As we transition into the bitter cold of winter, and you're stuck inside with a hot cup of cocoa under a fuzzy blanket, you have plenty of time to check out the new Japanese learning resources from November!
This month we found some solid apps and ways to take advantage of all the games you're already playing. Take advantage of these dark, cold months with some Japanese! Unless you're in the Southern Hemisphere, in which case, good luck with that heat—or go inside and study some Japanese in the AC. ;)
- Tae Kim's Guide to Learning Japanese: App
- Manabi Reader
- Kanji Garden
- Lingodeer: Japanese 2
- Let's Go Pikachu/Eevee
- Deltarune: Japanese
ReadNihon is a Japanese Reader, similar to Japanese.io or Tenjin Reader, but the focus here is accumulating vocabulary that you can study later—a noble goal that will help any Japanese learner, if they stick with it.
When you have trouble reading Japanese text, paste it into ReadNihon's "Simplify Text" feature to add furigana and mouseover dictionary support. You'll also get an auto-generated vocabulary list and multiple-choice quiz based on your text! The vocab list lets you add problem words to separate study lists, which you can review as flashcards later.
The focus here is accumulating vocabulary that you can study later—a noble goal that will help any Japanese learner, if they stick with it.
ReadNihon has a lot going for it, and there's a solid foundation here that will hopefully lead to better and better results down the line. Because the simplified Japanese text is procedurally generated, as are the vocab lists and tests, results may vary—both articles I pasted into ReadNihon got cut off at about 500 words or so, and I found furigana above katakana stuck around until I set my reading level to "Advanced." Without SRS or export features for the flashcard system, you'll have to brute force your way through whatever vocab you study too.
Give ReadNihon a try, but also give feedback. There are solid features, and the goal of vocab accumulation through reading is exciting. In time, ReadNihon could become a top-flight Japanese Reader.
Platform: Web Browser
Tae Kim's Guide to Learning Japanese: App
Tae Kim's Guide to Learning Japanese is the OG free grammar resource on the Internet. If you've been researching the easiest and cheapest way to study Japanese grammar online, you have absolutely seen this name come up dozens of times.
But did you know there is an app?
Yes, Tae Kim's app has been around, but it just got its first update in five years, which means it looks much better for those of us with phones newer than the iPhone 5 (yikes!). If you've used this app before, visually, it will look familiar, but the styling, speed, and ease of use have all improved.
Lessons are broken up into ordered categories, like any textbook, and they include written explanations, embedded videos, charts, examples, audio, and practice exercises. Japanese words used inline have dotted lines, allowing you to tap them to reveal their English meaning and reading in kana, instead of using furigana. And of course the content itself is well-written, thorough, and goes all the way from super-beginner to more advanced topics.
The app also lets you bookmark chapters, choose from light or dark mode, and customize your font size. You also have the ability to search the entire site in-app, which is extremely handy.
Overall, this is a very welcome update that will hopefully let you bring your favorite free Japanese grammar resource with you on the go!
Searching for interesting content in Japanese can sometimes be a real drag. You may not be able to look for the correct keywords or, when you find an article, you'll undoubtedly come across kanji you don't recognize. Manabi Reader, along with its companion app Manabi Flashcards, aims to solve this problem by aggregating a variety of different native-level Japanese articles and content in one place, allowing you to create flashcards based on articles you read.
A solid app that we recommend for reading sentences that aren't drab and contextless—especially if you're more motivated when reading about something you're personally interested in.
Manabi Reader opens to a list of content genres such as "News" and "Gaming" and even "Reddit." From here, the reader can choose whatever genre they feel like reading and go through the related websites. Pick a website, and you're presented with a variety of article headlines in Japanese with an accompanying picture. Tap whatever catches your fancy and BOOP, you're reading about rhino butts or old man hairlines or whatever you're into.
Manabi Reader also includes auto-generated furigana and a color-coded JLPT vocabulary system for those studying for the test. When you get stuck on a word you don't know, tap directly on it, and it'll give you a pronunciation, short definition, and the option to add it to a flashcard deck in Manabi Flashcards.
But what if you find a great website outside of the app? Just copy the URL and open it in Manabi Reader. You'll get the same set of options as their curated content, and you can further create flashcard decks based on your own personal interests.
Overall, a solid app that we recommend for reading sentences that aren't drab and contextless—especially if you're more motivated when reading about something you're personally interested in.
Kanji Garden is a free kanji learning web app that's packed with customization features. Just fire up your browser, enter your email, and you're studying kanji. Procrastination, begone!
The interface is simple. Begin by choosing your ability level (beginner, intermediate, advanced) and/or handpicking the kanji you already know. Then start learning kanji, which you'll review later with spaced repetition.
The kanji study here is comprehensive, and you'll be prompted to learn your target kanji's meaning, on'yomi, kun'yomi, stroke order, and related characters. It's a lot to take in, which is why you'll want to make use of the "note" section (perfect for writing your own mnemonics).
The benefits of Kanji Garden will depend on how well you use its array of customization options and if you hold yourself accountable. Changing your reviews from the default multiple choice to forced input is a good start, and enabling notifications will help keep you on track. Pay attention to your progress on the stats page too—you'll make better study decisions that way. There's so much here that a disciplined student can take advantage of, and it's all free. So get to planting that kanji, and grow a beautiful garden in your brain!
Platform: Web Browser
Lingodeer: Japanese 2
Last year we talked about the Lingodeer app and how fantastic it is. If you aren't already a Lingodeer convert, give our review a read (it's a lot!), and then come back for this news!
Lingodeer just released their Japanese 2 program! It uses the same fantastic UI, excellent teaching methods, and adorable deer to teach even more Japanese. With thirty new chapters covering everything from greetings to volitional form to apartment rentals, this is basically what we've all been waiting for.
Lingodeer teaches Japanese vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation in manageable and memorable chunks. It builds the difficulty in each lesson to make sure that you truly understand how to use and spell each sentence, word, or piece of grammar and then helps you remember them with its review tools.
Japanese 2 does require a subscription.
If you haven't already made the switch from Rosetta Stone or Duolingo, now's a great time to check out their Japanese 1 course, and for the rest of you, further your knowledge with Japanese 2. Though all of Japanese 2 isn't free—you'll need to have some type of subscription or a lifetime account to access everything—there's plenty of information in the free content for you to see if it's your style.
Here's hoping Japanese 3 is in the works and will be just as 👌 as Japanese 1 and 2!
Platform: iOS and Android
Cost: $4.99/mo, $9.99/quarter, $19.99/yr, $29.99/lifetime
Let's Go Pikachu/Eevee
Whether you played the original Pokémon Yellow or you've never touched a Poké Ball in your life, the two new Pokémon: Let's Go games are a great way to practice your Japanese skills and learn new words while you're at it.
When starting up the game, you have the option to choose your language. When you select にほんご, you can decide if you want to play in kana or have kanji as well. If you're a kanji pro (from using WaniKani), you'll probably find the kanji option much easier to understand.
We know you're going to play it anyway, so why not improve your Japanese at the same time?! ポケモンゲットだぜ！
If you're familiar with Pokémon, especially Yellow, then the content will be similar enough that you should be able to make your way through the game while focusing on the Japanese instead of the gameplay. And if you're one of the many people who have trouble with katakana, there's no better place to get exposure than the katakana-rich world of Pokémon! If you're having an especially hard time figuring out what a Pokémon's name or move is, there's always this Pokémon-specific dictionary, so learn learn learn!
Not only will you have to understand what a move's type is to win, but you'll be seeing the same moves over and over—built-in SRS! And the game is designed for kids, so you'll see a nice variety of text, most of which is fairly simple.
Honestly though, we know you're going to play it anyway, so why not improve your Japanese at the same time?! ポケモンゲットだぜ！
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Undertale is back… kind of.
We've told you before about what an interesting and challenging resource the Undertale game is, but there's a new chapter to the story, and it was released simultaneously in English and Japanese.
The language in Deltarune itself is quite challenging. Dialogue is heavily stylized based on the speaker, there's slang, weird jokes, and strange spelling and character use. This isn't for the faint of heart, but if you made it through the Japanese version of Undertale, you'll probably be fine.
If you're looking for a challenge, and if you're planning to play it anyway, download the Japanese version. Then again, keep in mind that you can't switch back and forth between languages in Deltarune like you could in Undertale, but you can always download copies of both versions. They're free, after all.
Platform: Windows or Mac
As the first snowflake melts on my cheek, I look up into the gray sky, close my eyes, and whisper, "Where is the next Terrace House season? That nasty kissing cliffhanger was too much this time. You owe the entire Japanese-learning community better."
Oh uh, hello there. Did you find any gems this month? Did you make an app, book, extension, or game to help people learn Japanese? Tell us about it on Twitter (@tofugu), through email (firstname.lastname@example.org), or write us a letter. (Which we'll really appreciate!)