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Opinion Can I learn how to read and understand Japanese within 5 years? (PSOne/PS2/PS Vita Japanese Importers, スレッドに入る!!!)

Jan 11, 2019
9,526
30,152
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Tokyo, Japan
Did anyone hear learn Japanese in order to play import games on their respective consoles?

If so, how long did it take you to learn the language?

I remember reading about how Marcy Cerny was forced to learn Japanese when he was hired by Sony back in the 90's.

Can I possibly learn this wonderfully complex language within the next 5 years?

 
Nov 13, 2016
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Depends how much time and effort you're willing to put in. It's gonna be real difficult to learn all those characters. There's about 2000 of them you need to learn to understand basic texts. That's not even considering grammar and vocabulary. Technically speaking it can be done though. Don't think it's worth it if you only want to do it to play games.
 

BadBurger

Gold Member
Nov 6, 2019
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It comes down to the individual. Some people can learn languages quite easily, most people - not so much. Then comes how hard you're willing to work for it.

Personally I think that with a good tutor / instructor and a solid practice plan a single year should be enough to function in Japanese society without starving / accidentally insulting someone and getting stabbed with an umbrella. Full or solid fluency? Five years should be plenty of time, I would think, but most people would probably only need two or three years assuming they have to use / practice the language daily.
 

Kazza

Member
Oct 6, 2018
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Don't think it's worth it if you only want to do it to play games.
As someone who has experience learning languages, I strongly disagree with this. One of the biggest factors in successfully learning a language is motivation. Too many people just want to learn a language because it sounds like a cool thinf to do, without thinking about what they actually want to use it for. Having a hobby you love strongly inter-twinned with the language you want to learn is great motivation, and will make your study time seem like fun time (although it will still require some boring grinding to get good). I've had classmates who just stop progressing once they learn how to order food and have basic conversations because that's pretty much the limit of what they want to use the language for anyway. Even when they studied for another year their language skills didn't really get much better.


Go for it, MiyazakiHatesKojima MiyazakiHatesKojima ! I'm going to start learning some Japanese myself this year for the same reason as you are - to play Japanese games.

I started learning Chinese characters using this series of books, so the Japanese one is probably good too:

I've also heard good things about this podcast:

Just think, once you learn Japanese you will be able to chat with Kojima himself in his native tongue. What more motivation could you want? GET IT!
 

K1Expwy

Member
Nov 28, 2018
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As long as you go all in with the study, it's possible to have a basic understanding in 5 years give or take. The colloquialisms and pronunciations will probably go over your head for a while, though exposure to natural dialogue in gaming (or other media) might help.

Kanji really isn't that hard, get some flash cards (I owe everything to kanji.koohii.com's totally free online cards) and develop a review schedule. After gaining a full understanding of the most common 1000, sentences really start to make sense. I'd recommend working on kanji as early as possible, it will blow the doors off of comprehension.

Grammar is the tricky part, I took a basic class that explained conjugation and other rules, then learned more from everyday life (I lived in Japan for a while) and whatever the Internet/Youtube has to offer.
I wouldn't call myself fluent, but I've been playing old JP games on my Vita recently, and noticed I can follow the dialogue and system messages without picking up a dictionary, something I definitely couldn't do when I first bought them.

I can offer some more advice, but just to answer the OP question, I believe it's doable. Also I do believe if Japanese gaming is a dedicated hobby of yours and a part of your routine, then learning the language is a worthwhile investment, though not a necessary one
 
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Jan 11, 2019
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As someone who has experience learning languages, I strongly disagree with this. One of the biggest factors in successfully learning a language is motivation. Too many people just want to learn a language because it sounds like a cool thinf to do, without thinking about what they actually want to use it for. Having a hobby you love strongly inter-twinned with the language you want to learn is great motivation, and will make your study time seem like fun time (although it will still require some boring grinding to get good). I've had classmates who just stop progressing once they learn how to order food and have basic conversations because that's pretty much the limit of what they want to use the language for anyway. Even when they studied for another year their language skills didn't really get much better.


Go for it, MiyazakiHatesKojima MiyazakiHatesKojima ! I'm going to start learning some Japanese myself this year for the same reason as you are - to play Japanese games.

I started learning Chinese characters using this series of books, so the Japanese one is probably good too:

I've also heard good things about this podcast:

Just think, once you learn Japanese you will be able to chat with Kojima himself in his native tongue. What more motivation could you want? GET IT!
As long as you go all in with the study, it's possible to have a basic understanding in 5 years give or take. The colloquialisms and pronunciations will probably go over your head for a while, though exposure to natural dialogue in gaming (or other media) might help.

Kanji really isn't that hard, get some flash cards (I owe everything to koohii.com's totally free online cards) and develop a review schedule. After gaining a full understanding of the most common 1000, sentences really start to make sense. I'd recommend working on kanji as early as possible, it will blow the doors off of comprehension.

Grammar is the tricky part, I took a basic class that explained the conjugation, then learned more from everyday life (I lived in Japan for a while) and whatever the Internet/Youtube has to offer. I wouldn't call myself fluent, but I've been playing old JP games on my Vita recently, and noticed I can follow the dialogue and system messages without picking up a dictionary, something I definitely couldn't do when I first bought them.

I can offer some more advice, but just to answer the OP question, I believe it's doable. Also I do believe if Japanese gaming is a dedicated hobby of yours and a part of your routine, then learning the language is a worthwhile investment, though not a necessary one
Best replies ever 💙💙💙💙💙
 
Feb 23, 2018
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As someone who tried to do the same but got sidetracked, this was my plan. Someone who actually went through with learning the language can probably judge if it is a good one.

1) dont spend a single minute learning how to write, other than maybe practicing hiragana/katakana writing to help with memorization. Fuck stroke order, fuck that shit. You are realistically never going to write a damn word of Japanese.
2) start by memorizing hiragana, then katakana. Its actually easier than you think. Start with a row, and every day or two add another one. Just keep at it, nonstop flash cards, whatever you need to do. Just memorize them.
3) to aid in memorization, learn some basic words (colors, numbers, etc) because actually having to spell out or read a word really helps with the memorization.
4) start with grammar. Learn sentence structure and all that jazz.
5) while doing this keep learning the phonetic spelling of more and more words (thus being able to read them in hiragana/katakana, and speak them out loud)
6) only once you have a very good vocabulary and a strong understanding of hiragana/katakana should you start learning kanji. My thought process: (from my understanding) you can read and write every single Japanese word in either of these two syllabarys. And on top of that, there is only one way to say the words, and hiragana/katakana actually exactly tells you how to pronounce them. Its just a fuckton easier (imho) to use them to learn words, because you are learning the actual pronounciation of the word, instead of learning a single character that represents a word. Thats is one of the cool parts of Japanese I found, that hiragana and katakana are basically like the building blocks of how you actually speak the word. Its like the difference between reading the word "house" and there being a picture of a house. If you understand letters you can easily read and speak the word house, and know how the word is constructed, even if you have never seen the word before and have no idea what it means. If you only memorize that the picture if a house means house, you are missing the fundamental aspect of why the word is pronounced that way, and just know to say house when you see it (and if you have never seen it before, you wouldn't even know how to speak it out loud).
7) my second reason for prioritizing hiragana/katakana - anything geared towards children (like videogames) are usually entirely in a syllabary, and don't have any kanji. And if they do have kanji, they have furigana, which is essentially the hiragana spelling of the kanji above it. So many games, especially Nintendo games for instance, you will be able to read entirely without even knowing kanji. Granted, many of these will have already been translated, and the actual games I am guessing you want to play will have kanji, but it allows you to at least practice and show progress with an actual video game.

Anyway I have no idea why i fucking wrote that much, and my advice is probably contrary to many others since most people say start memorizing kanji immediately, but hopefully something in there will help you.

Edit: another reason for starting with hiragana/katakana is its like a personal test. If you cant bring yourself to memorize roughly 80 characters you sure as fuck arent going to do 2000. And if you only even get this far, at least when you are playing Yakuza and see a sign that says うどん, just by being able to sound out the hiragana you know what the restaurant is.

Also, if someone wants to critique this approach please do, if I ever give it another shot I'd love to do it the best way possible.
 
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Jan 11, 2019
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As someone who tried to do the same but got sidetracked, this was my plan. Someone who actually went through with learning the language can probably judge if it is a good one.

1) dont spend a single minute learning how to write, other than maybe practicing hiragana/katakana writing to help with memorization. Fuck stroke order, fuck that shit. You are realistically never going to write a damn word of Japanese.
2) start by memorizing hiragana, then katakana. Its actually easier than you think. Start with a row, and every day or two add another one. Just keep at it, nonstop flash cards, whatever you need to do. Just memorize them.
3) to aid in memorization, learn some basic words (colors, numbers, etc) because actually having to spell out or read a word really helps with the memorization.
4) start with grammar. Learn sentence structure and all that jazz.
5) while doing this keep learning the phonetic spelling of more and more words (thus being able to read them in hiragana/katakana, and speak them out loud)
6) only once you have a very good vocabulary and a strong understanding of hiragana/katakana should you start learning kanji. My thought process: (from my understanding) you can read and write every single Japanese word in either of these two syllabarys. And on top of that, there is only one way to say the words, and hiragana/katakana actually exactly tells you how to pronounce them. Its just a fuckton easier (imho) to use them to learn words, because you are learning the actual pronounciation of the word, instead of learning a single character that represents a word. Thats is one of the cool parts of Japanese I found, that hiragana and katakana are basically like the building blocks of how you actually speak the word. Its like the difference between reading the word "house" and there being a picture of a house. If you understand letters you can easily read and speak the word house, and know how the word is constructed. If you only memorize that the picture if a house means house, you are missing the fundamental aspect of why the word is pronounced that way, and just know to say house when you see it.
7) my second reason for prioritizing hiragana/katakana - anything geared towards children (like videogames) are usually entirely in a syllabary, and don't have any kanji. And if they do have kanji, they have furigana, which is essentially the hiragana spelling of the kanji above it. So many games, especially Nintendo games for instance, you will be able to read entirely without even knowing kanji. Granted, many of these will have already been translated, and the actual games I am guessing you want to play will have kanji, but it allows you to at least practice and show progress with an actual video game.

Anyway I have no idea why i fucking wrote that much, and my advice is probably contrary to many others since most people say start memorizing kanji immediately, but hopefully something in there will help you.
This is awesome advice! Thank you!!!
 

TLZ

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Oct 20, 2015
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Yes mate. I studied katakana when I was 10 or something. It's the easiest one to start with I think because it's just Japanese alphabets created for foreign names etc. So it's not really Japanese Japanese but it's Japanese characters still so it helps getting used to. If you want to jump straight into Japanese, I recommend starting with hiragana and all the basic stuff that comes with it. Then little by little you learn more things, by reading more, watching stuff etc. Forget kanji.
 
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Jan 11, 2019
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Yes mate. I studied katakana when I was 10 or something. It's the easiest one to start with I think because it's just Japanese alphabets created for foreign names etc. So it's not really Japanese Japanese but it's Japanese characters still so it helps getting used to. If you want to jump straight into Japanese, I recommend starting with hiragana and all the basic stuff that comes with it. Then little by little you learn more things, by reading more, watching stuff etc. Forget kanji.
I want to play that PS2 Captain Majid/Tsubasu game lol.
 
Jan 11, 2019
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Tokyo, Japan

brohmbel

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1) dont spend a single minute learning how to write, other than maybe practicing hiragana/katakana writing to help with memorization. Fuck stroke order, fuck that shit. You are realistically never going to write a damn word of Japanese.
I only got as far as learning a couple hundred kanji, but I remember learning to write them out for the hell of it, and I noticed doing that made it easier to distinguish similar kanji from each other when seeing them in the wild. Like 時 vs 持. That said, apparently Japanese kids these days don't really learn to write out kanji, and they get used to writing Japanese using just digital tools, and regardless they end up being able to distinguish kanji fine. Personally I think kanji are dope and they're fun to write out, but hey, MHK's call.
 

kizito

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Oct 11, 2013
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Have been living in Japan for two years now. Don't listen to people who tell you to forget about kanjis. There is no way you can play japanese games without them. I can play simple games like Youkai Watch 4 or stuff like that in Japanese, but there is no way you can play games if you don't study kanjis along with the rest.
 
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Feb 23, 2018
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Some apps I found helpful, to varying degrees (some were good for one aspect, some good for another. I actually liked using a bunch at once because it gives you different learning perspectives)

LingoDeer, DuoLingo, Kanakana, JustKana, HJ Lite, Drops

I only got as far as learning a couple hundred kanji, but I remember learning to write them out for the hell of it, and I noticed doing that made it easier to distinguish similar kanji from each other when seeing them in the wild. Like 時 vs 持. That said, apparently Japanese kids these days don't really learn to write out kanji, and they get used to writing Japanese using just digital tools, and regardless they end up being able to distinguish kanji fine. Personally I think kanji are dope and they're fun to write out, but hey, MHK's call.
That's actually a good point, I've read that elsewhere and it makes sense. Plus some people really memorize things better by writing them, so it can definitely help. My point was more that stroke order and proper writing can be insanely time consuming and you will be spending time learning that when you can be learning entirely new words.
 
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V4skunk

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Did anyone hear learn Japanese in order to play import games on their respective consoles?

If so, how long did it take you to learn the language?

I remember reading about how Marcy Cerny was forced to learn Japanese when he was hired by Sony back in the 90's.

Can I possibly learn this wonderfully complex language within the next 5 years?

I learned the basics like knowing how to navigate menus. I never actually learned to read Japanese, I learned what things were through trial and error. Even to this day I know what save game, exit, stats etc... Look like in Japanese writing. Lol
 
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Clarissa

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I passed my JLPT 2 in 3 years. And yes. I was quite fanatical when I learnt. I even brought my grammar dictionary to the toilet with me to read. And I'm one of the top scorers during classes and the JLPT exams.

It was langrisser 4 and 5 that made me decide to pick up and learn Japanese.
 

BootsLoader

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Nov 21, 2018
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Did anyone hear learn Japanese in order to play import games on their respective consoles?

If so, how long did it take you to learn the language?

I remember reading about how Marcy Cerny was forced to learn Japanese when he was hired by Sony back in the 90's.

Can I possibly learn this wonderfully complex language within the next 5 years?

I think jink that in two years you’ll learn enough to be ok. The rest you’ll learn from experience. I would like to learn Japanese too cause I love their country and culture but don’t have the time :(
 
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YukiOnna

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Yes you can and in even less time. The important part is to just immerse yourself, the learning materials you'd use would be the things you watch, play, browse, fap to in that language. There's multiple methods and I've tried many but ultimately am finding the straight road has been the best of what they teach in classrooms. Genki 1 + 2 -> Tobira -> Reading Material + Your favourite Kanji Book + JLPT Grammar Books. Can have apps like Anki and such that are word banks to keep you reviewing hourly, but that for me doesn't work.

All about commitment. Even if you only are doing 30 minutes a day, just force yourself to keep it going.
 

Zenaku

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I began learning about age 13 or 14, learning some words and phrases, I was reading basic at 16/17 and reading pretty well at 18.

I tried Learn Japanese books first, but they were boring as hell. Learning everyday conversation, or or how to ask for directions or the like... I decided to just get stuck in; learned katakana/hiragana and went straight to playing Pokemon Diamond with a dictionary.

Early Pokemon games lacked kanji (newer ones let you choose) and seperated words with spaces, making it easy to read. I played through it slow, reading words and looking them up in the dictionary, slowly improving my vocabulary as I went.

Also learned kanji a similar way, using PC visual novels and a couple of programs that could instantly look up any kanji in seconds; improved my kanji from low double digits to high triple digits in a couple of months.
 
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DeliciousDoc

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I'm assuming you aren't in an environment where you will encounter Japanese daily. I learned Japanese specifically to play games and I am now "advanced" in receptive skills (what you need to play single player games) and intermediate in production skills (what you need for MP).

The first step is to get a Japanese game.

If you still have that pc I think you should get a game that can fully be converted to Japanese and do your first play through completely in Japanese. Use a FAQ or just switch the language on your install if you need help. The reason I say PC is that console games usually only let you change the voices. You need to work on your reading or youll won't be able to play games that don't have an English version (very rare nowadays though).

I wouldn't completely neglect production skills (writing and speaking) because they can help you with your listening and writing. The more your brain understands you -need- to remember something the more youll remember.

In particular, if you can hear and read the Japanese subtitles or textboxes, you can compensate for what you don't understand.

Watch out for the difference between understanding routine and actually understanding the word/grammar. For example, in turn based tactics the first option is usually "move" and you will be able to make those connections quickly. Can you still understand the word if its in a dialogue? Don't let your guard down. I tried speaking to soneone who could "understand" Japanese anime. I just did a standard greeting and asked something simple like how did you study Japanese and they were completely unable to answer.

Don't get lazy and permit yourself to not understand something you could look up in a dictionary.

In teaching reading to native speakers, there is the rule of 5. If the book has more than 5 words you don't understand on the page the book is too hard.

Set up mini goals for yourself and celebrate successes like "I learned 5 words this week" or I was able to get through the interface/win conditions of this game. You don't expect to be fluent tomorrow right? Don't get discouraged.

This isn't a waste of time or impossible. Anything you learned is more than you knew before you started.

Studying by yourself requires a lot of will. That's why people need teachers. You need someone to push you if you aren't strongly self motivated. People who tell you you can't do it are people who lacked the drive to suceed and want to normalize their failure by seeing others fail.

Try spaced repetition like anki or renshuu.org
 
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Larsowitz

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Learning Japanese just to play games? Are you serious about that?

I do not know how old you are and if you are good at learning languages, but studying Japanese will require some serious effort and lots of time.

I live in Japan since 2007 and most people I know that are good at Japanese, have been living and working here for at least 10 years.

I think it is worth the effort but you should do more with the language than just playing games. How about finding a way to live/work in Japan for a year or two? This is, in my opinion, the best and most efficient way to learn the language and culture.
 
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Porcile

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Weaboos who want to study Japanese for weaboo reasons can very rarely sacrifice their weaboo-ness and actually study Japanese in an effective manner. Just my observation
 

Sakura

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You could go from 0 to JLPTN1 in 1 year if you really wanted to.
Honestly using years is a stupid metric, and I don't know why people still do it. People who say they study for 5 years, 10 years, whatever, aren't actually putting much effort into studying.
If you put in 20 hours, 30 hours a week, you'll be there in no time. If your idea of studying is maybe 5 hours a week, then yes it will take you a long time, and you probably aren't very motivated in the first place.
 

HE1NZ

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I'm trying to learn too. Currently playing My Japanese Coach on DS. I doubt it can be learned without serious effort. Sometimes it seems like the language was designed to confuse westerners.
 
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xpresstuning

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It depends on the amount of work and effort you're willing to put, and your determination. From my personal experience, because of my (bad) nature as a procrastinator, i can tell you that humans are capable of incredible things once they really set their minds at something. You have more potential than you can comprehend.
 

Rodolink

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Did anyone hear learn Japanese in order to play import games on their respective consoles?

If so, how long did it take you to learn the language?

I remember reading about how Marcy Cerny was forced to learn Japanese when he was hired by Sony back in the 90's.

Can I possibly learn this wonderfully complex language within the next 5 years?

i studied for six years (3 times a week, 30min - 1hr study a day) managed to get to sankyu 3 (there were 5 at the time 1 being advanced). now i mostly forgot all kanji. and that's the hardest part imo. learning kanji.
grammatics are easy enough.
but in the end it depends how much time you are willing to spend.
 

Endless Fluff

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I think it is worth the effort but you should do more with the language than just playing games. How about finding a way to live/work in Japan for a year or two? This is, in my opinion, the best and most efficient way to learn the language and culture.
You are right, but we aren't in 2007 anymore. Japan pretty much forces you to learn the language since April 2019 if you want to live/work there, you need to ace the JFT-Basic test otherwise you won't get a visa. You don't have to take the test when you've completed JLPT N4, though, but OP obviously hasn't.
Sometimes it seems like the language was designed to confuse westerners.
Japanese themselves are confused by parts of their own alphabet, so I don't have any hope for OP.
 
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I was in that spot 5-6 years ago. I decided to learn Japanese for the vidya gamez. Let me just say, if I had actually studied for five years I would have learned the language sufficiently. As it stands, I kinda suck but I’m still going.

My suggestion is to make it a daily habit. I’ve had periods where I studied every day for months and made great progress. Then I fell off the wagon and spent six months doing jack shit.

All in all, learning languages is very nice. I highly recommend it. Learning Japanese is super tough but very rewarding at the same time. So just go for it. Like I said, I initially did it to understand games, but since then I’ve made Japanese friends and visited the country and even studied Japanese culture at the university.
 

Clarissa

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May 15, 2019
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Learning Japanese just to play games? Are you serious about that?

I do not know how old you are and if you are good at learning languages, but studying Japanese will require some serious effort and lots of time.

I live in Japan since 2007 and most people I know that are good at Japanese, have been living and working here for at least 10 years.

I think it is worth the effort but you should do more with the language than just playing games. How about finding a way to live/work in Japan for a year or two? This is, in my opinion, the best and most efficient way to learn the language and culture.
I don't see anything wrong with learning Japanese because of gaming.
 

LazyParrot

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Mar 19, 2019
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Five years is plenty of time, assuming you'll put in at least an hour every day. I've been at it for around 2 years now, and I'm just about at a point where I can handle most games and manga without having to constantly look stuff up.

If you're serious about this, I've got some advice based on my own experiences:

1. Learn Hiragana and Katakana before you pick up a textbook. If you can't do that, you might as well quit right now. Try not to rely on Romaji ever.

2. Get away from textbooks and content designed for learners and foreigners ASAP. It's alright to start with Genki or some other Textbook, but you should be getting into material designed by native speakers for other native speakers as soon as possible, preferably something you're interested in. If you only stick to textbooks, that's all you'll ever be able to read.

3. Use Anki right from the start. If you don't know what it is, look it up. It's fine to use pre-made decks for stuff like Kanji and basic vocab, but once you start consuming native material you should make your own decks. There are guides on the internet that will show you how.

4. Read and listen to Japanese for at least an hour every single day. Real Japanese, not Youtube videos aimed at learners or whatever. Doesn't matter if you only understand 20% or even less at first. Just do it. Over and over again. Nothing will make vocabulary or grammar stick like encountering it in the wild, even if you barely understand anything else.

5. You will run out of motivation, it's inevitable. That's why most people quit. Motivation alone isn't enough, you will need discipline. You have to bang out those Anki reps and engage with the language every single day, even if you feel like shit and would rather do anything else. It has to become part of your routine, like showering or brushing your teeth (you do those every day, right?).

All that being said, you will probably still fail and give up before you get anywhere close to your goal of being able to play Japanese games. The overwhelming majority of learners to, Japanese is just that hard to learn, so don't feel bad if that happens. There's nothing wrong with quitting if you think your time is better spent doing other things.
 
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Vitter.

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Feb 14, 2013
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I’ve studied a year when I was 16/17 always wanted to go back but life. Still hope to learn it someday!(now im 36) I’ve managed to defend myself in italian, english, spanish(native) and even some portuguese, my head is kind of a mess of languages because I’ve mostly learned by myself or spending time in places that the languages are spoken, but mostly reading comics, playing games etc.. at least that was the way with english.
 

Wonko_C

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Recently I've stumbled upon youtube videos about polyglots who claim you can be fluent at any language in only one year or a few months, because their methods are radically different, like instead of learning how to write first, learn like a child and just talk and talk with people who are fluent/natives, then worry about grammar and writing later. Others say VRChat has become amazing for learning languages.

I don't know the validity of those claims but it seems interesting enough for me to try...
 

01011001

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Dec 4, 2018
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I am casually learning japanese, less than an hour a day for the last 2 years, mainly through apps, videos and forums.

at this moment I could maybe have a simple conversation with someone in Japanese, and I can read maybe close to 100 Kanji already.

I think if I really tried and learned at least an hour a day and way moee focused I would be way further already... and 5 years should be plenty of time to learn it.

start with learning the basics and you should learn hiragana and katakana first, there are various apps to learn them, it helps to have one that makes you draw them aswell as read them as that way you will edge them into your brain more effectively IMO.

I am at least now at a point where while playing Final Fantasy XV (which I'm finally trying to finish on PC now that it's in gamepass) I can actually understand a lot of things without the need to read the subtitles and playing a lot of stuff in Japanese and watching stuff in japanese really helps to cement terms I learned and new words I can understand through context into my memory.
 
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Read up on spaced repetition systems (SRS) a bit and you'll understand why using apps like Duolingo is the way to go versus traditional methods, at least to start. I've been learning Japanese for the last 6 months and my progress has been incredible even compared to the much easier languages I studied previously.

I've been using Duolingo and WaniKani. You'll find that Duolingo Japanese gets a lot of criticism, but I find that most of the critics just don't get its contextual methods. Duolingo also overhauled the whole course last year and there are discussions linked to each task.

Anyway, just start and you'll be hooked too!