Japanese

Want to Learn Japanese? Here’s how I did it.

People often ask me how I learned Japanese.
First of all, let me tell you that there is no fast and easy way to do so.
If there are any books or websites that claim that, screw them!

You gotta put a lot of effort and time into this. There’s no way around it.
If you thought I’m going to show you some magic trick how to become fluent in Japanese quickly, then you might as well stop reading now.

I can’t tell you what you should do in order to be successful in your studies.
I won’t sit down next to you and hold your hand while you study. I wouldn’t be a good Japanese teacher anyway.
All I can do is share how I learned Japanese by telling you what worked for me and what didn’t.

Learn Japanese - How I did it

 

Learning Japanese: How it all started

I used to do Karate when I was in elementary school. Naturally I learned my first few Japanese words (e.g. greetings, how to count) that way. That was back in the 80s. emoticon
Of course, back then I never thought that one day I’d study Japanese or even move to Japan.

Much later, around 1998, when I was into anime and manga, I got motivated to learn a few basic things such as phrases, hiragana and katakana. I wasn’t all that serious, but I did learn a few things.

Fast forward – in university I took basic Japanese lessons for a year or so. That was in 2002. It was good to learn the basics from a native speaker, but I can’t really say that it got me very far. It’s probably an issue a lot of you have experienced. I was just too busy with my major to really focus on Japanese.

But I really wanted to become fluent in Japanese, so whenever I had some time, I browsed through the few books I had back then to study at least a bit.

Let me tell you that back in the days it was a lot harder to study Japanese, especially on your own! It’s become so much easier nowadays with all the great websites, programs and apps out there. A few of them I’ll introduce later.

Learn Japanese - How I did it

In 2007 I visited Japan for the first time. It was nice to see that I could handle some simple conversations, but that was about it.

In 2008 I finally moved to Japan and that’s when I also got extremely serious about becoming fluent. All the signs around me, all the letters in my mailbox … I didn’t want to depend on others forever. I wanted to understand this new world around me.

It goes without saying that you always should put effort into learning the language of the foreign country you chose to live in, but that wasn’t my motivation at all. Maybe I wouldn’t have been able to pull it off with a “weak motivation” like that. I truly just wanted to become fluent in Japanese.

By that time I could hold basic conversations, knew hiragana, katakana and maybe about 150 kanji – and some basic grammar. My listening skills were far beyond my other skills. I could understand random conversations, but I couldn’t yet respond to them properly.
My listening was already that good because I had been watching Japanese dramas, movies and anime and listened to Japanese music for about a decade by then.

I sat down every single day before and after work and studied like crazy. My original plan was to earn enough money in my full-time job so that I’d be able to eventually attend one of those language schools. That was my main goal back then, but I never went to such a school in the end.

So, that was my background story. Now, I want to tell you what I did, what worked and what didn’t. Please note that what worked for me might not work for you and vice versa. A lot of the methods others recommended, didn’t do anything for me.

 

Kanji / Reading

I think my biggest problem at the beginning were kanji. I’m sure I’m not the only one, right?
I tried so many different approaches.

First, I just sat down and tried to study them like I usually would study vocabulary.
That works for the simple kanji (and that’s how I remembered my first 150-ish kanji), but as soon as the more complex kanji popped up, it didn’t work out anymore.

Next, I tried paper flashcards. I used the “White Rabbit Press” ones. Don’t get me wrong, they’re really good …. that approach just wasn’t right for me.

Eventually I took the “Heisig” road. I know that it has always been discussed controversially, so I wasn’t sure about this method, either. But for me it worked WONDERS!

If you use Heisig, you’ll first learn the meaning (not the readings) and how to write a kanji. It’s splitting up the task of learning kanji. You won’t have to memorize everything at the same time. And it’s a lot of fun because you’re working with an imaginative memory technique. Basically you’re creating a story for each and every kanji. Ideally you should combine this with a SRS (space repetition system). I’ll explain what exactly that is later.

 

For me that was the best choice! I learned 2000 kanji in a bit more than 2 months (while working full-time)!!

The next step was to learn how to read the kanji I just memorized. Heisig offers a second book where you’ll learn the “on-yomi“, but I didn’t like that approach. Instead I tried something similar to book 1. Back then it was called “The Movie Method“.

It’s REALLY simple and very similar to the previous method. In fact, you can just upgrade your previous stories and that’s it! It’s wonderful!

For each on-yomi sound group (e.g. “KAN”) you choose a movie you associate with that sound and integrate that into your story. I didn’t work with movies, but with whatever came to my mind when I heard that sound. So, for “CHI” it was “Chili con carne” …. don’t even ask!

 

Here’s an example: 誓 (SEI) – swear

In this folded (折 = upper part of this kanji) letter I wrote down the words (言 = lower part of the kanji): I swear (meaning of the kanji) I’ll always love you (thus far Heisig book 1, my own story followed by adding a bit more to remember the on-yomi): Because love letters are still popular among teenagers (SEI = on-yomi of this kanji).
For the sound group “SEI” the first thing that popped up in my mind back then was “SEISHUN” (青春 = youth) and so I worked with that. *g*

I just added the “teenager / youth” part to all the stories concerning kanji with the on-yomi “SEI” (so also to 性、静 etc.).

Learn Japanese - How I did it

Here’s another example (sorry, it’s all in German, but just so you see how it would look) using Anki. I’ll introduce this awesome program further down.
Here’s a story for the same kanji by someone else. As you can see it’s not SO different from mine, but it doesn’t have anything added for the reading of the kanji yet.

My stories are all super embarrassing, but whatever works is great! It’s YOUR story! You need to make it about YOU! About your life! Because only then it will be effective. I sometimes noticed my stories weren’t effective, then tossed them and created a new one.

Learning the readings took me a bit longer, maybe half a year, but then I got the on-yomi for 2000 kanji down.

 

Next step was to memorize the “kun-yomi for all those kanji. That’s similar to studying vocabulary, but it would make no sense to study those words isolated. It’s important to study them IN CONTEXT!!

So, find sentences that aren’t too difficult for you to understand (no complicated grammar) and read them again and again. That way you’ll learn how to read certain kanji, you’ll also remember what the word means and in what kind of context it is used.

It doesn’t really matter where you get those sentences from. Just make sure it’s from a source that uses correct Japanese.

I started out with “KO2001 – Kanji Odyssey“. The sentences aren’t too difficult, but you can learn the reading of most of the 2000-ish joyo kanji. I see that the books aren’t available in print form anymore. If you prefer the print version, I found it on Amazon UK.

After that I continued with the sentences from “Kanji in Context“. I never worked through the whole book and gave up halfway because the sentences were just too boring for my taste, yet a great source for new kanji compounds and vocabulary!

Learn Japanese - How I did it
In the end I switched to reading Japanese novels and whenever I found a word I couldn’t understand, a kanji I couldn’t read or a grammar point I couldn’t figure out, I marked it. Every once in a while I put those sentences into Anki and thus had a new pool of sentences I could study.

 

I regularly checked my kanji knowledge. That screenshot is from May 2009. Unfortunately this particular website doesn’t seem to exist anymore.

 

You want to know what kind of novels I read?

Ok, I admit that I also kept reading manga. This is a good idea especially at the beginning as the pictures will give you a hint of what’s going on even if you have a hard time understanding what you’re reading. At first, you should pick manga that have furigana (hiragana above all kanji) or you will get frustrated. Easy manga to start with are Doraemon, Chi’s Sweet Home or generally various shojo manga (Marmalade Boy, Hana Yori Dango etc.). But make sure it’s something you’re interested in.

Learn Japanese - How I did it

As for novels I really enjoyed the books of Otsu Ichi (乙一) such as “Calling You” (きみにしか聞こえない). The stories are great and not too difficult to follow along.

Of course, you could also read books of stories you already know, e.g. the Japanese version of Harry Potter.

 

Listening / Speaking

Like mentioned earlier my listening skills were always far beyond my other skills. And yet I kept listening to Japanese media (music, movies, dramas) every day. This is especially important if you don’t live in Japan. You need to get as much Japanese input as you can.

“Immerse yourself in Japanese!”

If you want to boost your learning effect you could watch Japanese movies / dramas with Japanese subtitles!

At some point I watched things and noticed towards the end of a show that there were no subtitles at all and THEN I panicked. That means I was able to understand things without relying on subtitles before I knew it. That’s where you want to get eventually.

Of course, once you live in Japan, it gets easier. I learned so much every single day just by passively listening to people around me. In my case, I picked up weird expressions from my students, but who cares. *g*
But I also learned the infamous keigo (super polite language) by listening to my co-workers who were answering the phone or talking to customers.

If you don’t live in Japan, it might be difficult to practice speaking. But that’s also something you need to get used to, so find a language exchange partner. Nowadays with Skype and all, that’s not so difficult anymore.

 

Writing Japanese

If you study kanji you will have to write a lot. You need to learn how to write them and your hands need to remember that feeling as well.

Learn Japanese - How I did it

With the Heisig method I wrote so many kanji, I think by the end of book 1 I had over 10 notebooks full of kanji. emoticon

But you also should practice writing Japanese in general. You could have a Japanese diary and start with simple things.
Why? Well, it’s really difficult to remember how to write a word in kanji if you don’t practice it regularly. This even happens to Japanese people, especially in recent times with smartphones and all. They just type it in and will be given a choice of kanji compounds.

Learn Japanese - How I did it
A good practice is to get kanji drill books that are aimed at junior high (or even high school) students where you have to fill in the correct kanji. I used to copy worksheets of my students and sat down together with them to see who could finish the task first. *g*

I really hated my handwriting, so I had a Japanese co-worker correct it. Eventually I gave up. I just can’t have a beautiful Japanese handwriting it seems. It looks like it’s written by a Japanese boy in his teens. But who cares?

Digital writing is also a good way of practicing. Not so much for kanji, but for your general output. You could create a personal blog or journal in Japanese. If you want to communicate with Japanese people, then using a platform that Japanese people often use is a good idea such as Ameblo, Yahoo Japan, Yaplog, Mixi, etc.

Another great option is Lang-8. I’ll write more about this later.

 

Learning Japanese Grammar

Grammar has always been and is until now my biggest problem. emoticon
Learn Japanese - How I did it
As you might have noticed by now I studied Japanese on my own. Not having a teacher who can explain certain grammar rules to you certainly was an issue sometimes. When I decided to take 2kyuu (now N2) of the JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test), I noticed that I could even pass 1kyuu – apart from the grammar section. I really had to work on my grammar.

For that, I just crammed. I used the Kanzen Master series (also for cramming the reading part). I picked the best example sentences and studied them again and again. Same as always, DON’T study grammar isolated, but in context.

Once you’ve seen enough sentences with a certain grammar point, you usually get how and when to use it. Sometimes I didn’t, so I just asked my Japanese friends to explain it to me. Most of the time that worked. Sometimes, though, I just got a “Just because!” – Yeah, native speakers often cannot explain grammar rules to others. I know that all too well.

 

Becoming Fluent in Japanese – How long did it take me?

Uhm, I wouldn’t say I’m fluent in Japanese. I wouldn’t even say I’m fluent in English!
I’m not even entirely sure I’m fluent in German! Go figure! emoticon

And please don’t think that you’ll ever “finish” to learn a language. Because you won’t.

It’s true that I stopped studying Japanese “actively” in 2010 / 2011. I passed N2 in 2010, wanted to take N1 next (mock tests already showed me that apart from the grammar I’m good to go), but then I somehow just lost interest. emoticon

Once you live in a foreign country and you notice that you can handle daily life just fine, that’s good enough, I guess. I didn’t want to become a professor for Japanese literature or something like that after all. I wanted to be able to understand the doctors, read any novel or watch any TV program I wanted to – and I managed to do those things just fine.

However, I learned so much more from 2011 until now nevertheless. Moving to Kansai was great, because I got to learn my favorite dialect of all times, Kansai-ben, without having to do anything! Just by listening to my students every day, I picked up everything I needed. And that’s just ONE example.

I also noticed a huge progress as we had to translate speeches our students had written (from Japanese into English). At the beginning (2008) I had a hard time, but towards the end (2011+) it was super easy. In the end, I got all the work, because among all my co-workers, Japanese and foreigners, I was the one who could do it the fastest (note that neither of those is my mother tongue). And it was a lot of fun, too. Although I had to haunt a few of my students when their handwriting was so ugly that I couldn’t read it at all. emoticon

Of course, I keep reading Japanese novels, listening to Japanese music and watching Japanese media. That’s even more important now that I have left Japan and suddenly in almost a decade I don’t use Japanese every single day anymore. It’s such a weird scenario!

 

Programs / Apps for learning Japanese:

Now, all of the above sounds nice and all, but I wouldn’t have been able to pull it off without certain little tools that helped me along the way.

Anki:

The one thing you will DEFINITELY need no matter what kind of method you choose is Anki, a SRS (spaced repetition system) program.

I’ve been using Anki for as long as I can remember. I think I started using it right when it came out. You could even use it to study for tests. It’s not limited to studying languages. It’s really THE essential tool for studying Japanese. And the program has improved so much throughout the years. There’s also a mobile version. So you can sync all your decks on all your devices. As I haven’t used it in the past few years, I’m sure it became even more awesome.

What it does:
It’s like a digital flashcards system based on the famous Leitner system. You don’t have to worry about anything. The program does everything for you. Ok, you still have to study on your own, but you know what I mean. You’ll judge how well you knew what you just saw (a kanji, a grammar point) and the program will decide when to show it to you again. Simple as that. Works like magic!

Learn Japanese - How I did it

I put all of the sentences I found in novels and elsewhere into a deck, marking the thing I wanted to study. In the screenshot above it was the reading and meaning of the kanji in pink.

But don’t worry. You don’t have to put in everything manually. Back then there was nothing, but nowadays there are millions of shared decks you can choose from. JLPT vocabulary, kanji, grammar points, sentences …

 

Learn Japanese - How I did it

There are even awesome decks with pictures and sound!
By the time those came out, I didn’t need them anymore, but I’m sure it’s fun to study with them. I also remember seeing decks that featured anime screenshots with the translation of the subtitles. Great way to study if you like anime!

 

Anki – It’s free, it’s simple, it’s AWESOME! Go get it now! Period.

I tried out various programs and apps, but the only one I kept using was Anki. To be honest, Anki is all you need.

 

Rikaichan:

Learn Japanese - How I did it

Not a program to study Japanese, but an add-on for Firefox browsers that is EXTREMELY useful: Rikaichan. (For Chrome there seems to be something similar called “Rikaikun“.) You hover over a Japanese word / kanji and it tells you the meaning or how to read it. There’s a name dictionary as well which is what I use most often. Reading Japanese names, especially those that aren’t very common, can be a pain in the a** – even for Japanese people!

 

Websites for studying Japanese:

I know there are a lot of websites out there nowadays for studying Japanese. It’s difficult to choose. Don’t waste too much time finding the right one!

Lang-8:

Lang-8 has been one of the most helpful websites ever. And although I can’t really remember my account name anymore, I remember having a low 4-digit member number on my first account which means I used it pretty much from the very beginning.
It’s such a great website and it’s free! They also added some premium features you can pay for.

You can write something in the language you want to study and native speakers will correct it for you.
The whole system works really well. You can save corrections, so you can review them later.
If there’s anything you don’t understand while studying, you can write about it there and they will not only correct what you wrote, but also help you figure out what you couldn’t on your own.

You can add friends and correct their articles as well. It’s a great platform to get to know (Japanese) people!

 

Kanji Koohi:

What I also really want to recommend is Kanji Koohi.

Especially if you use the “Heisig” approach, you’ll find a platform there to study, to check out the stories others have created and to add your own. I kept using Anki, but it was a great resource when I just couldn’t find a fitting story for a certain kanji. Browsing there helped me come up with ideas. I still think it’s very important to use your own stories or at least modify stories so that they have some connection with your life!

The most awesome part isn’t the platform, but the forum! This has always been the BEST forum I have come across when it comes to learning Japanese. I’ve never gotten better advice, material and motivation anywhere else. I highly recommend it!

 

iKnow:

Another website I used back in the days was called “smat.fm”. Later they changed their name to “iKnow“.

Learn Japanese - How I did it

I really liked it because they had all sorts of quizzes, progress charts etc. – creating a feeling of accomplishment.
Something like iKnow might help you to get your motivation back up.
I have no idea how much it has changed now, but maybe you want to have a look at it nevertheless. (*Looks like it’s not a free service anymore, but they offer free trials.)

 

Great Books for Learning Japanese:

Learn Japanese - How I did it

  • Kanji Odyssey – KO2001:
    Lots of great sentences to start out with in order to learn the reading of kanji (especially after using the Heisig method). I put the sentences into Anki and studied them. Ok, to be fair there was a pre-made deck with all the sentences for Anki, but you only could access that deck if you could prove you owned the books.
  • Kanji in Context:
    A great resource for a bit more challenging sentences. Good to use after you’ve finished KO2001 (or something similar). However, I found the sentences very boring after some time.
  • Kanzen Master Series:
    These books help you prepare for the JLPT, but you could also use them as “normal” study material. They’re also a great resource for more sentences.
  • Read Real Japanese:
    A great collection of novels and short stories from famous authors with English translations and explanations. An audio CD is included as well. I still have this book and some of the works are challenging to read! There’s also a fiction version.
  • Breaking Into Japanese Literature:
    It’s similar to “Read Real Japanese”. It features seven modern classics from authors such as Natsume Soseki. I think I liked this one even better than “Read Real Japanese”.
  • Japanese graded readers:
    When I just started out, I LOVED these. The stories were entertaining and I just worked my way up until I reached the highest level. Fun times!
  • Reibun de manabu kanji to kotoba:
    Another great resource for sentences (N2 level-ish). I liked that one a lot better than “Kanji in Context”, so I continued with that one in the end.
  • A Dictionary of ___ Japanese Grammar:
    I got the whole series from basic to advanced. They were great to look up grammar – and thus far those are the best grammar books I came across.

Before I moved to Japan, I used “Japanese for busy people“. That’s also the book series we used at university.
After arriving in Japan, I had a look at the “Minna no nihongo” books. These are good books to get the basics down. Just make sure you grab a book that already uses kana (hiragana, katakana, kanji) and not only romaji (alphabet). I know it’s easier to learn with romaji, but you won’t do yourself a favor if you stick around romaji for too long. (Although not everybody would agree, I guess. emoticon)

 

Some Advice on How to Learn Japanese:

Here’s some advice I want to give you. I don’t want to sound all high and mighty. Feel free to ignore what I have to say, but here goes:

 

Use ONLY Japanese:

Once you feel that you’re ready, stop using anything but Japanese in your decks. Look up a word you don’t know in a Japanese dictionary and put the Japanese definition into the answer field. That might be a bit challenging at first, but it will have a huge effect. You learn a new word by reading the explanation for it in Japanese.

Learn Japanese - How I did it

 

Use each and every opportunity to speak Japanese:

If you happen to come to Japan, USE that opportunity. Speak Japanese! Don’t hang around people who won’t speak Japanese with you at all. Don’t get discouraged when some people keep replying in English. Some Japanese people just tend to do that even if you’re fluent in Japanese. That’s such a great chance, don’t waste it. And don’t be afraid that you might mess up at first. You won’t learn anything unless you try. You’ll get better eventually for sure!

 

Keep challenging yourself:

I remember I was so busy with my full-time job and preparing for the N2, yet I signed up to take part in a prefectural speech contest. All the other participants were exchange students at universities and had teachers who practiced with them. I had to do it all by myself. I really thought I wouldn’t stand a chance, but it was such a great opportunity, so I took it.
I almost died of a heart attack on stage. I was so nervous! I don’t remember what I said or how I performed at all. But I actually won the first prize back then and that boosted my motivation up to 1000%.

Learn Japanese - How I did it

You could also try to take tests such as the earlier mentioned JLPT, or the Kanji Kentei. That’ll also give you a specific goal you can work towards.

Always keep challenging yourself even if you think you can’t do it!

 

Don’t get too many things:

At the beginning I made the mistake to buy too many books. I thought the more books I had the greater my chances of learning Japanese properly / quickly. I ended up selling most of them again without ever really using them. And by living in Japan I had access to so many books, it was insane. My advice is to focus on a few things you’re really interested in. You don’t need any textbooks (only in the very beginning you might). Choose books, manga … maybe even the blog of your favorite Japanese actor – and read, put it into Anki, study, repeat!
This will keep your motivation up a lot more than studying with boring textbooks that have nothing to do with your interests.

Learn Japanese - How I did it

If you have to invest in books, try to get those kanji drill books for jr. high students and a few notebooks in a 100 yen store for kanji writing practice.

 

Connect with others:

Especially if you study on your own, connect with others. Find language exchange partners. Join Lang-8. Create an Ameblo account. Follow your favorite idols on Facebook, Youtube or Twitter. It’s important to get a lot of input and the more you do, the more likely will you be able to have a proper conversation. It’s important that you get comfortable USING the language actively!

 

 

Ok, that was a super long blog post, but I hope it was somewhat helpful.

Feel free to ask away if there’s still anything you want to know.
But please keep in mind that I’m not fluent in Japanese myself and that I’m very bad at explaining or teaching Japanese to others. emoticon

50 Comments

  • Finally ! I’ve been searching for advice on how to learn the on and kun youmi of kanji for so long, you wouldn’t even believe it lol. Thanks for the tips !

  • Woow, great post, thanks for sharing your learning methods ! , btw, for me I don’t find kanji that difficult, actually I remember them from the first time, just like images.

    What’s very difficult in my opinion, is the language morphology and structure itself, I tend to think a lot of time before responding, and I tend to stop in the middle of the sentence before I figure out how I ca get it to the end. Usually, the part I say the faster is the verb … it’s in the end of the sentence, and sounds more comfortable than the mess in the middle :) (Just kidding, it’s not a mess, it’s an organized structure).

    Example :

    Honyaku ga takusan aru no tanpenshousetsu o gu-guru de kensaku suru no koto wa nagai jikan o kakatta kara, mada mitsukeru koto ga dekinai.

    For me, writing this sentence is easy, I can even translate from english using a paper, but in a conversation, I tend to stop long time in the middle of the sentence , before reaching the end, and the listener has to wait for about 1 – 2 minutes before I finish it :D

    • That’s amazing. I’m glad to hear you don’t struggle with kanji at all. :)

      Actually the sentence structure needs a bit of time to get used to, but once you practice a lot, you won’t have to think about it anymore at all.
      After only one year in Japan, Japanese was coming out of my mouth just as fast as English or German (and I’m generally a fast talker XD …).

      It really is just a matter of practice and getting used to it. ;)

  • Hi, I’m gonna share with you my own style…
    These are the steps I take:
    1) Master hiragana
    2) Master katakana
    3) Learn some kanji
    From the 3 steps above, I practice with the Japanese Learning apps that I’ve installed on my phone.
    4) Watch Japanese Drama/Anime
    5) Read Japanese written manga/novels while searching for the meanings you’re not familiar with
    6) Go Japan if you can afford
    I’ve met my host family in Japan and spoke in Japanese without caring about my sentences/grammar. They will correct me when I’m wrong. But overall, they think that I can speak well.
    So far I didn’t spend a penny for Learning Japanese except for Manga/Novels, which are considered to be just bedtime stories.
    All you have to do is practice ^_^

    • I like your style, Akemi! :)
      And if it works for you, then that’s great. I’m also happy to hear you had a nice Japanese host family. :3

      Immersing yourself in Japanese media (music, dramas, movies, books, manga) is a fun and effective way to improve your Japanese. ^__^

  • Since I’m thinking of going to Japan and hopefully getting a job as an ALT, I figured I’d try learning some Japanese. It’s actually the most fun I’ve had trying to learn a language (which is surprising, because after my god awful experience with French throughout high school (it’s the big secondary language in Canada) I thought I was just terrible at languages. Though I suppose I shouldn’t be overconfident, since compared to kanji and the specifics of grammar, learning hiragana and katakana is pathetically easy.

    Anyways, I was wondering how far you can go on hiragana alone. I know that even throughout junior high, Japanese students are still learning kanji, which is much different from what I went through as a kid, where the study of my native language only really lasted until the end of elementary school, and even then it wasn’t a big deal – just a spelling test here and there. So that, along with news I’ve heard in passing about Japanese education worries regarding kids not knowing their own language as well as they used to (is this actually true?), makes me wonder how often kanji is even used in a casual setting. Do people actually use much or any kanji in text messages, e-mails, blogs, and other casual settings?

    I’d still like to learn as much as I can, but knowing how *necessary* it is to know a lot of kanji is would help in knowing when I could consider myself able to live functionally in Japan.

    • I don’t find it surprising at all. ^___^
      I’m totally into learning new languages, but only those I’m truly interested in.
      I also hated French and it never sank in properly.

      I can’t even read stuff that’s written only in hiragana. Once you’ve mastered kanji, you’ll understand why.
      It’s such a headache and there are so many things that sound the same (and are written with the same hiragana). It’s so confusing. Kanji clears up any misunderstanding and it’s soooo much easier to read stuff, trust me.

      Kanji are alive. You cannot function as an adult in Japan properly without kanji.
      The only thing is that a lot of people are texting nowadays, so they sometimes forget how to write a certain character, but they’re still able to read it!!! ;)
      Learning kanji can be a lot of fun once you’ve find a way that works for YOU! Do it! *g*

      Kids not knowing their own language … I suppose one issue is the texting problem I mentioned. But it’s also old Japanese, super polite language etc.

  • Not sure if this has been mentioned anywhere on your blog before (I skimmed this article again but didn’t see it at least), but http://jisho.org/ is an incredible resource. It gives you virtually every shred of information regarding every kanji. You can search in English or any form of Japanese and it gives you all the information you need is an orderly fashion.

    For example, I searched “kuchi” and got:

    -169 hits for words that use kuchi (or at least the kanji for kuchi), with the closest hit being first (口).
    -All the meanings of the word in various situations, from most common to least common.
    -A list of related kanji, with the first being the most obvious (口)

    If you click on the link to 口, you get detailed information on that kanji, including kun-yomi reading, on-yomi readings, compounds, stroke order (beautifully and clearly shown in steps), and links to words relating to that kanji. It even tells you what grade native Japanese school students learn the kanji, the JLPT level, and how often the kanji is used in common media (口 is the 254/2500 most common kanji in newspapers).

    Best resource I’ve found so far. Solves so many of my problems :D

  • Hi Jasmine,

    That is a great list of resources and advice. I can definitely relate to ‘don’t get too many resources’, having numerous unread Japanese books on my bookshelf! These days I don’t really bother with paper books when digital formats are so much better for looking up words or listening to the text.

    You might also like some apps that I’ve made for kanji study, which are a bit more interactive and enjoyable than the usual multiple choice quiz ones:

    http://www.kanjigames.com

    Try them out when you get a chance!

    Cheers,

    Oliver

  • I use wanikani and at level 30 (900 kanji) do you think I should quit and use Koohi or just press on? I have passed JLPT N3. Which book would be a good way to accelerate my level. By the way kansai ben is the best. Thanks Jack

    • Hi Jack,
      Unfortunately I’m not familiar with WankiKani. It came out far too late for me. ^^;
      However, if you feel this method is not working for you, then why not try Heisig (with help of Koohi)?
      If it’s working for you, then it doesn’t make sense to switch now. You can’t just continue at kanji #901 with a different method, but would have to start from (almost) zero.

      Good luck! :)

  • Just as an update. Lang8 no longer is taking new registers. They made a new app or something like that which is honestly useless in trying to learn anything.

      • I haven’t been on Lang-8 in awhile, so I hope that the site is still active as I do need to practice more there. For out of date though, thus far rikaichan is not compatible with Firefox Quantum. Its recommended replacement appears to be yomichan. It is average and not as good as rikaichan.

        For learning kanji, I highly recommend kanjidamage.com. The site explains the radicals for each kanji and list readings as to how often they are actually use. Likewise, the site ranks kanji according to how often they are actually used.

        Another recommendation is following Japanese actors/creators/writers/artists/etc. on Twitter. Good reading practice.

        • I haven’t been on Lang-8 in ages either. I wonder if it’s still as active as it used to be.
          Yes, I’ve noticed Rikaichan stopped working since Firefox updated. It’s really a shame. I hope the creators of Rikaichan will be able to make Rikaichan compatible with that newer version of Firefox.
          I’ve tried a few alternatives, also on Chrome, but none of them were satisfying.

          Thanks a lot for your suggestions. Really appreciated. :)

  • What a nice way with words you have… Thanks a lot!! I have a situation I am wondering you have tips for. I would be most grateful: I have to learn a very specific genre of Japanese.
    Basically I need to be able to communicate ( ask questions and understand his andswers) with my teacher. The subject is wellbeing. The vocabulary is Not doctorally deep. However physical and mental wellbeing ( no in depth stories. More like what kind of pain, how is it now) mixed with deeper life philosofy and spiritual terms. I see him twice a month and write down words I can make up and check them after and then make anki decks.( without sound, my tablet is useless) Also I have some japanese people whom I sometimes see that work in the same field. Could you please share with me your view on how to be most efficient method whise considering my goal. I really don’t have any other goal than to speak with the teacher about this.(extremely specific vocabulairy I now use Michel Thomas and anki. And I have your book which I am reading. Also I am thinking to do a course somewhere here. Though as far as the efficient focussing, any tips? I will have to build my grammar piece by piece. I have a private teacher once a week willing to help with whatever.
    i am now debating as to spend my time and money on a course here or on a decent laptop so I can apply self learning methods properly. Any ideas??? Much love

    • Hi Nicky,
      In your case I would immerse into that field. If there are any series or movies you like that cover physical and mental wellbeing, then watch them (of course in Japanese).
      Same goes for books. Even if they might be too difficult, you’ll get something out of it. You can put sentences or just words that seem important to you into your Anki deck.

      I have no experience with this particular field, but that’s how I would go about it.

      Also, if it’s not in-depth like you said, then just talking about it with (Japanese) friends will also help a lot.

      I have no idea where you currently are, level-wise, but if you’re still at a very basic level, then I would first focus on the basics (also grammar) before digging into a special topic! ;)

      Good luck! :)

  • Dear friend

    I read with interest your story and I can identify myself substantially to your language journey. When I opened my FB, it was only cursory/ hurriedly as I am catching up an appointment. But with your post, I am inspired and fully motivated. I will write more of it next time, but a brief introduction on my profile is that, I am involved in overseas manpower supply and that I am sending workers/trainees to Japan. In my business, I have Japanese partners and I do employ Japanese interpreters since I can not yet carry on fluent Japanese . This is how I am am “crazy” to further my Japanese, in language, culture and more. I consider myself lucky for having found you, I need your advice and definitely consult you more. That’s all for now but please include me as serious and dedicated follower or even a partner. More post next time. Many million arigatou

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