Have you ever wanted to learn Japanese, but you never had a clue on where to begin? "Learning Japanese" will be another series of blog entries where I post about various methods and tools that I use to learn Japanese myself. I will include recommendations for books, software, websites and such on a weekly basis, which will be going on for about as long as you guys find the posts interesting and useful.
So today I will write about the tools that I use to learn. These are: Books, audio CDs, videos, computer software, and flash cards. I will list a few recommendations for these (mainly books and computer software), with links to where you can get them (these are links to Amazon. I noticed that with Rosetta Stone, for example, the Level 1 box is approx $50 USD cheaper on Amazon than on their own website). So, let's get started with the first part of this blog entry; software.
Now, there is only one piece of software that I use somewhat regularly, and that is Rosetta Stone.
Rosetta Stone is a language learning program where you learn a language from the ground up. It teaches you by associating words with images, teaches you how to pronounce each word, and let's you listen to sentences (which is similar to how a child learns their first language). Sometimes I can feel that the software is somewhat tedious, since you will repeat some of the words over and over again as you go through each lesson. However, it will stick, which is the important thing. Regardless of how boring it may get, or how annoying it may seem, it helps. It helps a lot. So to me, that makes up for it by more than enough.
I'd say the only real downside with Rosetta Stone is the price which can seem pretty steep to most. There are three levels total, and level 1 alone costs $143 USD (on Amazon), where as the boxed set with levels 1-3 costs $319 USD (also on Amazon). So students might find it hard to justify the price when they could just get books and study from there. The clear advantages for Rosetta Stone in this battle would be that it gets you used to listening to the language you are learning, as well as teaches you how to pronounce the words.
But for those of you who don't feel like putting out $300 USD for a piece of software in ADDITION to books (yes, that is recommended), there are also...
This section will probably be the longest section of this whole blog post. The main reason for this is that I use multiple books for learning Japanese, and most of them I would recommend to friends and family. As we've got quite a few to cover, let's get started shall we?
I recently went to a Japanese class in Uppsala, Sweden, which is where I was introduced to this book. It kind of reminded me of "Japanese For Busy People" (we'll get to that book in a minute), but it "eased" into the whole learning experience, where as "Japanese for Busy People" is more tailored towards people who are, as the title states, busy. If you have the time, and you only want to get one of them, I'd recommend Genki. This is my main tool for learning Japanese and is a great book if you are just starting out. Do note however that they are designed for classrooms, so you can not do all of the exercises by yourself. However, newer versions of the book ( that don't look like the picture above), have an audio CD that comes with it so that you can at least do the listening exercises on your own.
The second book I will put up here is "Japanese for Busy People" that I mentioned in the previous paragraph.
Unlike "Genki", "Japanese for Busy People" is for those people need to become as proficient as possible in as little time as possible. So instead of teaching something in-depth like "Genki", it gives you an overview of it and then spends more time on teaching you useful phrases so that you can start using it earlier, even though your Japanese will be a little shaky. I have not completed this book yet, so I will wait with a full review, but what I wrote above is based on my use of the earlier revisions of the book, as well as the first few chapters in this revision.
So "Genki" and "Japanese for Busy People" are my main language learning books. Other books that I have gotten, but haven't really used yet are "Let's Learn Kanji" and "The Learner's Japnese Kanji Dictionary". The first one is for learning to read the kanji from scratch, and how to figure out the approximate meaning of a kanji through the radicals used, even if you've never seen that exact kanji before. The latter is a regular dictionary, where you can find a specific kanji by looking up one of the kanji's radicals. These books are mainly for those who don't just want to speak and understand verbal Japanese, but also want to be able to write it and read Japanese books. So if you feel like you want to dive deeper into your language learning, then these books are for you and will help you along your way.
This is it for the regular tools that I use that are purchased in stores. Other ways I learn are through watching Japanese dramas, anime, reading Japanese manga (and looking up words or kanji I don't understand), and making my own "flash cards" (writing the English translation on one side, and the Japanese word on the other on index cards). Another resource which I haven't had time to try yet, are the "Moekana" by Danny Choo. The cards come with a few variations of games to make learning fun! Now, as I said, I haven't had time to try them yet, but I have heard a lot of good things about them and that people have really fun picking up some new words with them.
This is it for this time! I hope you enjoyed it, and please leave any comments and critique in the comments section below. Until next time!