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Resources for learning Japanese

I enjoy studying the Japanese language and culture. Over time I've found lots of helpful resources that I use to study.

Jisho

Website

Standard Japanese-English dictionary. The other direction works too. Simple interface, good content.

Tofugu: Learn the Kana

Japanese has 3 different writing systems. The first 2, hiragana and katakana, are called the kana. These each have 46 characters, which correspond to each other. For example, the Hiragana character あ corresponds to the Katakana ア, in that both make the same sound "a".

How to read the kana should definitely be the first thing to learn.

Guide to Japanese

Website

Good as a grammar reference. Topics are basically ordered with more basic/fundamental ones starting first and more niche ones as it goes on.

It has some exercises for earlier topics and all topics, even advanced ones, have example sentences and explanations in English.

I like this resource because it doesn't just try to answer the question "How do I say this common thing from English" necessarily. It instead teaches Japanese grammar from the foundations.

A good example of the difference between this approach and the usual approach is how the regular and polite forms are taught with each approach.

In Japanese, there is a regular form and a polite form of verbs. Most textbooks/resources will start by teaching the polite form, because this form is a good default to use when talking to practically anyone.

But then, when they later teach you the regular form, you realize that actually the regular form is the true, base form of words/the grammar, and the polite form is derived from it.

This guide instead first teaches the regular form and later tells you how to derive the polite form from it.

WaniKani

Website

Teaches you 'radicals', kanji, and words. Past the first 2 levels it requires a subscription/lifetime purchase.

Even if you don't want to pay for WaniKani, it is important to understand that if you want to read/write Japanese at all, you will have to learn a decent number of kanji. And the most important thing to know when learning kanji, whether using WaniKani or not, is this:

Unlike in English with the alphabet, the character is not the smallest unit of the writing system. Rather, the smallest unit is the "radical".

I used to not know this, and I'd try to learn kanji on their own. When learning a kanji, you generally have to learn

For example, take 議.

This character is composed of 2 radicals: 言 and 義. Knowing the radicals helps with every aspect of a kanji:

Now, some kanji are pictograms, which means they kind of look like a picture:

But actually very many kanji, like 議, are phono-semantic compounds. This means they're composed of 2 radicals, one of which gives a hint to the meaning and the other a hint to the reading.

Bottom line: learn radicals. There's an article about it.

NHK News Web Easy

Website

Japanese language news about current events. Pretty short articles. Good for reading practice. You can also listen to some of the articles and toggle the reading hints for kanji for more practice.

YouTube

There's a ton of Japanese YouTubers out there, but I sometimes watch Mina Luna Japanese and Nakata University.