Apr 16

【RocketNews24】Six (and a half) essential resources for learning Japanese

Posted by Michelle Lynn Dinh (Shimane-ken, Chibu-mura, 2010–13), editor and writer for RocketNews24The following article was written by Philip Kendall (Fukushima-ken, Shirakawa-shi, 2006–11), senior editor and writer for RocketNews24, a Japan-based site dedicated to bringing fun and quirky news from Asia to English speaking audiences.

Six (and a half) essential resources for learning Japanese

As we’ve said before, Japanese isn’t actually as hard to learn as it’s often made out to be. Unlike English, for example, Japanese follows its own grammatical rules far more rigidly, pronunciation is easy because there is only one variant of each vowel sound to choose from (none of this tomayto/tomahto business), and it’s possible to create entire, perfectly meaningful and valid sentences without uttering a single pronoun or bothering to conjugate a verb.

Nevertheless, the language will not magically seep into you through a desire to speak it alone — you still need to encounter and study it as often as possible. With that in mind, we’d like to present to you the six and a half resources that no dedicated student of the Japanese language should ever be without. Oh, and the good news is some of them are completely free.

1. “Imiwa?”

Six (and a half) essential resources for learning Japanese2

Your dictionary is the tool you’ll use most often while learning any foreign language, so you need to pick a good one. As much as we love paperbacks and hard copies of books, short of finding a six-inch-thick Japanese/English dictionary that also comes with a team of thumb-sized elves who flick to the right entry on command and then keep a record of it for easy access, paper dictionaries just aren’t going to cut it any more. But why spend hundreds of dollars on a dedicated electronic dictionary when you can get one that lives inside your smartphone, is constantly updating itself to become more useful, and costs absolutely nothing?

Formerly known as Kotoba!, iOS application Imiwa? is arguably one of the best dictionaries out there. Available for iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad, Imiwa? is completely ad-free and, as well as being created and maintained by a genuinely dedicated and experienced team, has won legions of fans across the globe — and for good reason. At time of writing, the app is up to version 4.0 and includes pretty much everything you could ever need from a dictionary, including word lookups, kanji searches (searchable by radical, stroke order or words in which they appear), synthesised speech, verb conjugation, customisable lists, an enormous number of example sentences with words shown in context, and more. It’s also multilingual, supporting English, French, Spanish, German, Italian, Korean, Portuguese, and Russian.

Even if you’re a dedicated Android user or recently made the switch to Google’s OS, there must be an old iPhone lying around your or a friend’s house, so do yourself a favour, grab it and install Imiwa? today. (But if you’re determined not to be seen in public with an iOS device then JED, while not quite as expansive or aesthetically pleasing as Imiwa?, is a solid Japanese/English dictionary app for Android, and also completely free.)

Check it out on iTunes or Facebook now. You won’t regret it.

2. Rikaichan

Six (and a half) essential resources for learning Japanese3

As far as Japanese learners are concerned, Rikaichan is easily the “best plug-in ever”. With a single click, Firefox users activate a plug-in that allows them to browse Japanese websites with instant, no-fuss access to an extensive Japanese/English dictionary. Just hover your cursor over the word you’re struggling to understand and the plug-in will throw up not just a reading, but its meaning, and in some cases even break multiple-kanji words down for you so you can see what the individual characters mean.

Rikaichan is a reliable, easy-to-use, and completely free tool that makes navigating Japanese content online far less painful, and once you discover it you’ll never want to let it go. Oh, and Chrome users need not despair either – Rikaikun, a solid port of the Rikaichan application, is available for Google’s browser over at the Chrome web store.

Click here to read the rest of the list.

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