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Learning (and relearning) Japanese

First of all, I should give you a bit of background. In 1987 I found out I was going to be living in Japan for almost two years. At that point I knew nothing about Japan or the Japanese language. On my own I learned hiragana, katakana, and a few dozen words. Then I had two months of intensive language training before going to Japan. While in Japan I studied and spoke everyday. I learned 3 kanji a day while there as well. By the end of 1989 I had pretty decent Japanese and knew about 2,000 kanji (although I probably only knew about 1,000 of them well).

After returning to the states I minored in Japanese and worked off and on as a tour guide for Japanese tourists for a total of about 9 or 10 months. From 1992 until 2007 I did nothing with respect to my Japanese language skills–no oral practice, no studying, no reading in Japanese, nothing.

I was a bit surprised then when on my first return to Japan in 2007 I could still get by pretty well. I could still read many things, and understanding and saying things wasn’t really a problem. Sure, I wasn’t as fluent as I once was, but I wasn’t back to square one either.

Now here I am in 2008 with plans to go back and live in Japan for a year. I want to get my Japanese back to where it was and then continue to improve. So for the past couple of months I’ve been using a multifaceted approach to achieving this goal.

First, I’ll share with you some of the sites that I’ve found useful. Tomorrow I’ll discuss the various simultaneous methods I’m using to try to improve my Japanese. Four Kanji to learn a day–one at each of the JLPT levels. This site also includes a decent dictionary. Mangajin online. Not all issues are here. I found them too difficult to read online so I purchased them in hardcopy instead. There is some good stuff here. Too bad they don’t update it more often. Online games for Japanese kids. Very little Japanese knowledge is required to do the easier ones. I learned Kanji very differently than this site suggests, but there is some useful and interesting items here. There are lots of sites out there for learning hiragana and katakana. My kids haven’t found any of them to be that interesting. They are learning hiragana and katakana via the DS; more on that in tomorrow’s post. Another site with some good study tools. I use the free Gadget for Vista (not available on this link so far as I could see) from Declan Software that produces a different Japanese word in a Gadget box on my desktop each day. The word of the day also includes audio and furigana.

Japan in Motion Blogs

Top Sites – Japan

What links am I missing? Let me know by posting a comment.

One Response to “Learning (and relearning) Japanese”

  1. 1
    Tim Haines:

    Hi there,

    I made a couple of quick and fun games for learning Hiragana and Katakana. Just use google talk, or the chat thing in Gmail. Add or to your contacts list, then say start. The game will report on your progress as you level up. You can play for 30 seconds a day and get a lot of practise in.

    Let me know what you think of them.