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!

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Writing Challenge Roundup

We are now into December, so that means that the 30 day Japanese Writing Challenge for November has finished. Doing this challenge was definitely harder in practice than I had thought it would be when I was planning it!

writingchallenge_1_original

If you’ve missed my previous posts on it, see the links below:

Intro Post

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

Week 4

Week 5

Here’s a few things I realised during the challenge:

  • Having a dedicated journal near me at all times made it easier to sit down and write every day

I have a smallish notebook that I bought for jotting blog ideas down in – I chose to use this for the writing challenge because I always make sure to have it in my bag. Whenever I opened my bag during the day I would see it and that would remind me to write something down when I had a spare 5 minutes.

  • Having a writing prompt everyday took the stress out of deciding what to write about

This allowed me to focus on how to express myself in Japanese more than usual.

  • There’s a lot of kanji that I recognise but have forgotten how to write!

I’m so used to typing Japanese on my phone that when it comes to handwriting thinking of the co. There were a few days that I only had time to write my answers on my phone and not in my journal which made writing a much quicker process. For me, handwriting Japanese aids my memory so I will be focusing more on this in the future

If you’ve enjoyed this challenge and are looking for regular writing prompts, I recommend checking out this Hatena blog page (in Japanese). Each week they post a new writing prompt for bloggers to write about.

Screenshot 2017-12-01 at 08.40.50

If you scroll down the page you can read other people’s posts in relation to the weekly prompt, which is great reading practice!

I would really like to put together some other 30 day challenges in the future, so watch this space! The challenge can be taken at any time and at your own pace – it’s ok to miss a day out if you need to.

Please let me know how you found the challenge in the comments 🙂

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 4: 20th – 26th Nov

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!

writingchallenge_1_original

Here are the writing prompts for Week 4 (up to 26th November):

20th Nov (Monday) 20日(月曜日)

今一番欲しいものはなんですか。

いまいちばんほしいものはなんですか。

What item do you want the most at the moment?

 

21st Nov (Tues) 21日(火曜日)

楽器が弾けますか。(弾けない人は、弾けるようになりたい楽器ありますか。)

がっきがひけますか。(ひけいないひとは、ひけるようになりたいがっきありますか。)

Can you play a musical instrument? (If you can’t: is there a musical instrument you would like to learn to play?)

instrument-2010525_1920

 

22nd Nov (Wed) 22日(水曜日)

宝くじを当たったら、何をしますか。

たからくじをあたったら、なにをしますか。

If you won the lottery, what would you do?

 

23rd Nov (Thur) 23日(木曜日)

好きな祝日は何ですか。

すきなしゅくじつはなんですか。

What is your favourite national holiday?

calendar-273857_1920

24th Nov (Fri) 24日(金曜日)

明日世界が滅亡したら、最後の食事は何を食べたいですか。

あしたせかいはめつぼうしたら、さいごのしょくじはなにをたべたいですか。

If the world was going to end tomorrow, what would you eat as your last meal?

 

25th Nov (Sat) 25日 (土曜日)

一番好きなことわざは何ですか。

いちばんすきなことわざはなんですか。

What is your favourite saying?

 

26th Nov (Sun) 26日 (日曜日)

虫は好きですか。

むしはすきですか。

Do you like insects?

strip-bug-812767_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.

If you’ve missed week 1, week 2 or week 3, click to catch up on the writing prompts. 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 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?

calligraphy-2658504_1920

 

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?

 

tvsharp-1844964_1920

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.

chain-2027199_1280

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 🙂