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Learning 2042 Kanji in just 58 Days

Is it possible? Many of you are probably thinking no! However, there are others who have done it. I won’t be the first. I should point out that I wouldn’t recommend this method for everyone. I have a lot of experience with kanji, I studied Japanese in the US, attended Waseda University in Tokyo, and currently live in Japan. Unfortunately, I haven’t taken the time to learn all 2042 kanji and make sure that I can recall and write them whenever I want.

I’ve decided that NOW is that time!

I calculated that to reach my goal of 2042 kanji in 58 57 days that I need to study at least 36 kanji per day. I actually started yesterday, and studied 52 yesterday and 52 today. So two days and I am now at 104 Kanji. For the first couple hundred I will probable keep this pace to give myself a little leeway at the end.

So what better time than to learn the kanji than to study along with me!

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Remembering the Kanji 1: I did a full review on this book and was really impressed with the method it uses to teach kanji. You can get it here. (Purchasing using this link helps support this site.
  • Anki: We will be using this to review the kanji and make sure we are remembering them correctly. The full set of RTK cards can be downloaded from their site.
  • Reviewing the Kanji: I recommend an account here so that you can check out different stories for help (This will make more sense to you once you start). The downloadable card set in Anki already contains the links.
  • Kanji Poster: Recommended if you want to see the kanji all in one place. Cool to have, but not really necessary to reach our goal. (Link also helps support this site).
How to Study Kanji for this project
  1. Choose your finish date, and then divide the number of kanji by the number of days you have left. In my case 2042 kanji/58 days=36 kanji per day.
  2. Study the Kanji using the Remembering the Kanji book.
  3. Review the kanji you have learned in Anki. I usually wait at least a couple of hours before reviewing.
  4. Mark off or highlight kanji you know on the kanji poster (not necessary, but will help give me a visual of my progress)
  5. Rinse and repeat, until you have conquered all the kanji.
  6. Make sure you continue to study Anki and also use your learned kanji to read Japanese.
So, in order to stay motivated, lets do it together! I will be posting about my progress, and please feel free to leave comments or questions about yours.

頑張りましょう!

 

 

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Reading Japanese Words Like a Pro with Rikaichan

Rikaichan screenshhot

In the last post: Using Firefox To Boost Your Japanese Learning Online, I talked about why you should use Firefox as the browser of choice for learning Japanese on the web. If you haven’t read that article yet, please do so and get Firefox installed before moving on. Today, I will be showing you a truly amazing add on for Firefox that will allow you to read Japanese, even if you can’t read Japanese. The add on is called Rikaichan, and  it really is an excellent Japanese learning tool.

There are two ways to install Rikaichan (you can find the other method here). The easiest is to go to the Rikaichan website and click on the files.. Firefox will automatically recognize and install them.

  1. You can find the Rikaichan website here: http://rikaichan.mozdev.org/.
  2. Under the Download/Install section, click on Rickaichan.
  3. A popup will appear at the top of the screen asking if it is okay to allow this site to install the software. Click “Allow” and then click install.
  4. Then do the same thing for the words dictionary that matches your language. If you are reading this then it will probably be English-Japanese. You can also add a names dictionary (though it isn’t necessary) to get readings of Japanese names.
  5. Once you ave finished installing, restart Firefox.

Now, to make Rikaichan easy to toggle on and off, you probably want to add it to the toolbar . Don’t worry, this is very easy to do.

Right click on your tool bar (if you are having trouble finding the correct place to click, simply click on one of the icons you would like to put it next to, ie: the home button) and choose customize. Now all you need to do is drag the little red happy face on to the bar where you want to add it. You can also add the “lookup bar” which will allow you to open a Japanese dictionary in your browser. Now you are all set and ready to read Japanese. You can also edit Rikaichan’s settings by going to Tools>Add-ons>Extensions> Clicking on RIkaichan and choosing preferences.

So navigate to your favorite Japanese page. If you don’t have one yet, then check out Asahi news to find a whole list of topics. Once the page has loaded, click on the little red smiley face icon you added to your toolbar. A little star should appear on the icon. Now put your pointer at the beginning of any word/ character and you will get a reading, definition, and a whole ton of other info! To turn it off, just click on the icon again.

Used diligently, this add-on has the potential to dramatically increase your reading ability and character recognition. While at the same time allowing you to navigate Japanese websites and articles. It can even be used to read e-mail. If you use webmail then it works like you are reading any other webpage. You can also add it to the Mozilla Thunderbird mail client the same way you did to Firefox.

I hope you enjoy this add-on and use it as often as possible. Let me know if this is helpful or if you have any problems with installation.

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Is It Hard To Learn Japanese?

balance

It depends. Probably not the answer that you were hoping for, but bare with me for a second. It depends on whether you want to learn to speak Japanese or if you also want to learn to read and write. If you want to speak Japanese (which is the case for most people) then it is actually much easier than most people think.

The reason for this is that there are fewer possible sounds and more “solid” rules than English. Japan has a total of 5 vowels and 13 consonants, compared to English’s 12 vowels and 24 consonants. It’s true that some of the Japanese sounds are not in the English language and and can be difficult for native English speakers to pronounce. Compared to English however, pronunciations of consonants in Japanese don’t change. So while some of the sounds in the Japanese language might be difficult to pronounce, they never change.

Compared to English where there are many exceptions to grammatical rules,  Japanese grammar has very few exceptions. Verb conjugations are also very structured with few exceptions. So basically, Japanese is pretty straight forward once you learn the rules.

The one place where Japanese is more difficult than English is in the number of words used. According to a recent article in the Japan Times Online, it takes about 10,000 Japanese words to comprise 90% of all sentences in modern Japanese magazines. This is quite a bit higher compared to English which requires about 3,000 words.

But don’t panic quite yet, these statistics are a little bit misleading. First, many of the the words in modern day Japanese magazines are actually foreign words, with the biggest chunk of those coming from the English language. So with out learning any words at all you already have a decent Japanese vocabulary. Second, there are far fewer words used in common everyday speech. So if your goal is to to speak Japanese fluently, you are looking at a much smaller list of words.

If you want to read and write Japanese then the slope is a little steeper. Japanese has three distinct alphabets with the largest containing over 2,000 complex characters used in common writing. There are also various readings of the character depending on whether the word origin is Japanese or Chinese.

By now you are probably thinking that you will stick with speaking. And I will openly admit that learning to read and write Japanese does take quite a bit of time and some hard work. On the plus side, the Japanese writing system is also very structured. While some of the characters can be complex, they are also very logical.

For those who are interested in working or living in Japan, the ability to read and write in Japanese is crucial. There are a fair number of bilingual foreigners in Japan that speak Japanese. There are far fewer who can also read and write. Adding this additional skill opens up far more opportunities in Japan.

There are also far better study tools then there were a few years ago. Having spent countless hours writing characters over and over again, I can definitely say there are also far more effective methods.

Over the next few weeks I will be sharing some of these methods and discussing what I think are some great materials for learning to read and write Japanese. Japanese Words Newsletter subscribers will also receive an exclusive deal on some great products designed specifically to teach you to read Japanese. If you aren’t already a Japanese Words Newsletter subscriber, you can sign up for free here. As a member you also gain access to the members page containing additional Japanese resources and links.

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To Learn or Not to Learn Kanji?

kanji

Without a doubt the most difficult part of learning Japanese is learning kanji. There are over 2000 kanji in the Japanese language and many of them are complex and look very similar to one another. Adding to the difficulty is the fact that each kanji can be read differently depending on the way it is used in a sentence. Because of this, learning to read and write kanji will take much more time to master than the rest of the language. So the question is should you spend the time to learn it or not?

I think this the answer really depends on your reasons for learning Japanese and how much time you plan to devote to it. If you are learning Japanese to live or work  there for a short time or plan to travel there for vacation, then you probably don’t need to learn more than a few very basic kanji. It’s not that learning the kanji won’t help you, but the time you will need to spend learning them won’t be worth the value you will get if you are only visiting Japan for a short time.

For those who who plan to master the Japanese language, live in Japan for more than a year, and especially for those who plan to seek work in Japan, then learning kanji is very important. It is also pretty much required for the majority of jobs in Japan. Since most writing is now done in electronic form (computers) you don’t necessarily need to be able to write them, but you do need to be able to read them. Most documents and government forms are written using kanji. If you can’t read them then you will have to depend on someone else to translate it for you. Not too mention if you can’t read kanji you will have to sign contracts for things like apartments and cell phones without knowing what they really say.

Once we learn to read and write we take these abilities as granted, but they are very important to live and function in society. Having lived in Japan now for a while I see just how important reading is. I also wish I would have spent more time studying kanji when I was I college. So if you are planning to learn kanji I recommend that you start as soon as possible and continue to study at a steady pace. It will take some time, but the benefits are well worth it. The positive side of learning kanji is that it is easier to remember Japanese words once you learn the corresponding kanji.

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