05 September 2017 @ 07:46 am
how are you guys practicing handwriting? here's how i'm doing it right now:

take an erasable pen in an eye-catching colour and write:

• pronunciation of unknown words (hiragana for japanese, katakana for chinese-derived pronunciation)
• if i know a synonym in japanese, the meaning of unknown words in kanji or “fake kanji words”. ex. if this word means “not full”, even if “not full” isn’t a real japanese word i write it anyway.
• if i can write a single kanji hint to the meaning (“this is an abbreviation that’s missing x kanji”) i write that instead.
• when i can’t do either of those i write in the meaning (in esperanto)

it’s really hard for me because in order to write so small i have to get 2cm away from the paper, but i can do it so i’m doing it. next time i read this book i’ll just erase the writing i don’t need anymore. it takes a long time (for me) but if i just do a little every day it’ll be good i think. my problem with handwriting is i don’t ever need to handwrite (not even the grocery list) so then i don’t practice since there’s no point. but if i get to the point where i can write class notes and stuff in hiragana/katakana/kanji fast, i’ll be handwriting a lot… i think.

when i do this so far it’s been late at night using my phone (yomiwa) as a dictionary, but that dictionary sucks so it’s really frustrating… i need to use sanseido on my phone or something…
09 August 2017 @ 10:48 pm
Okay, everyone hates kanji. Even Chinese people hate kanji (because in Chinese, every character has more or less only ONE pronunciation). And the dictionary definitions for kanji are really bad, so you don't know why x is also used for y which seems like completely different meanings to you. In reality kanji are pretty easy.

First off, each kanji only has 1-2, very rarely 3, individual pronunciations and/or meanings worth knowing. In most texts, anything more than those 2-3 pronunciations — or any rare kanji, or kanji not taught in school, even if it's standard pronunciation or actual common words, — will almost always have hiragana (furigana) to the side showing the correct pronunciation. Even usually in newspapers, which are the hardest things to read in Japanese (aside from archaic stuff). The exception is often really famous words, ex. certain place-names, but even those actually might also be written in/with hiragana instead. Stuff written for highschoolers and younger (meaning: most manga) will ALWAYS have pronunciations on kanji, even if they're super common kanji. (About the list of kanji people learn in school: by adulthood Japanese people have forgotten hundreds of them, but they know hundreds more that are outside of the list.)

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Finally: never "memorize" a multi-kanji word unless you know for a fact it's "missing" a kanji or written for sound and not pronunciation. It's a complete waste of time and brainpower to memorize "puppy" when you already know it by sight and context (because it's actually "child dog"). Japanese people do not see something like "child dog" as a unique, individual word like our "puppy": they see it as two separate words they can mix and match whenever they like. That's how kanji are used: like LEGOs. So that's how you have to learn them. A good example is the word "keigo" you'll see when people write about politeness levels in Japanese, as if it's untranslateable: this is literally just 敬 respect 語 single word, language = "respect-showing word(s)".

Here below, I'm going to put a few very clear examples (as I find them) of why you NEED to learn individual kanji and completely ignore whatever your translation dictionary may say about the resulting compound.

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29 July 2017 @ 09:08 pm
When you're just starting out, I advise you to learn katakana first. This is because you already know most katakana words! Here I'll make a list of all the ones I find in reading so that you can practice your katakana: note that this list will, eventually, get reaaally long.

NOTE!: These words are "officially" supposed to be written in katakana because they're foreign; in reality there's no such limit, you'll constantly see "katakana" words written in hiragana and vice versa. Don't memorize them as if they can "only" exist in katakana.

Last Updated: 2017.07.30

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03 July 2017 @ 11:45 am
yesterday i took the JLPT (N2 level). my advice / experience:

• study so that you could clearly pass N1 if you're taking N2. in particular, make sure you can understand formal nonfiction (newspaper articles, modern-history texts, business-anything) in both spoken and written form EASILY. you want to be at the point where you can VERY EASILY read all kinds of NONFICTION, adult books in japanese. you should use an app like "mazii dict" (dictionary where you can easily read news blurbs inside it) or "mondo" (purely intended for reading news) to read some news articles every day.

• instead of (panicking and) re-reading the long reading pieces, read and answer each question SLOWLY. once slowly saves time and comprehension, versus thrice fast.

• work on memorization techniques for when listening to conversations. just youtube "memory champion" etc and you'll see what i mean. you can reread text, you can't replay audio.

• if watching anime to learn, i'd say watch it once with japanese subs (looking everything up) and then once without subs. i didn't realize how much i was still relying on subs for comprehension of high-level stuff until the long listening came. (vlogs, "let's learn japanese grammar!" and other everyday stuff i'm understanding just fine without subs).

• it's very important to remember, on the JLPT there's basically NO CONTEXT for anything. obviously this makes things a lot harder than normal reading/listening.
——— my study / experience under the cut! )
27 August 2017 @ 08:13 pm
at animelon.com you can watch anime with japanese subs connected to a pop-up dictionary; viki an asian drama (j-drama) site with the same for chinese/korean and I assume eventually have japanese. i'm ranking series i've tried according to JLPT level. pick the level you're studying to pass right now (ex. if you want to beat JLPT N2, watch from level 3 then move on to 4+).

♫ means there tends to be background noise or music that makes it hard to hear.

last updated: 2017.09.23

1. (N4-N3 level): Black★Rock Shooter, Chobits, Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai! Ren, Flying Witch, Kobato, Shingetsutan Tsukihime, Ping Pong the Animation
2. Angel Beats, Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood, Furusato Saisei, Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun, Nyan Koi!, ReLife, Slam Dunk, ♫Tokyo Ghoul
3. (N3-N2): Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress, Kuroko no Basuke, Parasyte, Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai, Shiki
4. Baccano, Hunter x Hunter, To Aru Kagaku no Railgun S
5. (N1): Death Note, Fate Zero, Psycho Pass, ♫Attack on Titans
6. JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, Shinsekai Yori

Anime not on animelon:

(N4-N3) Devilman (TV), Kobayashi's Dragon Maid, Pokemon (Season 1)
2. In Another World With My Smartphone, Jyuu Oh Sei

J-Dramas on Viki:
(N3) 僕のいた時間

Special Notes:

— Flying Witch: really useful for "everyday Japanese" in case you're going to actually live in Japan. "Pass me the frying pan" "Take the trash out" "Mind the gap between the train and the platform" etc.
— Psycho Pass: almost every sentence uses N1-N2 grammar points with VERY clear context, so if you're studying grammar try this series.
— JoJo: Uses tons of literary/formal/archaic-polite language (であろう、なかろう、おる), at least in the very beginning, so it's good for learning politeness.

15 June 2017 @ 09:50 am
I'm getting a 3-year degree (Bachelor's degree) in Japanese here in Sweden (the school's name is Högskolan Dalarna), and since I couldn't really find any info on what a university degree in Japanese is like I wrote this up for anyone else who might be interested. I also took 2 courses of Japanese in the USA almost 10 years ago so I'll write about that experience too. If you've taken courses yourself, please comment with in what country you live in and how they were!

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...I figure that someone somewhere wants samples of some of the homework I was given each semester / of my final essays, so I'll go see what I have left and ZIP them up and put them here eventually.
My general advice for all classes:
1. If you own a physical book, write in the pronunciations/meanings of words you forget in the margins of the text using an erasable pen. So say you don't know 犬, once you look it up write "dog イヌ" or something. It's not cheating, it's smart studying and saves a ton of time in the end.

2. Always translate the reading exercises/dialogues (and in the case of short story class, the stories) before they're brought up in class as best you can. This way you remember their contents way better. You'll likely translate stuff wrong but a half-wrong translation is still super helpful.

3. If you're reading a manga, watch the anime and/or read the scanlations beforehand, and listen to the drama CD. If it's a short story, hunt around for someone else's translation.

4. For memorizing individual kanji meanings, replace words in sentences, stories and paragraphs with them. Ex. "I like eating dogs" becomes "私 好 食ing 犬s". I've done this with fanfics for example. For handwriting kanji, convert everything to a handwriting font and write down the kanji once each time it comes up in reading.
14 June 2017 @ 01:52 pm
If I could learn Japanese all over again I'd do it with these materials from the beginning:

1. Readthekanji. (For access to JLPT levels N3 and higher) you pay $5 a month, and you see words INSIDE sentences. You get an English translation of the sentence (which you can hide if you want) and write the Japanese pronunciation. After years of learning languages I know that seeing words inside sentences makes you able to recognize them much more easily in real life than when learning single isolated words a la flashcard software.

2. Animelon. You watch anime and pause the screen and click/hover the Japanese subtitles, and a translation will pop up for the word you chose. They ran the subs through an automatic spacing software and never double-checked them so when the spacing's wrong the dictionary can't find the right word. You can also have English subs, katakana-only subs, etc.

3. OCR software (I'm using a certain phone app that works super well). You can take or load a photo of Japanese, say a manga panel or book page, and it'll convert it to text. You can then copy the words and look them up in the dictionary that way.

4. A Dictionary of Beginner/Intermediate/Advanced Japanese. Pick the one according to your level and figure out the meaning of the grammar via their translated example sentences (their definitions aren't always correct/good so it's best to ignore them and learn it solely based on their example sentences).

5. Manga with furigana (so you can look up unknown words easily + do pronunciation practice by reading aloud). You can download a ton of apps to read manga for free on; you can read it for free on the 3DS; you can visit various websites like these:

6. A Japanese 3DS and a flashcart with a bunch of Japanese games loaded. Specifically, I've found that Ni No Kuni and some of the Pokemon games are great even if you're at N5. You can also play whatever other games you want of course, I think the original .hack// games are good if you're at N3 and above, SIMS is good if you're at N2.

7. Vlogs. Yes that's right. Simply type in a food name in Japanese into YouTube and watch bloggers go to restaurants and repeat "It's tasty! It's expensive! Do it this way!" a billion times.

8. Word-replacement software to learn kanji meanings. Ex. "I like eating dogs" becomes "私 好 食ing 犬s". This doesn't actually exist in the way I want it, I just made a half-working one using someone's greasemonkey script and have to pay someone to make a real one once I have money.

9. Learning another easy language first that teaches you about grammar. Yes, that's right — I've been learning Japanese literally 3x faster than my classmates (people who know English, Swedish, German, Serbian etc) just because I knew Esperanto beforehand. I've even been learning faster than some of my classmates who've already been living in Japan for over a year (just about the only people I HAVEN'T been learning faster than so far, have been Koreans). I'd recommend learning Esperanto and some kind of pidgin like Chinook Jargon before or alongside learning Japanese. No, it won't slow down your Japanese, it will literally speed up your Japanese learning even if you're learning all three at the same time. There's tons of research on this topic if you don't believe me, but I can also explain exactly why I have this thinking in another post if someone wants.
14 June 2017 @ 12:45 pm
You never find any real clear info online about which JLPT level corresponds to what so I'll write it here:

N4-N5: You only know modern, standard, semi-polite Japanese and possibly basic casual Japanese — without any contractions or slang or anything. The grammar covers the very basics of the most common grammatical words (と、は、が、を etc). The vocabulary's almost completely useless. After this level you can't understand any "real" Japanese and you certainly can't read the average manga or really make yourself understood in any way. I'd guess that you can understand 10-20% of the words from an average text.

• Textbooks: Genki 1 & 2 together; presumably any "beginner's" textbook.
• University: Years 1-2 in the USA, France, Germany; Year 1 in Sweden.
• In English terms: "I have an old dog. I am a boy. I was sad."
You can easily understand: http://botsan.com/botsan.htm

Practice for this level
— http://www.gonihongo.com/jsl_reading.html
— Ni no Kuni (二ノ国) for the NDS (not PlayStation); has furigana & is about 1/3rd voice-acted.
— Animal Crossing New Leaf for the 3DS; has furigana.
— Pokemon Gold/Silver/Crystal (GBC), Sun/Moon (3DS). The other games are more difficult.
— (Anime) Pokemon (1st season), Kobayashi's Dragon Maid
You start learning synonyms for stuff you already know how to say (ex. multiple ways to say "but, however"), more usages of the same grammatical words, and more polite and impolite forms. So now for example you might have a chance at understanding the shopkeeper's very polite speech. I'd guess that you can understand around 30-50% of the words from the average text.

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