I spent all of middle school and most of high school just WISHING to find a direction for learning Japanese. Most of what I knew either came from friends who picked up some vocabulary along the way of watching anime or came from anime fan sites. I eventually started finding a direction in the second half of high school and have kept on that path ever since.
It took me such a long time to find a direction and I don’t want anyone else to struggle for a direction. That is why I am creating this resource list, full of resources I personally would recommend. They are all things I have used before on my path to learning Japanese and I have found them useful. I don’t list anything on here that I haven’t used before or didn’t find useful, with the lone exception to “Other Peoples’ Opinions” (although, to be honest, I have found a majourity of those websites useful as well).
I wish you luck on your journey! Japanese is long and can seem tedious at times, but once you push through, you get rewarded.
Each section is prefaced with what they are about and why they are there.
All items marked with a * are things you must pay for.
Before you go to learn Japanese, I would highly recommend simply gaining an idea about the language itself. It will greatly help you when you begin to learn Japanese.
[WEBSITE] Marugoto+ A1: Introduction to Japanese – I recently discovered this Introduction and found that, despite that I’ve been studying Japanese for a while, I have learned a few things about the language from it. It is a PERFECT place for someone to start if they want to learn Japanese or are simply curious about the language & culture.
When you start on your journey to learn Japanese, it’s highly recommended that you learn how to read Japanese.
[WEBSITE] Real Kana (Old Site | New Site ) – I believe I found out about this website from a book series called Kana de Manga (which I personally would not recommend). This is the website I used to learn how to read kana (hiragana & katakana) 100%.
*[IPHONE APP] iKana – if you own an iPhone, an iPod Touch, or an iPad, I cannot recommend this app enough! It’s what taught me how to write all the kana. The tests, to me, are where this app shines. To help me remember how to write kana, I did the writing test over and over until it stuck. However, there are MANY more features on this app, including vocabulary words and how to pronounce each kana.
Finding a direction for Japanese was one of the hardest things to find. Once I found a direction though, so many things fell into place.
*[BOOK] Genki – I can’t quite remember how I discovered the Genki textbook series, but I do remember how excited I was. The moment I picked it up, I realized I got the structure I have been waiting for. It consists of 2 volumes and covers basic & elementary Japanese. The structure and scenarios may be too bland for some people, but to me, they get the job done.
The book is meant for a classroom, but I have been able to use it rather easily by myself. Just make sure you have the answers book to check if you’re doing well.
Genki also has workbooks to go along with each volume, which I highly recommend picking up as well.
Sometimes, you need some extra sources to practice your Japanese with.
Coming at a later date when I have more time to explore these extra resources in-depth and see their results.
Sometimes when you’re learning Japanese, you need more than your textbook to help you out. Perhaps you’re reading a story in Japanese for practice and come across a word you don’t know or you don’t quite understand how to use a certain particle in a sentence. These references are of help.
[WEBSITE] Jisho.org – Jisho is easily my favourite online dictionary. I love it so much, I even use it on the go! It’s got a good layout (and the beta layout is even better), you can search in really anyway you can think of in Japanese (English, Japanese, by kanji, by radical, by romaji, etc.). I highly recommend using this website for your dictionary needs.
[WEBSITE] ALC – while ALC is focused on being a source for teaching Japanese people English and to pass a test called TOEIC, it can be rather useful to figure out how to write certain phrases or to use certain words. I’ve used this a few times before to figure out how to say something, since Jisho didn’t have any examples.
*[BOOK] All About Particles by Naoko Chino – particles are my weak point in Japanese. A lot of times, my textbook’s explanations aren’t good enough for practical application, so I usually have to look at other resources. This one is probably one of my favourites. I highly recommend this book!
*[BOOK] Understanding Basic Japanese Grammar (New Edition) by Koichi Nishiguchi – published by ALC, this book focuses on Japanese grammar in a rather unique way. Instead of getting down into the nitty gritty details for grammar, it gives the most basic structure and explanation, then gives you a TON of examples on how to use it. I’ve used it a couple times to understand grammar I didn’t know yet and to get a better understanding of the ones I have used. I would HIGHLY recommend this book, particularly for the upper-beginners. There is no romaji at all in this book, so if you don’t know kana, you’re probably going to find this book useless.
There are numerous computer apps (or computer programs, for old schoolers) that are useful for studying Japanese. I can’t recommend them enough to help you on your journey!
[COMPUTER] Anki – Anki is a rather well-known SRS app. If you don’t know what SRS is, it’s like digital flashcards that get spaced out depending how well you know them (for instance, if you know the word “ピザ” easily, it won’t show up again for a while; on the other hand, if you can’t remember the word “ろうか”, it will show up quicker). It’s GREAT for studying. I usually use it to warm myself up before officially starting Genki lessons. There are many pre-made decks available and you’re able to easily make your own. I say download it if you haven’t already!
You can use Anki for other things too, so if you’re in school and you need to memorize something like science terms or music notes, it’s great for that too!
Anki has an iPhone app as well, but it costs a lot of money. It’s worth it though if you truly want to study Japanese on the go.
[COMPUTER] Evernote – Evernote is kind of like a digital notebook that you can access from your computer, from the web, and from your phone (as long as the notes are synced). You can use Evernote for a lot of different things (I use it for writing down ideas, along with Japanese notes).
It’s honestly a great place to have digital notes for Japanese, thanks to its portability (access it anywhere!) and its simplicity. It’s also great for storing collected material too, such as Japanese news articles you come across and may want to read later with the Evernote Webclipper.
I highly recommend it!
[BROWSER PLUGIN] Rikaichan/Rikaikun – Rikaichan is a rather well-known Japanese-English pop-up dictionary for Firefox. Rikaikun is a Chrome port of Rikaichan. Both are great for learning Japanese and understanding words you don’t know when browsing. However, you need to be careful not to use it as a crutch! May I suggest putting words you don’t know yet in a list on Evernote?
Sometimes, fleshing out your Japanese just means having fun with it! This could range from simply learning about language quirks to reading manga. Regardless, here are some resources I personally would recommend.
*[BOOK] Nihongo Notes by Osamu Mizutani & Nobuko Mizutani – Nihongo Notes is a compilation of an old Japan Times column that talked about mistakes language learners make and what the correct thing to do is. It also talks about how language applies to culture and communication. It’s really interesting and a great way to expand your knowledge on the Japanese language and culture.
* [BOOK] Manga…in Japanese – there really isn’t a specific book. Just pick up a manga in Japanese that interests you and has furigana over all the kanji. Try reading all the way through it. If you can’t do that, at least try to read a few pages.
[WEBSITE] Fantajikan – I think the best way to describe this website is that it’s a collection of audiobooks of fairy tales in Japanese. They have recently started to make their audiobooks into apps in the iTunes store, so you may have to pay for some stories. Regardless, check ’em out! It’s great for listening practice!
Sometimes, the subject just doesn’t fit into other categories.
[WEBSITE] Nihongo-e-na – Nihongo-e-na is, perhaps, the ultimate portal for Japanese-learning websites. If you haven’t been on here yet, check it out! Browse! You won’t be disappointed!
I’ve written quite a few posts on learning Japanese before. If you’re looking for some inspiration, guidance, or knowledge, why not check them out?
How to Learn to Read Kana My Way (Which Isn’t the Best, But Meh)
Rosetta Stone and the Excruciating Pain
Let’s Learn: Numbers, Months, Weekdays, and Days!
Preparation & Warm Up: Setting My Mind into “Japanese Mode”
There are people out there who have been studying Japanese longer than I have, have gotten farther than I have, and have better ways than I do.
[WEBSITE] Tofugu – Tofugu is a rather quirky Japanese-language-and-culture-focused blog that’s pretty well-known…and for good reason! There’s a lot of great articles on there that I recommend you check out. They also have a resource list and pages about Learning Japanese. Tofugu also has their own textbook! So…go check out this website if you haven’t already.
[WEBSITE] Nadine Nihongo – I recently discovered this website. It contains a pretty hefty amount of reviews (which is GREAT), along with a few guides. I recommend poking around the website to see what you can find.
[WEBSITE] All Japanese All the Time – All Japanese All the Time (or AJATT) is a fairly well-known website to Japanese-language learners. The focus is on how you learn the language by living it. Some people absolutely ADORE this method. I have yet to explore the website enough to find advice I find useful, but perhaps you will.
[WEBSITE] World of Choko Choko – while I don’t think this website has been updated in a while, it still is a fantastic resource. The website has a hefty amount of reviews, study tips, and more. One of the most notable sections on the website is “The Great Library”, which contain a collection of articles for all reading levels of Japanese. It’s a pretty invaluable resource, I must say.
And with that, this resource page is completed! I will hopefully be updating this periodically with new discoveries of great resources, allowing you to learn Japanese when you thought it impossible.
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