View Full Version : Free or very cheap ways to study Japanese

May 31st, 2009, 15:04
What are some good free (and probably online) Japanese language resources? I know about iknow.co.jp, but was wondering what else everyone uses? Thanks!

May 31st, 2009, 15:20
www.lang-8.com (http://www.lang-8.com)

My favorite resource. Native speakers of language A write entries in their language-of-study X. They correct X(and Y/Z etc) native speakers' entries in A, and native X speakers correct their entries. In a less confusing way, simplifying it to include just English and Japanese (though there are tons of languages on there)...you write Japanese entries and correct Japanese people's English entries. Then Japanese people correct your Japanese entries.

There's a bit of an honor system, I guess, but it seems to work reasonably well. It's somewhat self-regulating in that people naturally tend to worry about correcting the entries of people who have corrected for them already. Since several Japanese people usually pounce on my entries within like 5 minutes of posting them, I try to keep my writing/correcting rate even by correcting several English entries for each Japanese one I write. (I suspect English-speakers may have a favorable "exchange rate" going.)

May 31st, 2009, 17:28
That's a pretty cool system.

May 31st, 2009, 18:53
http://ichi2.net/anki The best opensource freeware Spaced Repetition Program you'll find. As the programmer was a JET (or variant), many things about it were tailored to learning Japanese. The developer (Damien Elmes) actively takes suggestions and implements them in a timely manner.

http://www.alljapaneseallthetime.com (http://www.alljapaneseallthetime.com/) Ok, not a learning resource, but the guy offers advice for self-study and immersion to help reach fluency in shorter periods of time (but not less hours). Has links to books and sites he finds useful.

http://kanji.koohii.com (http://kanji.koohii.com/) Website set up for those that use the Remembering the Kanji books. Has its own Leitner based flash card system where users can share stories to learn upwards of 3000 kanji. Has an active forum dedicated pretty much to learning Japanese.

http://www.guidetojapanese.org (http://www.guidetojapanese.org/) Also known as the Tae Kim's guide (he's the author). Free online "text book" teaching grammar. It covers pretty much what you'll see on JLPT 3.

http://smart.fm (http://smart.fm/) Formerly known as www.iknow.com, provides an outstanding resource for vocabulary words using sample sentences read by professional Japanese voice actors and photos.

http://dramanote.seesaa.net (http://dramanote.seesaa.net/) Japanese blog, but it has scripts to many, many popular Japanese dramas. Essentially it's having a mini-novel companion to the show you're watching.

http://www.d-addicts.com (http://www.d-addicts.com/) Great site to find links to movies and Japanese sub-title files. There are torrents on there, but the other resources such make it useful too.

There are of course dozens if not hundreds of sites you can use. Many would be Japanese (such as yahoo.jp or 2ch) while some are about Japan (such as this forum). The above are just ones I used more than most.

May 31st, 2009, 20:47
Kanji Box - an application on Facebook. Let's you drill vocab, kanji, etc. for the JLPT. For free.

capn jazz
May 31st, 2009, 23:23

June 3rd, 2009, 06:05

Broken up by JLPT levels.

June 3rd, 2009, 06:13
Something that Dombay linked to earlier (http://nihongo-dekimasu.blogspot.com/), a list of free 'resources' that you can use...

June 3rd, 2009, 08:19
Watch NHK

June 13th, 2009, 01:10
Watch NHK

Watch TV a lot. My listening's sky-rocketed since I've gotten one.

Also, reading Japanese sites online would be really cheap.

June 16th, 2009, 13:19
www.thejapanesepage.com (http://www.thejapanesepage.com)

June 16th, 2009, 15:22
very intrigued by the kanji alive page. pity that they don't have more kanji than that though...but it will work well for JLPT 2 study I suppose. It's a really nice and user friendly resource. Kinda like the white rabbit cards I guess, which I think are lousy flashcards (too much information at once) but a great resource.

June 25th, 2009, 15:11
Try making friends and living your life like you would back home. Go shopping with them, go to bars, and don't hangout with English Vampires so that you have an opportunity to speak Japanese. No novel, television, comic, anime, or videogame is a replacement for a Japanese friend. And none of those aforementioned sources will help your pronunciation or fluency like speaking with your friends on a daily basis.

How do the Japanese learn Japanese? Sure they improve their kanji and handwriting through school but when they are small children the only way they learn is to speak and be spoken to. That's how we all acquire our native tongue. When we talk about raw speaking skill, and I'm emphasizing speaking, the guy that hangs out at a non-gaijin bar with his pals every night is going to sound much more fluent and knowledgeable than the guy poring over a novel an hour or two a night or the guy trying to post on 2chan or the girl that never misses her nightly session of Japanese variety shows. The young JET who makes sure to read Jump on the train ride back or asks for help with a few kanji he doesn't understand from a teacher at the school he works at will have nothing on the guy who is in a relationship with a non-English speaker and tries his best to understand her through trial and error rather than spending his time with fellow foreigners or Japanese who are too busy asking for English lessons to give him the solid 3-4 hour block of pure Japanese a day that he needs in order to grow into a speaker of Japanese aimed squarely at becoming fluent.

Personally speaking, I'd rather spend a night out with my friends or a girlfriend than watch television.

June 26th, 2009, 11:27
Thanks for reminding me of my regrets on leaving Japan again, abide. Thanks so much.

My plan was to get into a judo school and do that every day, for its own sake and to meet people. Surely, Japan, the source of Japanese martial arts, would be crawling with dojo?

Hahahahahahaha. They're all chained to desks until 9 PM.

If I did it all over again, I probably would go bite the bullet and get into some activity I have zero interest in just to meet people. I even sort of tried that with taiko, but ... yeah, that was just dull and awkward. I guess I'd try hopping the train a stop or two and see if I could find something nearby.

So while I can't help but find your "I'm gonna go to dinner with my JAPANESE FRIENDS and talk with my JAPANESE GIRLFRIEND" tone annoyingly reminescent of That Guy, I would cautiously second your admonition to new people.

June 26th, 2009, 11:35
I feel your pain on finding a hobby or a club that would get you involved with locals. I've studied koto and shamisen but that's really more of a teacher-student thing. Really the bulk of my experience was through bars and hosting and making friends that way, and in the end that's not something I really like to recount to friends and family as it gives them the idea that there isn't much to life over there, which is far from the truth.

The reason I had that tone of admonition so to speak is because time and again I have met so many "KY" gaijin who have told me how miserable they are in the country or how amazingly difficult it is to learn the language. Of course, learning any language isn't without its difficulties but when you ask these people about their daily activities they usually tend to consist of a solitary lifestyle in their apartments or hanging out exclusively at gajin bars like The Hub.

When I give advice like that its because I'd like to see them improve their lives in the country and enjoy it! :)

June 26th, 2009, 14:13
http://www.asahi-net.or.jp/~ik2r-myr/kanji/kanji1pa.htm (http://www.asahi-net.or.jp/%7Eik2r-myr/kanji/kanji1pa.htm)

anyone seen that? it's a kanji reading/meaning quiz program. a professor from my university recommended it and I came across it again recently. the interface is really good and the quiz-like format puts it a bit above speed anki for me when I'm having trouble staying motivated.

in terms of really getting kanji down pat, speed anki undoubtedly has the edge, but this is a refreshing alternative.

June 26th, 2009, 17:31
abide gave some great advice for improving your speaking/listening ability. I agree with everything he/she stated.

However, if you want to improve reading/writing this cannot be done at a bar with Japanese friends. What I did was the heisig method (which is free) there are copies of his book online everywhere, then the AJATT.com sentence method. My reading has skyrocketed. Will take JLPT 2 next week and should pass no problem.

The trick is balancing the raw speaking (hanging out with Japanese) and the personal time. I personally can't learn a new vocab word just from hearing it, I have to look at example sentences and throw it in Anki and then memorize it. Then I use it at the bars and such and understand it when heard.

One hard thing is to get speaking experience in situations other than a) Socially drinking b) school. I hang out with Japanese people all the time but we mainly just sit around and drink. I can get into very deep, i would say fluent level conversations in this setting however......... I recently joined a cycling club and it has opened my eyes as to how crappy my Japanese can be in certain every day situations where I havent had to use Japanese before.

The best bet to cure that would prob be to get a Japanese girlfriend/boyfriend.

In short - for speaking follow Abide's advice. For reading - this takes individual study effort every day in my opinion.

June 27th, 2009, 02:29

June 27th, 2009, 03:42
Yes, I agree with Krazie. Learning the Kanji and such really is a matter of diligent study and we all have to develop our own methods to cope with that.

June 27th, 2009, 12:25
Yeah, hanging out with friends is great speaking/listening/overall communicative practice... But if that's all you're doing, you're probably going to be that guy who talks too casually to people you shouldn't and who can't read shit. Basically, someone who can't actually function as a member of Japanese society. You might also develop loads of bad habits that your friends never bother to correct you on.

I'm not saying don't follow that part of Abide's advice. It's fundamental to talk to people. But you learn your native language more than just by talking to people. You should do the same with a second language.

By the way Abide, the rest of us weren't saying "only do this." So please stop making assumptions about our own study methods or levels of Japanese. Anyone who says "only do this" (which was you, wasn't it?) probably hasn't got a well-rounded grasp of the language.

June 27th, 2009, 14:44
Well Sarah, I'm not really sure where you figured I was making assumptions about your Japanese ability. Also, I never said that the rest of you were saying "only do this" nor did I really infer it, unless you'd like to find a quote from my post where I directly make that comparison. As a matter of fact, what I've discerned after a very short stay on these forums is that there are many knowledgeable and skilled Japanese speakers here that have managed to cleave a way into Japanese society through perseverance and hard work and by taking the path most lazy foreigners are too afraid to walk. My friends have always corrected my Japanese for what its worth. You also mentioned that people who speak too casually and "can't read shit" can't function as a member of Japanese society.

I find that interesting for a couple of reasons, primarily that A) In Japan even more so than America who you know can get you a great job. So being able to speak well is going to be better than turning in a piece of paper noting your kanji ability. B) Even office work in Japan isn't that difficult kanji wise as most employers even in larger companies (like Mitsubishi Electric for example) give foreign workers a little leeway/time in learning kanji. Seeing as how a lot of jobs require their new Japanese employees time to study industry and 社内 specific terms, usually no different is expected of the foreign workers. Let's face it, learning kanji is basically a matter of remembering characters that match up with words you should already know if your language ability is up to par. If you've been a competent speaker for years, its extremely easy to memorize kanji attached to words who's meaning you inherently know without much thought. Its much more difficult if you've never encountered the word before and you have to attach an image and meaning to it as you learn it. So in my experience, being a better speaker primes you for even easier kanji study.

Funny, you're in Kobe and I'm not sure I've ever met you as I avoid most foreigners in that town slinking around the Hub in Sannomiya. I do like however that you gave me trouble for making assumptions about your Japanese levels and then you imply in your last sentence that I probably don't have a well-rounded grasp of the language.

I passed JLPT level 1 last year. I've also taken keigo and business manners classes for over a year in Japan through a course designed for... wait for it... Japanese students getting ready for the workplace. So my keigo is even better than the average Japanese youth's (which they can barely speak it at all, so that's not much of an accomplishment.) And in the end you know why I think I've succeeded so well with the language, especially with meeting people for work and communicating with others? Because of that time I spent as a beginner speaking rather than studying kanji. 一期一会 and all that jazz right? I've gotten more work through コネ whom I met through chance encounters at bars and impressed with my speaking ability than through resumes sent in through old fashioned company searches. The ability to show you're similar to them, understand their culture, and that you can carry on a funny conversation and entertain them for but an hour or two in their own language is going to earn their trust and make you seem as a much more interesting addition to their company much faster than a paper showing how much bloody English you've taught at whatever two-bit eikaiwa every degree and non-degree holder gaijin in the country has worked at. A joke over a beer may very well outweigh that slip of paper showing you passed JLPT Level X. I'm talking about my personal experiences here, but I would place speaking far and above any other skill related to Japanese. Again, this is my personal experience, I don't expect you to have the same thoughts as I.

Of the entire spectrum of Japanese learning I would have to say that kanji is the easiest, as its only a matter of rote memorization and muscle memory when you're actually writing it. Having studied Mandarin for the past 4 years didn't hurt either I suppose, though there are discrepancies between Simplified and Traditional script. Not sure if you've passed it yet or what, but if you can pass JLPT 2 then you can definitely pass level 1 as all it is is a glorified kanji test, so in other words, passing 1 isn't exactly an accomplishment.

Now in the digital land of the internet anyone can be a liar and anyone can make up their credentials, so I suppose what I just said you can take with a grain of salt. Upon joining these forums I never intended on mentioning my Japanese ability to the rest of you as I saw it to be irrelevant. Irrelevant, that is, until you just suggested that I didn't have a very firm grasp on the language. Which by the way, is the only reason I have even a slightly aggressive tone in my reply. I don't like speaking like that on forums full of generally well mannered people like these forums, but you naturally assumed I was talking about those on this forum which I wasn't at all and then you had the nerve to suggest my speaking ability wasn't well-rounded. I hope next time you can be more civil instead of insulting. You're a senior member too, you should know better.

June 28th, 2009, 21:56
If you're going to study kanji, study kanji, but do it with passion.

Abide's Handbook for Success (http://www.metacafe.com/watch/268703/impossible_is_nothing/)

There are some other foreigners in Japan who may try to speak to you in English. Cut them out of your life. They are deadweights who will drag you down and sabotage your ambitions. When I came to Japan, I severed contact with my gaijin family and, using my expert conversational skills, acquired a new Japanese family, the Tanakas. But you can't stop there. I also delivered my gaijin cat, Mr. Whiskers, to the pound, and acquired a new Japanese cat, Momo.

July 5th, 2009, 06:14
Abide's Handbook for Success (http://www.metacafe.com/watch/268703/impossible_is_nothing/)

My what a negative nelly. To live in Japan without foreign friends is to deny yourself a certain kind of happiness that only they can provide. I suppose I would have a lot more foreign friends in the country if they weren't of such poor caliber compared to my friends back home. I'm not interested in meeting more ex-pats with 2 college degrees that somehow couldn't find any work in their home country and decided to join "prestigious" JET so they could go chase Japanese tail.

Anyhow...I'm going to go drink more.

July 6th, 2009, 11:03
You're so lucky you get to hang out with quality Japanese people instead of old mean racist farmers.

July 6th, 2009, 12:27
You're so lucky you get to hang out with quality Japanese people instead of old mean racist farmers.

I understand where you're coming from. Meeting someone in Tokyo or Osaka is completely different than out in the boonies. Of course, I think the same could be said for a Japanese living in New York and then trying to make friends somewhere in the Deep South.

As I understand it, a large portion of JETs get placed in the inaka right? That's definitely a setback if you're wanting to form long-lasting friendships with older locals. Not impossible, but still a hurdle.

July 6th, 2009, 12:31
Yeah, the deep south is pretty much devoid of anyone of intelligence, personality, interest, or anything worthwhile, right?

Sorry, abide, but you really come across as annoyingly condescending. I'm sure everyone is aware that they can practice Japanese by being around Japanese people and if they aren't, reading your suggestions probably isn't going to change their mind.

July 6th, 2009, 12:40
Yeah, the deep south is pretty much devoid of anyone of intelligence, personality, interest, or anything worthwhile, right?

Sorry, abide, but you really come across as annoyingly condescending. I'm sure everyone is aware that they can practice Japanese by being around Japanese people and if they aren't, reading your suggestions probably isn't going to change their mind.

Don't you know?

Japanese ability, and being around Japanese people exclusively can make a white man's small dick even bigger!

July 6th, 2009, 12:50
Aww, you're from NC so you took offense did you? My forum tag might say I'm from Illinois, but most of my family is from Texas and I'm in Arkansas as I type this. You just naturally assume that Deep South meets the entire South? You know exactly where I'm talking about when I say that, the same little racist towns where African-Americans are only considered as cheap manual labor and not as everyday citizens. I'm not talking about Little Rock, New Orleans, or any major city and you knew that when you read my post. I was using that as a comparison to some of those places in the Japanese country-side where nary a gaijin is to be found, and when they do show up a lot of the older locals do not respond kindly.

Except in Japan, rather than with racist or crude remarks, they respond with apathy.

Don't say you're "sorry" in the same sentence that you say my posts come across as condescending. If you want I could reply like a lot of these other posters and be a genki-dipshit for your amusement. How would that suit you? Would you like me to reply with a super-positive attitude and a gusto that says, "Gee, everyone on here seems so well informed, I don't even need to add my own two cents!" ? How would you like that?

See, I want you to read this next paragraph very slowly so that it all sinks in (see how condescending that is?)

Text is deceiving. When we read forum posts, based on the mood we're in at the time, the user's name (mine doesn't seem that friendly I suppose), their avatar, and the rest of the thread leading up those posts, we can insert our own idea of what that poster was intending when they typed up their little thoughts. Here's the inherent problem, in our heads we put a little voice with that text, and depending on who's reading it, it can come off sounding like a smartass, or snarky, or just plain angry.

Now I'll be honest, I've been a bit snarky when replying to some people. But when I've been saying things like, "Spend more time with Japanese people" that's not me being condescending. Further, I'm not stating the obvious to be an asshole either. I am stating, or in this case re-stating what others before me have said so that there's more emphasis behind the idea. Maybe a person reading that really thought they needed to spend less time with kanji books and more time making new friends but were on the fence about it, but after reading a couple more posts from the users on ITIL reinforcing those thoughts, finally decided to give it their all.

You're right, my stating something like, "Spend more time Japanese people" probably isn't going to change their minds, but its worth a shot. There are a lot of views and ideas thrown around on this board that probably aren't going to change anyone's mind but to the people posting them, they're important.

I've been driving for 10 hours today, I'm tired, and the last thing I need is you saying you're "sorry" and then calling me an asshole. And now I'm being one because I went to the trouble of posting this, so point proven sir :) Guess you win this round.

Quail Man
July 14th, 2009, 11:18
So.. it seems that I might be off topic by answering the original question, but I highly recommend playing slime forest from Project LRNJ: Learn Japanese RPG (http://lrnj.com/) for studying Japanese writing. It's basically an old school style rpg that introduces the kana and kanji through its flashcard-like battles. It's cute and silly.

July 16th, 2009, 12:59
Making sure that the amount of time spent studying daily equals or exceeds the amount of time spent crafting 1000+ word forum posts can greatly augment one's Japanese ability in a surprisingly short span.

I recommend variety shows. That's what first got me from "unintelligible textbook learner" to "stereotypical foreign comic-relief sidekick" level.