Can I learn good enough Japanese to live there within ~9 months, as well as how can I learn to speak and listen to Japanese

I have a friend who’s on the MEXT scholarship, and I think it’s really great: at the undergraduate level, you even get a one-year prep course where you learn more about (or revise) key knowledge for higher education in various fields, and also brush up on your Japanese (students are split up for Japanese classes based on their Japanese level at entry). I mean, OK, you could see that as a waste of time (because that means you only get your bachelor’s degree five years after entering Japan instead of after the usual four), but at least that means you get plenty of guidance. Certain entry requirements for prestigious universities may also be waived because some universities allow results from the MEXT prep year to substitute for entrance exam results. (I don’t want to reveal too many details without my friend’s permission, but if you want to know how prestigious, let’s just say he’s in one of the universities that ranks in Japan’s top 10.) I believe there isn’t any preparation for graduate students who get the scholarship, but I’m pretty sure that your tuition fees are still covered, and that you get a stipend.


@McYodo As far as the practical side of moving to Japan goes, I think you really need to look for information like what’s offered in this post:

I’m currently in France and about to embark on my master’s degree in engineering, and I intend to do a second master’s degree in Japan in about two years while seeing if I want to move there permanently. I’m planning to do internships or get a few years’ work experience there in order to get a feel for what it’d be like living there long-term. I hope to have my mother move there with me, and all I can say is that… yeah, there aren’t many options. The only ‘easy’ way out involves leveraging my mother’s age to get the Japanese Ministry of Justice to give her special permission to stay with me so I can care for her, and that’s really not likely to happen because I have a brother who’s not likely to move to Japan, meaning I won’t be able to justify that she’s fully dependent on me. (And this MoJ option isn’t even a standard visa – it’s granted on a case-by-case basis.) All the other common options for her require either that she be employed in Japan, or that she be a business owner, so she’s thinking up ideas in those departments while doing her current job. It’s definitely easier to get a visa when you’re younger, but you have to give Japan a reason to let you stay. That’s how visas work. Any long-term/permanent residence permit only comes after you’ve had some of these short-term visas for work or studies for a while. (It’s the same thing in France, where I’m an international student.)

As for learning Japanese quickly… Here’s something I wrote recently about rapidly preparing for one of the higher levels of the JLPT:

In essence, for any language, in my opinion, the fastest way forward is always the same:

  1. Learn enough of the basics (grammar, but also vocabulary) to start deciphering things on your own and to understand simple things
  2. Start immersing yourself while learning more advanced core structures and words (more grammar, usually, but in the case of Japanese, it’s also going to be a lot of special structures that are basically vocabulary, but which people call ‘grammar points’). Make sure you use a good dictionary during your immersion study sessions in order to look up new words and see how they’re used. (In other words, a dictionary that only offers translations is not enough. Get one with example sentences. https://ejje.weblio.jp is one, and it’s better than Jisho, especially since it has all the same data and more. Trust me.)
  3. Immerse yourself much, much more once you’re no longer able to get much out of textbooks. Continue to read specialised works on grammar and vocabulary if you want, but they’re not really essential at that point. Also, if you haven’t already done so at step #2, transition to a monolingual dictionary ASAP. That way, your lookups become reading practice too, and you learn lots of common (albeit slightly formal) expressions from dictionary definitions. Monolingual dictionaries also typically have more detailed definitions.

Of course, if you have the chance along the way, do some output practice with a teacher or conversation partner. But if you can’t, at the very least, this provides a basic framework for learning from input.

If you’re willing to pay for a textbook that I think allows one to learn pretty fast, and which is definitely cheaper than Genki I & II or Minna no Nihongo (it’s supposed to cover as much content as the first two beginner levels of either of those series), then I’d suggest you look at this:

This is the English edition of the course I used to start Japanese. (I used the French edition.) I don’t think a print edition has been released, but the e-course should contain all the same content. (You just have to get used to the interface.) You can try out the first seven lessons to get a feel for whether it works for you. Some people find the grammatical explanations too skimpy, but they were fine for me. The only possible issue is that – even if there are furigana and a pronunciation guide you can check for every lesson – the course starts using kanji right away. That wasn’t an issue for me because I’m a Chinese speaker, but it might be an issue for you, especially if you intend to use WK as your sole source for kanji. You can always try picking those kanji up on your own though, perhaps while imitating the WK method.

My advice for learning kanji is essentially this post:

Here’s my mnemonics thread, which I update every once in a while, albeit mostly with advanced kanji:

https://community.wanikani.com/t/non-wk-mnemonics/49513?u=jonapedia

That aside, honestly, I think learning how to write kanji might be worth it. It’s not compulsory by any means, but really, so much of why I can learn new kanji easily is because I can write them. If nothing else, studies have shown that writing is helpful for retention, even in English. If it doesn’t interest you, fine, and many people will say it slows you down, but I’d say you should just do a little writing practice at the least (maybe five times per new kanji, and then once per review session, reading the kanji aloud and thinking of its meaning each time) while doing your best to remember the stroke order and general shape, without giving yourself any pressure if you don’t manage to do it. It’ll stick eventually, and if you’re able to write a lot of basic kanji (which often appear as components of more complicated ones), you’ll be able to learn much more quickly later. You can achieve reading and typing proficiency without knowing how to write kanji, sure (and many people on WK do), but I think knowing how to write them makes life easier at the advanced level as far as retention goes.

A bit about me and languages if you're curious

Languages I’ve studied seriously in order of proficiency:

  • English (native, fluent)
  • French (fluent, doing my science/engineering university course entirely in French, outscoring maybe 50-75% of my mostly native classmates on literature/philosophy exams)
  • Chinese (native, fluent but deteriorating)
  • Japanese (working on it, around N2 now)
  • German (decent grasp of basic grammar, poor vocabulary due to lack of practice)
  • Spanish (can read some of the news thanks to French and grasp the gist of conversational sentences, again thanks to French)

Order in which I learnt them: English, Chinese, French, German, Spanish, Japanese

Anyhow, I wish you all the very best, both in finding a way to get a visa, and in learning all the Japanese you need.

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