How to Learn Japanese

Learning Flow: How to Learn Japanese from the Beginning

From Scratch

If you have a systematic roadmap, learning Japanese from the beginning can be a good advantage because you can avoid wasting your time and efforts and concentrate on what you really need to learn. In this article, we will explain the learning flow with the Complete Roadmap: How to Speak Japanese in detail.

How to Learn Japanese from the Beginning with Specific Figures and Materials

Table of Content
From the Beginning to CEFR A2 (Elementary Level)
From CEFR A2 to B1 (Elementary to Intermediate Level)
From CEFR B1 to B2 (Intermediate to Upper-intermediate Level)
From CEFR B2 to C1 (Upper-intermediate to Advanced Level)

First of all, let’s check how long it takes to become fluent in Japanese and decide your target considering the aim and the necessary learning time (*CEFR – Common European Framework of Reference for Languages).

CEFR Level Level Name Description Time (Hour) Aim
C2 Proficiency Can express him/herself spontaneously, very fluently and precisely, differentiating finer shades of meaning even in the most complex situations.    
C1 Advanced Can express ideas fluently and spontaneously without much obvious searching for expressions. 2200 Work with Japanese
B2 Upper intermediate Can interact with a degree of fluency and spontaneity that makes regular interaction with native speakers quite possible without strain for either party. 1320 Work with Japanese
B1 Intermediate Can produce simple connected text on topics that are familiar or of personal interest. 720 Live in Japan
A2 Elementary Can communicate in simple and routine tasks requiring a simple and direct exchange of information on familiar and routine matters. 480 Travel in Japan
A1 Beginner Can interact in a simple way provided the other person talks slowly and clearly and is prepared to help.    
*Reference
FSI, Lessons learned from fifty years of theory and practice in government language teaching
Language Testing International, How Long Does it Take to Become Proficient?
American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages, Introducing the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines 2012
The Steering Committee for the Test of Proficiency-Huayu
Wikipedia, Common European Framework of Reference for Languages

We have created this table based on the research done by the Foreign Service Institute and other linguistic institutions. You might have read or heard of this catchphrase; “How to Learn Japanese in Just Three Months.” Honestly speaking, you cannot do that unless you’re a real genius. However, you can learn Japanese within a reasonable amount of time. When it comes to learning a language, you should be realistic. Try to keep your target in the back of your mind.

How to Learn Japanese from the Beginning to CEFR A2 (Elementary Level) in 480 Hours

A woman who wants to go shopping

If you would like to travel to Japan with Japanese language, CEFR A2 (elementary Level) may be your target. At this level, you can use public transportation, order at local shops, and make reservations and phone calls in Japanese. You will probably have difficulty understanding a native speaker, but you can at least tell him or her what you want to say. The following video is a sample showing how fluent people are at CEFR A2. Although they are speaking English, you can theoretically do the same thing as the person on the left in Japanese

 

How to Learn Japanese from Zero to 250 Hours

Chart: Scratch to CEFR A2 (Elementary Level)

This stage can be divided into two processes. You first complete the Knowledge section. You learn the Japanese writing system, basic vocabulary, pronunciation, and grammar. The method is carefully explained with materials in the following link. Go through them steadily one by one. If you spend solid two hours every day, you will complete them in approximately four months.

 

How to Learn Japanese from 250 to 480 Hours

Chart (2): Scratch to CEFR A2 (Elementary Level)

Next you will enter the Practice section and tackle the Read-aloud and the Instantaneous Composition Method simultaneously. After you have practiced both methods (approximately 30 hours for each), you may start interactions with native speakers. Thus, the detailed learning flow is like this (*Assuming you take online Japanese lessons for interactions with native speakers);

Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
Read-aloud Read-aloud Read-aloud Read-aloud Read-aloud Read-aloud Preparation
Instantaneous Composition Instantaneous Composition Instantaneous Composition Instantaneous Composition Instantaneous Composition Instantaneous Composition Online Lessons

You will find the learning ways with materials in the following links. You may not complete them within 230 hours (from 250 to 480 hours), but try as much as time allows. If you spend two hours every day, it will take another four months. If you do not have access to native Japanese speakers in your area, we  suggest that you take advantage of  Wasabi’s online Japanese lessons with native speakers.

Summary (*Expected Figure)

Target Proficiency CEFR A2 (elementary level)
Learning Time 480 hours
Duration Eight months (spending two hours every day)
Course
  • Special Course: How to Learn Japanese from Beginner
  • Fairy Tales and Short Stories with Easy Japanese
  • Japanese Grammar with the Instantaneous Composition Method
  • Wasabi – Online Japanese Lessons
Cost JPY 24,960 (*USD 210 or EUR 194 -23rd Jan 2016)
<Breakdown>
  1. Two grammar guidebooks
  2. Online Japanese lessons for 10 hours (three months)

 

How to Learn Japanese from CEFR A2 to B1 (Elementary to Intermediate Level) in 240 Hours

Living in Japan

If you would like to live in Japan with Japanese language, CEFR B1 (intermediate) may be your target. At this level, you can express your opinion on specific topics such as your preference books, movies, and other activities. Also, you can express your feelings and attend some events with your Japanese friends. The following video is a sample showing how fluent people are at CEFR B1. Although they are speaking English, you can theoretically do the same thing as the person on the left in Japanese.

 

Learning Flow from 480 to 720 Hours

Chart: from CEFR A2 to B1 (Elementary to Intermediate Level)

In this state, you’ll complete the same courses you have been dealing with since the beginning. Thus, the learning flow remains as it is. When you continue studying the same thing for a while, you may face a plateau, which is a period where there is no improvement or decrease in performance. Don’t worry. This is just a phenomenon on the surface. The effects will be realized later on and your improvement will follow the curve as shown below. Don’t stop and keep learning (*Assuming you take online Japanese lessons for interactions with native speakers).

Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
Read-aloud Read-aloud Read-aloud Read-aloud Read-aloud Read-aloud Preparation
Instantaneous Composition Instantaneous Composition Instantaneous Composition Instantaneous Composition Instantaneous Composition Instantaneous Composition Online Lessons

Plateau Chart

Improvement Flow


Summary (*Expected Figure)

Target Proficiency CEFR B1 (intermediate)
Learning Time 240 hours (from 480 to 720 hours)
Duration Four months (spending two hours every day)
Course
  • Fairy Tales and Short Stories with Easy Japanese
  • Japanese Grammar with Instantaneous Composition Method
  • Wasabi – Online Japanese Lessons
Cost JPY 23,200 (*USD 195 or EUR 180 -23rd Jan 2016)
<Breakdown>
  1. Online Japanese lessons for 15 hours (four months)

 

How to Learn Japanese from CEFR B1 to B2 (Intermediate to Upper-intermediate Level) in 600 Hours

A man saying yroshiku when he introduces himself

If you would like to work using Japanese, you have to reach CEFR B2 (upper-intermediate) at least. At this level, you can communicate with native speakers with much less strain for either party, defend your opinion, and build a logical argument. You won’t be able to speak Japanese using technical terms, specialized fields, etc, but you can certainly communicate with people in the workplace. The following video is a sample showing how fluent people are at CEFR B2. Although they are speaking English, you can theoretically do the same thing as the person on the right in Japanese.

 

Learning Flow from 720 to 1320 Hours

Chart: From CEFR B1 to B2 (Intermediate to Upper-intermediate Level)

In this stage, you need to add intermediate Japanese grammar (JLPT N3-N2) to your studies. Please refer to the first link below and follow the recommended learning path. After you have learned it (approximately 100 hours),  you will start practicing having a good command for what you have learned. Try to deal with the Read-aloud Method again using materials at the intermediate level while keeping up interactions with native speakers and the Instantaneous Composition Method .

We have suggested that you start reading practice at the end but, you can start it at your leisure after acquiring the knowledge of intermediate grammar. If you spend two hours every day, it will take ten months to complete this stage.

 

Summary (*Expected Figure)

Target Proficiency CEFR B2 (upper-intermediate)
Learning Time 600 hours (from 720 to 1320 hours)
Duration Ten months (spending two hours every day)
Course
  • Intermediate Japanese Grammar with Anki Flashcards
  • Wasabi Japanese Radio Podcasts
  • Japanese Reading Practice: Intensive and Extensive Reading
  • Wasabi – Online Japanese Lessons
Cost JPY 63,000 (*USD 529 or EUR 490 -23rd Jan 2016)
<Breakdown>
  1. One Japanese Grammar guidebook
  2. Online Japanese lessons for 35 hours (ten months)
  3. One Japanese book for reading practice

 

How to Learn Japanese from CEFR B2 to C1 (Upper-intermediate to Advanced Level) in 880 Hours

Profession

If you would like to work with Japanese language without depending on your own language, e.g. teaching English and dealing with international affairs using English in a Japanese company, your proficiency needs to be at an advanced level. At this level, you can understand complex speeches, summarize discussions, conduct meetings, and give a presentation in Japanese. The following video is a sample showing how fluent people are at CEFR C1. Although they are speaking English, you can theoretically do the same thing as the person on the left in Japanese

 

Learning Flow from 1320 to 2200 Hours

Chart: From CEFR B2 to C1 (Upper-intermediate to Advanced Level)

From B2 to C1 level, it’s a period of transition from “learn Japanese” to “learn something in Japanese.” For example, if your profession is accounting, try to improve your accounting knowledge and ability in Japanese. You may try to qualify 簿記 (Japanese accounting qualification). If your profession is civil engineering, try to master the technical terms in order to work with Japanese engineers. Thus, we cannot specify suitable materials for you here. Choose the best ones considering your situation.  

Example: If Your Profession Is Accounting…

You can easily find good learning resources on the Internet. Just google it in JAPANESE. Then, do the same things you have done so far. First, add new knowledge, and second, practice having a good command for it.
One thing we highly recommend is to keep reading and having interactions with native speakers. At this level, you need to understand a lot idioms, advanced Keigo and slang. Exposing yourself to tons of Japanese expressions makes a difference. Any contents will work very well, e.g. reading news, books or manga, watching movies, animations or dramas. If you would like to focus on business Japanese or advanced Keigo, Wasabi’s advanced course can be a good option. Try to immerse yourself in Japanese more and more.

Conclusion

We have explained each of the learning flows with the specific figures and materials. However, they may vary person to person. Please adjust them to yourself. If you’re a student and have a long break, the duration may be shorter. If you can sufficiently budget for learning Japanese, you may study abroad to Japan in order to have daily interaction with native speakers and experience Japanese culture. Try to find the most suitable one for you. If you properly understand the concept; how to become fluent in Japanese, you will certainly be able to speak Japanese with anyone.

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