waiting for someone.

The trick is to find ways to study in these little pockets of time here and there.

I especially love Japanese podcasts and audio courses for this, such as those offered by JapanesePod101 or Pimsleur. You can listen to audio lessons while you’re driving, walking, cooking, doing the housework, or even taking a bath!

Another good way to use dead time is with language learning apps. I use Anki, a flashcard app, to record all new words and kanji. Then I can quickly whip it out and run through a few repetitions when I have five minutes to spare.

6. Swap out your everyday habits with Japanese ones

If you’re serious about learning Japanese fast, you need to make some drastic changes. The good news is, you don’t have to change up your lifestyle – just switch out the language!

Look for ways you can replace the things you do every day with Japanese equivalents.

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For example:

  • If you check the news first thing every morning, ditch your local language paper and read the news in easy Japanese atNHK News Web Easy instead.
  • Do you always listen to music on your walk to work? Find a Japanese band you like instead.
  • Addicted to social media? Change your profile settings into Japanese, and find some fun Japanese accounts to follow.

This way, you’ll be exposed to Japanese throughout the day, and it won’t feel like a big challenge.

If you’re super serious, you could aim to cut out English as much as possible! The aim is to create an immersion environment for yourself – a little bubble of Japan, wherever you are in the world.

7. Know your language learning style

We don’t all process information in the same way. In fact, educators suggest there are four main language learning styles: visual, auditory, kinesthetic and reading/writing.

Take the time to think about how you learn best, and lean into your strengths. This will help you stop wasting time and learn Japanese faster!

For example, if you’re an auditory learner, you learn most effectively by listening. So when you’re strapped for time, ditch the textbooks and focus on audio courses and podcasts.

On the other hand, if you’re a reading/writing learner, audio lessons alone probably aren’t enough to cement things in your memory – so make sure to sit down with a pen and paper and take notes!

8. Use mnemonics

Mnemonics are memory devices that help you remember something. A mnemonic could be a story, picture, or even a song! They don’t work for everybody, but if mnemonics work for you, this can be a super powerful way to learn a language fast.

For example, here’s a video that teaches hiragana by creating a little picture around each character. That’s a kind of mnemonic.

Here’s an article that talks about how to create your own mnemonics for new vocabulary items.

And one of the most famous (or infamous) ways to use mnemonics in Japanese is the kanji guide Remembering the Kanji, a love-it-or-hate-it book which has helped many people learn the 2000+ jouyou kanji in record time.

9. Stop being a perfectionist

When you want to learn Japanese fast, you simply can’t be a perfectionist.

For a start, if you’re aiming to learn a language in record time, you can’t aim for perfection. You have to aim for passable communication, or whatever goal you set in step 1. It’s much more achievable and you’ll get there faster.

It’s also important to get over your fear of making mistakes. The more mistakes you make, the faster you learn. That’s because you’re putting in effort, and you’re hopefully learning from your mistakes and correcting it the next time.

If you’re too scared to make mistakes, you’ll never even open your mouth to speak – which means it’ll take you that much longer to get to a place where you can communicate.

10. Speak as much as possible

Speaking of speaking…

Speaking is great for fast learning because it forces you to THINK!

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You can’t just coast by passively when you’re having a one-on-one conversation with someone. When you are actively using the language for yourself, you’ll learn twice as fast – and remember things better too.

It’s important to get as much speaking practice as possible, right from the beginning.

And no excuses if you don’t live in Japan or don’t know any Japanese people. There are several websites where you can find Japanese language exchange partners online, for free. Or pay for an inexpensive online personal tutor at italki.

11. Think in Japanese

Still haven’t got anyone to practise speaking with? Speak to yourself! Get in the habit of narrating your day to yourself in Japanese. If you’re in public, do this in your head.

Training yourself to think/speak to yourself in Japanese is a great way to squeeze as much Japanese as possible into your day and review what you’ve been learning. You can do this right from the beginning of your studies, even if it’s just naming things around the house or describing your dinner.

How to learn Japanese fast

As you can see, there are a number of tricks you can use to speed up your progress in Japanese.

They might not all work for you – but the important thing is to pick a few, and stick with it! Forming good language learning habits is one of the most powerful ways to learn Japanese fast.

What do you think? Do you know any more hacks to learn Japanese fast? Share with us in the comments!

Ready to take the next step in your Japanese language journey? Our recommended online course is JapanesePod101.

JapanesePod101 offers a complete system for learning Japanese at any level, from total beginners to advanced. The self-paced courses include audio lessons, printable worksheets, learning tools (such as quizzes and flashcards), and lots more.

Sign up for a free lifetime account here.

JapanesePod101 are currently offering FULL access to the Absolute Beginner Course (90+ audio lessons!), absolutely free.

How to Learn Japanese Insanely Fast: 11 Smart Language Hacks (3)
How to Learn Japanese Insanely Fast: 11 Smart Language Hacks (4)

Rebecca Shiraishi-Miles

Rebecca is the founder of Team Japanese. She spent two years teaching English in Ehime, Japan. Now back in the UK, she spends her time blogging, self-studying Japanese and wrangling a very genki toddler.

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How can I learn Japanese in one day? ›

おはようフィリピンからありがとう前期ウオッチングちもるを捨てはそうかアメリカは明日かな今日か明日かどちらどっちだろう時差があるからですタンレフレンズ電球一種honeyさん。 Sとマイティで

What is the fastest learned Japanese? ›

You Can Learn Japanese to a Good Level After Just a Few Months. Chris Broad (Abroad in Japan) shows that it's possible to survive in Japanese with as little as 6 months of studying. Fluent in 3 Months Challenge head coach Shannon Kennedy learned Japanese in 3 months to a conversational level (around A2-B1).

How do I study like a Japanese student? ›

13 Japanese study habits you can use to be more productive and...
  1. Use A Kanban Board. ...
  2. Have A Morning Routine. ...
  3. Have A Nighttime Routine. ...
  4. Tidy Up Your Space. ...
  5. Review Your Notes. ...
  6. Always Strive For Quality. ...
  7. Try Time Blocking. ...
  8. Value Your Breaks.
6 Oct 2021

Can you learn Japanese in 10 days? ›

While it may not be possible to become fluent in Japanese in just ten days, it IS possible to learn the basics of speaking in a short period of time and move on to becoming fluent. Don't be discouraged. You can and will learn Japanese much faster than you expect.

Can I learn Japanese while sleeping? ›

yes you can. Listening to a language while asleep can help supercharge your vocabulary. With the Learn Japanese While Sleeping Audiobook, you'll absorb over 430 Japanese words and phrases effortlessly. And of course — learn words passively — in your sleep.

What is your name to Japanese? ›

おなまえは?” (o namae wa?)

How difficult is Japanese? ›

The Japanese language is considered one of the most difficult to learn by many English speakers. With three separate writing systems, an opposite sentence structure to English, and a complicated hierarchy of politeness, it's decidedly complex.

How long will it take a 14 year old to learn Japanese? ›

You'll be able to communicate decently in 6 month, and be essentially fluent in a year. At 14, your brain is still plastic enough that you should be able to speak Japanese without accent.

How many hours a day should I study Japanese? ›

Study Japanese every day

Grab a few recommended textbooks and knuckle down for at least twenty minutes a day (ideally an hour or two, but twenty minutes is better than nothing). This will give you the basics and the “correct” forms of grammar, situationally appropriate language, clear examples and practice exercises.

Can I learn Japanese in 2 years? ›

The average length of time to learn advanced Japanese is 2-3 years. At the intermediate level, you can understand most of what your teacher says, and you can follow along with TV programs. When it comes to using the language with other Japanese speakers, however, you still have some limitations.

Is it easier to learn Japanese or Chinese? ›

Japanese is slightly easier to learn. But, Chinese is much more widely spoken. Both languages have their pros and cons.

How do you sound Japanese? ›

How to Sound More JAPANESE | Pronunciation Tips - YouTube

What is the hardest language to learn? ›

1. Mandarin Chinese. Interestingly, the hardest language to learn is also the most widely spoken native language in the world. Mandarin Chinese is challenging for a number of reasons.

How can I study like Asians? ›

Good Chinese Learning Habits For Students
  1. Read ahead. It may be tough to read something you have minimal knowledge of. ...
  2. Take notes. It's a fact: jotting notes helps etch what's learnt. ...
  3. Review. ...
  4. Independent thinking. ...
  5. Consolidate errors. ...
  6. Write thoughtfully. ...
  7. Read for leisure. ...
  8. Relax.
29 Jun 2020

Is college in Japan free? ›

Tuition and Scholarships in Japan

Tuition fees at Japanese public universities are 535,800 yen, or $6,500. Academic fees for the first year generally consist of admission fee, tuition fee, and facility and equipment usage fee, but in Tsukuba, the regular entrance fees and first year tuition fees have been waived.

How many hours do Japanese students go to school? ›

In general, kids have to be at school by 8:45 am. School finishes around 3:15 pm, so they have to be in school for about six and a half hours every day from Monday to Friday. However, most kids also attend after-school clubs, and many also go to juku (cram school) in the evening to do extra studying.

How much Japanese can I learn in a year? ›

You can become fluent in a year. As in, incredibly fluent. But the majority of people simply do not have the time, let alone mental ability (as in, they'd burn out from over study) and funds to do this. Basic conversations are easy and 18 months is a long time.

How do you memorize kanji fast? ›

Best Japanese Kanji Learning Method
  1. Rote Memorization. The best way to learn any language is through repetition. ...
  2. Mnemonics. ...
  3. Learn 常用漢字 (Jouyou Kanji) ...
  4. Study the Kanji of Words that You Most Commonly Use. ...
  5. Learn Radicals. ...
  6. Learn the Kanji of Words on Your Vocabulary List. ...
  7. Read Japanese Reading Material. ...
  8. Use a Dictionary.

What's the easiest language to learn? ›

15 of the easiest languages to learn for English speakers - ranked
  • Frisian. Frisian is thought to be one of the languages most closely related to English, and therefore also the easiest for English-speakers to pick up. ...
  • Dutch. ...
  • Norwegian. ...
  • Spanish. ...
  • Portuguese. ...
  • Italian. ...
  • French. ...
  • Swedish.
24 Oct 2021

What is the hardest language to learn? ›

1. Mandarin Chinese. Interestingly, the hardest language to learn is also the most widely spoken native language in the world. Mandarin Chinese is challenging for a number of reasons.

What's the easiest language to learn? ›

15 of the easiest languages to learn for English speakers - ranked
  • Frisian. Frisian is thought to be one of the languages most closely related to English, and therefore also the easiest for English-speakers to pick up. ...
  • Dutch. ...
  • Norwegian. ...
  • Spanish. ...
  • Portuguese. ...
  • Italian. ...
  • French. ...
  • Swedish.
24 Oct 2021

What Jlpt level is fluent? ›

Fluent can be construed as N1 level, while business-level could be translated as N2 level, he explains.

Which is easier Japanese or Korean? ›

Unlike other East-Asian languages, Korean isn't a tonal language. This means, that the meaning of the word doesn't change, regardless of what your accent is like. This makes learning Korean much easier than Japanese.

Can you learn a language while sleeping? ›

Second, this study showed people may be able to aid vocabulary learning in their sleep, but picking up a new language involves much more than that. More complex parts of a language, such as grammar and conjugation rules, are out of reach, so it's probably not possible to learn an entire new language this way.

How much Japanese can I learn in a year? ›

You can become fluent in a year. As in, incredibly fluent. But the majority of people simply do not have the time, let alone mental ability (as in, they'd burn out from over study) and funds to do this. Basic conversations are easy and 18 months is a long time.

What does San mean in Japanese? ›

As a rule of thumb, in Japanese business life, the surname name is always followed by the honorific suffix “san” (meaning “dear” or actually “honorable Mr/Ms.”). There are of course many other options such as “sama” (highly revered customer or company manager) or “sensei” (Dr. or professor).

How do you say in Japan? ›

How to Say 'How do you say this in Japanese?' - YouTube

What is the 2nd easiest language to learn? ›

The top 5 easiest languages to learn, according to Busuu's experts
  • Spanish.
  • Italian.
  • French.
  • German.
  • Portuguese.
7 Jan 2022

Can you learn 2 languages at once? ›

Answer: Thankfully, your brain can definitely handle learning two (or more!) languages at once! (Two down, 6,998 to go.) But there are also some ways you can make this linguistic task easier on yourself.

What's the best language? ›

The 10 Best Languages to Learn in 2022 (and where to learn them)
  1. Chinese. Chinese is the most widely spoken language in the world—spoken in some form by 1.2 billion people—so it only makes sense to include it on this list. ...
  2. Spanish. ...
  3. Korean. ...
  4. French. ...
  5. German. ...
  6. 6. Japanese. ...
  7. Italian. ...
  8. Portuguese.
20 Jun 2022

Does JLPT expire? ›

Does the JLPT certificate expire at some point? The JLPT certificate never expires.

Is duolingo good for Japanese? ›

Duolingo is an excellent free resource for learning languages, especially if you consider yourself a beginner who is looking to immerse yourself quickly in Japanese.

Is N3 Japanese Good? ›

In summary, levels N5, N4 are the beginner levels which is good for measuring your language proficiency but no more. N3 is the middle ground that serves as a good indicator that you have enough Japanese skills to survive in Japan on a day-to-day basis.


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