Learning Japanese: A journey of ups and downs

Two years ago I decided to pick up Japanese as my third language. My journey is full of rewarding moments, but there’s also frustrating ones (especially at the beginning). My first real contact with the language was not until I decided to sign up for group classes. I bought the books for the course which are the infamous Minna no Nihongo (Everybody’s Japanese). In my opinion, not a very beginner friendly book, especially if you don’t have any guidance.

One of the most frequent question that pop up for new students is  “Where do I start?”. Believe it or not, not getting a proper answer to this question can lead to many frustrating moments!


Hiragana and Katakana, are the foundation of the Japanese language. Learning well Hiragana and Katakana makes life much easier for people getting into the language. Back then, right at the start I wish someone told me that I should memorize them like there’s no tomorrow. At any rate, if you’re not familiar with the language, you might be wondering what the heck are those. Along with Kanji, Hiragana and Katakana are part of the Japanese writing system. By the way, the text above translates to: “Hello, I’m Hector!”.

Without turning this article in to a full fledged class, Hiragana are those “cute”, round characters you might’ve seen in a Japanese TV Show. Hiragana is basically used for writing native words. Some examples:

  • くま (Kuma) – Bear
  • りんご (Ringo) – Apple
  • えんぴつ (Enpitsu) – Pencil

Katakana characters are less round, and unlike Hiragana, is used for writing foreign words. Example:

  • タクシー (Takushii) – Taxi
  • ジーンズ (Jiinzu) – Jeans
  • メキシコ (Mekishiko) – Mexico

Learning Japanese, an unexpected journey

After two years studying the language, I decided to go back and review my old notes. One of my favorite moments is realizing how far you can get and how much you improve after putting some effort into something.

Although I’m not yet proficient in the language yet, little by little I had been able to construct more complex sentences. At least now I can, somehow, keep a basic conversation. To be honest I didn’t expect to get this far, although my journey is far from finished.

Wait! There’s more…

One of the things I observed during these two years is that many students quit before the first year. Many underestimate the effort required to get far into the language. The Japanese language is not for the faint hearted, it is quite a different language than Spanish or English.

If you decide to pick up the language, take Classes, check online resources, get in contact with others and most importantly, have fun!