1. Keep a Notebook
Buy a cheap notebook (I recommend moleskine) and jot down any new vocabulary or phrases that you hear. For each entry, write down the new language, its meaning, and one or two examples of its usage. If you hear a word you know used in a new way, write it down again.
2. Take Up A Japanese Hobby
If you take up a Japanese hobby you get three benefits. First, you get to take up an interesting and enjoyable hobby which is fun in itself. Second, you’ll find a great place to interact with Japanese natives and get plenty of speaking practice. Finally, you’ll get a source of motivation to study Japanese harder. You can take up anything from flower arranging (ikebana) to sword-fighting (kendo).
3. Make Japanese pen-friends
Google ‘japanese pen friend’ and you’ll find a host of websites dedicated to finding you a Japanese pen friend. Make sure you insist on replies in English and Japanese. This is a great way to expose you to new language, and of course, make connections in Japan. If you can’t read Kanji, you should try downloading Rikaichan, a plugin for the Firefox web browser (which you should be using anyway!)
4. Review Characters Once A Week
If you are just starting out, it’s very important that you review hiragana/katakana characters at least once per week. Rather than spending one afternoon trying to cram all the characters into your brain, its much easier and more effective to go slowly and review periodically. You should be able to read words you see, and write words you hear. If you are confident with your kana, you should move onto Kanji when you feel ready.
5. Make Japanese Skype Friends
Similar to making pen-friends, the difference is you will actually be speaking to them over the internet. Often you can convert pen-friends to skype-friends and vice versa. This is a great way to get speaking practice if you don’t meet Japanese natives in your day-to-day life, but it’s never a substitute for the real thing.
6. Listen To The JapanesePod101 Podcast
If you open iTunes (comes with all Macs, you’ll need to download it for Windows), and go to the iTunes Store, you can find a podcast made by JapanesePod101. They regularly broadcast high quality Japanese lessons via their podcast. They can be a little pushy for you to join their paid website, but the podcast is very well produced and is a great way to get listening practice for free.
7. Check Your Grammar With Tae Kims Guide To Japanese
Tae Kims guide can be found at this url:
It is a one-stop shop for Japanese grammar explanations. Though I wouldn’t recommend it as a good way to start studying Japanese, it’s a great way to review grammar that you might have forgotten. His explanations are brief and filled with examples. He also has a great understanding of contemporary Japanese language usage. Best of all, it’s free.
8. Correct Yourself
We all make mistakes when speaking, the most important thing is that we go back and correct them. If you know you’ve made a mistake, don’t be lazy and let it slide. If you make a habit of letting yourself go, you will never improve. Go back to what you said, make the correction, and carry on the conversation from there.
9. Don’t Second Guess Yourself
Don’t try to make everything you say perfect. Do your best to speak naturally, and then only after you’ve made a mistake are you allowed to go back and correct it. Unless you’re giving a speech, never spend more than a couple of seconds trying to figure out what you’re going to say.
10. Come to Japan!
Whether only for a few weeks or the rest of your life, coming to Japan will multiply your Japanese ability. If you are a beginner, you’ll get 24/7 exposure to the language as its spoken naturally. If you’re intermediate, then you will have more speaking opportunities than you could ever handle or prepare for (which is a good thing). If you’re advanced, then you probably already live here :