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tools to learn Japanese

Learning a new language takes time, hard work, and dedication. However, using the right study methods along with the right tools can help you learn a language much quicker while at the same time making it funner as well. Over the years I have tried a number of different methods to learn new Japanese words. Below are the ones I have found to be the most efficient and also the most enjoyable.

1. The Apple Itouch/Iphone– we all no about the various uses of the itouch. However, the thing that I use it for the most is to study Japanese words and kanij. There are a number of Japanese programs to choose from and most of them are under a few dollars. I have listed my 4 favorites below.

1. Kanji Flip

A very simple flash card program containing all of the JLPT Kanji along with sample vocab words. The program tracks how well you remember each kanji and shows it more or less frequently accordingly. An absolute must for someone studying for the JLPT. Disadvantage is that the words are not put into categories and you can not opt out of kanji once you have learned them well. $5.99. There is also a version called “Kana Flip for those learning hiragana and katakana. $2.99

  1. Japanese Flip– Basically the same program as Kanji Flip but using words from the JLPT test. Uses the same interface as Kanji flip and the same algorithm to help you remember words.  $6.99
  2. Kotoba– A Free dictionary put out by the same maker of Kanji Flip and Japanese flip using. The uses an open source dictionary and also has the ability to search by hand input (drawing kanji). This is a very important feature since searching for meanings of difficult kanji can be very time consuming. Free
  3. Kanji– A very similar program to Kanji flip with a clean interface. It is a simple flash card program and lacks the progressive learning feature that Kanji Flip uses. Good program for $0.99.

2. Mnemosyne

Studies have shown that the best time to review material is right before you forget it. Mnemosyne is a free flash card program for your computer that allows you to choose how well you remembered the word you were shown. Depending on your choices, Mnemosyne will show that word more or less often. There are set decks of cards available for free download and you can also put in your own words. I use this with The above itouch programs to help me learn Japanese words faster.

3. Rikaichan

Rikaichan is a FireFox add-on that allows you to mouse over Japanese words and see the meaning and readings. It is a great tool for learning Japanese words (and kanji) and can help even a beginner to navigate Japanese pages. This program is a must for anyone learning Japanese.

4. Mini-notepad

Now I know that this one may not seem nearly as high tech or cool as the previous three, but a mini-notepad and can be one of the best tools for learning new Japanese words and kanji (especially for those who are living in Japan). The key is to carry the notepad and a writing utensil with you at all times and write down the the words and kanji you don’t understand. If you write down only a few words a day then you will be learning 14-21 extra words a week. If you are not living in Japan, then you can write down words in your native language you don’t know how to say in Japanese to research later. As an extra even more effective step, you can transfer these words into Mnemosyne to help you remember them.

5. Skype

Skype is a voip and instant chat program that allows you to have chats, make phone calls, and even video conferences with people anywhere in the world for free as long as they have skype. This means that you can make friends with people in Japan and practice your Japanese no matter where you are. The program is easy to set up and use and you can start making friends immediately. For those in Japan, you can also use it to call home.