‘Appy Mondays: Human Japanese

Apps for learning Japanese tend to focus on a certain aspect of the language, such as learning kana or learning vocabulary. This is fine as a supplement to classes or following a textbook, but not so much when self-studying. There are few apps that offer a more comprehensive approach from the very beginning, and Human Japanese is one of them. Whilst I wouldn’t suggest solely relying on one resource, Human Japanese is free at the earlier levels (called Human Japanese Lite) and is a pretty good alternative to one of the popular textbooks.

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The app starts from the very beginning, starting off by familiarizing you with the sounds of Japanese and how they differ from English. The app then takes you through hiragana before moving on to basic Japanese grammar and vocabulary across 44 chapters. You must complete each chapter before moving on with no option to skip (although this can be changed in the settings). At the end of each chapter, there is a quiz to test your learning. I would say that the app does a good job of covering reading, writing, speaking and listening equally.

One of the main advantages of using an app over a textbook when self-studying is having audio integrated into the app; Human Japanese takes advantage of this by having lots of example sentences and audio.

Human Japanese App Screenshot

I think this is a good choice for those who have had no prior experience learning Japanese (or any language for that matter) as it takes you through the basics of Japanese whilst imparting a lot of relevant and useful information along the way. This does mean that the app is text heavy, which could well be intimidating and it may not feel like you are making progress as quickly. Even so, I highly recommend this for newcomers to Japanese who are intending to study the language in some depth. There are a lot of things explained in the earlier chapters that I wish I had learned from the very beginning! One aspect to Human Japanese that I like is that once downloaded the app can be run entirely offline, which reduces the temptation to go online and get distracted.

The lite version gives you access to the first 8 chapters or so – if you like these chapters, you can purchase the full app for £9.99. The app is available on Android, Apple Store, Windows Phone, PC & Mac. I suggest taking advantage of the ‘Sneak Peek’ feature and look at the previews of each chapter (especially if you have already started studying Japanese).

There is also a Human Japanese Intermediate which may be suitable if you have already studied the basics – the official website has chapter lists to give you an idea of which app may be the best for you. The intermediate version of the app probably finishes covering the main aspects of grammar for JLPT N5 and a bit of JLPT N4, but also has chapters on things like sentence ending particles -の/ んです, よ, な which are often left to a later stage of Japanese learning.

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Do I need a textbook to study Japanese?

Do I need a textbook to study JP(3)

This is a question that comes up quite a lot. Most people are told that in order to study Japanese they should make their way through Genki textbooks 1 and 2, and then focus on immersion and vocabulary building. There is of course nothing wrong with this method (it is tried and tested after all).

Unfortunately, Genki books are not cheap at around £40 for the textbook (not to mention the costs of the workbooks) and so are not an option for people studying on their own with little money to spare. On the other hand, the internet is a rich source of Japanese learning resources, so I thought I would introduce some websites to help those looking to study Japanese without the use of a textbook. When I think back to the Japanese language classes I have attended, textbooks were never used so I definitely think it is possible to self-study without using a textbook.

Having said that, I believe textbooks are useful because they provide a methodical framework in which to work your way through learning the basics of a language. Online resources do not always provide this same framework to follow (fortunately most of the ones I mention do), in which case I recommend looking at grammar lists for JLPT N5 to give yourself an idea of which aspects of the language to focus on learning first, even if your intention is not to take the JLPT. If you are new to Japanese your focus should be on essential words and phrases, sentence structure and how particles work.

Here is a list of various resources that I think could either be worked through like a regular textbook, or could be used as supplementary material to a textbook or class that you may already be making use of:

 

Websites

Tae Kim – Probably the most well known on the list, Tae Kim’s website offers a comprehensive which tries to take a different approach to a lot of textbooks. It is being updated all the time

Imabi – This is a great place to start if Tae Kim isn’t for you. This online grammar guide starts from the beginning of learning Japanese right up to advanced level and each level is split into a number of lessons, enabling you to work your way through the website just like a textbook. Best of all this is entirely free – needless to say, this is a must visit resource!

Erin’s Challenge – if you’re a visual learner you may find supplementing your study with this website useful. Erin’s challenge is a website put together by the Japan Foundation with a series of videos featuring Erin, who becomes a school exchange student in Japan. Each short video covers a different topic as she gets used to her new life in Japan, which also comes with explanations of key grammar points and phrases used which you can then test yourself on.

Marugoto – The Japan Foundation website has a number of free online courses aimed at those self-studying Japanese called Marugoto. If you aim is to build practical communication skills in Japanese then I recommend the ‘Katsudoo’ course, but if you want to study Japanese in more depth then choose the ‘Katsudoo & Rikai’ course.

 

Apps

Human Japanese – Whilst not free in its entirety, the ‘lite’ version of this app is free and gives a pretty good indication of the app’s approach to learning Japanese. I’ve written a separate post on this app as I think it is worth the cost of entry for complete beginners to Japanese.

Lingodeer – this (free!) app is more like Duolingo than Human Japanese in that you follow a series of lessons covering different aspects of vocabulary and grammar. Having said that, it covers topics in a way that makes it very accessible for Japanese learners – you can then follow up the lessons with some of the sites below to reinforce your understanding of the content. It also does a pretty good job of testing you on the content of the lessons in different ways, which is really important when self-studying.

 

Grammar Reference sites

It’s always good to have somewhere else to check out grammar explanations if they are not making sense straight away. Here’s a list of places you might find useful:

Jgram – I think of Jgram as a database of Japanese grammar points which the community contributes to. You can search for grammar points by the (old) JLPT levels or use the search function to look up something specific. Each entry has notes and example sentences which is helpful for getting a new perspective on a grammar point.

Maggie Sensei – Everything on the website is presented in a really fun and easy to digest way. As well as explanations of grammar points, you will also find posts on aspects of Japanese culture. I also like that vocabulary is listed by theme rather than difficulty.

Wasabi – Wasabi’s online grammar reference is similar to Tae Kim in layout and style. I think Wasabi’s guide is particularly good for learning to distinguish between grammar points which have similar English meanings.

Japanistry – The Japanistry grammar guide works quite similarly to the Tae Kim guide but is a great reference site for the foundations of Japanese grammar.

日本語の森 (Nihongo no Mori) – This YouTube channel has lots of videos on grammar points aimed at all levels of Japanese learners. The playlist that I’ve linked to called ‘Ekubo Basic Japanese Lessons’ starts from the very beginning, but there are a number of playlists focused on different levels of the JLPT.

 

Worksheets and Quizzes

MLC Japanese – full of handy printable worksheets and quizzes. There is a lot of content for JLPT N5 & N4 in particular, but you can find study plans and JLPT material for the upper levels (old levels level 2 and level 1).

Memrise – has a number of electronic flashcard decks, including decks on the main textbooks including Genki, Tae Kim’s guide and at the JLPT

 

These are all the sites I am currently aware of, but I will add to this list as and when I come across other new resources!

Kotobites November Writing Challenge: Week 5: 27th – 30th Nov

Welcome to the 5th and final week of the Kotobites November Japanese Writing Challenge. In case you missed it, please take a look my intro post on what this is and why I’m doing it – you can do as little or as much as you can!

writingchallenge_1_original

Here are the writing prompts for Week 5 (up to 30th November):

27th Nov (Monday) 27日(月曜日)

将来の夢はなんですか。

しょうらいのゆめはなんですか。

What is your dream for the future?

 

28th Nov (Tues) 28日(火曜日)

どこにでも行けるなら、どこを旅行したいですか。

どこにでもいけるなら、どこをりょこうしたいですか。

If you could go anywhere, where would you like to travel to?

eiffel-tower-2906526_1920

 

29th Nov (Wed) 29日(水曜日)

今はまっていることはなんですか。

いまはまっていることはなんですか。

What are you obsessed with right now?

 

30th Nov (Thur) 30日(木曜日)

口癖ありますか。

くちぐせありますか。

Is there a phrase/saying you use often? (note: could also be a verbal tic – think Homer Simpson and “D’oh!”)

homer-2006750_1920

 

Hints for beginners

  • Looking to get your writing checked? I recommend Lang-8 (if already a member – unfortunately, they are no longer taking new registrations), HiNative or ask a friend/language partner.
  • Following the sentence structure of the question is the easiest way of constructing the answer. Feel free to expand on the questions as much as possible or adapting the question – whatever suits your stage of learning.

This marks the end of the Writing Challenge – well done if you’ve made it this far!

If you’ve missed week 1, week 2, week 3, or week 4 click to catch up on the writing prompts. If you’ve managed to get to the end of the writing challenge, please let me know how you’ve found it in the comments 🙂

Kotobites November Writing Challenge: Week 3: 13th – 19th Nov

writingchallenge_1_original

Welcome to the Kotobites November Japanese Writing Challenge. In case you missed it, please take a look my intro post on what this is and why I’m doing it – you can do as little or as much as you can!

If you’ve missed week 1 and week 2, click to catch up on the writing prompts.

Here are the writing prompts for Week 3 (up to 19th November):

 

13th Nov (Monday) 13日(月曜日)

あだ名はありますか。ある人は、何と呼ばれていますか。

あだなはありますか。あるひとは、なんとよばれていますか。

Do you have a nickname? If so, what is it?

 

14th Nov (Tues) 14日(火曜日)

学生のとき、好きだった科目は何ですか。

がくせいのとき、すきだったかもくはなんですか。

Which school subject was your favourite at school?

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15th Nov (Wed) 15日(水曜日)

一番感謝していることは何ですか。

いちばんかんしゃしていることはなんですか。

What is the thing you are most thankful for?

 

16th Nov (Thur) 16日(木曜日)

特技は何ですか。

とくぎはなんですか。

What is your special skill?

 

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17th Nov (Fri) 17日(金曜日)

テレビに出てみたいですか。

 

テレビにでてみたいですか。

Would you like to be on TV?

 

18th Nov (Sat)    18日 (土曜日)

尊敬する人は誰ですか。

そんけいするひとはだれですか。

Who do you admire?

 

19th Nov (Sun) 19日 (日曜日)

どこに住んでいますか。どんなところですか。

どこにすんでいますか。どんなところですか。

Where do you live? What kind of place is it?

 

Hints for beginners

  • Looking to get your writing checked? I recommend Lang-8 (if already a member, unfortunately they are no longer taking new registrations), HiNative or ask a friend/language partner.
  • Following the sentence structure of the question is the easiest way of constructing the answer. Feel free to expand on the questions as much as possible or adapting the question – whatever suits your stage of learning.

 

If you have already started on this challenge, feel free to check in and let me know how you are getting on 🙂

Conjunctions in Japanese

Once you have understood the basic sentence structure of Japanese, you may find yourself wondering how to make your sentences flow. The easiest way to do this is by making use of connecting words (aka conjunctions) to link two sentences or two clauses together.

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Being as Kotobites is in the midst of the November Japanese Writing Challenge, I thought this would be a great time to post about the topic of conjunctions, known as 接続詞 in Japanese. I’ve listed some common conjunctions below under various categories to give you some ideas:

  • Showing a result or consequence (= therefore/ so in English): だから、それで、そのため
  • Giving a reason (= because): なぜなら、というのは
  • Showing a contradiction (= but/ however): が at the end of the clause; しかし、けれども
  • Providing additional information (= similarly, and then, furthermore): そして、それに、それから、しかも
  • Showing a contrast (= on the other hand): 一方、逆に
  • Rephrasing (= in other words): つまり、すなわち

I have shied away from using English where possible here as a lot of these conjunctions do not work in exactly the same way as their English counterparts.

For further information I recommend checking out the following resources:

The Japan Society of New York’s Waku Waku Japanese series has an episode giving a brief introduction to how conjunctions work:

Wasabi’s articles on Major Conjunctions in Japanese as well as Reverse Conditionals (which covers conjunctions and grammar points that express a contrast).

For those who are a bit more advanced, check out this page (in Japanese) on a website called Pothos which gives an overview of the types of conjunctions you are likely to come across. If you click on each word you get a definition and a few example sentences to show how it is used.

 

I hope you find this post useful – as always if you have any suggestions or feedback please let me know in the comments!

 

Kotobites November Writing Challenge: Week 2: 6th – 12th Nov

writingchallenge_1_original

Welcome to Week 2 of the Kotobites November Japanese Writing Challenge. In case you missed it, please take a look my intro post on what this is and why I’m doing it – you can do as little or as much as you can!

Here are the writing prompts for Week 2 (up to 12th November):

6th Nov (Monday) 6日(月曜日)

ペットを飼っていますか。

ペットをかっていますか

Do you have any pets?

cats-eyes-2671903_1920

7th Nov (Tues) 7日(火曜日)

思い出の場所はありますか。

おもいでのばしょはありますか。

Is there a place which has (special) memories for you?

 

8th Nov (Wed) 8日(水曜日)

運動するのは好きですか。

うんどうするのはすきですか。

Do you like to exercise?

dumbbells-2465478_1920

9th Nov (Thur) 9日(木曜日)

ー番大切な子供の頃の記憶は?

いちばんたいせつなこどものころのきおくは?

What is your most treasured childhood memory?

 

10th Nov (Fri) 10日(金曜日)

ファーストフードはよく食べますか。

ファーストフードはよくたべますか。

Do you often eat fast food?

 

11th Nov (Sat) 11日 (土曜日)

お勧めの映画はありますか。

おすすめのえいがはありますか。

What film would you recommend to others?

film-2233692_1920

12th Nov (Sun) 12日 (日曜日)

好きな色は何ですか。

すきないろはなんですか。

What is your favourite colour?

 

Hints for beginners

  • Looking to get your writing checked? I recommend Lang-8 (if already a member; unfortunately they are no longer taking new registrations), HiNative or ask a friend/language partner.
  • Following the sentence structure of the question is the easiest way of constructing the answer. Feel free to expand on the questions as much as possible or adapting the question – whatever suits your stage of learning.

If you missed week 1, find the writing prompts here. If you have already started on this challenge, feel free to check in and let me know how you are getting on 🙂

Kotobites November Writing Challenge: Week 1: 1st – 5th Nov

writingchallenge_1_original

Welcome to the Kotobites November Japanese Writing Challenge. In case you missed it, please take a look my intro post on what this is and why I’m doing it – you can do as little or as much as you can!

Here are the writing prompts for Week 1 (up to 5th November):

1st Nov (Wed) 1日(水曜日)

お化けを見たことがありますか。

ghost-1297982_1280

おばけをみたことがありますか。

Have you ever seen a ghost?

2nd Nov (Thur) 2日(木曜日)

得意な料理は何ですか。

とくいなりょうりはなんですか。

What food are you good at making?

3rd Nov (Fri) 3日(金曜日)

職業・専門はなんですか。

なんでその職業・専門を選びましたか。

しょくぎょう・せんもんはなんですか。

なんでそのしょくぎょう・せんもんをえらびましたか。

What is your occupation/major? Why did you choose that occupation/major?

4th Nov (Sat) 4日(土曜日)

「都会」と「田舎」、どっちに住みたいですか。

「とかい」と「いなか」、どっちにすみたいですか。

Where would you rather live, in the city or in the countryside?

stress red pencil

5th Nov (Sun) 5日(日曜日)

ストレス解消法は何ですか。

ストレスかいしょうほうはなんですか。

How do you relieve stress?

 

Hints for beginners

  • Looking to get your writing checked? I recommend Lang-8 (if you already have an account – unfortunately, they are no longer taking new registrations), HiNative or ask a friend/language partner.
  • Following the sentence structure of the question is the easiest way of constructing the answer. Feel free to expand on the questions as much as possible or adapting the question – whatever suits your stage of learning.

1st Nov:

〜ことがあります is a useful phrase for expressing something you have done before (as in ‘Have you ever been scuba diving?’).

2nd Nov:

得意 is similar in meaning to 上手(じょうず) meaning ‘to be good at (doing something)’.

You may prefer to use a different sentence structure such as ‘Xを作るのが得意です’.

3rd Nov:

Choose occupation or major depending on if you are working or studying.

When giving reasons for your answer you can use conjunctions such as 〜からです (verb before から is in plain form)

4th Nov:

You might want to use to show contrast between the city and the countryside by using a construction such as ‘XよりYのほうがZです’.

5th Nov:

In order to answer the question, you could change the sentence structure using the て form, such as 〜て、ストレスを解消します (I relieve stress by doing…).

Please let me know how you get on or if you have any suggestions for the 30 day challenge, otherwise I hope you enjoy 🙂