Friday, 4 April 2014

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How/Where I learn Japanese

Hello you, I hope you're good!

So today I'm going to answer a question I literally get asked multiple times a day. I have answered a lot of them, but I thought it would be useful to have one place you can refer to, so I can hopefully answer your questions on how I self study!

To be honest, not really sure why I get this question so much, I did a couple of bad videos and lives in Japanese and my Japanese is still not that much better, so I don't even know if this will be truly useful...I think some of it should be! And also, if any of you guys have any other tips, fire them at me, because not only does it help me, it could help other people reading too! If I find some other things that I find really useful that I don't mention here when I first publish it, I'll add it on to this post later.

I also did a video on this subject here


I more or less use books as the basis and foundation of my studying. It's where I learn the basics such as grammar, vocabulary, how Japanese works ect. 

When I was a complete beginner, I decided to look on Amazon for some books, and came across these ones. They had some excellent reviews, so I decided to give them a try.
I really love these books!
For me, they're very easy to read, the explanations are very clear and the way it's laid out and sectioned makes me learn things quite quickly. I practically whizzed through the first one! 
On the back it says there's 5 books, so it goes from beginner up to probably advanced intermediate level.

They also have a learning website (it's free I believe, I tried it out a while ago), it has some great lessons and forums on it. I think it also gives you other places you can buy the books.

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I've also heard that the Genki  books are really good and have been recommended a lot. I've had a chance to flick through one, and I do really want to give it a try!
The only reason I don't have it is because it's around £50, although I think the price would be worth it, since it's a very thick book, it's very good quality teaching and you get an audio cd with it too.
It's also available on Amazon too, and you might even be able to find it on Ebay.

If you live in the U.K, and/or near London, there's an amazing place in Piccadilly Circus called The Japan Centre, which is where I got these three books from.

(it gives you directions to the shop and it also sells some of the products they sell in store too)

It sells a ton of Japanese Learning books in the store, I could live in there! It sells the Genki books in there too.
If you're in London and interested in Japanese culture, you should give it a visit, it also sells Japanese food and many other things!

Anyway, the books I got were:

Basic Japanese Grammar
Just another little book that helps me refresh my memory with grammar, not for new beginners, but good if you're just grasping the basics of grammar.

Beyond Polite Japanese
This book is such a fun read! It teaches you casual Japanese and slang that you wouldn't find in most textbooks.
You can get it on Amazon too

Basic Connections
This is a grammar book too, and it teaches you how to make your Japanese flow more and how to connect things. I haven't had much chance to read this yet, but from what I have done, it seems useful! Again, not really for first time beginners, but good if you've got the basics down.
Again, it's available on Amazon too.

They also sell Japanese magazines in the Japan Centre!
It makes me really determined to be able to read it all one day! If I see a word I can read but I don't know what it means, I'll look it up and learn what it is. It's a really fun way to learn, because I love Japanese fashion. They also sell other genres of magazines. 
You can get many magazines like Kera and Zipper on Ebay as well (they do mark the price up though, but look how pretty they are!)

And of course English-Japanese dictionaries are always really useful when you want to know what a word means! They all more or less do the same job, just make sure you get a pretty recent one. 


After seeing someone mention this on a video and another person on another blog post, I decided to give it a go a few days a go. It's a really useful flashcard program that you can download for free on your computer (you have to pay to put it on your phone). 
You can create a deck and then on the front of a card you can put the Japanese word, then on the back, you can put the English. Once you flip it around, there are three buttons, Again, Good and Easy. You press the one that applies to you and it will keep going around and repeating the ones you are struggling with until you get them. 
So if you're browsing the internet or reading something and find a word you want to learn, you can put it in a deck, and get learning! 
It's a really simple but useful way to learn vocabulary or the kanas (The Japanese alphabets)
(If you're a beginner, Japanese is made up of Hiragana, letters for most Japanese words, Katakana, letters for most foreign words and Kanji, the devil alphabet!) 

Since I'm still quite a beginner, I only started learning Kanji properly about a month ago.
(Kanji is the Chinese symbols the Japanese adapted, and you really need to know them to survive over there)

I found these Danny Choo Moe Kanji cards at a convention, and I've found them really useful!
I travel a lot, so I will just sit and keep looking at them. The cute pictures help me memorize a lot. 
He explains how to use them and where you can get them from here
He's also done a set for Hiragana here!

In fact his whole website is a pretty good read, he has tips on learning Japanese, cultural posts and a lot of Akiba(anime/manga/game) related things too.

Of course, you could always make your own flashcards and customize them yourself!


The internet is a huge recourse for learning Japanese! Even a quick google will bring up some great Japanese learning websites.

I find twitter a really fun and useful way to try and learn my casual Japanese. I just tweet simple things about what I did that day or something on my mind. If I don't know how to say it, I'll research it, so I end up learning how to say new things! Also, if you get it wrong, Japanese people, and even English speaking people who are more advanced will kindly help you! I noticed when I started tweeting in Japanese, I would get a couple of Japanese followers, so they may find you through that, but of course, you could also follow Japanese people, which would help with your reading too! It's a nice way to make online friends.


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This is a Japanese blogging website, much like blogger. You can make blog posts in Japanese and much like twitter, if I don't know how to say it, I'll research it and learn it! It also has really cute emoticons you can put on your blog and you can make your blog look really cute(if you want to!)
The whole website is in Japanese, but if you have google chrome, it will automatically translate it for you, so you can figure out how to use it!
What I found though is when I turned that off and explored the website, I started to learn what certain things meant because I had to learn by just guessing and clicking around.
You can also follow other people you like ( a lot of Japanese models, Idols and Musicians have Ameblo), so it helps with your reading.
(I have one, but I'm not going to link it yet because I need to update it!)


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This a Japanese video hosting website, a little like youtube. You have to make an account to be able to watch, make videos and upload, but to do that is free. (You have a limited amount of uploads on a free account though).
Again, the whole website is in Japanese, so it would be useful to use Chrome with it. It can be quite hard to use if you're new to it, but if you give a quick google there are a few english websites that give in detail posts on how to use it.
Also on NicoDouga you can do live broadcasts! You have to have a premium account to do it (it's around £5.00 a month and you can pay with paypal) and again, there are lots of tutorials on google on how to pay for it and how to use the live broadcasts.
It's a really useful way to get yourself speaking Japanese, and it's also really fun because you get instant feed back from native Japanese people, as their comments go across your screen. If you explain you are a foreigner and you are learning Japanese, they will be kind to you and help you out! You can so this by putting it in your description and putting things in your tag like foreigner (gaijin 外人) ect. You could also, just simply say it as well!
The broadcasts last thirty minutes, but I do believe you can do as many as you want! If you're just starting, you could just do a broadcast introducing yourself, speaking about your day and what you do and things. And then you can answer any questions people ask if you can too. (Google translate can help sometimes, but it's not always accurate!) If you get something wrong or don't understand anything like kanji, just say, and they will help you! If you can do art, sing, dance or have any other talents, you could always do that on your broadcasts too.


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This website has been so sooo helpful for me!
It's free to use, although you can pay for premium features.
It offers tons of podcasts and lessons even on the free option. The podcasts are very easy to listen to, and taught me so much, especially when I was starting off. They also give you cultural facts and give you casual Japanese and polite Japanese.
Also, when you sign up free, everyday they'll send you an email with a vocabulary word. They ask you to guess what it is, and then you can click on the link to see if you're right! They'll give you the word in kanji, hiragana and romaji(english letters). They'll also give you a sound bite of a native Japanese person saying it, and some example sentences you can use the word in.
It's so handy because you learn a new word everyday! You could also cooperate this with Anki, and make a deck of the weeks vocabulary you've been sent and learn them with the flashcards.
When you sign up, they will try and get you to pay, but you don't have to!
It's worth sitting through the video and filling out the form, you get so much, and this has been my number one way of learning online!

Other Websites
Lang-8 - You can post blog posts in Japanese and native people will help you and correct you, and then you can return the favour by helping out on English blog posts.

Japanese TV

Now, I have no idea if this is actually legal, so if it goes down, you know why. I stumbled across it when researching Japanese TV shows.
It's a website that broadcasts some live Japanese TV stations (you click on the TV station thumbnail... it may take a while to load). It sometimes doesn't work though, if you get a flying super hero, it's not working at that moment in time and you have to try again in a few minutes/hours. However, when it does work, the quality is great!
I've been using this in the background when I've been on my computer for a few weeks now, and it's really useful to be able to listen to Japanese people speak naturally and how they speak to each other. It's really helped with my pronunciation too! It's really cool because you can pick up a lot of cultural aspects, and the adverts are so entertaining! 
There's also uploads of Japanese TV shows on youtube and dailymotion.

Japanese Music

I listen to tons of Jpop (Japanese Pop) and it's a really fun way to learn vocabulary and pronunciation! I just pick a song I like, learn the words, and research what it means! I love the music and the artists too, so that's a bonus.

Some things I like listening to:
-Kyary Pamyu Pamyu
-All Hello Project Idol Groups
-Any anime soundtracks
-Vocaloid songs

I haven't got my ipod handy at the moment, so I'll update this more when I have it!
If you have any Jpop suggestions, feel free to comment them!


There are so many useful learn Japanese apps on android and itunes that you can get for free!
The great thing about them being free is that you can search and download them and see if they are any good, and if they fit you're learning style without having to pay a thing.
I got my phone stolen, so I lost all of my apps, so I can't remember all the ones I had!

Human Japanese
 But I remember I used this one called Human Japanese when I was a complete beginner. It's a really nice app that teaches you the basics and some cultural background aspects too. It's free for the first few chapters, and you can pay to get more, but you do learn a bit with the free option!

Mirai Japanese
I love this app, I think I've learnt the most from this one! It covers all the basics and then starts to teach you grammar and even more things, and it even has quizzes to help you!The layout is really nice, and it uses images a lot to help you learn. It's a really well designed app. It's completely free and it has a penguin as it's mascot, so I was won over.

Gaijin(Foreigner) Youtubers

I love watching gaijin youtubers because they live in Japan, so they can give you videos about their first hand experiences in Japan. A lot of them vlog in Japanese and English, so you can learn a lot from them. It's really good to find out about cultural things and mini language tips! Plus they're all entertaining to watch!
I am subscribed to so many, my brain is like a sieve, but these are the ones that popped up on my youtube feed recently:
(turn on captions to see translations)

I follow tons more, so when I find them, I'll update this!

Phew! I think that's everything I've got so far! Again, if I find anything else useful, I'll update this post.

You can do it!

The thing with self studying is that you are you're sole motivator, so you really have to want to learn Japanese! I would suggest doing at least something Japanese everyday, whether it's learning a word, watching a TV show, reading a book chapter, going through flashcards...well any of these things I listed on this post.
Everyone has to start from somewhere, even the most fluent foreigners started off not knowing what katakana was or what desu meant! Small steps everyday will gradually turn into a huge snowball and before you know it, you'll hear something and you'll have that lightbulb moment of, "I understood that!"
Just think, even within a few days you could be reading or saying things that non Japanese people have no idea of! You know more Japanese than you did the day before!

Of course, if you have the funds and availability to have classes, it's a great way for someone to motivate you and to be able to explain things to you one on one. Plus, you can have back and forth conversations with someone in Japanese which is really useful, So if you can, I would suggest trying it out.
But, don't worry if you can't! A lot of people I know, and including a lot of those youtubers never had lessons, they self studied, and learnt from experiences! It's very inspiring, so if other people can do it, so can you! And me too! I need a good kick up the butt sometimes to keep myself positive! Usually watching youtubers and TV shows motivates me to learn more.

So, I hope this helps you and answers some of your questions!
If you have any ways of learning Japanese that I didn't mention, feel free to comment below~

Thank you for reading!

Kelsey <3

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