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Self-study like a master with the best Japanese study tools
In this article, I introduce the key resources for studying Japanese available to students today. How much can you learn on your own? With the study tools I introduce below, I reckon, you could potentially learn Japanese to fluency without leaving your room. But then you’d probably want to leave your room sometimes to eat, use the toilet and live your life, right?
Anki is genius. It is a spaced repetition system that helps you memorise anything quickly. It has an algorithm that works out when you are likely to forget a word and makes sure you study it before you forget it. There is a learning curve to using it but time spent learning how to use it is time well spent. It is free, sign up here.
Nihongonomori日本語の森 – YouTube Channel
You can learn Japanese from Nihongonomori. Videos from N5 to N1 level made by interesting and lively teachers (they made this when they were students – kind of mind-blowing if you think about it). Over 1000 videos and counting. From N3 level the videos are mostly in Japanese only (sometimes with subtitles), so great for your listening ability. Easily leaves all other YouTube Japanese teaching channels behind. Indispensable.
Glossika Japanese fluency 1-2-3, Daily Life, Travel, Business
You want to speak Japanese but when you do your pronunciation sucks. Then use Glossika and improve your pronunciation and gain fluency quickly. Glossika is a shadowing course using a spaced repetition system. I’ve used Glossika for learning Japanese and Chinese, and from what I have seen it is a one of a kind product.
Polyglots all over the world are recommending Glossika, and it some of the biggest and most famous universities in the world use Glossika products. (update – since i wrote this Glossika have updated their courses. I do not have experience of using their new courses so can’t say how they work.)
After doing all the Glossika speaking practice, you are going to want to speak to real people. In that case, you can either try to set up a language exchange or arrange a lesson with an online teacher. But how do we do that? Where are those Japanese people when you need them?
Well, actually, they are waiting for you online at italki.com. On italki, you can arrange lessons with native teachers or find language partners. It is free to join, and you can browse teachers or look for people also searching for language exchange for free. Each teacher sets their own lesson price and availability for lessons. When browsing you can see the types of lesson they offer plus reviews by students who have previously taken lessons with each teacher. It is a great platform for matching teachers with students, and I have been using it as a student and teacher myself.
If you are learning kanji, you need this app. It is not free, but if you can afford it is worth the subscription. Skritter has great support with the most commonly used Japanese textbooks, and JLPT exam vocabulary lists ready to download. It uses a spaced repetition system, and lets you learn stroke order by drawing the characters, therefore, giving you immediate feedback on what you are doing right or wrong.
It is a great way to learn how to write Japanese characters and save time. Available on Android, Apple and can be accessed through website also for those using windows systems.
I used Japanesepod101 from beginner to upper intermediate level. It has a huge amount of content. In most lessons, there is a dialogue followed by a discussion of the key vocabulary and grammar points in the dialogue.
The beginner level is ok, but it gets better in the intermediate levels as the amount of Japanese spoken in each episode increases.
You don’t have to have a full subscription, but you get access to more features (and no limits on audio lessons) if you do subscribe to a paid subscription. For those on a tight budget just get a one month paid subscription and download as much material as you can before the month is out and then cancel the subscription. Make sure you cancel the subscription so as not to pay for more than you planned.
ALC is an online English to Japanese/ Japanese to English dictionary used by people in Japan. It is probably the no.1 dictionary in Japan. It is very high quality and I recommend that this should be one of your go-to dictionaries for learning Japanese. It has free and paid subscription services. The free service is fine for average users.
Tangorin is another online English – Japanese / Japanese to English online dictionary. It has example sentences which is useful for seeing words in context.
You will have to learn grammar at some stage. Jgram will help you do that. It contains Japanese grammar with example sentences and explanations categorised by Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) level.
It is easier and more convenient to check than a textbook. Some of the explanations are even better than those that can be found in textbooks
Tae Kim’s guide to learning Japanese grammar
Tae Kim’s guide to learning Japanese grammar is one of the best Japanese grammar websites out there. Tae Kim wrote his guide in a way that is intuitive and makes sense in Japanese.
At first, this may be confusing. After all, why can’t you give the equivalent meaning in English for each language point? Well, sometimes there is no equivalent, and often there is a way of expressing things which is uniquely Japanese. Tae Kim’s guide helps you understand this Japanese style.
Koohi.com has a forum for Japanese learners. There is a section on learning resources that will show you all you will ever need to learn Japanese. Better than this short guide? Much better. It is the best thing for Japanese learners since home-delivery sushi.
Particularly brilliant is this thread about resources and parallel texts.
Tofugo.com – Japan culture
Want to know about interesting Japanese culture? Don’t know how to bow properly? Thinking of becoming a translator but don’t know how to go about it? Need the latest learning tips? Then this website is for you. It answers all these questions and more.
Great articles from Tofugu:
https://goo.gl/Jgyv2L – Tips for learning Japanese from Zack Davisson (a renowned manga translator).
https://goo.gl/kFQQcs – Why quantity not quality is important in language learning.
https://goo.gl/751Z2b – How to become a Japanese translator.
https://goo.gl/94ncis – How to bow in Japan