Japanese Learning Tools:
- Anki Supplement: Core 2000 Deck
- Anki Supplement: Hiragana Deck with Audio
- Anki Supplement: JLPT Vocabulary Decks
- Denshi Jisho
- Reading Packs
- Remembering the Kana by James W. Heisig
- Remembering the Kanji by James W. Heisig
- Reviewing the Kanji
- Sound Effect Translation
- Space ALC
This program is the bread and butter of learning Japanese. It's function is simple: digital flash cards with a spaced repetition system. You can create your own flash cards with words, sentences, kana, or kanji and test your knowledge of Japanese. The better you know the material, the less often you see it; the more shaky your grasp is, the more often you see it. Studying with Anki makes it extremely easy to memorize material and retain it long-term. Studying flash cards with Anki is not enough on its own for learning Japanese, but it is the best supplement to immersion that I have found.
Oh, and it's free. Free is good.
Click here to visit the Anki webpage.
Anki Supplement: Core 2000 Deck:
AnkiWeb hosts a wide variety of user-submitted decks which can be downloaded to add some variety to the cards you create yourself. The Core 2000 deck is a great choice for beginners, as it features the 2000 most used words in the Japanese language. While I do not recommend doing all of the “Steps” of the Core 2000, the first two decks (Steps 1 and 2) are a good starting place for beginners. The decks are supposed to come with audio and images, but some people do report issues with getting them to work.
The "Core 2000" is taken from the iKnow site, which is discussed here.
Japanese Core 2000 Step 01 Listening Sentence Vocab + Images
Japanese Core 2000 Step 02 Listening Sentence Vocab + Images
Japanese Core 2000 (Without Images/Audio)
Anki Supplement: Hiragana Deck with Audio:
Flash cards are a great tool for learning the hiragana, but if you're completely new to Japanese the pronunciation may be difficult. This deck comes with audio for each hiragana character to aid in the initial learning process. It doesn't take too long to learn hiragana, and this is a great deck to use for that process.
Anki Supplement: JLPT Vocabulary Decks:
If you're looking for an extra source of vocabulary to add into your own deck, these JLPT decks are perfect for you. They're loaded with more than 8000 cards of pure vocab, which means you won't be running out of new words to learn any time soon. I wouldn't say that these decks are meant for intensive study, but should instead be used to add in a few extra words per day to supplement your other sources.
The decks are ranked by level, with N5 being for beginners and N1 being for people who are very far along in their studies. You can search on AnkiWeb for yourself, or try one of the decks linked below.
This Japanese-English dictionary is the most simplistic and useful browser dictionary that I have found. In addition to the obvious Japanese/English search function, it also has wild-card search function (replace unknown characters with an asterisk to find all applicable words that match), kanji radical search (select the elements that make up a kanji to find it), and example sentences search. If you need to figure out a word or kanji, this site will be able to do the job.
This is the site where I began my own Japanese studies. At the time, the site was still in beta (and therefore free), but the system they have is quite nice. The site is similar to Anki in terms of how it works – its basically flash cards – but the card content is varied. For each vocabulary word you learn, you also get an image, audio reading of the word, and an example sentence. The program will also test your knowledge of the word in several different ways (reading, kanji, definition, etc).
Unfortunately, the site is now subscription-based. If the site seems interesting to you, I would suggest using the site for a single month and completing some of the easiest courses. The site's usefulness quickly tapers off, so there is little incentive to continue studying Japanese using only their program. Some of their original content is available in an Anki deck, discussed here.
One of the biggest problems with learning Japanese on your own outside of Japan is never having access to native speakers of the language. You don't have anyone to practice talking with or to offer you guidance/corrections. Luckily for us, there's Lang-8. On this website, you can write journal entries in Japanese and receive critique and feedback from native speakers. When you write out your journals, you should write directly into Japanese and do NOT try to translate English text into Japanese. If you so desire, you can also become friends with Japanese users that are seeking to learn English and do a language exchange. This is a great way to work on your speaking/writing ability.
The reading packs are a Living Japanese product. They take the first two volumes of the Yotsubato! manga and break the language down to make it easier to learn. Each word on each page is listed and defined. The words are also loaded into an Anki deck for easy review. The goal of the reading pack is to help you stop studying Japanese and start using it. Use the reading packs as a tool to help you begin reading manga, so that you can go on to read other titles on your own.
Remembering the Kana by James W. Heisig:
This book teaches the kana using mnemonic devices. It's definitely possible to learn the kana without the book, but it is a great tool for anyone who is struggling or who feels like they need an extra push to get the kana under their belt. The book takes very little time to complete, so it's worth checking out. For more information on learning the kana, visit this page.
Remembering the Kanji by James W. Heisig:
This book takes the common use kanji and presents them in order in terms of similarity and simplicity, so that each kanji can be broken down into the elements that form it. The key to the method is the use of mnemonic stories (based on the kanji elements) which allow for rapid memorization of how to write each kanji and associate it with a key word. For more information about learning the kanji, visit this page.
Reviewing the Kanji
The Reviewing the Kanji site is essentially a website version of Anki that focuses exclusively on learning the kanji via the Heisig method (more on that here). The site features shared stories for kanji, which makes it much easier to learn new kanji. The site's review system functions much like Anki, using flash cards and a spaced repetition system. When it comes to using the Remembering the Kanji book, this site is the ultimate resource.
Sound Effect Translation:
Sound Effects are often hard to find a translation or definition for, so sites like these two are extremely handy when you absolutely need to know what a “sound” means. On the NihongoResources page, just type the word into the Giongo/Gitaigo search box and hit search. For the Jaded Network page, you can type the word into the box or search by character.
This site is a dictionary of sorts, but its real value is in finding example sentences. Searching for a word will often produce several pages of sentences with English translations. This site is most useful for creating your own sentence deck in Anki.
Jim Breen's WWWJDIC is a massive dictionary site that boasts a plethora of tools. Aside from basic dictionary searching and kanji search functions, it also has:
- Text Glossing: Paste a passage of Japanese text into the box and it will be divided into sentences and each word within defined. This means that you can easily create sentence cards by pasting a sentence into the box and getting definitions for all words at one time.
- Japanese Name Search (ENAMDICT): Japanese names are all kinds of fun, in that they are quite often hard to pronounce due to unusual kanji pairings. Searching for a name in this dictionary will provide you with all of the possible readings for a name.
There are many other dictionaries available on the site, so if you're having trouble finding a definition or need a definition in another language, WWWJDIC will likely have what you need.