Are you learning Japanese and don’t know which tools to use? This article will recommend websites, apps, textbooks and other learning tools that work best for me.
Firstly, don’t get lost and suffocated using too many different tools. There are many great apps, websites and books to learn Japanese and more are being born every month. It is a great adventure to explore all these various ways, but unless you choose just a few of them and start studying with them seriously and in depth, you will not get anywhere.
How to choose the right tools to learn Japanese?
Choose tools that cover the basic areas of learning a new language:
- Learning with a teacher
- Memorising new vocabulary
- Learning kanji and their readings
- Learning systematically with textbooks
- Practicing listening comprehension
- Practicing written communication
- Practicing handwriting
For me personally, the basic tool to learn Japanese is to have a professional native Japanese teacher and learn with him or her by following a well-written textbook. Then, as adds-on, it is good to use some apps for learning kanji and vocabulary, listen to audio files to train your ability to understand spoken Japanese, communicate regularly by writing with native Japanese speakers and practise handwriting.
6 tools to learn Japanese I use
The following tips are my personal choice. In no way it should indicate that there are no similar or even better tools available that would suit your taste and needs better. Take them as an inspiration and make your own survey and choice. I will write about these tools more in details in some of the future posts.
Italki.com became the cornerstone of my Japanese studies. This website offers lessons with professional teachers for many languages, including Japanese. It provides a reliable, easy, cheap and convenient way to find your teacher and have lessons online using Skype.
There are several widely used Japanese language textbooks for beginners and lower intermediates. I use Genki I and Genki II. I studied already with 5 teachers over the time and all of them used Genki as their main textbook.
Anki is a wonderfully simple app that offers an effective, scientifically based way to memorise vocabulary and kanji and regularly practise important grammar points with examples. The computer version is for free. You can choose among many and many of packages of words, kanji, phrases and so on according to your needs. The mobile version (which is not for free, but the price is reasonable) and the computer version are synchronised via ankiweb.net.
WaniKani is an app based on the same scientific approached to memorising as Anki. It is specifically developed for learning Japanese kanji, including radicals and on’yomi and kun’yomi reading.It uses mnemonics and a spaced repetition learning system in order to help its users memorize the characters and vocabulary more effectively. It offers 60 levels and the first three levels are free. This app has really helped me not only to memorise kanji but mainly to read them.
JapanesePod101.com is an amazingly rich source of audio files, videos and other material for your Japanese studies. There are literally hundreds of audio lessons from absolute beginners (Newbie Seasons), through JLPT preparation courses (helped me a lot with my preparation for JLPT N4) to advanced audio blogs. I am just about to finish the Beginner Season 1, which has 170 audio files (!). There are 6 Beginner Seasons in total, and then you can continue to Intermediate and Advanced levels and many bonus courses. Each lesson has a downloadable lesson transcription PDF file with vocabulary and important grammar points.
You can register for free. I use the basic subscription option ($4 per month) to have a full access to all audio and video files and downloadable supporting material. I will say more about JapanesePod101.com in one of the future posts.
HelloTalk is a language learning mobile app allowing you to find pen pals among Japanese who are learning your language. You chat about different things and correct each other’s sentences. It is a great way to learn how to express properly your thoughts in Japanese.