I have spent a long time learning Japanese. It is a lot of work, and it is not simple. Here is a post about what I use, and what I have found since my Capstone project started.
What I use or have used to learn Japanese
To learn the first two alphabets of Japanese, I used an app called Hiragana Pixel Party. I did this way back in high school when I was starting out and I don’t need study these alphabets anymore as I’m fluent in that sense. Hiragana Pixel Party is an app that uses music and rhythm to teach. Here’s the obnoxious trailer for the game, but I promise, it is good and it’s what taught me.
It’s available for iPhone, iPad, Windows through Steam, Windows phone, and I think Android by now. It’s only $1.99 for the full version on your phone, which is a steal.
To learn Kanji, I use a website called Wanikani. Here’s an excerpt from a post I made before about learning Japanese that touches on WaniKani:
To give some clarification on how Japanese works, since I haven’t really gone over it, here’s a pretty helpful and easy to understand explanation from chromlea.com. Short summary from me: Hiragana is used to write words and the grammatical parts of sentences, katakana is used to write words that aren’t from Japan, and kanji, which are the big part of learning Japanese, are words or ideas. They can be words by themselves or be put together with others to make other words. A good example is “戸” means door and “口” means mouth, but put them together and “戸口” means doorway.
Japanese is somewhat simple in that way. Here’s one: “毛糸”, pronounced “keito” (keh-ee-toe). “毛” means fur, and “糸” means thread. So put them together and what do you get? “Wool yarn”!
Another fun one, “天気”, pronounced “tenki” (ten-key). “天” means heaven, and “気” means energy. So “heaven-energy” is “weather”!
But there’s also things like “切手”, pronounced “kitte” (kit–teh). “切” means cut, and “手” means hand, so put them together and you get… “postage stamp”.
Yeah, it makes no sense. However, WaniKani, (my main learning program), uses mnemonics to help you remember all those kanji and combinations to make new vocabulary. The way to remember that one is, “you cut your hand while putting a stamp on an envelope.” Once you spend enough time learning a word, you don’t have to use the mnemonics anymore.
Those have honestly been mostly what I use, I have other apps like Human Japanese and Mindsnacks on my phone that I paid for, and I also bought Genki, a popular textbook for learning Japanese.
Since starting my Capstone project
A few weeks ago, I had a good long conversation with my friend Natsuki about what I am lacking in Japanese and what I need to focus on. We talked for about two hours about what I need to practice more and what I could look into. The JLPT test, specifically the N5 test, is needed to get a job in Japan. It tests on your basic knowledge of kanji and vocabulary. We looked at what is on it and what I knew already. She also couldn’t figure out why I had such a hard time with conversations and we figured it out! I need to focus on grammar and sentence structure so I can learn how to form sentences besides the basics. I also know a lot of vocabulary words, but when I hear them out loud I can’t place what the word is. However, as soon as I see the kanji for it, I’m like “Oh! Yeah, I know that word.” So I just need to keep working on vocabulary until I don’t need to see it to understand what is being said.
After we talked, I found a website called renshuu.org that has free practice tests for the JLPT, and not just the N5, but also the N1, N2, N3, and N4! I have started to use this on a regular basis as well as WaniKani, which I already use every day. I also have a goal of working with my textbook more often and completing the worksheets that go with them.
My last suggestions from Natsuki was to start reading some Japanese children’s books. They would be simple enough to understand and they would give me a better idea of what sentence structure is like. Her other suggestion was to watch some Japanese TV shows or movies to hear Japanese out loud and get used to how fast they speak. I could do this with English subtitles to connect words, but I should also do it with Japanese subtitles so I can connect the words that I’m seeing with what is being said.
I’ve started doing all of this and continued with my studies throughout this project. I also have some Japanese books on the way for me to start reading. My original idea for this project was to have more conversations in Japanese out loud, but I have found that I need to do all this before I can begin that. The program I was going to use to video chat with people from Japan didn’t end up working as well as I had hoped so that ruled out that part. However, I am excited to see how this is going to go in the following weeks. Natsuki has been a great help and she has kindly agreed to continue to work with me on this Capstone project.