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Tips for learning Japanese


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Posted 10 June 2018 - 04:13 PM ( #1 )

Hey everyone, I'm starting to learn Japanese and since a lot of people here seem to know some basics, I was wondering if anyone has any tips or suggestions for good resources. I like Duolingo a lot for language learning and it works pretty well for latin and germanic languages since they're similar to English and French, but I'm finding it inadequate for something as different like Japanese with a whole different system of writing. To give you an idea of where I'm at, I'm working on memorizing hiragana and katakana at the moment and I don't have a lot of vocabulary yet. I'd welcome suggestions on more advanced topics as well though so I can use them later!


My goal is just to have some basic reading skills, largely for the purpose of playing unlocalized video games (and Tamagotchis of course). So let me know if you have any tips or things that helped you when you were learning!  ^_^

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Posted 10 June 2018 - 05:46 PM ( #2 )

First off, keep in mind that the Japanese used in entertainment media is not "natural", and it's not really the best way to learn (though you can certainly pick up some vocabulary this way), even if your goal is ultimately to establish some level of proficiency with the language for the purpose of enjoying entertainment media.


You're on the right track with learning hiragana and katakana to begin with. But that's quite easy, so don't let that make you feel discouraged later on when it gets trickier!


If you're serious about it, look into good textbooks/workbooks. "Japanese For Busy People" might be a good start as it covers practical stuff from the outset, and some of the books come with an accompanying audio-CD that goes with the lessons in the book.


If you have a particular way of learning things that helps you, then find some way to leverage that - for example, I once saw a suggestion to stick Post-it Notes on everyday objects so as to more easily memorise their names in a different language.


Last of all, if you're super-serious, look into professional lessons - for a language as fundamentally different to Western languages as this, there really isn't much of a substitute for lessons provided by native speakers at a proper educational establishment. It's also a great way to get direct answers to any questions that you might have, and guidance on things that you might be having difficulty with.

Edited by Penguin-keeper, 10 June 2018 - 05:47 PM.

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Posted 10 June 2018 - 07:34 PM ( #3 )

Found this guide helpful for memorising hiragana.



Wanikani (paid) really helped with vocab and kanji recognition.

http://www.guidetojapanese.org/learn/ is good for grammar basics.

http://maggiesensei.com/ has some good explanations and examples for grammar too.


https://nhkeasier.com/ has some easy news articles for reading practice.

https://www.reddit.com/r/NHKEasyNews/ this subreddit has user-submitted translations of NHK articles.

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Posted 10 June 2018 - 09:48 PM ( #4 )

Tofugu's guide to learning hiragana and katakana is a must, you will literally learn each in a few hours. No joke. Don't bother memorizing or learning to write the characters, mnemotics are the way to go.

After that, I reccomend trying Wanikani (they're made by the creators of Tofugu) for learning kanji. Three first three levels are free and pretty sure they teach you about 300+ kanji which isn't bad at all. Doing reviews gets into your routine and is even fun. After the three levels it is paid but it's worth it. Also, funny thing is, that at some point they will send you an email asking if you want some stickers, and they do actually send you a postcard with the stickers in it! I got mine while I was still on the free 3 level trial.

They also have a virtual textbook called textfugu, but it's currently not in development as they are working on something "bigger", you can still buy access to it though and the first chapter is free. Now, I really reccomend getting a physical textbook, like the GENKI series- it's also available to download online.

When you're comfortable with Hiragana and some Katakana you can try reading books for little kids, they rarely have Kanji in them and are a good practice. You can write down words from them to learn what they mean as well.

When it comes to apps, while I normally prefer Duolingo, Memrise is way better when it comes to the Japanese course. 

Edited by Jhud, 10 June 2018 - 09:51 PM.

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Posted 11 June 2018 - 12:17 PM ( #5 )

Thanks for the suggestions everyone! Looks like a lot of great stuff to check out.


I should have clarified that I'm definitely not planning on exclusively learning entertainment media for learning, as someone who went to French immersion school for 13 years I know how important it is to have proper resources and help from native speakers when you're learning a new language.


Thanks for the lead on Memrise Jhud, I've heard of it but I've never tried it so I'll have to check it out!


I also just found out that my university offers an intro to Japanese course and it's even during the summer term (which is when I do my electives) so that's a serious consideration for next summer. I had missed it before due to the poor course lookup system but I'm really happy to have found that out, with only one elective left to do it'll be a choice between that and German though.

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Posted 11 June 2018 - 02:35 PM ( #6 )

My school also offers intro to Japanese, which I'm pretty psyched about! I'll be starting it next semester. I honestly lack self discipline when it comes to self learning so an actual course will be neat.

I got lucky because the Japanese course is usually for people with a higher degree than mine but guess there wasn't enough students that they released all the other language courses for everyone.

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