Five Unusual Ways to Improve Your Japanese Skills


Learning a foreign language — especially Japanese — can sometimes be a frustrating experience. Not knowing where to begin or hitting a plateau can feel demoralizing and make it hard to hit the books and study like you know you should. Sometimes just getting out of a rut can help unlock the urge to learn. In the past we’ve covered a few different language learning tips, including using toilet humor as a tool, and now we’ve come up with five more unconventional ways to kick your studies into gear…

Be a Nosy Neighbor

Many houses display the surnames of their residents at the main gate or door. It’s a good way of practicing your kanji reading skills, as common names will crop up repeatedly and make it easy to commit them to memory. You may occasionally run into surnames that are harder to decipher. In those cases, take a note and look it up when you get home.

Read Books for Kids

Drop by your local library and borrow some children’s books. Most books for younger children will be entirely in hiragana (great for beginners) and have lots of pictures to help figure out what’s going on in the story. Books aimed at elementary school kids, especially non-fiction or history books have plenty of furigana (a Japanese reading aid that shows a kanji character’s reading) along with the kanji, making them easy to look up. For more advanced students who aren’t quite ready to take on a full novel, so-called light novels aimed at middle schoolers and high schoolers can be both entertaining and assist with more complicated sentence structure studies.


There’s nothing like memorizing a set of phrases to level up both your singing and speaking skills. Depending on your genre of choice, you can broaden your vocabulary quite a bit. Enka’s slow-paced melodies are easy to follow and 90% of the vocabulary is heartbreak-related (this is not an accurate statistic), which could be useful. It’s also a good entryway to some old school Japanese song culture and will undoubtedly impress your Japanese friends — even if you’re a terrible singer. It’s all about the emotion.

Talk to Yourself (Or to a Pet)

This works best when at home and not out in public, for obvious reasons. Learning a language isn’t just a mental exercise, it’s a physical one that also affects the muscles in your face. To wrap your tongue around new words and their pronunciation you have to literally give your mouth a workout. Shadowing is great, but try creating conversations with yourself as practice for the real thing. Pets are good listeners and don’t really care if you get it wrong at first.

Take a Class

… but not a Japanese language class. Try out yoga, give martial arts a go, or brush up on your painting skills. By learning a new skill alongside new vocabulary you get a two-for-one deal. It also creates an opportunity to meet new people and improve your skills as you talk with them about a common interest, instead of forcing topics unnaturally.

What are some of your best Japanese language learning tips? We’d love to know!

Main image: Shutterstock



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