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Resources for Beginning Japanese

I have started learning Japanese! Partly to prepare for a trip in October, but also because I want to stretch my brain in different ways. It turns out that I really enjoy it. 

I'm taking a face-to-face class at the Japan Society of California, but that's mostly just to get some experience with actual conversation with a native speaker. I'm actually mostly crafting my education myself. So, without further ado, here are some of my favorite resources:


  • Start with learning hiragana. The Tofugu Guide to Learning Hiragana is the best out there. 
  • RealKana is a good app and website for drilling hiragana and katakana. Unlike many other tools, it shows the characters in multiple fonts, and lets you choose which characters to drill. 
  • I use the Genki textbook as my main text. The class I'm taking uses Japanese for Busy People; I like its focus on business people rather than college students, but the explanations are better in Genki. 
  • WaniKani is a fantastic spaced-repetiton system for learning kanji and some vocabulary. It has a whole coherent system of mnemonics that are hilarious and fun. 
  • Fluent Forever is a book with a general approach to learning languages. The author suggests that I will get much more out of a deck that I build; so far I have found that to be true.  
  • Anki! Anki is a general spaced-repetition system -- aka flashcards, but better. There are many, many decks to download, but the act of making my own cards seems to help with retention. 
  • Pimsleur Japanese.  These audio lessons focus on conversation and seem to be obsessed with drinking alcohol. "Now ask the woman if she'd like to have a drink with you. Suggest that you meet at the hotel, or at Miss Suzuki's place." The rest of my materials don't ever prompt me to produce speech, and in the end I want to be able to talk to people, so this is a great resource. 
  • JapanesePod101.com. This is fun supplement to everything else, good for conversation and culture, but not enough to actually learn Japanese. The dialog is almost all with native speakers, and it features an american guy who lives in Japan and talks about his experiences there. 

And then, I've tried out a few resources and decided they're not for me:


  • Rosetta Stone. I get access to this for free because I'm a Brown University alum -- nice perk. The problem is that Rosetta Stone is so focused on audio and way too devoted to their own method. It doesn't mix well with other resources. Once I'm in a lesson, it's very hard to skip forward. I'm usually frustrated with the pace when I'm in Rosetta Stone. 
  • Rocket Japanese. My main problem with this is that half of the dialog is by the founder, who is a non-native speaker. Bah, I don't want to spend my time listening to an Englishman speak japanese.

More to come as I discover more great stuff. What do you like? What have I missed? 



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