Learning Japanese online

The last days I have been obsessed with learning japanese. With my trip to Osaka coming up I wanted to brush up my japanese as good as possible with the time restraint of a full-time job.

Of course when trying to effectively learn or build up your language skills one first needs to be honest and assess the level one is at.

So, let’s see.

I learned japanese for several years and speak it on a daily basis, BUT I speak only with my husband every day, which means, that I am not using polite speech and naturally the vocabulary used stays pretty much the same. So there is definitely a need to broaden my vocabulary and I am in dire need to bursh up my “polite” speaking patterns.

I learned how to read and write Kanji but ironically my stay in Japan marked the startpoint of a slippery slope into oblivion. Although my reading skills stayed about the same I cannot say the same for my writing. In Japan I almost never wrote anything on paper but rather used the computer and especially my mobile phone.

When using your phone or your computer you actually only need to have Kanji reading skills. When typing in the reading one will automatically be presented with the most probable Kanji (and a list with other possibilities). But being able to read and recognize a Kanji does sadly not mean you are able to write it.

Next to Keigo (敬語 = polite speech) the Kanji were my main concern, so I tried to find some websites or apps that would help me with that. Although I still have all my learning material from years ago, with a full-tim job and always on the go it would be a lot easier to have access by smartphone.

Though not an online resource the first thing I did was to buy the kindle version of “Japanese Kanji and Kana: A Complete Guide to the Japanese Writing System” by Wolfgang Hadamitzky. It was the first additional book I bought back when I started learning japanese. It contains all official Joyo kanji with readings and meanings and also features combinations with this kanji and the brush stroke order and is thus very helpful to get a grasp on the kanji. I still find it to be one of the best books for Kanji.

I decided first to try out WaniKani from the makers of the Tofugu blog and Textfugu (which is also a website for learning japanese). While Textfugu seems to be a complete online textbook, Wanikani concentrates on Kanji and vocabulary and wants to “teach you around 1,700 kanji and 5,000 vocabulary words in about a one to two years”. This should be accomplished by a own “homebrew of radicals, mnemonics, space repetition system, and a kanji ordering that allows you to learn much more quickly and effectively compared to the traditional methods” (quoted from the About site at WaniKani). The first two levels (from 50) are free to try and so I did. I think the website is very good for Self-Learners who speak little to none Japanese as the first levels are very slow to take off, which gives you enough time to learn in between and forces you to proceed to next level when you are really ready to do so.

I am sure I would be able to learn a lot as well, but the pace was too slow for my “I need a buttload of information RIGHT NOW” panic attacks regarding the upcoming translator job f(^_^;) Another point for me was, that the radicals start out with meaningrather than the reading. For example the radical ト  would be referred to as “toe” and 口 as “mouth”, but while 口 is also part of the Kanji list and therefore will show up with readings in your lessons, the radical “toe” is only part of other Kanji and so the actual reading is not learned. Of course for a beginner this is not a problem, in fact it might be a lot better to not try and learn every reading of every radical and kanji you come across. Maybe I will just work through Hadamitzkys Kanji and Kana again (^_^) Although WaniKani is still in its Beta-Phase I think it has a lot of potential and is a good resource to learn Kanji and vocabulary.

Reading through the forum at WaniKani I found links to several other language learning sites. One is lang-8, which “is a free language-exchange social network” where you can connect with other people learning languages. What is special about lang-8 is, that you can upload journal entries in your target language and other users can correct your text. At the same time you might be able to help out someone else who wants to learn your native language. It’s a give and take and between all that it’s about making friends and of course you can find groups with same interests, etc. I think I might stick around a while (^_^)

But the one site that has be completely obsessed is japaneseclass.jp (*o*)

“JapaneseClass.jp is a web application to help you learn Japanese Language like playing RPG game, earn EXP, gain Level, and get Ranked” – japaneseclass.jp

The game character of the website got me hooked from the beginning. Either you start with Hiragana & Katakana or dive right into the Vocabulary and Kanji lessons. Each level consists of 20 lessons (10 for Vocabulary and 10 for Kanji) and with growing EXP you will level up. So far there are 6 levels with 1753 vocabularies and 14561 Kanji and depending on how much you practice the level up comes pretty fast. I spend the whole sunday last week on the website and by monday evening (after work of course) I reached level 6. Of course I knew a lot of the words and kanji already but as I learned in german when I started it was interesting to switch it to english. Then there are the word and kanji I should know but neede to refresh and I also learned some new vocabularies as well (^__^)

I haven’t gotten through the level 6 lessons yet, so there is something I’ll definitely do this weekend and I have to say, althouhg it’s exhausting and after a time I start to click on wrong answers just because I’m tired, I had so much fun and felt great to indulge in learning japanese again.

If, by any chance, someone is already part of one of the websites or wants to check them out, feel free to add me as a friend and learn with me together (or challenge me at japaneseclass.jp ^^). I can be found under FujikoToyohashi (WaniKani) or Sakura_Fujiko (japaneseclass.jp and lang-8)

7 thoughts on “Learning Japanese online

    • It’s just so much easier to speak “polite-vacant” (as my sensei always said ^^) that use polite, let alone all other keigo levels… ^^”
      But I hope that I’ve gotten a good start again and be able to constantly learn and review japanese.


  1. Hi. How to do type in during the kanji reading during wanikani? I read the faq and study guide but I don’t understand.


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