Language Study


In this section I provide some tips and resources for learning new languages, and most specifically for learning Japanese.  One of the most important factors I've found in learning another language is interest.  Even difficult languages such as Japanese can be learned, provided one is seriously interested, or has a day-to-day need, such as living in Japan.  That being said, in my experience, good study materials and methods help a great deal.  My method is best summed up as: use a Spaced Repetition System (like Anki) to study sentences, use a grammar guide (like Tae Kim's for Japanese) to learn about structure and how things work, and use the language in the real world!  Even as a beginner, you can try to read or listen to media, and eventually try language exchange groups online, or in your city. (I would, however, warn against going to language practice groups where there aren't any native speakers, especially if everyone's a beginner, as this has a tendency to reinforce bad pronunciation and habits.)


General Resources and Tips for Learning Languages

Wikitravel Phrasebooks
    Perfect for traveling or picking up basic phrases, Wikitravel has phrasebooks for many languages, although some are still incomplete.

About.com Languages
    Free resources for a variety of different popular languages.

Anki
    Free Spaced Repetition System program.  It works as a "smart flashcard" review system, where you review harder material more often than easier material, based on your response of how easy a given phrase/vocabulary term was to remember.

Tatoeba
    Site with over a million example sentences, translated between many languages.

Lang-8
    Language exchange writing practice site - correct other learners of you native language, and have them correct your practice as well.

Mixxer Language Exchange
    Find Skype partners to practice with around the world.

Other Tips:
    Use both a English-Foreign dictionary, and a Foreign-English dictionary. I've found the ones published in that language are usually pretty accurate, especially if it is a site for learning English.
 

Japanese Study Materials and Resources

Tae Kim's Guide to Learning Japanese
    Online textbook for learning Japanese - has a wide variety of useful lessons and description about Japanese grammar and other topics.  A great place to start, also has instructions for enabling Japanese support on your computer.

Denshi Jisho (電子辞書)
    A Japanese to English dictionary, also includes Kanji lists and animations showing how to write them.  Good for beginners and quick lookups.

Rikaichan
    A Japanese to English popup translator for Firefox, Thunderbird, and Seamonkey.  Perfect for looking up unknown words directly on webpages.

Space ALC
    Bidirectional Japanese English dictionary, also includes some sentences.  Quite comprehensive - site is in Japanese, but easy to use.

Yahoo 辞書 (Japanese Dictionary)
    Has a variety of Japanese dictionaries, including Japanese English and Japanese Japanese.  Useful for looking up more complex or hard to understand words, site is in Japanese.

How to Type Special Japanese Characters
    With the Japanese input enabled, quite a few interesting special characters can be directly typed, and this site has a comprehensive listing of them.

 









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