Concerned about being able to understand and converse with the locals when they head to the Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan this September, students have been asking me ‘How long will it take me to learn Japanese?’ and ‘Is it worth learning Japanese for a short trip?’.
I know what you are expecting me to say: there’s no quick way of learning Japanese. It takes years to master, it’s a language completely unlike the familiar European Romance languages of French, Spanish, Italian, etc., there’s no quick fix, yadda yadda. So this might surprise you: I believe beginner Japanese is really easy!
Beginner Level Japanese Is Surprisingly Easy
You just need to keep it realistic. If you have a trip booked, you need to think about what ‘survival’ Japanese would be for you. What do you want to say to people? ‘Hello, I’m a Rugby Fan from England and I love tonkatsu ramen?’, for example? Self-introductions with a charming quirky detail can really break the ice in Japan.
It’s wonderfully handy to realise that the Japanese use about 10 set phrases, over and over again, in daily life (for example, see this BBC article on the magical phrase ‘Yoroshiku onegaishimasu’ which means something like: ‘I’m glad we get on and I hope we will continue to’). If you can get the hang of when, approximately, to use those phrases, you will be amazed at how they slide open doors for you.
Another great area to look at is signage. Happily, most signs at train stations are now in romaji (the Roman alphabet) as well at Japanese. But there are some kanji symbols that you’ll be relieved to have a passing familiarity with (such as, male and female for bathrooms, and perhaps even more importantly, ‘onsen’ hot springs wherein bathers are nude). I’ve got a funny story about outdoor mixed onsen (rotenburo), but hey, that’s for another time.
Ok, so now let’s think about your tactical game here…
The Rugby World Cup in Japan Starts in September (Over 4 Months Away!)
Let’s break it down. Many of our Japanese learners start with a booking of 10 lessons of 90 minutes, which they often take weekly. We can usually make the connection with a native tutor, considering your preferred time, place and level within a week. So! There is actually plenty of time to take 10 weekly lessons, even if you have another holiday scheduled before the rugby (you
slacker lucky duck, you).
Your lessons, as a beginner, will focus on polite and friendly greetings, introductions, and practical phrases such as ‘Excuse me, where is the toilet?’. With a private Japanese tutor, you will be speaking to a Japanese person right from the very first lesson. You can learn just a few phrases a week, and still prepare nicely for your trip. Or, you can go faster if you want to, your tutor will follow your lead.
If, like me, you are worried that your short term memory is getting a bit full these days, and you are concerned about actually recalling the words and phrases you learn, take heart. Do yourself a favour, be easy on yourself and remember that you absolutely will unlock some key culture differences by looking at the language with your tutor.
Learning About Language is Learning About Culture
Learning another language is not only learning different words for the same things, but learning another way to think about things. ‒Flora Lewis
Culture shock can be overwhelming. It can give you a weird, floaty sense of free-wheeling fun, but it’s also extremely exhausting. And there are few places in the world more different the UK than Japan, in my honest opinion. So instead of wasting your trip being completely bowled over by differences in the way things are done, we recommend you get an overview before you go.
You’ll be less likely to unintentionally offend (or – horrors – get told off!) This will also give your trip lasting meaning, as you absorb more about why things are done differently, and how that can enhance your life long after you return home. There’s a very good reason why new books on Japanese ways of doing & thinking are being realised every month – it’s life changing stuff.
Our lovely JapaneseLondon.com tutors are native speakers of the Japanese language, who would be delighted to help you prepare to get the most from your trip. You might enjoy it so much you keep learning Japanese when you get back, like Simon (below).
“Right from the get-go my Japanese lessons with Yuki have been fantastic. I was really glad he didn’t take a traditional approach of a pre-printed lesson book but he made learning easier, faster and more fun with tailored classes – repeating and revising each segment before moving on to the next.
As a result I found I picked up basic Japanese surprisingly quickly. I took classes specifically for a trip to Japan but have enjoyed the experience so much I would definitely consider continuing learning Japanese after I’m back in the UK.” Simon U, Photographer
Click here to contact Vanessa & arrange your Japanese lessons now!
If you found this article useful, we recommend these other JapaneseLondon.com articles:
- Why Should I Get a Private Japanese Tutor?
- Is it Worth Learning Japanese? Why a Little Japanese is a Whole Lot Better than None
- This is Why You Need to Book 10 Japanese Lessons (At Least)
- Japanese / English Conversation Groups in London
- New Years’ Resolution to Learn Japanese? Why January Isn’t Always the Best Time
- Why Learn Japanese?