For the past year at Microsoft, I was moved into a team that is based primarily in Japan. With my new team mates & customers being Japanese, and my many trips to Japan to support engagements, it made sense that I should learn some Japanese to help with communication.

The last time I learned Japanese formally was at High school + 1/2 a year in University. It has been about 18 years since my last lesson. But I am lucky that it gave me a very base understanding of the fundamentals. Such as sentence structure, particles, hiragana, etc. I was VERY rusty getting back into it, but from my base I was able to self study with the assistance of text books + mobile apps.

After 3 months of daily study, I was able to do participate in our daily standups and give my update verbally in Japanese. They would be extremely basic, and it would take me 10 mins before the standup to try and translate in my head what I would say in English into what words of Japanese I knew that would fit. But it was an amazing personal achievement to do it in a business context :-) My study tapered off since I have been locked down in Melbourne from Feb due to Covid-19, but I’ll try and get back to a minimal amount of daily study to keep it in my head for when travel resumes in 2021.

I had a few people ask how I have gone about studying, below is how I tackled it.

Daily routine

Every day on my mobile phone:

  • Duolingo - 3-4 lessons
  • WaniKani - try to clear out reviews, and do a 5 new items.

30mins a day gets a lot of information into you.
I do them when I would normally pull out my phone to jump onto Twitter (train, etc).

When I have extra time like on weekends, I try to study Genki, and do the flash cards in Anki


Below are the resources I personally use.

Mini lessons.
It is free, and really really good for starting to learn basic structure. They help you learn the Hiragana. They have mobile, desktop, and web clients.

Genki 1
Comprehensive lessons.
A book for learning the basic sentence structures, etc. Everyone uses it as the gold standard. Make sure you get the 3rd edition released in 2020

I use flash cards of all the words they teach in each chapter of Genki. They have mobile, desktop, and web clients.

Kanji practice.
This has helped me read basic basic signs, and understand what team mates are typing in teams or user stories. I really enjoyed this and purchased the lifetime subscription.

Like Wanikani, but for grammar. This is definitely a more advanced app, and should be used with / after Genki. I haven’t used this one as much, but it was definitely very useful for helping cement different grammar usage in my head.

JLPT certification exam
I was also studying to take the Japanese-Language Proficiency Test.

I want more
The above list is what I personal use and can attest to. If you would like even more, here is a comprehensive list on Reddit