Jul 28

Nihongo Master: The Fun Way To Learn Japanese Online

Posted by Ashley Thompson (Shizuoka-ken, 2008-10), Community Manager for Nihongo Master and editor of Surviving in Japan.

Japanese is one of the hardest languages to learn. I’ve heard this numerous times.

People say it’s because you have to learn thousands of kanji in addition to hiragana and katakana.

As a visual learner, I’ve found the opposite to be true. Kanji makes sense to me. But what I’ve struggled with while learning Japanese, and believe many language learners experience, is maintaining the motivation to study.

This is why I was excited when asked to work with Nihongo Master, an online Japanese learning site with a fun, easy-to-use platform. The site takes an entirely different approach from all the tools I’ve tried, using social interaction and gamification methods to help learners stay motivated. As JETs we tried to make English classes enjoyable for our students, so why not have fun learning Japanese?

I’ve tried and used numerous language learning tools over the years–a few worked well and a lot of others didn’t. I bought study books and didn’t finish them. I found that I enjoyed practicing Japanese through online, computer or phone apps, but then lost focus within a few weeks. Few of them offered any sort of reward system or a way to stay motivated to continue.

Nihongo Master, on the other hand, provides incentive to learn, and keep learning, by unlocking achievements and earning points as you read lessons, complete tasks and do spaced-repetition vocabulary drills. The community groups and weekly community chat offer a chance to practice Japanese and ask questions. Or if you’re up for some friendly competition, you can build a team and compete against other teams as you learn.

This community aspect is something many of us studying on our own might find helpful, especially as it doesn’t require being at a specific location (other than your computer, of course). And the platform helps those of us who thrive off a little friendly competition. I wish that I had something like this years ago–a positive external motivator that makes the lessons less about endless textbook reading and more about learning for the fun of it.

Remembering that summer before I went to Japan on JET, I also think Nihongo Master would be useful for new JETs trying to cram as much Japanese into their brain as they can before they arrive. The lessons start out at the absolute beginner level and are engaging and easy to follow, helping beginners master hiragana and katakana. If you’re farther along you can skip ahead to later lessons. The hiragana, katakana and vocabulary in the lessons also include audio recordings by a native speaker for pronunciation practice, with a recorder to practice matching your pronunciation.

Another big plus is that Nihongo Master doesn’t use romaji in the lessons, so beginners become familiar with the Japanese writing systems right away.

The free Japanese-English dictionary comes in handy too, with definitions and sample sentences for over 150,000 words and 13,000 Kanji.

The introductory lessons are also free, and after that a premium subscription lets you access all lessons, make study lists, build custom vocabulary drill lists, and download kanji writing practice sheets for US$12 a month.

I’m excited about this platform and think its unique approach to language learning will fill in a large gap, particularly for those, like me, who need some external motivation and fun, especially if you’re new to Japanese.

Visit Nihongo Master to learn more and try it out for yourself. We would love to hear your thoughts!

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