So with COVID-19 and lockdown/quarantine going on, I’ve noticed that quite a lot of people are starting to try new things (such as picking up new languages) as a means to stay sane and keep boredom at bay.
This said, Aidan decided to try his hand at learning Japanese when lockdown started for us here, and it’s nearing about 5 months since then.
I’ve been casually studying Japanese culture for the last decade and have recently been putting more effort into properly learning the language. I’m not fluent by any means, but I’ve learned enough to know where to look when I need something specific. Observing Aidan’s struggles since he started learning, as well as hearing specific complaints and questions from some of my friends, I have decided to share some resources to get you started in case you also want to learn Japanese.
Ok, before I delve into resources, let’s take a look at the JLPT first…or as I like to call it: ‘Japanese difficulty levels’.
The Japanese-Language Proficiency Test (日本語能力試験; Nihongo Nōryoku Shiken), or JLPT, is a standardised criterion-referenced test to evaluate and certify Japanese language proficiency for non-native speakers, covering language knowledge, reading ability, and listening ability. See the official website for more info on the tests itself
Even if you aren’t interested in taking the tests, it’s a very good way to gauge where you are in terms of skill. Some courses, schools and teachers even use the JLPT levels to indicate the difficulty of a lesson or course.
The JLPT consists of five levels (N1 to N5), with 5 being the lowest and 1 being the highest level of certification. Some companies in Japan require non-native speakers to have taken the test (usually N2 and up) before they’ll even consider hiring them.
More info detailing the JLPT levels can be found here.
Duolingo is a platform designed with the sole intent of teaching people new languages. It’s a freemium app, meaning it’s free to use, but offers premium options for a fee.
Now, Duolingo is quite lacking in many aspects, but it isn’t terrible. Don’t get me wrong. It can be a really great place to start if you’re trying to tackle a language that is not remotely close to English, such as Japanese. But if becoming fluent is your goal, relying on ONLY Duolingo will not get you very far.
LingQ is a learning platform that was created by Steve Kaufmann, who has learned over 16 languages since the age of 17 (he was born in 1945, just for reference). If you want more info on what he does, or study methods he has, check out his blog.
It focuses on immersion to keep learners engaged and motivated. Bear in mind that LingQ costs money to use, although it definitely appears to be worth it if you’re serious about learning a language.
The author of this site, Richard Webb, is a native English speaker who is fluent in Japanese. He has identified difficulties that most English speaking people face when they try to make sense of the language, and focuses on teaching people the fundamentals of Japanese in a way that makes more sense.
JapaneseClass.jp is a pretty decent site for learning Japanese in general. For me, the selling point is the ability to test yourself on lessons even after you’ve already completed them over and over with ease, thus an excellent tool for learning and memorising the writing systems and vocabulary.
The site also allows you to get in touch with fellow Japanese learners and native speakers, giving you an opportunity to improve conversation skills.
Team Japanese is a resource site for learning Japanese. On this site, you’d also be able to find additional sites and resources that are not listed in this article.
Stuff from here I highly recommend are:
- Free websites for Japanese reading practice (At every level)
- What’s the best way to learn Japanese?
- 5 Top fun ways to learn Japanese
Tofugu is a blog that focuses on the Japanese language and culture.
Articles I higly recommend here are:
- How to learn Japanese
- Japanese Bowing: The Definitive Guide
- Japanese Sign Language and being deaf in Japan
- Japanese body language
JapaneseTest4You is a site primarily focused on testing your Japanese, making use of flash cards, quotes from anime/manga and practice tests
Yes, Reddit is fantastic for learning Japanese as well!
r/LearnJapanese/ is a subreddit where you can find other people who are also learning Japanese.
r/translator/ is the Reddit community for any translation requests in pretty much any language (and I do mean ANY LANGUAGE. I’ve even seen translations for made-up languages, also known as ‘conlangs’, from books, films and TV too, such as this note in Cypherian). I’ve used this for Japanese translation help quite a few times and have always been helped swiftly by the amazing people there.
Japanese Ammo with Misa
Misa is native Japanese YouTuber who is fluent in English. Similar to Richard Webb on 80/20 Japanese, she breaks down Japanese grammatical structures and explains the nitty-gritty workings of the language in great detail. As a native speaker, she often gives insight into the Japanese mindset and culture.
Recommended playlists from Misa-sensei:
- Absolute Beginner Japanese Lessons
- Grammar Lessons for Absolute Beginners
- Grammar Lessons for Upper Beginners / Lower Intermediates
- Differences between A vs B!
- Japanese Characters (Hiragana & Katakana & Kanji)
- Common Mistakes in Japanese
JapanesePod101.com is an online Japanese language learning website. I personally love their videos covering the writing systems, as well as body language and gestures.
Recommended playlists from JapanesePod101:
- Introduction to Japanese
- 10-Day Hiragana Challenge
- 10-Day Katakana Challenge
- Learn ALL Japanese Particles with the Ultimate Japanese Particles Guide series
- Learn Japanese Grammar
- Learn Japanese Kanji – Everyday Kanji
- Learn Japanese Counters – 日本語の助数詞を学ぼう
- Learn Japanese Gestures
Dogen is a Japanese teacher who specialises in phonetics, pitch accents and pronunciation, which he teaches on Patreon. He also does a variety of comedy skits and comedic lessons on his YouTube channel.
Learn Japanese with Yas
Yas is a Japanese vocal coach who makes wonderful videos with examples of pitch accent in words, as well as emphasising which words have different meanings based on the pitch accent:
Abroad in Japan
Chris is a British YouTuber living in Japan, making videos about living in Japan in general. Both his videos on the culture and language are very insightful.
Recommended playlists from Abroad in Japan:
Rachel and Jun
Rachel and Jun are YouTubers who share their experiences about their life in an international marriage (Rachel is American and Jun is Japanese), and the kinds of things you could expect if you ever decide to move to Japan or get married to a Japanese person.
Recommended playlists from R&J:
There is a lot more other content online (such as Japanese vloggers, social media profiles, reviews and articles, etc.) so don’t hesitate to start exploring more as you progress. Japanese shows (like anime) and movies are also fantastic to help you pick up Japanese listening comprehension.
Of course, the absolute most important thing is to HAVE FUN! The more engaging you make it, the easier it will be for you to learn.
Until next time…