Author Topic: Japanese Language Resource Reviews  (Read 1587 times)

Offline mike

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Japanese Language Resource Reviews
« on: November 13, 2012, 11:44:13 AM »
This thread is for listing and reviewing language resources.  Feel free to add your own reviews!  Please try to edit your old posts to add new information in order to keep things concise and organized.  For example, if you review Anki but then start using Memrise, please add your Memrise review to your Anki post.

Please keep you posts on-topic and relevant.  If you would like to discuss a resource, please start a new thread for the conversation so as not to clutter this thread.
« Last Edit: November 13, 2012, 11:49:56 AM by mike »

Offline mike

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Re: Japanese Language Resource Reviews
« Reply #1 on: November 13, 2012, 11:44:29 AM »

    Genki I: Integrated Elementary Japanese Course

    Genki is a series in 2 parts.  Genki I is the first of these, and correlates to the N5 level of the JLPT.  Supposedly, by the time you finish the coursework you should be well prepared to pass the N5.  Each of Genki's 2 parts has a coordinated Workbook
     (sold separately) and Audio CDs (included with textbook).  It is a comprehensive resource and is often used in college courses as well as for independent study.  I highly recommend this series.

    • Very well-written for native English speakers.
    • Integrated coverage of kanji, vocabulary, and grammar.
    • Many examples of each point and notes of exceptions.
    • Many exercises, and even more in the Genki I Workbook.
    • Lots of audio included on the CDs.

    • It's not free?
    • You will probably want some other study materials alongside it, but you should do that anyways.

    Genki II

    Genki II is the second book in the Genki series, and continues on from where Genki I leaves off.  It is every bit as thorough and informative as the first.


    StickyStudy is an iOS SRS-based solution for learning and memorizing hiragana and katakana.  There is also a Kanji app, but I have not yet used it.

    • Convenient - it goes everywhere your iPhone goes.
    • Effective - it uses the tried-and-true SRS method.
    • Examples - it has katakana example words for each character.
    • No hiragana examples (although it makes sense).
    • No writing practice.
    • Appears to be iOS only - not Android/MS compatible.

    Vocabulary & Kanji:

    Anki is a cross-platform SRS flashcard system that is extremely popular and sets the standard for other flashcard based systems.  It also has a browser-based interface for computers where you can't install the software.  If you're studying seriously, you should be using Anki.

    • Customizable appearance, format, everything.
    • Powerful and lightweight.
    • Syncs between all of your devices automatically.
    • Free for Mac, PC, and Android.
    • Find and import "decks" (flashcard collections) online for free, or make your own.
    • You can include media (audio) files on the flashcards.

    • The iOS version is expensive and not as well designed as the desktop versions (supposedly).
      WaniKani (beta) is a new browser-based system for learning kanji.   The initial levels are free, but the later levels require a paid subscription.  It is different from other similar services in that it is a carefully tailored curriculum that starts from radicals, builds to kanji, and finishes with vocabulary.  See this post for an analysis of how many kanji (by frequency) you should be able to recognize with each WaniKani level.

      • Nice, clean interface.
      • Tells you what reading is most important to know at the time.
      • Vocabulary included.
      • The pacing is forced.  You won't realize this is a good thing until a few levels in.
      • Many audio pronunciations are included with the vocab, and more are in the works.

      • Not entirely free.
      • It might be too flashy for some people to use at work.
      • All of the readings aren't visible when you learn a new kanji.

      Memrise (beta) has been out for awhile and is another SRS alternative to Anki.

      • Clean, fun interface.
      • User-created content.
      • Visual mnemonics.
      • Lists for numerous languages and studies other than Japanese.
      • The Kore2k and Kore6k lists have been uploaded for use.

      • It may be too flashy for use at soem workplaces.
      • It teaches 5 new words at a time, which can make it feel slow.
      • Still little if any examples for many words (this will change with time).
      • There are some bugs being worked out.
      • All readings of kanji are equally listed, which can be overwhelming at first.

      Ikigomu is a unique browser-based application.  It asks you for the kanji you already know (from an organized list), then it prompts you with the 5 new kanji that it thinks are the most useful for you to learn next.  It can also import web pages and twitter feeds to show you what kanji you will need to learn to read them.  Ikigomu has had some website troubles and has been offline intermittently recently.

      • Quizzes are fill-in-the-blank sentences rather than typing definitions or readings.
      • A clean interface that should be find for use at work.
      • Maintains a viewable list of the kanji you know.
      • Example sentences for new words that use the kanji you already know.
      • The ability to import web pages is powerful and unique.

      • The simple interface can also be boring compared to WaniKani and Memrise.
      • No mnemonics or tips for new words.
      • The sentences sometimes don't have enough context to decipher their meaning.


      Tae Kim's Guide to Japanese Grammar
      Tae Kim's Guide is barebones yet thorough.  It is great to use for quick lessons on new grammar structures, as an outline for your studies, and as a refresher.  Tae Kim also has a Complete Guide to Japanese on his site that I have not used, but the Grammar Guide is a gold standard for Japanese learners.

      • The guide is no-nonsense and to-the-point.
      • An extensive amount of grammar is covered.
      • The site has a forum for asking questions.

      • You will need to use other sources for examples and as supplemental instruction.

      A subreddit dedicated to Japanese learners.

      • You can ask questions yourself to an actual community.
      • You can find answers to questions that you didn't know you even had.
      • You can get multiple perspectives on a question from different users.

      • As many of the answeres are also still learning Japanese, you will want to cross-reference answers for accuracy if you can.
      • If you are not a redditor... be warned: It is addictive.


      Web Radio
      Tano's Guide to the JLPT has a vocabulary radio broadcast for JLPT levels 4 and 5.  Other similar broadcasts are availabe via some Google-fu.  I use VLC to play the station over a Baroque station on iTunes while I read sometimes. 

      • Listen to proper pronunciation.
      • Quiz yourself
      • English and Japanese separated into L/R audio channels.

      • The feed is a split stereo feed; if you are only wearing one headphone you will need to set your audio output to mono.  Or just wear both headphones.
      • Tano's radio feed only covers N4 and N5 level vocabulary.

      Shadowing: Let's Speak Japanese
      Shadowing is a method where you speak along with a native speaker.  This course includes audio CD's and a workbook with transcripts for each track.

      • It starts very easy and builds to a much more challenging level.
      • Native level speeds to really prepare you.
      • It is one of few study resources that focuses on getting you to speak correctly.
      • You can use the materials to help listening, reading, and speaking skills.

      • It's hard to find.
      « Last Edit: April 09, 2013, 10:17:57 AM by mike »

      Offline OxO

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      Re: Japanese Language Resource Reviews
      « Reply #2 on: December 04, 2012, 03:17:41 PM »
      I need to find something new. Memrise has done a complete redesign which was totally for the worse.  :(
      This ikigomu looks intruiging, shall investigate.

      Wouldnt rate wanikani too much btw. It follows a very heisigish approach of attaching English keywords to kanji, which is fair enough, except it then asks you to repeat their key words back to them even when you fully know the meaning and the Japanese readings already. Which is a pain.

      Anki is what I used to use and for a while it worked well. It is much better than paper based flash cards but thats what it is, a flash card system, requires a lot of dedication and thinking of how to do things on your part. Doesnt really test you beyond asking you "Do you know this card a little, a lot, a medium bit, or not at all?" too easy to lie on.

      I'd add as a good resouce: Kanji damage -

      Like heisig only gives you readings and examples too. Generally better. Very good way of learning kanji.
      Minus...many of the stories he gives are weird and rely on cultural references that aren:t immediately apparent, best to think of that sort of thing by yourself.
      Also of course theres no 'system', just a list of words.
      « Last Edit: December 06, 2012, 10:51:33 AM by OxO »

      Offline mike

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      Re: Japanese Language Resource Reviews
      « Reply #3 on: December 11, 2012, 02:27:13 PM »
      Updated.  Added Genki, fixed typos, added a few points.  Notes on 日本語表現文型 (N4 - N5 Grammar) coming soon.