I started learning Japanese in university, and have been in love with the language ever since. I thoroughly enjoyed my years of learning the language, and hope that I can share the passion with others too.
If you ask me, is Japanese an easy language to master? The answer is a straight no. (To be fair, is there a language that is easy to master?) Is it an easy language to pick up for a beginner? I think I can safely say, YES!
Japanese pronunciation isn’t as complicated as English or Mandarin. Of course, you might not pass off as a native, but still, by and large it isn’t hard to make yourself understood even if you don’t sound like one. And as long as you are willing to put in some effort not to let your native language get in the way, many of us can sound pretty close to a native.
What is difficult about the Japanese language then? Grammar and honorifics. But the good news is that, basic grammar isn’t hard. You don’t have to switch sentence structures around like English. (Why does the question form of ‘This is a book’ have to be twisted to become ‘What is this’, instead of a simple ‘This is what’?) As for honorifics, you don’t have to worry too much about them until you get past intermediate level – you can get by quite easily with some basic honorifics as well as the general polite form.
What about the written language? There is Hiragana (they look like this: ひらがな), Katakana (they look like this: カタカナ), Kanji (Chinese characters: 漢字) to learn if you want to really immerse yourself in the language. If you already know Chinese characters, it is of course easier for you. But even if you don’t, you can get by with just Hiragana and Katakana (which are two sets of the same sounds, and look very similar). Of course, I highly encourage students to pick up some Kanji characters too. At least learn to recognize them, they will be greatly helpful and will definitely enrich your whole learning experience.
So, if you are intrigued by Japanese culture, if you are amazed by the spirit of the Japanese people, come and pick up this beautiful language. It’s lots of fun!
I only want to learn how to read manga, is that ok?
Honestly, it is a very common misconception that manga is written in simple Japanese. Understanding manga actually requires a fairly high level of proficiency. If you learn Japanese full time in Japan, maybe it might take you just one year. In other countries, well, all I can say is… hmmm, work hard and be patient! Also, manga language contains a lot of non-formal Japanese, which I won’t teach until you are familiar with the formal basics. Some people don’t think it is necessary to start with the polite form and will jump straight to non-formal Japanese, but I am pretty conservative. I think basic manners are important, and once you acquire a habit – in this case non-formal language that is considered improper in many situations – you’re going to find it hard to unlearn and relearn.
Can you come to my place to teach?
Apart from very special cases, at present it is difficult for me to travel to teach. My classroom is within walking distance from Aljunied (EW9), which is just 4 stations away from City Hall station. I also provide Skype lessons.
Minna No Nihongo (3A Corporation) – a popular Japanese Language textbook, which has been translated into many languages.
There are many Japanese textbooks around, but this is my personal favourite.