i know a small bit of Japanese from back in high school but stopped when it was never made clear that Japanese went for 2 semesters instead of 1 and by the time they told me about it (even though i was the first to submit my class registration papers) it was full, i have picked up some more from playing Visual Novels with voices and unofficial English Translations (Fate/Stay Night, Kamidori Alchemy Miester, Sono Hanabira)

there are naturally hundred of resources saying that they will teach Japanese fast but i want to know how long on average it would take

The level I'm hoping to reach is to the point where I can understand text in video games so that way i can play them while at the same time being fully immersed in the story (which is why I can just keep looking to a dictionary every time I see a word).

I want to reach this level because I'm tired of having to wait to see if games get to be localized, even though i don't care if they get dubbed or not (Agarest: Generations of War is an example of a game that wasn't dubbed) and waiting forever for them to come out, even if they come out the limited edition items that originally was with the Japanese sales don't show up in the west a lot of the time.

Money isn't a problem as I know it will benefit me greatly in the long term.

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    I would ask this on the meta board or in the chat. This type of question will probably be closed. Check the FAQ for a list of appropriate question types. – istrasci Mar 25 '13 at 22:41
  • Reading text in video games is actually quite high level if the game does not allow you to pause to read the text. I would say it probably would take a few years. – Jesse Good Mar 25 '13 at 23:20
  • Some of those games, especially visual novels like Fate/Stay Night, often use more advanced vocabulary and grammar than you would find in normal reading. Just like a novel in English, authors like to embellish on details without repeating the same generic descriptive words over and over. – Troyen Mar 26 '13 at 0:05
  • Is there a way for this to be migrated to Meta? – silvermaple Mar 26 '13 at 3:13

This question is generally not something we consider on-topic, but I'll give you my honest advise anyway.

The Short Answer:

A long time. A really really long time. Your mileage may vary, but expect it to take several years.

The Long Answer:

"A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step"

I would say in my own opinion that you're going to want near-fluent levels to understand games. If you memorize 100 words from one game, that's all well and good but you may never see any of those 100 in any other given game. A hurdle in your way is that there isn't any program to learn slangy, video-game type language to the point of fluency without also having to pick up standard Japanese (and I would not recommend trying to do so).

Any program telling you you can "Learn Japanese Fast!" isn't telling you the whole truth. Programs like Rosetta Stone will only help you so far. My personal (limited) experience with Rosetta Stone are that you'll learn some vocabulary and be able to recognize words and sentences, but you won't be able, say, understand a TV show.

The good news is that you want to learn Japanese. But! Video games are fun, and understanding video games will feel fantastic. Learning Japanese to fluency will take a lot of hard work and effort, and you're not going to be able to pop in a brand new Japanese video game and understand it perfectly for years. It's really hard to stay dedicated to something without that instant gratification, and that's the same for everyone. You have to keep at it, because it takes time.

It's good that you're willing to spend money on materials. I'm a pretty frugal person so I thought for the longest time I would not spend money to learn Japanese as there are plenty of free resources on-line. I ended up changing my mind on that point because when you buy materials you're paying money for something that someone was paid to make so that you can learn. You're paying for their quality (and compensated) work. Free and open information that people want to share with the world is absolutely amazing and there's no reason not to use it as a tool, but paying for textbooks/workbooks etc is a good base for your studies. (As an added bonus, actually spending money on something makes me personally want to actually use it to get my money's worth.)

A third group of learning materials is native sources (newspapers, TV shows/movies, video games, books/comics, etc). Get and use these sources as much as you can handle and more. For me, this is where what I was talking about instant gratification comes in to play. When I do flashcards, that's all find and dandy, and I "sure, I learned that word enough to get the flashcard right", but when I hear/see a word in a drama or book, I think "Yes! I know that word! I'm so smart!" (or sometimes just seeing the word in context makes remembering it so much easier the next time it comes around on the flashcard program). There's also a bizarre phenomenon where you're likely to come across by happenstance a new word you just learned in a completely unrelated context that day (I'm sure it has a name). Those words get jammed in your memory, but if you don't have Japanese coming at you regularly, the chances that you'll see those kinds of words diminishes.

All in all, it's going to take months and months and years and years to achieve near-native fluency. Maybe less if you live in Japan or don't have a job. The tricky part is learning a language isn't about just one aspect; you can't just memorize a stack of kanji and be done. One day work on this aspect, the next, that aspect. Look at your weaknesses and attack those points. Don't worry if it seems like you're at a brick wall, or worse, a plateau, because this too shall pass as long as you keep at it.

Some final points of advice:

Do a little every day (within reason...sometime real life happens and that's okay).

Don't judge your success or lack thereof based on what others have accomplished or failed to do.

Focus on why you want to learn Japanese, not how cool it would be to be able to speak it.

"A year from now you may wish you had started today"

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    +1 for "A year from now you may wish you had started today" – Alexander Rautenberg Mar 26 '13 at 17:44

Just for the record before this gets closed, the US State Department classifies (classified?) Japanese as an "exceptionally difficult" language for native English speakers, and at least in their programs recommends 88 weeks of study at 2200 class hours, half of which are spent in Japan. Not sure how out of date this document is but it might be as close to an authoritative answer on this as you'll get. "Understanding video games" can be extremely difficult depending on the game, so we'll just say you need to be near fluent to get by without a dictionary.


I can say that if you're not working on learning Japanese as a full time job 88 weeks seems extraordinarily unlikely for a high level of proficiency. Note 2200 hours in 88 weeks works out to 25 hours of study per week.

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