Japanese Learning


Having problems trying to improve your Japanese? Hate using the automated online translators? Experiencing difficulty trying to read those blog posts on Japanese blogs?
I had the same problem as most of you guys, despite having exposure to Japanese manga and lessons, my Japanese improvement progress was still often at a standstill, which pisses me off ^^;

But first, let me get started on why I chose Japanese.

The Big Why

It all started when I was in my 3rd or 4th year into anime and otaku goods (Back in 2004 I think). I was in an online community (Hongfire.com) as well which often deals with anime, manga, eroge etc and I wanted to know more about these without having to wait for translations so I began trying to pick up some of the language.

After graduating from secondary school, I made a swore with a friend (met on hongfire.com) that we would be in Japan one day, to live and work there. He kept his part of the promise, as he’s currently studying there while I’m still stuck here at the moment (Will work/stay/go there someday!).

Upon entering polytechnic (2005), I took up this Japanese elective module which was offered and started off with learning hiragana, katakana and basic phrases. After taking about 4 Japanese modules/courses (Dec 2006), I decided that it wasn’t sufficient enough and the pace I was learning at was just too slow. I started taking Japanese lessons outside. Also started reading Japanese manga (RAW) during April 2006.

My Japanese reading capabilities started to improve ten fold as I was able to read and understand more about manga stories and what the characters are talking. Also remember downloading those Japanese language packs that were available on bittorrent containing videos of people doing conversations. Just took JLPT 4 recently and passed (I’m more of at JLPT 3 standard actually ^^;). Must take JLPT 2 this year!

How do I get started then?

Firstly, I would like to clear the misconception of me being Chinese, I have the head start in Kanji. I have to admit Chinese was one of my most terrible subjects back in school, and I was diagnosed with dyslexia back in 2003 but that’s a different story which I believe it’s total bullshit and the specialist just wanted to scam some money off me.

^ Grab her and run!


Okay, for beginners, I think it would be first wise to learn the written systems – Hiragana and Katakana. This is utmost important as you will then be able to read basic phrases and words which is useful for your vocabulary.

I remember using the memorization technique recommended by one of my friends. That is to write out “あ い う え お、か き く け こ” etc several times before covering them up and trying to write them out without referring. Continue with that and you will be able to finish both Hiragana and Katakana in one day!

^ Tama-neechan to keep you awake!

Once done, you will need to revise and look at the characters from time to time. I used flashcards and reading manga with furigana aided in recognizing the katakana and hiragana characters.

You might also want to pick up textbooks such as “Minna no Nihongo” (Japanese for everyone) and try to start learning from there.

Another method I highly recommend is to enrol for Japanese classes. it is probably one of the better ways to learn Japanese as you are ‘forced’ to use it at least once a week ^^;


For Intermediate level, I have to assume you know at least a certain amount of Japanese and also basic grammar usages and stuff. It would really help to try to read Japanese blog sites and websites. If you’re experiencing problems trying to read those blog posts or have trouble understanding them, I would recommend you use Rikaichan.


Rikaichan is a Japanese dictionary Firefox extension for browsing the web in Japanese. I have only found it recently and was resorting to using WWWDJIC, J-prep and Google translate to aid in the difficult kanji words.

It is very niffy as once you have it installed, you will only need to highlight the text you want to know and Rikaichan will automatically find the definition for you. Very handy if you have rudimentary skills in reading.


You can grab Rikaichan here and Firefox below.

You can also try WWWDJIC, which I find really neat.

Have left out the Advanced section as I do believe by the time you’re at that level, you will know what to do in order to improve already.

There onwards

Other methods also include doing translations, blogging in Japanese etc which might or might not be suitable for you so do experiment yourself to find out. Setting goals such as attempting JLPT, wanting to marry Hirano Aya, or just wanting to know more about that moe character or even just having the desire to know more about the Japanese culture will help.

I also believe it is the passion which enables one to do anything. Subconscious hacking does help in a way as well, so as Auto suggestion. And of course, it is not just thinking about it, but also, applying what you have learnt in order to improve and grow (practice!) – that’s how the world works.

Wow, looking back, this is actually a pretty long post. I think I better stop now and go practice some Japanese before you guys start to nod off ^^;

Update: Forgot to mention this but you might also want to check out bangin’s blog entitled “Japanese words of anime fans, by anime fans, for anime fans“on Japanese terminology which is really useful. I learnt quite a bit from there myself.

25 thoughts on “Japanese Learning”

  1. I know I’m not saying anything new, but I think the best way to learn a language is to be surrounded 24/7 by it. Not only will you hear the language spoken constantly, but you’ll be *forced* to respond constantly, and you’ll learn things no book or manga or conversation video will ever teach you.

    If I want to *really* learn Japanese, I think I’ll have to go to the land of the nihonjin. Same goes for Chinese (China) or Malay (Malaysia … not Indonesia … no offense to them or anything but I’m just biased to my home country), Spanish (Spain or Mexico), or whatever.

  2. Thanks for the extension…I had no idea about it. One other thing is to join a Japanese online community and just start talking to Japanese people. This is my solution outside of the country.

  3. We have pretty much the same reasons for learning Japanese, though I started at around high school lol
    Right now, I’m taking up JP lessons every Saturday, and I must admit, I think I’ve at least gotten slightly better with the language. Talking/chatting with other Japanese people helps too; forces you to use stuff from class so that you don’t forget. Raw anime, manga, and eroge are all good for building skill, though much of the overly deep vocabulary, extremely casual grammar, and lack of politeness in speech probably should be left out lol

  4. I recommend japanesepod101.com for daily podcast japanese conversation / learning, my japanese improved a lot because of their podcasts ^^

  5. We all have our reasons to learn Japanese, which is good. Learning a new language is always good.

    Currently, besides all the otaku stuff and my dream to someday study in a Japanese University and later on work in Japan, I have temporary motivation which pushes me to strive much harder in learning Japanese so that I can hold a decent conversation.

    That motivation would probably last till September this year, where it’ll either continue existing and become a reason, or just disappear if my job attachment and other crappy responsibilities clash with my holidays. If it disappears, I’ll just have to fall back on to the other 2 reasons. But either way, I’ll still be fueling my passion for Japanese.

    On a final note, Rikaichan is the WIN!!! I use it to aid me in my very own personal karaoke sessions ^^

  6. Actually, contrary to the fact that learning Chinese doesn’t help much, I have found that it helped me a lot. Of course, note that I nearly failed it and stopped learning it at 12 years of age.

    Basically, it sets the mindset to learn Kanji. I was reading a bunch of articles, and I found one on learning the Japanese language and how the author couldn’t come to terms with the fact that 金 had 8 strokes, being used to English all her life. So, I think, the fact that learning a bit of Chinese might have helped one to accept the fact that kanji do, in fact, have a relatively high number of strokes, should be taken into account.

    Also, thanks for the link to Rikaichan.

  7. Thanks a lot for Rikaichan! didn’t know about that but i’m already using it regularly, it’s just so useful!!

    Back to the topic, I started learning Japanese at high school, and the course ended with a trip to Japan where we got to stay with a genuine Japanese family for about a week.. so I can tell that you can really improve yourself when you’re faced 24/7 with the culture!
    of course.. it’s not like we could just go and barge into other people’s home anytime..^^

  8. sorry, a bit off subject but there’s no mic on the i-pod touch but u can buy a 3rd party mic. usd29 i think.

    i got the voip instruction off youtube.

  9. Not sure if it is related, but some of the Japanese accidentally learn foreign languages after watching joke videos that misintepret speeches of those languages in Japanese.

    I wonder if English speakers do the same for Japanese speeches/songs. Probably not, according to cultural reasons(ry

  10. @nckl: That’s true. My japanese improved quite a bit when I was in Japan on holday last Sept ^^;

    @Caitlin: No worries. Will try joining a japanese online community.

    @Zeroblade: Chatting in Japanese builds up the speaking ability and also overall confidence. I can’t say I have a lot in both ORZ

    @ron~: Will check it out. Thanks!

    @double: You should have intro-ed it to me way earlier!

    @Sylon Beta: I suppose that is true as well. But I still can’t understand why there’s a mixture of traditional and simplified kanji. 飛行機(ひこうき)- Plane in Japanese is hard to remember due to the number of strokes, but in a way it’s kinda fun ^^;

    @don777: Thank you! Will love to be able to converse fluently with you in Japanese in the future!

    @eksxeltion: That’s nice. We didn’t get any chance to do a homestay at a Japanese family. How was the homestay like?

    @jonhohx: Okay, will look for it.

    @Derf Shaya: Wow. Pretty weird and cool at the same time.

    @Soshi: Lol! Me too!

  11. Oh so i’m not the only one who chanced upon WWWJDC and found it to be the best online Japanese dictionary ever!

    Hmm I have the same reasons to learn Japanese and took lessons when I was much younger, but had this non-Japculture period in my life which caused me to forget alot of it but I’ve been trying to pick it up and take JLPT4 asap :D

    Problem is, because I’m learning at my own pace, I probably know phrases and whatnots beyond JLPT4, yet i don’t know some of the basics that may be required in JLPT4. You got a website for the “syllabus” of JLPT4?

  12. Oh dang, I was told not to read your blog. Now it’s got fkn addictive! Shame on you, I even added you to my feed reader. I’m a tad bit wasted right now, but you’ll be hearin from me!

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