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Learning Japanese - Useful resources


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This thread still needs help to grow. Feel free to post your useful resources, with a small description of what it is. You can also ask any questions related to this topic.
 
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Chances are, if you read VN, at some point you'll get interested in learning Japanese. This thread will NOT tell you how to learn japanese, I'm not qualified for that. This is a compilation of useful resources you might need, put together by helpful members and myself.

If you know absolutely nothing about the language, I recommend you to read a bit about it before. Read some wikipedia pages and the introductions of various guides. The best way to approach things is probably to try out a bit of everything and see what works for you.

Here are the categories of resources presented:

*Learning methods: more-or-less complete schedule other people put together.
*Useful softwares, apps & cie
*Kanji & Kana
*Grammar
*Practice material

Learning methods

Those hardly consist of rigid guides that'll take you all the way, but they might help to give you an idea on how to approach learning the language. Don't spend too much time looking for methods, you'll most likely end up doing things in a different way anyway. 

Tae Kim's complete guide to japanese (everything is not complete yet)
Nukemarine's Suggested Guide for Beginners "It's a guide on how to learn japanese by plowing through anki cards in a effective manner. It's made by a community member at Koohi forums. (I'd like to mention you can learn vocab very fast with this method and keep it in memory. But you learn without a lot of context, which has its negative sides.)" (Bolverk)
The Tay way  (note that this is from 2013 and no longer in use)
Aaeru's "learn how to read VN in two years"

Useful softwares

Those are basic tools you'll almost certainly need, or at least try out, in your learning of japanese.

Google IME: Allows you to type in Japanese. Click this link, click the big blue button, install: you can now switch your typing mode to japanese.
Rikaichan: Firefox app that gives you a dictionary entry for a word by simply hovering over it. Extremely useful. Also exists for Chrome.


Anki: A flash card software with a built-in algorithm for learning efficiency. Exists on Android and iOS too. (Regular hand-written flash-cards can be a useful tool too). Use shared decks to find vocab/kanji pre-made decks.

Note about Anki: the use of Anki is advocated as necessary by some and deemed completely useless by others. Starting out with basic vocab/kanji grinding will probably help you ease into practice material, however learning tons of words, or worse even tons of kanji out of context is not a good idea. It's up to you to find out whether you want to use Anki (and whether you can).

ITH, TA, Mecab, Jparser: ITH is a text hooker that'll extract the text from, say, a VN for you. Translation Aggregator will pass said text through parsers and dictionaries. Extremely useful to practice on VNs.
Some tips and other softs for ITH here
Chiitrans: a useful alternative to ITH/TA. Same principle. Read the tuto for more details.
Visual Novel Reader: Another alternative to ITH/TA.

Note about text hookers: it might seem obvious but do NOT use machine translations with your text hookers. You won't learn anything from the garbage it feeds you and you won't even actually understand what's going on, whether you think you do or not.
It is also not a very good idea to rely on parsers for grammar purposes. Parsers are far from perfect. They certainly can't replace a grammar resource and basic googling.
Think of text hookers as crutches you use until you become able to read without constantly looking up vocabulary. It is also a good idea to switch to japanese-japanese dictionaries as soon as you can - only they will give you the nuances of the words, and they're also much less flawed than existing free j-e dictionaries.   

Kanji & Kana

Learning the hiragana and katakana should be about the first thing you do. It's not very long or difficult. Becoming accustomed to reading them is longer but it eventually comes.

Kanjis are probably the biggest psychological barrier for japanese learners. I don't have a magical method to suggest, but do tell yourself it's really not that hard if you stop thinking too hard about it and trying to find the best, most optimized method for learning them. Try to learn the basic ones, see where you can get, and start practicing on reading as soon as you can.


RealKana: This is just an example among others of ways to learn the kana. It's the first thing you should do anyway, and it's not hard or long.
Heisig's Remember the Kanji: A method for learning kanji through memo stories, by association with an english keyword. Good for starters, probably won't get you through the whole kanji learning though. See Tay's guide and this website too.
Kanjidamage: Learning the kanjis through radicals and memo sentences. I'm not a fan of his method, but it has some interesting information in the introduction and on some kanjis.

Grammar

Basic grammar:
Tae Kim's guide: The most popular (and free!) guide on the internet. Rather compact, has all the essential grammar with good explanations and examples. A must.
Genki: To take things more slowly, or have a different view on points you didn't get. (No links for that one yet, it's not free, sorry)
Nihongomori: this is a youtube channel with videos explaining grammar, but also vocab and other misc things, done by native speakers (in english for the basics, japanese later). It goes from basic grammar (JLPT N5-N4 level) up to finer points (N2-N1 level) so it actually covers intermediate/advanced grammar too. The videos are pretty fun and well done, if you like the video media it might work good for you.

More advanced grammar:
Imabi: Lots of in-depth explanations about various grammar subjects. Not recommended for pure beginners and not written as a guide.
If you want to go further than that, you'll need to go into japanese grammar books. Don't forget a simple research on the internet can give you lots of explanations about pretty much anything anyway.

Advanced grammar:

If you want to go further into grammar than that (for example if you want to read 古典 and such), you'll probably need to go into japanese grammar textbooks.

This guide is approved as being really good. (Change the encoding of the page to Japanese EUC-JP for it to display correctly)
This page could be useful too.
Feel free to do your own research!

Others:
A grammar cheat sheet. Not for beginners, obviously.
Nihongoresources: A grammar guide. Never tried it.

Practice Material

General advice: Try to avoid material based on comedy (because you need a good enough knowledge to get the jokes), or that rely heavily on slang or local dialect. Also, avoid things that have too much technical vocabulary (hard sci-fi) or chuuni stuff with abstract concepts and archaic kanjis.

Chokochoko: Some practice texts (articles on various stuff), ranked by JLPT difficulty.

Children's tales: easy place to start.
Japanese subtitles for lots of anime.
VNs in japanese:
 *Relatively easy language for a story-focused VN.
 *List of VN for beginners, with two levels of difficulty.
 *A big list of Visual novels to read if you are confident enough (~JPTL N2).

I won't point you out to raw mangas, of course, but if you can find high enough quality scans (or can afford to import them) it's obviously a great way to practice. Every shoujo and shonen manga have furiganas on every kanjis. Seinen/josei may not have them, but it doesn't mean they're necessarily more difficult.

Dictionaries, vocabulary resources

Note: Japanese-english dictionaries (the free ones you'll find on the internet) are pretty much all based on Edict. Of course, as a beginner you have to use j-e dictionaries, but 1) edict is far from perfect 2) j-e dictionaries are inherently limited anyway: only japanese dictionaries will give you the right nuance (and they're rather excellent). So as soon as you can, switch to japanese dictionaries. The jump is not easy but it's necessary, especially if you intend to read VNs with a higher level of language.

Overall, the internet is your friend! A simple search will often yield whatever you're looking for. Finding your way, especially in japanese websites, is the most useful skill you can develop (although once again you need to reach a certain level of confidence first).  

Jisho: Jap/eng dictionary.
Tangorin: Same thing.
WWWJDIC Dictionary site.
Japanese online dictionary. Requires good enough knowledge of japanese to be used.
Slang dictionary. Same as above.
Writing recognition: Tries to find a kanji directly written with your mouse.
Tanos: Various JLPT-related resources: vocabulary and kanji lists, etc.

Blog posts and articles about learning japanese

Blogpost by garejei: Tips and a view on kanji memorization.

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Thanks to Clephas, Bolverk, cryofrzd, Okami, garejei, Mephisto and probably a bunch of others I forgot to add (sorry!) for their contributions.

Edited by Down
spring cleaning
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I'll add some more resources here:

 

 

Learning methods

Nukemarine's Suggested Guide for Beginners It's a guide how to learn japanese by plowing through anki cards in a effective manner. It's made by a community member at Koohi forums. (I'd like to mention you can learn vocab very fast with this method and keep it in memory. But you learn without alot of context, which has it's negative sides.)

 

Practice Material

WWWJDIC Dictionary site. (great site)

 

-As for reccommended vn's I'll just quote a few of Clephas posts.

 

Relatively easy language for a story-focused VN.

 

A big list of Visual novels to read if you are confident enough you can read JPTL 2

 

Also great post made Down!

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I'll add some more resources here:

 

 

Learning methods

Nukemarine's Suggested Guide for Beginners It's a guide how to learn japanese by plowing through anki cards in a effective manner. It's made by a community member at Koohi forums. (I'd like to mention you can learn vocab very fast with this method and keep it in memory. But you learn without alot of context, which has it's negative sides.)

 

Practice Material

WWWJDIC Dictionary site. (great site)

 

-As for reccommended vn's I'll just quote a few of Clephas posts.

 

Relatively easy language for a story-focused VN.

 

A big list of Visual novels to read if you are confident enough you can read JPTL 2

 

Also great post made Down!

 

Thank you! I added all of that to the list. I edited a few things in the first post too.

I considered digging up some of Clephas' posts but never got around to do it, thanks for doing it for me =p

 

 

When it comes to text hookers I'd like to recommend visual novel reader, you get the text on a floating box on top of the VN so you can read VN:s in full screen and more features.

 

I considered adding it, but I don't know much about it. Do you know a guide on how to set it up or something?

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Thank you! I added all of that to the list. I edited a few things in the first post too.

I considered digging up some of Clephas' posts but never got around to do it, thanks for doing it for me =p

 

I knew where he had posted them so luckely didn't take too long. All hail Clephas!

 

You really don't have anything to set up. Just download it, start it and it will hook unto the first VN it recognises. It has build in EDICT for looking up words and support for ATLAS. Here's a video guide for it.

 

I prefer written guides so I used this one you posted elsewhere cryofrzd: http://sakimichi.wordpress.com/2013/09/19/translating-visual-novels-without-hacking/

Some playing around my impression of it is.

 

Actually VNR is suprisingly good. It has loads of features. You can even use it as a substitue for ITH. It actually managed to hook the right text out when ITH failed for me. Works the same as ITH if you take away the VNR text field and make it paste the text into clipboard. Then just read with TA.

 

Also a very useful feature is that you can use it as overlay over the game screen. If you use a laptop with a low res or just have a low res monitor you don't need to worry about needing space for TA and the game window.

Basically If you monitor is 1366 x 768 and the game is 1280 x 720 res you are fucked with TA. But with VNR not a problem.

-Some games you can make the game window smaller dispite the high res. Usually this makes the game kinda funky and blurry. Imo that's ugly so I tend not to do that.

 

Additonally it has access to other peoples translations by cloud and such.

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It's weird nobody added Rosetta Stone Japanese in useful softwares. It's one of most popular softwares for learning new languages.

 

Raw app

 

Japanese LV1-3

 

(You need a Raw Rosetta stone app installed so you can add Rosetta stone Japanese in it)

 

Mainly because I have no idea what exactly it is and how it works. If you can explain it to me in a few lines I'll gladly add that to the list.

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Mainly because I have no idea what exactly it is and how it works. If you can explain it to me in a few lines I'll gladly add that to the list.

 

Rosette stone is one of the most popular software for learning new languages, it has 100+ languages in its database however because you won't need 100+ languages and each language is 1GB+ so it would be painful to download full software of 100GB+  you can download just RAW software (without languages in it) and then just download the language you want to learn and add it to a software.

 

It uses very unique and easy way of learning languages, it gives you pictures of things and then write you how that thing on the picture is written in that language (in case of Japanese you can choose if you want Romanji, kanji or kana) and it also gives you audio of how that word is pronounced. But there also other things that it teaches you like how thouse words are used in different situations (grammatically right) how thouse words are written etc. And evrytging is put into some specific order that is best for learning new language. Basically it is like you are taking courses of Japanese with someone tutoring you except one tutoring you is your PC. And software is made so that even children can use it so it is very easy and simple to use. I guessed that the only fault in it is that sometimes it repeats you same things to match so you can remember them for sure but if you think that you don't need repeating and that you already remember it you can just skip lessons that repeat them selves.

 

Here Wiki will explain it batter then I.

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If I had to say, there are better ways to learn Japanese than to buy a software program that costs hundreds of dollars..I haven't tried Rosetta Stone myself but I am curious if it provides advanced lessons for say the last hundred kanjis to learn or something.

 

Nobody said anything about buying it, I provided torrent in my first post if you didn't notice.

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  • 3 weeks later...
Guest hairybumslapper

Another good resource for self-learning Japanese are the Genki textbooks. they also come with an audio CD to help with the pronunciation of spoken words. The only problem is that the books aren't cheap, but there are a couple of digital scans on the Pirate Bay or KAT as a free alternative. Otherwise, the Genki books are worth the money if you are serious about learning the language.

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As long as you get a hold of a kanji its meaning and its reading (both kun and on) you are just fine to go into "kanji stage" there are sometimes irregular readings or meanings so i use a dictionary that includes them like http://www.saiga-jp.com/kanji_dictionary.html

and i make my own ugly looking cards to review the former hundred and such.

 

But i haven't made a simple method to learn words with more than one kanji such as 天気 (tenki - weather), if i don't get one in time i guess i'll just use a dictionary.

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Another good resource for self-learning Japanese are the Genki textbooks. they also come with an audio CD to help with the pronunciation of spoken words. The only problem is that the books aren't cheap, but there are a couple of digital scans on the Pirate Bay or KAT as a free alternative. Otherwise, the Genki books are worth the money if you are serious about learning the language.

 

Are the textbooks and the grammar books different things?

Because I already mentioned Genki in the grammar section (without links because I'm a bit hesitant about giving out links to pirated stuff on this page).

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Guest hairybumslapper

Are the textbooks and the grammar books different things?

Because I already mentioned Genki in the grammar section (without links because I'm a bit hesitant about giving out links to pirated stuff on this page).

Whoops, my mistake. Only just noticed it was in the grammar section of your list.
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I'm not sure if I saw this posted, but http://www.tanos.co.uk/jlpt/

 

Overall a variety of resources on there but their JLPT vocab lists should be useful for those either preparing for the exam itself, or uncertain where exactly they should start with kanji / which kanji they should learn first, etc.

 

I wrote this a while back, it's basically my view on kanji memorization along with a couple of tips from personal experience (part of it is related to the role of VNs and video games in the learning process). You may include it here or not, I leave it up to you. Figured I'd post it anyway for those interested.

 

I've also used kotobank.jp and weblio.jp in the past. Might be worth a mention.

 

I apologize for my poor eyesight in case any of the above has already been mentioned, I just skimmed the first post.

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At our Japanese course we use minna no nihongo series textbook which aren't too bad, books have audio CD for every lesson too.

minna no nihongo is a series designed to learn WITH a teacher help. you can't beat it alone. 

 

if you can't afford to have a private teacher, genki seems to be the best choice. 

 

i think the most important note about learning japanese is a simple sentence: "japanese is a damn difficult language, there is no easy way to learn it and you have to spend a lot of time on it."

 

something about kanji:

there is nothing like - the best way to learn kanji. everybody has his own method. some people use heisig, some people use traditional way and some mix both of them. find your own and use it. 

 

remember, if you don't sit and write, write, write, read, read, read, repeat, repeat, it doesn't matter what way you choose and what books you buy, you will fail.

 

so if you are a begginer and you want to read visual novels in 1 year... better leave it now. it is not for you.

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I guy called Ken Cannon, from America. Has a website where he learns out Japanese for beginners, the course cost a bit. But he also have some small videos explaining little basic things and on his youtube channel he might show you through Japan or learn out some more basic Japanese

http://www.japanesethroughanime.com/ <--- Website

http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCiOe5IDDwPesJEEjbtez6sQ <--- Youtube

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Some more resources:

 

If you would like to have fully updated version of TA (JPraser) and ITH, with the newest updated edict 2 dictionary. Very practical if you want as accurate results as possible.

 

TA You can put additional dictionaries in TA for more accurate results. I'd reccommend Mecab and Edict2

 

- Mecab Simply install it, but when you are asked for which dictionary you would like to install during the installation, don't choose UTF16. I went with UTF8. Mecab should work automatically with TA's if you have turned on Mecab support on in the option in TA.

To turn it on, right click on the JPraser window in TA and go Config. Then check mecab hinting.

 

- Edict2 This link will open a site with the entire dictionary file in it, so wait a bit until it have loaded. After that use your internet brower menu on the top of your screen. (Depends on your browser how this is done.) and go File -> Save Page as: Then save it as a txt. file. This will download a compressed file, extract it and move the edict2.File into TA's dictionary folder.

 

ITH Simply download and extract it. Go to Aero's guide if you are unsure how to use it.

To update ITH start ITH_Updater in the install folder, update both profile and ITH. (You would usually try to update ITH if it can't find the right hook to your game)

A few settings tips I'd give is. After you press 'process' to hook up the game, press 'attach' then also press 'add profile' then 'ok'. Then find the right hook for the text of the game. When you have found that press Save in the top of the ITH panel. Next  time you start up the game now it will automatically find the hook for you.

 

Jglossator Recently I was searching for a dictionary that could auto-copy and search from clipboard like TA could. But rather search for for compounds and grammar. I'd like it to find each kanji in the clipboard and show it's meaning and pronunciation alone. Someone recommended this: Jglossator

It pops up this list up:

kanji_search.png

The top number is the frequency of the kanji and the bottom number is the RTK number. By pressing the bottom number you will go to Koohii's site and that spesific kanji. To look up the story and primitive elements if you forgot them.

I've been using it for a short while, but so far I found it very useful.

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