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Taking advantage of Japanese Study Tools

It has been a while since I have had a chance to write on Japanese Words, but I hope that everyone’s studying is going well. Today I want to talk about something that I see as a big problem when it comes to learning Japanese. Something that has more to do with the learner and less to do with the materials. What I am talking about is not taking advantage of various helpful tools.

It’s true that not all tools are very helpful, and they certainly aren’t all equal. However, there are also tools that can help accelerate your learning. For example, Anki has the ability to help you learn more material, quicker, and better than using regular flash cards. And yet I find there are a lot of people who aren’t willing to give it a try or put in the time to set it up.

Let’s face it, there are no short cuts to learning Japanese. You need to put in the time and practice. But there are tools that can make that time more efficient. This doesn’t mean that you need to try out every single learning tool. But it will probably be worth your time to try out the ones that a lot of people (especially the one’s who can speak) use.


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I have mentioned several times that studying Japanese should be fun. If it’s not fun then it is going to be much harder and take you longer to learn. An ideal method would be one that makes you feel like you aren’t studying at all. Over the last few weeks I have been playing with a Japanese learning tool called NihongoUP. And I say “playing” in the literal form, because NihongoUp turns Japanese study into an addictive game.

NihongoUp is made up of 4 different games (kana, kanji, words, and grammar). In the kana game, little balloons with kana fall from the top of the screen and you have to type them before they hit the bottom of the screen. With the other three games you are given a sentence and must click the falling balloon containing the correct answer before it hits the bottom of the screen. The balloons fall faster and faster with each correct answer and slow down again after you miss one. The advantage to this method is that you will constantly be challenged to read and answer quicker each time.

The game is designed in Adobe air which means it can be played on on any Operating System. The game itself is beautifully designed and runs fast. I didn’t care much for the music, but luckily there is an option to turn it off. Rather than music, I would prefer readings of the sentences or characters. I think that would be much more helpful.

NihongoUp isn’t a full Japanese language suite and the author of the program is the first to mention this. For instance, the kana feature doesn’t tell you how to type the characters you get wrong. Kanji and words that you missed are only shown briefly. And by that time you are already working on the next word or character. Adding a review or a report showing the correct answers would be a very helpful addition.

Having said that, what it is designed to do, and what I think it accomplishes very well, is to help you study material you already know in a fun way. It gets you to focus on getting the next high score and in doing so makes you forget you are studying. Though you will definitely learn some new words and kanji along the way.

The program costs a total of $4.99. I think this is pretty cheap for the amount of study you will get out of it. There is also a trial version available.

You can find NihongoUp at the link below:


Reviewing the Kanji

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reviewing the kanji

Yesterday, we covered what I consider to be an essential set of books for learning the Japanese kana and kanji. By themselves, Remembering the Kana and Remembering the Kanji are great tools for learning Japanese. So great in fact,  someone has created an entire website to help you use them more efficiently. Besides being a website, Reviewing the Kanji is an SRS (spaced repetition system) that contains all the the kanji in the Remembering the Kanji series.

It keeps track of what you need to study, when you need to study it, and also keeps track of all your progress with various charts and reports. One of the best parts about the site is the social aspect. You can write your story for each kanji and also see what other people are using for theirs (this will make more sense once you get the books).

As far as I know, there is currently no way to sync Remember the kanji and Anki, so you will have to choose which one you want to use from the beginning. Though there does seem to be a plugin for Anki to import “Reviewing the Kanji” progress. Both have pre-made decks containing all the kanji, and in fact the deck for Anki even contains links to the Reviewing the Kanji page. I recommend you try them both out and see which one you like the best. You can find a link to Reviewing the Kanji below:

Reviewing the Kanji

Learn Japanese with Firefox and Rikaichan

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In the last couple of days we have covered Anki, an easy to use flash card program that will help you learn Japanese words and kanji quicker. We also discussed Denshi Jisho, a great Japanese dictionary. Today we will discuss two tools for reading and learning Japanese online (let’s face it, we spend a lot of time on here). Firefox is a browser and RIkaichan is an add on that will give you the meaning and reading for any word you mouse over. Rather than write a long post, I have listed links to two other posts describing both Firefox and Rikaichan in detail. There are also instructions for installation.

Using Firefox to Learn Japanese

Reading Japanese Words with Rikaichan

Download them and try them out. Rikaichan is an amazing tool that everyone learning Japanese should have at hand!

Using Anki To Learn Japanese Words and Characters Quicker

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japanese flash cards

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:


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