Japan — a tiny country with a big population, a big heart and a longstanding traditional culture.
Australia — a huge country with a small population, a sense of fun and a longstanding indigenous culture (but a short 'white' one).
To give you a little bit of perspective in comparison to Australia: at just over 137,000 square kilometres, you could fit 21 'Japans' on the continent of Australia. As for people: Japan's population density is roughly 347 people per square kilometre, versus just over 3 people per square kilometre in Australia.
Yet despite, or perhaps because of, the vast differences between our two countries, each continues to be enamoured by the other.
Are you one of the thousands of Aussies who are in love with Japanese food, culture, anime, manga or the beauty of the country itself?
Have you had a taste of the language yet? If not, let us tell you a little more about learning Japanese and where you can enrol in a course.
What is the Best Way to Learn Japanese?
That was a bit of a trick question because, when it comes to learning a language, there is no single 'best' way. It all depends on you — your needs, your prior skills, your learning style and your motivation.
Perhaps you can identify your ideal learning and study approach from the list below:
- memorisation — key phrases, grammar rules and sentence structures
- vocabulary list — a focus on a themed word list
- immersion — no English, speaking and listening in Japanese only, right from the start
- reading and writing — start with learning hiragana, katakana and kanji along with writing structures
- culture focus — start by learning each word and different phrases relevant to the culture and traditional art forms you want to study.
At the end of the day, there's no right way or best way that will help you master any languages, let alone Japanese. What it's all about is knowing the way you learn and finding a Japanese school, a course or private lessons that will motivate you to start learning and keep the momentum going.
Is Learning Japanese Online a Good Option?
If you enjoy learning in the online environment, if you find it's fun, then yes — it is a good option for you. Some of the benefits are:
- you can have fun learning without having to leave the comfort of your home
- you can connect with people, teachers and students, from all over the world
- the tuition fee is often cheaper, or totally free if you happen to find a sensational Japanese course on YouTube.
There are plenty of language learning apps out there, with different fee structures. However, there are many good quality free apps as well, including Duolingo, Obenkyo (great for exam preparation, covering hiragana, katakana and kanji practice as well as grammar and vocabulary) and LingoDeer (speaking and listening, fluency development).
If you would prefer to study in real time with an actual person, there are a number of online tutor platforms, such as Superprof, where you can easily find a tutor to meet your needs. On Superprof, you can check the tutor's profile to see their level of experience, specific language and culture skills and teaching qualifications. The best one-on-one tutors, online or not, tailor your lessons to suit your level and your goals for learning Japanese.
Why Should I Choose Japanese?
Ultimately, once the choice is yours to learn a language (that is, you've graduated from school), you'll probably already have a specific reason for choosing to study Japanese — travel, work, family, meet new people, explore an aspect of culture and so on.
However, if you want to study a language to broaden your mind, or increase your skills, and are wavering between a few language courses, here are three benefits that may convince you to learn Japanese:
1) Feel accomplished that you're tackling one of the languages people find the trickiest — and nailing it
I'll let you in on a secret — all languages are hard. Sure, Japanese has three alphabets — hiragana, katakana and kanji characters — but they each have clear functions and, in context, writing, reading, listening and speaking in Japanese is certainly no more difficult than English. Plus, the grammar rules and 'spelling' are, at least, consistent — unlike English. You'll be fine — and you will impress your friends when you tell them you can speak Japanese and read kanji characters.
2) Discover a cool word or twenty that have no satisfactory English equivalent
The Japanese language contains a plethora of awesome phrases (or just a single word) full of implied meaning but that can't be expressed in English in the same way. Two of my favourites are:
- 懐かしい (natsukashii ... That takes me back / Oh, the memories)
- めんどくさい (mendokusai ... literally means 'troublesome' but has a stronger implication of 'right royal pain in the —')
And, don't get me started on the wonderful world of Japanese onomatopoeia ... so much fun, even at the beginner level.
3) Understand Japan is 'not so weird'
An outsider, who knows nothing of the people or culture of Japan, may find the Japanese way of doing things 'a bit odd'. However, once you start to study the language and learn more about the culture of Japan, you will start to think: ああなるほど (Aa, naru hodo ... Oh — now I get it.)
Is There a Japanese School Near Me In Australia?
Not all people want to study Japanese with the intensity of a university degree — to start with, it takes a lot of time, and then you've got the pressure of mastering all the skills (reading, writing, speaking and listening) for exams, not to mention all the grammar, vocabulary, and the three writing systems (hiragana, katakana and kanji). Phew! Unless you are after a career in Japan or are planning on teaching the language — you will probably find this all too much.
So are there other options? (Particularly for the beginner, or people more interested in the culture and the language associated with it.)
Indeed, there are.
The Japan Foundation
Opened in 1978, The Japan Foundation, Sydney is the Australian branch of The Japan Foundation which was established by the Government of Japan in 1972 to promote cross-cultural understanding between Japan and, currently, 24 other nations around the world. Within The Japan Foundation, Sydney, there are 3 main sections:
- arts and culture
- Japanese language education
- Japanese study and intellectual exchange.
As a foundation, they are active throughout Australia, holding many free arts and culture events and running exceptional Japanese language courses, both online and face-to-face, for every level from beginner to advanced.
Australia Japan Society
The other organisation to start your course search with is your local Australia Japan Society. There is at least one branch in every state or territory of Australia. Each Australia Japan Society branch is run solely by volunteers with the overarching goal of providing a link between the people of Australia and Japan, and to build awareness of Japanese culture. Each society runs its own events, ranging from talks, presentations and festivals to language courses, exams and arts culture lessons.
Other Options — State by State
Throughout Australia, there are courses and online lessons near you.
Australian Capital Territory
Australia's capital city, Canberra, has an active Japanese community, offering a range of language lessons and cultural classes in everything from tea ceremony to the ANU's Kabuki Club.
New South Wales
In Sydney, there are too many Japanese language schools to count — BBI College, Nihongo Juku and Kaneko Japanese Academy to name a few. Throughout regional NSW, there are a number of community colleges and classes to choose from.
The top end of Australia caters for every student level when it comes to learning Japanese. Alice Springs and Darwin both have language centres, and Darwin has a number of after school Japanese lessons as well.
The 'sunshine state' is a popular tourist destination for Japanese people, and also has a huge Japanese community — meaning there are extensive opportunities for informal language exchange and private tutoring. There are a number of large and small Japanese language schools to choose from in Brisbane alone.
Throughout SA and in Adelaide, you can start your journey as a beginner, or continue with advanced Japanese at a number of dedicated language institutes.
You can study Japanese in Tasmania both online, as part of a degree or in a community language course designed for hospitality or travel.
You'll be spoilt for choice when it comes to learning anything from how to cook ramen to grammar and vocabulary in Melbourne and regional Victoria.
There are a number of Japanese language and culture schools in and around Perth, and several high schools and universities up towards Broome also offer the language.
(A new language is a new life.)