Yesterday I discussed Anki, a really great flash card program that will help you learn faster. Today we will talk about another very important companion to learning Japanese, a dictionary! This dictionary has more than just the ability to look up words, it can give you examples in sentences and help you find kanji as well.
I have used a lot of dictionaries in my Japanese studies over the years. I originally started out with a cheap one that was fine for the beginner’s class I was taking, but lacked too many words once I started reading more difficult materials. When I was a student in Japan I purchased a Denshi Jisho (electronic dictionary) that had the ability to input kanji by hand. It worked great, but unfortunately most such dictionaries are designed for Japanese people and so it didn’t contain readings for the kanji. The Japanese dictionary for the DS had the same problem. “Kotoba” is a great free tool for the iphone, but many times the kanji input won’t bring up the right characters.
So now that I have given you a list of some of the disadvantages, let’s discuss what we really want in a good Japanese dictionary.
- Should be easy and quick to find words
- Ability to easily look up kanji (by either hand input or radicals)
- As cheap as possible (free is always good)
- Ability to see words in context
- Ability to switch back and forth from English to Japanese
- Ability to take it with you (not much help if you can’t use it when you need it)
Denshi Jisho is a dictionary that in addition to being free, also meets all of these other requirements. In fact, I have found it can actually find words that some of my other dictionaries (ones I paid for) could not. Since it is an online dictionary you do need to have internet access to use it, but since everyone seems to have cell phones this shouldn’t be a problem. In fact, Denshi Jisho even has pages designed specifically for keitai and iphone use. In addition there is also a forum you can use to ask various questions.
Take a look at the site and try it out. I think you will find it is a very easy to use Japanese dictionary. You can find the site here:
When it comes to learning Japanese there is a lot to memorize. You need to memorize words, phrases, and three alphabets (hiragana, katakana, and Kanji). Kanji alone has over 2000 characters. So finding the most efficient method to memorize Japanese should be high on our list. That’s where Anki comes in. But before we go into Anki, lets discuss one of the big problems with regular flash cards.
The Problem with Regular Memorization
When I first started learning Japanese many years ago I spent a lot of time reviewing. I had a stack of flash cards and lists of Japanese words and phrases in my notebook. I would continually go over them to make sure that I knew them well. The problem was that I wasted a lot of time because I was spending time reviewing cards I already knew. It was the only sure way to make sure I really knew them. In turn, that wasted time could have been spent studying cards I didn’t know as well to help me learn faster.
Over the years a lot of research has been done on learning and memorization. What they found is that there is a optimum time to review so you remember longer. That optimum time is right before you will forget. The difficulty with regular flash cards or remembering words out of a notebook is that is impossible to know when you will forget a card/word and when you should review it.
Learning Japanese Words Faster by Using an SRS
Luckily, we have computers now. We may not be able to keep track of how well we know an item, but a computer can. A number of SRS (spaced repetition learning system) programs have been created using algorithms that track your progress and show you the cards you need to see. This helps you speed up your memorization by making your study time more efficient. You spend more time learning the facts you don’t know as well. You also see the cards at the most optimum time.
So Why Anki?
The main reason I prefer Anki over some of the other SRS programs is because it was designed from the start to be used for learning Japanese. For instance, if you add a new word in kanji, Anki will automatically fill in the answer section with a hiragana reading. This reduces the time you spend making cards and lets you spend more time learning them.
In addition, Anki gives you a lot of other options. You can:
- Create an online account which allows you to study anywhere ( I use this on my cell phone) and sync your progress with your main computer
- Created multiple decks for different subjects
- Create multiple tags in a deck or add priorities
- Choose the how long each study session is
- Choose how many new cards you see each day
- Add pictures and audio
- Download premade lists (though I generally recommend you create your own)
- Download plugins to add additional features
- Choose to hide cards completely once you have learned them well
- Easily navigate using Anki’s clean, simple interface
So now that you have an idea of what Anki is and what it can do for you. Go and get it! You can find it at the link below:
I hope everyone had a great weekend and got lots of Japanese study in. I had a busy weekend (looking for a new house to rent) and so wasn’t able to post for the last few days. However, starting tomorrow, I will be writing a number of posts on some very helpful Japanese study tools and sties. We also have some new Japanese lists we are creating so stay tuned.
One of the most popular posts on Japanese words has been the common Japanese Words list containing over 1000 Japanese words and kanji. That page has received quite a few comments asking for pronunciations in romaji (English Alphabet). While having romaji may seem to make studying easier when you first start out, learning using the English alphabet will actually hold you back. This article will cover the main reasons why you should start studying and master the Japanese Kana (hiragana and katakana) as soon as possible. As well as listing a few tools to help you learn more quickly.
Thinking in Japanese
If you want to learn Japanese as quickly as possible, then you need to immerse yourself in it. The more you are seeing and thinking in Japanese the faster you will be able to learn. If you are trying to learn using the English alphabet, then your mind is only half thinking in Japanese. You are seeing Japanese words, but your mind is trying to translate them into English. If you read using the kana (and eventually kanji) it is easier for your brain to make the change.
Once you learn to read the kana, you will realize how difficult reading Japanese in romaji really was!
More Japanese Materials
The more Japanese materials you have available to you the better. It doesn’t mean that you will use them all, but you will have a larger selection from which to choose the best ones. Once you learn the kana, you aren’t limited to only Japanese language study materials (textbooks, Japanese language books, etc). You can start trying to read Japanese magazines, mangas, websites, and subtitles on movies. This will also help you start learning the kanji, which are essential for anyone serious about Japanese.
Japanese has far fewer sounds than the English language. Furthermore, each kana can only be read a single way. Not like English where vowels can have different sounds depending on the letters next to them. Once you learn the correct sound for each kana, you will be better at pronouncing Japanese words. Of course you will still need a lot of practice to learn the correct pronunciation, but getting away from romaji (which can have several) is a good move in the right direction.
Travelling/Living in Japan
It’s true that you can find a lot of English signs in the main cities in Japan now days. However, there are many places that have no English signs at all. Having the ability to read at least hiragana and kana will really help you get around. Learning the first 100 or so Kanji will be an even bigger help.
Tools for Learning the Japanese Characters
Remembering the Kana– James Heisig, Author of Remembering the Kanji has created a unique and effective method for remembering Japanese characters. Using creative stories to remember each kana and it’s reading, the book teaches you the hiragana and katakana in about 3 hours each. You can read a full review on the book here: Remembering the Kana.
Read The Kanji– Now that you have finished Remembering the Kana, it’s time to get some practice. Read the Kanji is a great site that allows you to practice using Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji in sentences. It highlights the word and you type the reading. Not only is it great reading practice, it’s also great typing practice. The website keeps track of your progress and makes you review characters and words you know less, more often. I highly recommend this site.
Learn the Kana– This site has all the kana, but more importantly they also have the sounds. Very helpful if you are just getting started.
Rikaichan– Rikaichan is an amazing addon for Firefox that will give you the reading, definition, and a ton of other information of any Japanese word or character you mouse over. You can find a more detailed review on Rikaichan here: Reading Japanese Words Like A Pro With Rikaichan.
Anki– Anki is a spaced program that helps you learn quicker by showing you the right items when you need to see them. A great tool for learning Japanese and completely free.
Smart.FM– A website that uses spaced repitition to help you learn faster. There is a downloadable list for hiragana and katakana with sound.
Here is part 9 of using Japanese Adjectives in Sentences. Hopefully you have learned a lot of new Japanese words, a bit of Japanese grammar, and have a better understanding of how to use different adjectives. You can find all of the previous adjectives posts at the bottom of the list.
Last night, I saw a mysterious dream.
He began to talk with a serious face.
He looks worried about his mother who lives separately from him.
＊Adjective + そう（な）＝looks (adjective)
I was not satisfied with all the easy work at my previous company.
I’m going shopping for the ingredients I need for today’s dinner.
A strange person spoke to me at the (train) station.
I warned the children who were playing in the dangerous place.
I have a honest personality, so I can’t tell a lie.
More Japanese Adjectives Posts