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Just decided to try to properly learn Japanese, it's going to be rough...

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  • Just decided to try to properly learn Japanese, it's going to be rough...

    Hey everyone, I have searched for a fun way to learn Japanese for many years, since I have a general interest in learning languages (speaking 3 languages fluently and having an average knowledge of 5 other languages) as well as a huge interest in Japanese culture and art. My problem has always been that there are no Japanese language courses available anywhere near where I live, and I don't know any people from Japan, so I kind of have to settle for what I can find on the internet.

    Earlier I have tried to learn from some random free content from the web but I always found it either too unstructured or too advanced, and thus I always abandoned the idea at an early stage, it just felt like climbing a very steep mountain with no gear or knowledge. Anyway, yesterday I found two great apps for my phone, one that pretty much gives me a configurable hiragana/katakana quiz that I can repeat a few times every day until I got it in my head, and the second app is called Kanji Senpai, and gives me a few words at a time and repeating different questions about the kanji, its meaning and how it is written with hiragana or katakana.

    First I saw the number of kanji in the app, which was 684 and thought "This is awesome, less than 700 kanji, maybe I can memorize those in a year!", then I realized that was only the JLPT N5 and realized those Kanji where just a few pieces of grass at the foot of the mountain. But at the same time all kanji was available for download from N5 to N1. I might not make it to N1 in 10 years, but i'm sure going to try.

    Why am I telling you this? Well, I have been a member on Hongfire for a few years now, but haven't really visited the forum much at all, and today I found my second piece of fortune, I found this Japanese chat forum with a huge amount of links and discussions from small topics to fairly advanced to discussions. So I just want to thank you all for sharing!

    Hugs from the frozen north!

  • #2
    Have you checked out Anki ( It's not specifically for learning Japanese, but it was built with that in mind and there are tons of shared decks available. It might look a little daunting at first, but it's a really good SRS.

    Just as a bit of advice/encouragement(?), you can easily get a basic recognition of the jouyou kanji within a year, even if you're just doing this as a hobby. Just six characters per day. I personally think it's better to just practice seeing them as individual characters (may or may not be a problem you have, depending on your languages), then moving on to vocabulary; you'll pick up the most common readings incredibly quickly, and even the less common ones will get absorbed naturally. Knowing all the readings of a specific kanji is really only useful on tests.

    Starting with the kana (hiragana and katakana) is good, and they don't take long to learn, which is even better.

    Once you start studying mainly vocabulary, it'll start to auto-pilot; Anki (or some other SRS) will make this much easier to manage. I have over 10k Japanese words in Anki; I can't imagine how much work it would have been to make and manage those as physical cards o_0

    I'm not going to give you the full rundown that I normally give, because I think it scares people (even though it makes studying easier, it makes people consider all of the content they'll be studying in a short time, which I guess makes it seem like tons of work... rather than work, it's mostly time that's spent), but maybe you'd be more interested since you like learning languages. Anyway, just ask if you need help or advice for something study related.

    Happy studying!
    Do I need to say anything?
    I'm about to just spill some coffee, take a picture, call it art, and throw it on here...


    • mistraven
      mistraven commented
      Editing a comment
      Thanks a lot, I will definitely look it up, any studying resource is good in my opinion. So far I have pretty much learnt all the hiragana but haven't really started with katakana yet, I have also learnt 80 kanji, and I would guess I know about 20 of them pretty well, including their meaning and pronunciation. I'm aiming to study for at least 20 minutes per day, although some days I might do an hour or two depending on how much time I have.

      Can I ask what the Jouyou kanji are? I have seen the term but not sure how many there are. I'm currently studying the JLPT N5 kanji.

      I'm not going to get scared away by information, and I really appreciate you taking the time to reply! =)

  • #3
    The jouyou kanji (常用漢字) are a set of 2136 kanji designated by the Japanese government as 'common use' (there are kanji outside the jouyou set that are used somewhat frequently, and some in the set that aren't used very often). Certain public writings are restricted to using these kanji.
    Most books that teach kanji to foreigners (like RTK) use the jouyou kanji, and it's basically become the 'try to learn these' set.

    Alright, if you want information, I can give information!
    ... In a few days or so. Most of my information is related to method of study, and I have one or two resources to recommend. Anki is the biggest thing to recommend right now, though.
    Do I need to say anything?
    I'm about to just spill some coffee, take a picture, call it art, and throw it on here...


    • #4

      Don't know if it helps but I remember practicing writing by memorizing and repeating the iroha pangram on a piece of paper, when I was idle in my office I'd just like, grab one of those yellow "post it" papers from the desk and start drawing each character individually with the specific stroke order and hey, I can tell you it really helped, for one I used to read plain hiragana making pauses to recognize every single character, but after practicing writing it was amazing how my recognition speed improved as if by magic, now I can read as if it was plain text.

      I don't know how good it will be for you, but if it worked for me (I guess it could help you with katakana too), I'm confident to recommend that as a practical exercise, even more for someone who already knows 3 languages (that'll be cakewalk for you huh?). I eventually memorized the whole thing, and now I'm starting develop cursive patterns when I write it.

      Of course you'd have to write it vertically, for more realism and also spacing (this will be a huge thing later on so make sure you learn it from the start), now if you were serious you could even get yourself timed, I managed 58 seconds once, but damn, it's hard to complete it in less than a minute.
      Last edited by Beam7 Network; 08-23-2016, 05:45 AM.

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      • #5
        Thanks again sholum and @Beam7-Network

        Both of your suggestions are great, to practice reading cards (through anki) as well as writing kanji with a specific stroke-order, and basically that is what i'm already doing. I'm using an android-app called Kanji Senpai which pretty much includes both of your suggestions together. In it I can first select a list of kanji from JLPT N5 to N1, N5 was pre-selected so I started there, it gave me just a few basic Kanji in the beginning with random questions where I either have to recognize the meaning or the pronunciation of a kanji, or translate English into Japanese. This is pretty similar to anki, except when I tried anki it was much more random and harder to understand, and the audio files in anki where horrible. But as a difference to anki, Kanji Senpai also has questions where I get an english word and where I need to write to correct kanji or combination of kanji and hiragana with the correct stroke-order on the screen.

        As my mastery of the kanji improves, more difficult kanji are added to the list of kanji that my show up in the questions. Lets say I first only had maybe 10 kanji from JLPT N5 that where repeated over and over in the questions, and now I have over 80 kanji that are picked on random. Also when I have reviewed a kanji that I have already learnt a few times, then it will be removed from the list only to show up again a few days later. This way the list is kept short, but it is also varied and changes every day.

        I think it is actually a pretty good combination of both your suggestions in one app and I'm very happy with it, it does assume that you already have a basic understanding of hiragana and katakana though so it was a bit hard in the beginning since I didn't know either. (Although I have learnt hiragana now)

        Kanji-senpai is not completely free though, well everything is free except the sound files, which can be bought through micro-transactions in the app, they come in sets corresponding the set of kanji you are studying. For me it was about €2 to get the sound-files for the JLPT N5 kanj, which isn't too bad, it quickly adds up if you want to get all of the sets though. Still, the app is very usable without the sound-files and if you already know how to pronounce hiragana, then you don't really need them. I did grab the JLPT N5 sounds and must say that they are very good and it was totally worth it for me.

        EDIT: Thanks Beam7 for the link to that Iroha Pangram, it was very cool and also interesting to read about! =)
        Last edited by mistraven; 08-23-2016, 11:55 PM.


        • #6
          I've also been looking for a fun way to learn a new language: Korean. I struggled with flashcard apps because they would teach me mostly uncommon words. After a few months, I knew how to say things like "mad cow disease", "closed circuit TV system", but not "cat" and "dog". Needless to say, I'd forget them fast as well. Then I decided I would read web comics and learn from those. The problem this time was that my vocabulary was much too weak. I'd have to look up nearly every word on Google Translate.

          So I made a tool to help me read those comics. When I don't know a word, I tap on it and the tool will display the translation and pronounce the word. Later I can review the list of words I looked up, and import them into any flashcard app. This ensures I learn only relevant words. Since then, my learning has been going much better! Feel free to try it at I've made sure it works for Japanese too, for comics from

          Oh and it's free! Let me know what you all think!


          • #7
            It's been a while since someone posted something on this thread I guess, but I'm interested to know why you guys wanted to learn Japanese in the first place? To understand Anime?


            • #8
              I'm learning it mostly for eroge visual novels because so many of them will never get translated, it also comes in handy with manga and anime though and while at first I was really slow and even understanding the most basic things, now I'm starting to get a hang of it and it's really satysfiyinig. =)


              • #9
                Originally posted by ashiZero View Post
                It's been a while since someone posted something on this thread I guess, but I'm interested to know why you guys wanted to learn Japanese in the first place? To understand Anime?
                I rage-started learning Japanese in a fit of anger after I couldn't hook up on erogē to a machine translation. So, like progste.
                Anime and manga are less of a motivation since most of the stuff I went gets decent translations and dubs in my country. I may try to use it to check out some stuff that never got released over here though, like the earliest Gundam installments.
                Another distant goal is getting over the language barrier for Japanese music. Most of the Japanese stuff I own is either sung completely or partly in English or instrumental. But sung Japanese can be a whole different beast from spoken Japanese again.


                • #10
                  Japanese language gave me a path to follow in my secondary I know enough to understand stuff...


                  • #11
                    ok, interesting! And how are you getting on with it? Is it hard to learn? I've always thought of learning Japanese, but it seemed so damn hard with all the kanji...


                    • #12
                      It is in fact a huge pain remembering the Kanji, the first thing you should do is getting a hang of how grammar works (it's fairly simple). The Genki book series is pretty good for that.
                      Along with that it is also very important to know Hiragana and Katakana and to be decent at reading them. Trying to learn them all at once is very difficult, the best way is to try reading them, you can do that with the reference page at hand until you feel confortable.
                      Then come the Kanji. I'm still in the process of learning them myself, I'm using memrise as well as trying to read manga and visual novels, the memrise course I'm using was posted by some users here:

                      A very essential tool is also it's an online dictionary that lets you look for Kanji by radicals, it's very good for looking up words, but don't rely on it to give you an accurate translation for the whole phrase.

                      Edit: I don't know if you have ever studied a foreign language before but in general the best way to learn is not to force yourself to remember the worlds, but understanding the structure and associating each word with its meaning. A good way to do that is taking some piece of meadia you enjoy and know very well (like a manga or a book or a VN), take a small part of it in japanese and dissect it, learn it, associate it with the version you knew in your own language.

                      Another way of course is to just follow lessons or a written course, but if you're doing it only as hobby it could turn out more difficult to keep motivated that way, instead trying to understand better something I enjoy keeps me wanting to keep going, at least that's how it is for me.
                      Last edited by progste; 02-28-2017, 07:36 AM.


                      • #13
                        Thank you for your recommendations! I'll try to get a hand of a copy from the genki series. Never heard of that one before tbh. I did studySpanish at school, but most of it was very hard for me to understand and get the hang of it, so that's a huge relief to hear Japanese grammar isn't that hard to learn. That's what I was most afraid of besides Kanji. Hiragana and Katakana seem pretty easy to learn tho, but I guess they can get kinda tricky as well.
                        Unfortunately, there is no Japanese course around my city so I'll have to stick to self-studying. I have struggled with Spanish in the past, so I don't really know how well it'll work out with Japanese. Maybe I'll have more fun with Japanese idk...


                        • #14
                          Japanese grammar isn’t very complex, but instead the language depends heavily on the context the sentence is made. In contrary to English, for example, not every sentence need to have the subject specified and no – the language does not give you any hints about the subject from other parts of the language. You have to figure out who or what is the subject from the context the sentence appears in. Until you learn the conventions people use, you might have a hard time understanding what is being said.


                          • #15
                            That sounds easy and difficult at the same time. I ordered the genki book series progste recommended to me, so I'll finally be able to get started. Maybe I'll be able to play some J-RPGs in their original language someday XD