My first post on Japanese, offering you some tools and accompanying advice (most of which is in the latter half of this article).
I’ve decided to finally publish a post on learning Japanese in the wake of the Amazon publication of probably THEE best Japanese grammar guide on the market, written by a fellow American named Tae Kim:
No Kindle version available (no publishing in Japanese font), sorry for you Kindle readers.
Word list (dictionary), phrase list, english-to-japanese and japanese-to-english word search, and custom-choice flashcard game all rolled into one: Tagaini Jisho. It’s another free resource you want to get ahold of.
Note that Tagaini Jisho will not accept romanji.
If you are serious about learning Japanese, DO NOT LEARN WORDS VIA ROMANJI!! Yes, you may use romanji for learning the hiragana sounds, but don’t try to use it for words. Unless you hang out with American anime otakus, you probably won’t see a whole lot of romanji, at least not without also seeing the Japanese next to it.
There are a ton of free Anki decks available on the Ankiweb page for Japanese.
Want everything from audio to spelling to grammar in one pack? Try the beginner sentences with audio. There are several of them on the Japanese page. I would say the audio will be comprehensible by only those with an experienced ear, so a beginner will probably find it frustrating.
Learning to read and write is only half a language, and it’s only going to help you half the time you encounter the language, assuming you try to use it at all. Hence, you need to hear it in action.
A good site for starting with sounds and writing out the alphabet is sf-airnet’s Japanese language-learning section. It uses romanji alongside the hiragana when trying to teach you words, so if you’re serious about learning Japanese, don’t bother learning your words from this.
Here’s some advice with listening to or watching media for learning: it doesn’t help you to learn a language if you try to listen passively; you need to think about what you are listening to. Make sure you are familiar with the sounds of the alphabet first and try to pick them out as you listen to the audio. Note too that as you learn words, more things will start to make sense in a sentence. Don’t worry if you don’t understand anything someone is saying (and even miss the words you think you do know) since it generally takes a very large vocabulary before you can just listen and pick stuff apart. Listening multiple times to the same thing and looking up the words immediately can greatly help, especially since many times things will be pronounced a bit differently than you might expect given the spelling.
Japanese is very nice in that there really aren’t any silent letters. All but one character (“n”) is syllable. In practice, this isn’t so true: things are slurred together. While I should probably let you discover those slurring rules yourself, the most common are that “su” and “ku” get the “u” sound chopped off and “shi” gets transformed into “sh”.
For listening practice, some ways to learn are via videos on Youtube, especially those from the Japanese Society in New York City. You could also learn from anime. However, while this is an effective technique to some extent, it has it’s limitations. For example, the type of speech you hear may not necessarily be common practice or even appropriate in public.
Other Resources and advice?
The resources I’ve presented here are tested and proven to be helpful, at least in my opinion. I’m not just offering you some random links I found on the net.
If I find more resources, I’ll probably post them here, or create a new post and cross link that article and this one, and that way you will have access to both with ease.