Learning Japanese Basics: Inside JLPT N5 (Part 1)
Today we are starting out a series of articles, where we are going to discuss topics related to learning Japanese language. And as today is our first day of the series, we are going to focus on basics. 🙂
We suppose that you, as our reader, are interested in learning Japanese language and in coming to Japan one day. So specifically for you we have started these series, because we want you to feel a little bit more comfortable when approaching and actually starting out to learn this language. And by the way, it is not as difficult as it may seem!
Basics – they are always basics. You cannot skip them. You need to simply learn them. It doesn’t matter what language you are currently learning, you need to learn and memorize basics, period.
However, we don’t want to discourage anyone who is about to start learning Japanese and would like to give our readers some ideas and outlines for starting off on the right foot.
Also we are going to tap into what is that you need to know if you are planning to finally pass that beginner level JLPT N5 exam. And why JLPT N5 by the way? Because this level is all about basics, and this is the first mountain you need to climb if you are dedicated to reach Japanese language mastery one day. 🙂
JLPT Level N5: What’s In It?
For those who are new here, JLPT stands for Japanese Language Proficiency Test and you can read more about it on its official page here.
There are 5 levels overall from N5 (beginner) to N1 (advanced), and each level consists of corresponding level of vocabulary, grammar, reading comprehension and kanji.
You can think of Level N5 as your 1~2 years at an elementary school here in Japan! Like little kids here you will start from learning the alphabet, and there are two by the way for those who don’t know, called hiragana and katakana. Children usually learn how to write these letters, the structure of simple kanji (Japanese characters), first wording etc.
Pronunciation of Japanese is actually easy, anyone can learn how to pronounce it right. The easy part is that you pronounce what you see! In some languages, like for example in Russian, you see one letter, but you pronounce it completely differently. In English there are nasal or liaison sounds, which are also difficult for non-native learners. In Japanese there are practically no such things and everything is pretty much easy. You read what you see and as you see it!
Now, the difficult part starts with memorizing new words (like in any language you are about to learn for the first time). For westerners, there are almost no connection between our native languages and Japanese, so words themselves are quite difficult to memorize. But once you get a feel of them, it all becomes easier! Practice, practice, practice!))
We are going to give you a list of words you need to learn to pass JLPT N5 in our later articles, but for now we wanted to give you a simple overview on what to expect.
Now, let’s take the next step after learning the alphabet and first words. This time we are talking about Japanese characters, or kanji (漢字).
Japanese kanji are structured the way that they look like pictures. So for example, if you take the word 木（き）or “ki” , that means “a tree”, you can get an image of a tree standing alone. When you look at a word 林（はやし）or “hayashi”, that means “a forest”, now you can see 2 trees standing in a row. So you get an image of a forest that is actually easy to memorize! And at last let’s take a 森（もり）or “mori” character, that means “woods”. Now you can see plenty of trees gathered together making some woods! ：）
With Japanese and its characters kanji it’s all about images and imagination! Each character has a sense and a meaning, and if you can catch what it represents, it will be much easier for you to understand and finally learn and memorize those kanji.
JLPT N5 Kanji List
Here is a simple list of kanji in JLPT level N5 you need to learn to pass this level (total 80 characters)
Number characters: 一 二 三 四 五 六 七 八 九 十 百 千 万
Time related: 今 前 後 半 午 先 分 年 日 時 月 毎 年
Days of the week: 月 火 水 木 金 土 日
Direction: 北 南 西 東 右 左 外 中 上 下
People related: 子 女 男 母 父 人 友 名
School related: 学 校 書 読 語 聞 小 中 高 本
Nature related: 山 川 雨 電 天 土
Verbs, other: 入 出 円 国 大 小 来 気 白 行 見 話 読 車 金 長 食
If you are already in Japan, it would be a good idea to buy a writing practice book for elementary school children and practice tracing alphabets and simple kanji. It’s really an easy and fast way to learn how to write and to write correctly.
If you don’t have an opportunity to come to Japan yet, why not checking our services and finding a right course for you to study. We help international students to easily organize their study tours to Japan for no charge, and this is a great opportunity for you to come here and learn Japanese language in Japan!
Today we’ve discussed what is involved in starting learning Japanese language from scratch, and this is:
- Get ready to be serious!
- Find your purpose for study
- Learn the basics
- Challenge to pass the JLPT N5 exam
- You are now ready to go to Japan for study/work/travel!
- Enjoy the process to mastery
In the next article we are going to help our readers, who would like to get a sense what is this to be able to speak Japanese, to continue grasping the basics and we are going to help you understand the basic sentence structure and will teach you the very common sentences you can start using in your daily life. So stay tuned!