After all of the posts about Japanese culture I’ve been spewing forth, I thought I’d write one about actually learning Japanese.
I finally found a tool that I actually like, and I finally feel like I’m actually learning things.
Putting the effort into learning hiragana and katakana has been completely invaluable. I say this because it underpins absolutely everything else, and I think that this is probably the first thing that needs to be done – before kanji, before pronunciation, before everything. Because it makes everything past that so much easier. In fact, I don’t think I’m out of line in saying that it opens up entirely new worlds – even if you don’t know the vocabulary yet, you can sound it out and at least you have something to look up. And with katakana, you’re about halfway certain it’s a borrowed word, and sometimes it’s even an English borrowed word! Of course, this is probably completely obvious to someone who has studied Japanese, but for someone just starting out, this is actually not obvious. It’s very tempting to go right for the vocabulary and to learn conversational phrases, but I’m actually thinking that’s a pretty bad idea, unless you’re heading to Japan in two weeks. Then I guess you do what you have to.
The tool I found is Japanese Level Up. Specifically, Jalup NEXT. It’s like Anki flashcards, but more portable (anki doesn’t work well on a chromebook, if at all). I didn’t need to take the hiragana and katakana courses, but it’s there if you need them. I’d suggest taking that, making sure you’re solid on those, then taking the kanji and beginner courses at the same time. If you’re familiar with even the basics of Japanese, you’ll sail through at least the first few flash cards of the beginner course. The kanji is a little more difficult, but even after a few repetitions, you’ll look at something written in Japanese and even recognize a few kanji! You won’t know how to pronounce them, necessarily, but I guess that comes in time. Of course I want it all now now now, but it’s a big topic, and that won’t happen.
One thing I also like about Jalup is that you can buy the flashcards as you need them – they’re about $8 for a set of 100. Of course, that will get spendy after a while, but you can space it out over a long period of time, and you get indefinite access to what you’ve bought, unlike Rosetta Stone, which you lose access to when you stop paying (and Rosetta Stone isn’t all that effective anyway, in my opinion).
I’m going to work with that, probably even after I start community college classes. Hopefully, with all of these things working in concert, I’ll at least get to a point where I don’t feel like a complete fraud when I start trying to speak Japanese.