Posted in Japanese Langauge

5 Japanese Study Websites I Love!

I’m trying to be good about studying Japanese because the JLPT is just around the riverbend, and I thought I’d share some websites that have helped me along the road with self-studying. I’ve tried to pick websites that can help anyone from beginner to advanced, but sometimes the advanced portions are limited, sorry for that in advance.

Tofugu

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Tofugu is a great resource to learn about both Japanese language and Japanese culture. I’ve been using their kanji section in order to aid in what seems like my futile endeavor to remember any and all N2 kanji phrases. The articles are, usually, easy to read and digest while at the same time providing quality content.

Wani Kani 

Wani Kani

Wani Kani is a learning app specifically designed to help people learn kanji. Instead of focusing on reading, the whole point is to get the idea of the radicals and the meaning behind them in order to understand their context. The user types in the meaning that corresponds to the kanji radical. The only issue I take with it is that if you already know most of the basic kanji, it can take forever to level up, as each game session takes a forced break for an hour or two.

Maggie Sensei

Maggie Sensei

Every once and awhile, books can be difficult to flip through when you need help understanding a grammar point. That’s where Maggie Sensei comes in! The website is devoted to articles about Japanese grammar, and it breaks down not only how to use the grammar in a sentence but even goes into detail about if it’s better written or spoken, and even the best context to use it. I’ve been using Maggie Sensei since I touched down in Japan and couldn’t imagine where I’d be without this site.

JapanesePod101

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JapanesePod101 is one of those websites that’s got it all. If you want to learn vocabulary, grammar, speaking, listening, or kanji they’ve got it all right there. I used to use it daily until I kind of felt like I’d outgrown the lesson structure, but it’s still a great resource for intermediate and advanced users.

The Japan Times-Language Section

The Japan Times

Although it’s a news site, The Japan Times has some informative articles on how to use certain bits of grammar and even sometimes Japanese slang. They’ve got tips and tricks to make yourself sound more native when you speak, as well as some cultural issues and new Japanese that pops up from time to time (adopted language and the like). I read this website anyway nearly every other day, usually I read an article or two in the language section to help me improve my Japanese skills.

And those are five websites that I personally adored when it comes to studying Japanese. How about you, where do you go to study Japanese? Any recommendations? I’d love to hear them!

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Posted in Japanese Langauge, YouTube Videos

Want to learn Anime Japanese? Watch Nihongonomori!

Another reblog, featuring “How to Learn Japanese Through Anime” series from the Nihongomori YouTube channel.

Dorkitude!

Nihongomori is a free Japanese language course available for free on YouTube. Many of their videos center around the proper grammar structure and vocabulary of Japanese. If you are studying for the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) like I am, then these videos are great for a nice study boost. But they’ve also got a new series that I think the whole world can enjoy!

The series is called simply “Anime Japanese.” Steve-sensei and Takepan-sensei are the two main instructors. For each approximately 10 minute episode, they explain in easy to understand terms  5 “best of” expressions. They tell what the Japanese means in English, as well as give entertaining explanations for how to use the short phrases often appearing in anime TV shows and movies.

The production of the videos really sets it apart from other instructional YouTube videos. The team behind the scenes must really put a lot…

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Posted in Japanese Langauge

5 Books to Pass the JLPT

It’s right around the corner, that essential test to get into any Japanese translation or interpretation job out there. The Japanese Language Proficiency Test has been around since 1984, and it has a very simple objective: “to evaluate and certify proficiency in Japanese of non-native speakers.” Yet the task of us test takers is anything but simple.

Everyone has there own different way of studying for the test. Some people simply take the practice tests over and over again to get a feel for the test itself; some people focus on vocabulary and grammar drills; while others try the more “natural” route of listening to Japanese music, watching Japanese TV, and talking in Japanese everyday. Regardless of the method, getting the right materials for the test can be daunting for a first time test taker.

Nihongo-So-Matome

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Probably the most popular JLPT test prep series, Nihongo-So-Matome breaks down lessons into daily study parts that culminate in a weekly self-taken test on the study material. Each book focuses on a different aspect of the test from mastering kanji to the listening section.

I personally love how these books are set up. Not only are they great for the test, but even for just studying Japanese in general they’re very useful. Each lesson is based around a theme, such as “family life” or “cleaning up.” Because of the easy to follow themes and the way the test is broken down into more easily absorbed sections, I put this book series at the top.

Unfortunately, the series only does N3-N1.

Nihongo Challenge

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That’s where Nihongo Challenge comes into the picture. Made by the same people behind the Nihongo-So-Matome series, these books are for true beginners. I actually recommend if you’re already in Japan to go ahead and skip N5. That level is so very basic, and honestly N4 won’t take long to beat. Basically made with the same idea of the previous books, these have some romaji and more helpful English grammar tips than the advanced series.

The JLPT Test Practice Questions Books

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The JLPT Test Questions Books  are best to save for closer to testing time. If you want to time yourself and see how well you can pass with what you know, these are the books to buy. You can get these for all levels. These books will give you a feel for what you’re up against, but keep in mind not to memorize the answers. Unlike some test study prep material given out in other countries, the test questions for the JLPT will be different from the ones in the study books.

A Dictionary of (Basic/ Intermediate/ Advanced) Grammar

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At the moment I’m currently using the Dictionary of Advanced Japanese Grammar. However, there are three different books, one for beginners which is the Basic book. This would be for people who intend to take the N4 or N5 level of the test. Intermediate is best suited for N3 people. I’ve been told there’s a big gap between N3 and N2, so perhaps Advanced is best for N2 and N1.

These books help explain grammar structure, how it can be used, and how it can’t be used. Unlike most other books on this list, the grammar is put in dictionary style, as in alphabetical order instead of theme. They are a bit on the pricey side, but well worth the money in the end, especially if you’re a person who focuses on grammar structure more so than vocabulary.

Quick Mastery of Vocabulary: In preparation for the JLPT

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The Quick Mastery  series is much like the grammar dictionaries, but focuses on vocab only. If you’re like me and kanji is your worst nightmare, these books are for you. Also, the books have red writing below them with hiragana and/or katakana. The book comes with a red plastic filter so you can’t see those words, which helps readers to memorize the Japanese words in the kanji form.

These are grouped together by theme, too, so they’re wonderful supplementary materials to utilize in combination with the Nihongo-So-Matome and Challenge series. In general, though, I’m always recommending that people learn more vocabulary than anything else. If you’ve got the words, you can figure out the context, and then grammar will come more naturally. But then again, that’s how my mind works and different people learn in different ways.

Best of luck to everyone studying! May we all pass with flying colors.

Posted in Japanese Langauge

How Much Japanese Do You Need?

Many people who come to Japan are nervous about various things, and one of the top three is definitely the language. Unless you picked up some Japanese during university, odds are you’ll be coming fresh off the plane with very little speaking skills. If you are one of those people and plan to come to Jaapn, don’t panic! Hundreds of people come over to Japan with only konnichiwa and sayonara as their whole Japanese vocabulary. They all manage to live normal lives and get by just fine, so you can too.

But how much Japanese do you need to live a “normal” life? Well, that depends on your situation, and your end goal language wise. Each person who comes over has different lifestyles and language goals in mind for when they decide to live here. Here are three questions to ask for how much Japanese you need.

First off, where are you living in Japan? The more rural you are, the more Japanese language skills you’ll need to acquire, especially survival Japanese if you’re living alone like I was. It’s best to spend as much time learning the basics: colors, numbers, directions, your address, emergency contacts, and so on. If you can get someone who can teach you basic Japanese, all the better. Your local municipal government might have free Japanese language courses available for you, or perhaps someone teaches Japanese to foreigners in the area. If all else fails, YouTube and the internet have many free resources on hand to help you out.

The more urban you are, say Tokyo or Osaka, you probably won’t need Japanese as much. English or other languages are easily accessible in such places. Odds are if you need to find someone who knows English, there is an information center to help you out in the area. However, I still think you should pick up a textbook and go to a Japanese conversation class. Having the bare basics at the very least can help you find your way easier in the big cities than without needing help all the time.

Secondly, how long do you intend to stay? If you’re only staying a year, most likely you can get by with the bare minimum Japanese of numbers, colors, directions, and limited small talk. Jump over to a Japanese YouTube channel, grab a Basic Japanese textbook, pocket dictionary, and you’ll be fine. More than fine, really. Learn to spell your name, your address,but besides that don’t focus too much on writing. Speaking skills are top priority.

If you’re coming in here long term (3-5 years or more), go ahead and get your hands on a more advanced level textbook, like the Genki series. Learn kanji in conjunction with hiragana and katakana (trust me, the earlier you know basic kanji the better). For you, lean towards learning more speaking than writing, but still put an emphasis on writing. You’ll want to be able to have more freedom in the coming years, and knowing how to read will be big part of breaking away from needing to ask for help all the time.

Notice how for both short and long term I really want you to focus on speaking rather than writing. Reading and writing will be useful for long term endeavors, but for the most part being able to communicate with the people around you is the best priority to have if you’re coming here to live in Japan. Many Japanese teachers will try to hound you with hiragana, katakana, and kanji, but unless it’s menu language, it probably won’t help you to be able to get around and talk with people.

My biggest recommendation is to get into as many chances as possible to speak Japanese as you can with someone who also knows English. As you progress, make more friends who speak less and less English, because without that to fall back on you’ll be forced to learn. Classes can only get you so far, and after that, you’ll need to be able to talk all on your own.

Finally, do you intend to use Japanese in your career? Odds are if you’re an ALT or educational employee of some kind, you can take your sweet time learning Japanese to better communicate. If you want to get a job in translation or interpretation like I do, then it’s in your best interest to study up in both speaking and writing in equal parts.

I would imagine that most people coming over who intend to go this route already have a major or minor in Japanese culture and language, but if not you might end up like me learning on your lonesome. I took classes available for free in Ibaraki until I left. In Tokyo, I simply didn’t have enough money to get proper language classes, but if you want to pas the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) upper levels then usually most people have to take those classes to pass. Most likely you’ll need to pass the JLPT N2 at least to make a career out of interpretation or translation.

I still highly recommend learning to speak before learning to write. After over four years of living in Japan, I’m intermediate. I can hold a conversation, read manga if an e-dictionary is handy, and I can stumble through a phone call in only Japanese with the gas company people when they randomly call me. Most of my language acquisition came from simply going out and talking to Japanese people and less with textbooks or classes. My speaking skills are much better than writing, and with those skills I can get around and do what I need to do, and live a normal life.

Having a second language under your belt can open all sorts of doors later on in life. With Japanese, you might even become a hot commodity in technology and business fields. If you intend to live in Japan at all, try your best to accumulate as much of the language as possible. Why not? After all, it’s part of the experience!


 

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