I know everyone wants to learn to speak Japanese in the fastest and easiest way.
I hate to say that but there is really no such thing as the fastest or easiest way in learning to speak Japanese. If someone promised you that, he or she is lying to you.
We all know that in order to know a language well to some extent (not only Japanese), you need to spend at least 1 to 2 years to study it.
You will need another few years if you want to master it at the advanced level.
Although I have passed my JLPT level 1, I still consider myself as beginning to understand more on the language.
There are still many more to learn. Having said that, from my experience, I will give you my top 8 tips to learn to speak Japanese more effectively so that you won't waste much time on non-important stuff.
If you are just starting out learning Japanese, I suggest that it is best you attend some basic Japanese courses at a local language school in your country. That is because the foundation of the language is so important that if you screw up in the beginning, it will drag you down when you move forward to the intermediate or advanced classes.
You will always have to refer back the materials in the basic classes. I have seen many people suffered from their weak foundation and have to give up learning eventually because they couldn't cope with the progress of the lessons.
Conclusion? At least build a strong foundation by attending basic classes at a school. The native Japanese teacher there can help to correct your mistakes. You will appreciate a lot when you advance to higher levels.
I understand many people cannot commit to attend a regular class. Maybe because they have irregular working hours, need to travel overseas frequently due to works, unable to pay the school fees for long terms due to financial issues, or many other personal reasons.
In that case, the best alternative is to learn through Japanese learning software like the Rocket Japanese, where you can learn to speak Japanese at your own pace and time. This is because it is an online course and therefore you can plan to learn according to your own schedule, anytime, anywhere, so long you have an internet connection.
The single reason that I recommend this online software is because it provides one great feature (Rocket Record) that you can use to match your voice to that of the Japanese native's voice in order to perfect your Japanese pronunciation.
While your pronunciation can be corrected by a teacher in a classroom, it's impossible to know whether your pronunciation is correct if you were to study by yourself. With this recording feature, now you can simply practise speaking Japanese until your pronunciation is perfect, all at your own pace. This is the greatest benefit of using Rocket Japanese.
I have also done a review on Rocket Japanese. Do check out the page.
I will say this is by far the most effective way if you really want to accelerate the learning progress. "Immerse" yourself in the total Japanese environment and you will have a big boost to your speaking ability. You are not only learning Japanese in Japan, you are in fact living and blending in the everyday life of Japan.
In such environment, you will be forced to speak Japanese, write Japanese, and even think in Japanese if you need to react fast. If you can stay in this environment for at least a year, your Japanese proficiency will be greatly improved. And that is much faster than study the language in your own country, which doesn't provide such conducive environment.
There are 2 ways, in my opinion, that enable you to move to Japan.
Find a job in Japan so that you can stay there for a longer term, say 1 to 2 years. One good option is to join the JET program (The Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme) and teach your local language (such as English, etc) in Japan.
If you cannot commit to work in Japan, try enrol and study in a short term language course for at least 3 months. However this is also the most expensive way as the living standard in Japan is considerably high as compare to most countries.
This is a great way to learn to speak Japanese for free in your own country while you are working. It might be the next best way if you are unable to go to Japan. The key here is to surround yourself with Japanese-speaking people, natives or non-natives. And a Japanese-speaking environment is the best you can get to improve your language.
Depending on your position, if you are lucky, you might get the chance to go to Japan for trainings. Make full use of the opportunity, know some Japanese colleagues and friends over there. Keep in contact with them when you are back home by exchanging emails, communicating using skype or msn, in Japanese of course.
If your colleagues or friends want to learn your native language, both parties can then teach each other your own languages, which is beneficial to both of you. This is a more economical way to learn to speak Japanese.
If you cannot afford to go to Japan, another way is to know some native Japanese friends in your own country. Check out if there is a Japanese community in the place where you reside in.
Get to know the people in the community and learn to speak Japanese with them. These people come to your country due to work or other reasons, so there is a high chance they can speak your native language.
If there is a Japanese Association near your place, it is wise to join the activities that are organized by the association. The association normally holds many activities to help the locals to learn to speak Japanese.
These activities include dialogue sessions with native Japanese, speech contests, Japanese language courses and other cultural activities, aiming to foster the relationship with the local people, as well as helping the locals to appreciate the beauty of the language.
"If you cannot listen well, you cannot speak well". This is the golden rule when learning a new language. Listening is always the "killing" subject in many languages, especially true in the case of Japanese.
I am no exception. Listening has always been my weakest field. In order to overcome this, I make it a point to listen to the news in Japanese everyday.
One of the online news sites that I often visit is the TBS News. Over there you can watch the videos and listen to the short summaries of news in Japan.
Choose the topic that interest you most, listen to it without first looking at the written script to test how much you can understand. It is very important not to look at the script first so that it will force you to get used to listening the language without reading the content. Another reason is to make you concentrate on the listening part.
Repeat listening to the same piece of news for a few times until you are sure that you cannot get anything more from it. You then look at the script and listen to the audio again for another few times to clarify those that you don't understand.
If you can do this continuously for a few months, you will realize that your listening skill improves tremendously.
While this is a good method to improve your listening skill, I only recommend you to do this when you reach the advanced level, or at least intermediate level as the scripts are all written in kanji, hiragana and katakana. If not you will have problem understanding the scripts and get overwhelmed and feel demoralized.
Listening to the news trains you on the formal Japanese speaking but you may get bored on the topics. Listening to the drama may be much more relevant because dramas are more related to our everyday life as the actors/actresses speak in more casual way.
Similar to watching the news, don't look at the subtitles while watching the drama because it not only distracts you from listening to the dialogues in the drama, you will grow more dependent on the subtitles and that will do you more harm than good.
If you can follow some of the tips I mentioned above, I believe they will help you a lot on learning to speak Japanese in a more effective way.
Before you can learn to speak Japanese fluently, you need to master the basic pronunciations of the Japanese characters. Similar to English, if you don't know the abc, there is no way you can read a word, right?