This thread is for anybody who’s interested in learning the Japanese language. Post useful resources on the subject, share hard earned knowledge, ask questions if you’re confused, and learn a language!
Links to guides and generally useful articles and user tips will be collected in this top post.
Systems and Subscriptions
WaniKani is a complete system for learning the kanji (and the small parts that compose them, the radicals). It gives you a series of lessons and reviews. The lessons show you a given kanji or radical, and an explanation of how to remember it. You’ll be quizzed and there will be tests (they call their tests “reviews”). As you progress through WaniKani you can level up (max level: 50). The first level is free. After that there are subscription options with relatively cheap prices. The normal price is apparently $10/mo, but right now it’s $8/mo. You can instead get a year’s subscription, which is the same cost as ten months.
- ky.is/wanikani - Gives you statistics and other information about your current level of understanding, from your WaniKani account. It can even project how long it will take for you to master a given JLPT level.
- Wanikanify (Chrome Extension) - Takes the vocabulary you’ve done so far from WaniKani and injects it into the web, giving you better immersion and reinforcing what you’ve learned. 「Wanikanify takes the vocabulary you’ve studied, finds the english word on a webpage and substitutes the kanji character. As you learn more kanji, your webpages begin to fill up with kanji! Wanikanify can find word anywhere on a webpage and replace it for kanji characters. It is a great utility for practicing and recalling vocabulary you may have forgotten.」
- iknow.jp is, like WaniKani, an implementation of a spaced repetition system (SRS) that teaches you Japanese vocabulary. This system speaks the words to you, gives context to them, allows you to pick how often you want to study individual words, etc. You’ll be quizzed on the words in various ways too. For example, they might speak the word to you and you’ll be asked to select the appropriate kanji representation, or state its meaning. You’ll have to fill in the blanks in sentences (meaning the words are used in context instead of standalone), and many words that you’re learning will even be used together (in my experience). Special thanks to @ghagler for sharing this.
- EtoEto - It’s not ready yet! This is the successor to TextFugu. This focuses on the Japanese language as a whole rather than just the kanji.
- Memrise offers a variety of language learning courses. It’s another flash card type of system. This comes recommended from @Madekuji_san; thanks!
- Japanese with Yuta is an email subscription service that will send vimeo videos which explain various parts of everyday Japanese. Thanks Madekuji_san!
- Itazura Neko - A bunch of guides, games, and general resources for learning Japanese.
- Imabi.net - Thorough guide for the Japanese language, broken into a large series of lessons. It can be really detailed and daunting, but I recommend sticking with it.
- Tae Kim’s Guide to Japanese Grammar - Excellent guide extensively covering grammar, as well as some basics of the writing system. Thank you @Kaze for sharing!
- Ixrec’s Guide to Japanese - Also has a downloadable version. Written by the guy who did the Rewrite translation. (Twitter: @ixrec)
Phrases & Words
- The 100 Most Important Japanese Words You Should Know (Tofugu) ― Useful if you find yourself suddenly headed for Japan… Or if you just want to see which words and corresponding kanji can be considered important.
- Verbs (About.com) ― Tells you a bit about Japanese verbs and how they work, but consists mostly of a list of general verbs and their meanings.
- Maggie Sensei ― Shows you how to use various phrases, gives information about slang and everyday Japanese, etc.
- Japanese language (Wikipedia) ― Useful information covering the Japanese language in broad strokes. Plus some history and statistics, if you’re into that.
- Hiragana (Wikipedia) ― One of the three writing systems used in Japanese. It can loosely be considered the native form of the kana.
- Katakana (Wikipedia) ― One of the three writing systems used in Japanese. This has a 1:1 mapping to hiragana, but with different character shapes. This is commonly used to carry over foreign words to Japanese, however it is not limited to this.
- Kanji (Wikipedia) ― One of the three writing systems used in Japanese. Of the three, this one is the hardest and will take the most time. But don’t let that get you down!
- Japanese Grammar (Wikipedia) ― Massive info dump on Japanese grammar. If you need a reference, this is useful.
- How to Type Japanese ― Tells you how to setup your computer to accept Japanese input. 「このうよな」 Note: Some of the links no longer work, but the information is still usable.
- japanese.stackexchange.com ― Ask questions or go through the questions that have been asked on the Japanese language. Uses the well-known Stack Overflow interface. Description from the site: “Japanese Language Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for students, teachers, and linguists wanting to discuss the finer points of the Japanese language.”
- RealKana ― Learn Hiragana and Katakana! This is an interesting web application. You select one or more rows of whichever hiragana and/or katakana you want to practice at, then you type in the romaji. For example, if you selected the ‘k’ row (か き く け こ) it will select a random kana from that and show it. If you see か then you would type “ka” and press enter. If you were right, it moves onto the next one. Otherwise, it lets you know you were wrong by showing an ‘x’. If you get it wrong twice, it tells you the correct romaji of it. ありがとうございます！ @Karifean
- Hiragana Megane ― Adds hiragana over the tops of kanji in whatever web page you send it to. (This form is called furigana. The layout is known as “ruby text.”) This is certainly helpful when you stumble over some unfamiliar kanji. Big thank you to @IkaCZ!
- Japanese Language Reading Tutor ― Wonderful web application that allows you to enter in Japanese sentences. It will process them, then explain more about the kanji used in the sentence, and the various meanings they can take on. Thanks again, Ika!
- ichi.moe ― Dissects your Japanese sentences and explains each part of it! A very useful utility. Thank you @Takafumi!
- Satori Reader, is a service that curates Japanese works for you to read based on your level of proficiency, allowing you to practice at your level. Note that this isn’t a learning resource per se, it’s more of a way to practice your Japanese.
- JA Sensei Android ― Useful application that shows you various kana and kanji, as well as their stroke orders and basic meanings. Can quiz you on them to help keep you engaged.
- Obenkyo Android (and Windows Phone) ― Helps you learn the kana and kanji. Has a flash card and testing system as well.
Duolingo has a Japanese course for English speakers now. ***** Member @therationalpi has started a group for Kazamatsuri! Code:
- Genki ― Series of textbooks for learning Japanese.
Minna no Nihongo: Beginner 1, 2nd Edition ― Treats you like an adult, teaching things more relevant than types of horses. As Pepe says, “it views things from a Japanese perspective.” This is the primary workbook, written entirely in Japanese. It contains sample text and practice exercises. Comes in a variety of editions and languages, with multiple books in the series. ありがとう、@Pepe!
- Minna no Nihongo (Second Edition) (Amazon) ― Quoting Pepe again here: “Translation and grammar notes in English, which accompanies the examples in the workbook. This book is available in many other languages, and I would recommend you using the version of your mother tongue, if available.”
- Minna no Nihongo (Amazon) ― Original link that I had posted. This one is a bit older.
- All About Particles: A Handbook of Japanese Function Words (Amazon) ― Gives detailed descriptions and explanations on particles, sorted by frequency of use. It’s small and light; useful for travel.
- Remembering the Kanji (RtK) (Amazon) ― Useful series of books on how to remember the kanji. Focuses on teaching you how to write them rather than how to read them in the first volume. However, you can probably pick up the skill of recognizing and differentiating between quite a few kanji in a short period of time. Might be worth checking out.
- Kodansha Kanji Learner’s Dictionary (Amazon) ― Useful and comprehensive dictionary with easy-to-use skip system for finding difficult kanji. Definitely worth having one of these around if you can’t do an online search (or you’re allergic to web dictionaries).
Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) Resources
- JLPT Resources ― A comprehensive collection of resources if you’ll be taking the JLPT. Seemingly covers everything! Thank you for this @ChickenWingz!
- Official JLPT Website ― Quoting ChickenWingz: “you can find the nearest test date, and where/how to take the test in your home country.”
“Is it okay to keep watching anime, reading manga, and playing VNs while I learn?”
There are multiple places that tell you not to learn from them. I’m no expert but that seems accurate. If they are your source of motivation, then continue watching/reading/playing them. However, if you insist on learning through them then it’s a good idea to nab some Japanese subtitles and use those instead of the English subtitles, then work through what they’re saying. Keep context in mind and don’t mimic characters… nobody should need to tell you not to pretend to be Kirito, so don’t learn to talk like him either. Learn how to use the language like a person who speaks it, not a character.
“Machine translations are fine, aren’t they?”
No. They do not take into account idioms or cultural differences. Nor will they (completely and accurately) consider the various meanings of words. For example, the English word “right” could indicate a direction (“to the right of you”) or correctness (“that’s right”). At most they can be used as a loose guide for verifying whether you are at least on par with Google Translate.
“Do I really need to learn stroke order?”
My personal opinion is that learning at least the general/common method for writing will be helpful. I’ve had a better experience learning the kana and kanji by writing them out on paper. However, if your intention is just to be able to read and type Japanese then it’s not all that important. See @Shadowhammers’ two cents on the topic - link. Keep in mind, as @Pepe and @Hirato point out, that you’ll need to know this if you’re taking the JLPT. Some people have expressed to me that they were able to better remember the kanji they’ve encountered by learning to write them as well.
“How much effort should I put into learning Japanese?”
Tofugu had a few articles on this. (Sorry, will find them later unless someone else nabs 'em first.) Two important factors are the efficiency of your effort, and your time spent. Some things to help improve your efficiency: Give yourself more immersion into the culture and the language; Focus on what you’re doing for a decent block of time and minimize distractions; Review basics if there are too many stumbling blocks, but don’t just fallback immediately after getting something wrong. Maybe dedicate one or two hours, solid, each day to learning the language. (Reduce if you’re burning out.) Then give yourself small exercises throughout the day. This can be as simple as more actively listening to a Japanese song you like and trying to figure out the meanings of sentences or even just see if you can recognize certain words.
(General consensus is that you should use whatever resources you have available. It seems to be the case that Rosetta Stone is not commonly recommended by YouTubers, but that’s often in comparison to something else.)
This post will forever be a work-in-progress. Please report any inaccuracies, and contribute where you can. I intend to expand this topic immensely, however it will be done bits and pieces at a time.