My Twitter has been blowing up with requests for language learning resources and tips. So, I’m putting together a short guide. I’ve tried to keep it as simple as possible, since a deluge of resources won’t help you. In general, I recommend using no more than three resources at a time, even if you’re going at an accelerated pace. Also remember to vary your materials; using three step-by-step guides, apps, or what-have-you wastes time. Whenever I start learning a language, I focus on small deliverables. Having a benchmark for each week and month keeps me focused. To get an idea of what a realistic goal looks like, check out this one-page CEFR guide.
Since these three languages have a special reputation for being difficult, some advice: consistency is more important than volume. Don’t fall into the trap of trying to learn All the Things, as many language learners will (wrongly) suggest. If you want to go fast, you need to go slow. 20 minutes of concentrated practice is better than two hours twice a week. You’ll notice that most of these resources can be completed in 1-3 months with 30-minute daily sessions. There’s no need to stop having a life to learn a language.
I’ve addressed how to study Chinese previously on Quora.
Learn Hiragana, the first writing system for the alphabet.
- Learn and practice pronouncing the alphabet. Here’s a video.
- Review with this obnoxious but fun alphabet song.
- Learn how to write it. Start with 5 characters a day. Write them by hand with trace sheets (which can be found on Tae Kim’s Guide to Japanese website). Then practice writing, recognizing, and pronouncing them with iKana Touch.
- Once you’re finished going through the alphabet, continue reviewing it with iKana touch and Tae Kim’s practice exercises.
Learn Katakana, the second system for the alphabet.
Practice both systems simultaneously with iKana touch, remembering to always speak when you practice.
Start learning Kanji & basic phrases and having conversations.
- Complete Skritter’s Japanese 101 course, which introduces the most frequently used Kanji. Their iOS app is beautiful.
- While you’re doing that, complete Memrise’s Learn Basic Japanese course.
- Be sure to continue practicing writing by hand. After finishing an app or web session, I usually pull out a piece of paper and write down everything I remember.
- Complete JapanesePod101’s Absolute Beginner and Top 25 Questions Series. Get an italki or HelloTalk account and start having conversations.
Get into grammar and continue learning Kanji. Start exposing yourself to as much Japanese culture as possible.
- Work through one chapter of Tae Kim’s Guide to Japanese Grammar a day. Turn his exercises into flashcards with Anki and add audio.
- Continue working through JapanesePod101’s courses, listening to one episode a day. Supplement your studies with Pimsleur Japanese I-III, which will improve your pronunciation and reaction time, and reinforce what you’ve learned about grammar.
- While you’re doing that, continue learning Kanji via JapanesePod101, Skritter, Memrise, or TextFugu. Pick whichever resource fits your learning style. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, here’s a good overview of some different approaches. Personally, I like learning Kanji in context. So, I simply learned the Kanji for each episode of JapanesePod101. Learning through memorization is dull and ineffective.
- Get into Japanese literature, music, and film. If you’re like me, you’ll start reading as soon as you can. Here’s a great place to start.
Focus on mastering the Cyrillic alphabet and its many forms.
- Learn the alphabet with Russian Alphabet Mastery.
- Review what you learned with the Russian Alphabet app, which has fun games. Speak every time you practice.
- Watch RussianPod101’s Alphabet Made Easy videos to learn and practice cursive.
- Start learning how to type in Russian with Keybr
Get a solid foundation in grammar and the bare minimum of language you need to start having conversations.
- Listen to one Russian Made Easy podcast episode per day to get a solid foundation in speaking and grammar. Seriously, this is one of the best language learning resources I’ve ever used. All grammar and vocabulary is introduced in context and through pattern recognition. After completing this course, I was able to understand advanced-level conversations and texts.
- Complete RussianPod101’s Absolute Beginner & Top 25 Questions series. Supplement with Memrise’s Basic Russian and Hacking Russian decks
- Find a teacher or language partner on italki or HelloTalk. I recommend 15 minutes of speaking practice per day.
- Get deeper into grammar. Complete Learn Russian’s free course. Supplement with Pimsleur Russian I-III.
- Continue speaking practice.
- While you’re doing that, work through the Russian Accelerator course. It’s pricey, but awesome.
- Start reading literature and watching films.