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I thought I'd take a moment to share some of the resources I find most useful for beginning Japanese learners! I highly recommend you supplement them with a class or tutoring sessions, but please take a look. 1. Real Kana:   This is an excellent site for memorizing hiragana and katakana (the first step for any Japanese learner). It simply shows you a character, and you must type the romanization. (For example, ? = a) There is also a kanji version (for more advanced learners). This is great for memorizing readings, but it doesn't show you any english definitions, which is a big drawback in my opinion.   Warning: make sure you learn how to pronounce each sound correctly! (This is where a tutor comes in handy~ *wink*).     2. Genki Kanji Practice:   Genki is one of the common textbooks used for Beginning Japanese (another... read more

As a Japanese tutor, a lot of questions I hear are about kanji: What are they exactly? Why do I read them one way sometimes, and another at others? How do I read them? Do I really need to study them? How do I study them? Firstly, Kanji are Chinese-derived characters used in written Japanese to form nouns and the base of most verbs and adjectives. Many have a purely grammatical function, acting as prefixes or suffixes, or to narrow definition indicating something such as places or occupations. Many pull double duty, not only in function (noun, verb, etc), but in meaning. For instance, the character for "metal" can also mean "money," "gold" (both the metal and the color) and "Friday." Pronunciation also varied between the Chinese-approximate on'yomi (sound reading) and the native Japanese kun'yomi. The Chinese readings, borrowed throughout centuries. This lead to various readings as Chinese dynasties, and therefore national dialects,... read more

One question I get often deals with memorization, which makes sense.  There is a lot of memorization in any subject, but especially with Japanese.  New vocabulary and kanji are the two biggest examples I can give you.  Thankfully this is a short post.  To sum it up: I find a dual flashcards/sentences approach works very well for both instances.   The study of Japanese, in my experience goes from broad, simple concepts to more complex kanji and more refined and specific vocabulary and grammar.  Some words or kanji might be near identical, but have certain nuances.  This can double or even triple the amount of vocabulary very quickly.  As a student, I started off very strong, but learning the nuances as I progressed started to become very difficult and I had to revamp my game.   Before I went to Japan, I downloaded a great app on my iPod, jFlash, which takes a lot from Jim Breem's JDIC (an online Japanese dictionary), a godsend... read more

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