Today, I wanted to go over a few of the resources that I have found most useful and not so useful for those interested in starting to learn Japanese. I have “started” to learn Japanese several times over the years with more or less successes than I would like to admit, but- my failures might be able to assist you in making more informed decisions. Here is part one!
Alright, I figured I would tackle the most widely known resource for language learning. I only completed the first two units of Rosetta Stone but from my experience as well as other reviews I have read online, it’s not worth the money or time. The vocabulary pace is too slow and it emphasizes useless phrases such as, “The boys swim!” or “She runs!” without really explaining much. But that does not mean Rosetta Stone is completely lacking. Some pros of Rosetta Stone is the clarity of the audio and ease of use. If you are an absolute beginner and come up on a free version of Rosetta Stone, you are not at an absolute loss. However, you can learn much more at a more reasonable pace and price from other resources. Blogger Robbie Kunz lists 6 reasons why he thinks Rosetta Stone sucks on his blog. While I won’t go as far as to say it “sucks,” I can’t help but agree with his evaluation of Rosetta Stone as a language learning tool.
Kanji-Link is great for those just starting to learn Japanese. Pat is a great teacher and has some really useful videos for those who are just starting to learn the basics of Japanese. He also has some great conjugation charts available for download. His videos and lessons only cover JLPT5 to JLPT3 (scarcely for 3), but that does not negate the fact that his videos and charts are something I still refer when I need a quick answer or refresher on how to conjugate something! Check out his videos, download his charts and keep them for reference.
One resource that I wish I had known about when I began to teach myself Japanese was the services offered by the guys at Tofugu. Textfugu is an online textbook developed by Tofugu that utilizes Anki (software that I will discuss later) and offers a different approach to learning Japanese than traditional methods such as Genki and other Japanese textbooks. Textfugu is very useful for those just starting to learn Japanese who do not learn well with traditional textbooks. In the beginning, Koichi introduces you to his approach to learning Japanese in comparison to other methods and gives you helpful self-study tips. The first season is available for free for those who would like to try it out! I used Textfugu a month before my first trip to Japan and can confidently say that it enhanced my trip by allowing me able to communicate effectively in Japanese. I was by no means fluent but I was much more knowledgeable than my peers in my study abroad program. Koichi can be a little long winded in his explanations and he is very satirical at times, which might be a turn off for some. I have even seen people downright offended by some of his posts, but it’s the internet and everyone will find something to complain about. To sum it up, if you like a good laugh and useful explanations of what you are learning, I recommend giving Textfugu a try! Koichi is a great guy and I love what the guys at Textfugu have been doing for self-study Japanese learners. I will probably do a more in depth review of their other sites and services later, but for now check out Textfugu if learning Japanese by traditional textbook means hasn’t helped you!
Lang-8 is amazing. It’s one of the coolest and most useful sites for language learners. With a free account, you are able to post blogs in the language you are learning and have it reviewed by native speakers. They unfortunately do not have a mobile app yet, but they do have a mobile version of the site that works just as good as an app. The site enables you to interact and build friendships with native speakers! Like any other social media site, you should use precaution when utilizing them. I have had several scammers message me but if you report them and use common sense, you can avoid problems. Other than those really isolated incidents, I have had no problems with Lang-8 and it has significantly helped me in my studies.
I think Anki is one of those types of software that everyone should have on their computer. It should come pre-installed on your computer along with Microsoft Office. It is an electronic flashcard software program that allows you download pre-made study decks uploaded by other people or make your own. It is not only useful for language learning. I have used it to study in almost all of my classes. I know some people like the aesthetic of handwriting note cards, but if you would like to save some trees and make your life ten times easier, get Anki! It is free for computers and android, but for Apple products it is $24.99 USD. Still worth it in my opinion!
Memrise is similar to Anki in the sense that it works like flashcard memory program but instead of being a standalone program, it is a website and mobile app. You can create your own flashcards in a very similar manner as Anki. You can make your own “memes” or “mnemonics” that will help you remember things easier. One of the things I enjoy about Memrise is that it has a ranking system and you can compare yourself to others who are studying the same deck as you. While the website is not by any means a social network type of site, it is still fun to see how much people are studying and use that as motivation to keep studying yourself!
I hope you all enjoyed our second post and find some of these resources useful. This will be an ongoing list that we will be adding to. So if you have any suggestions or comments, please feel free to let us know! We want to know what works best for you and we want to know what other resources we should check out.