Sunday 20 August 2023

My Japanese Language Learning Resources

My Story Learning Japanese

I came to Japanese after developing an interest in manga and anime in around 2018. I started studying in 2019, initially just with Duolingo, to see how I felt about the language. I soon decided to get more serious about it and began to buy some books and check out resources online.

All my Japanese learning has been through self-study. I was making good progress, but then I also took up Korean, and with split time my improvement really slowed. My Korean has now advanced further than my Japanese, but I think that is partly because my Korean study has been more organised, while I have flitted here and there with Japanese, taking a lot of grammar notes but not getting much else done.

At present, I am working through a couple of textbook series. Mostly it's revision at this stage, but I hope soon to 'catch up' with my current knowledge and begin making progress again. I do monthly conversation lessons on iTalki to practice speaking, I am trying to get in some reading practice, as well as some writing on Journaly, and I listen to beginner-intermediate podcasts in Japanese several times a week.

I spoke more about my journey with Japanese learning in this video.



The following resources are ones I've found useful.

Please note that I am not receiving any incentive to recommend any of these resources. Nor can I say they will suit every learner, as everyone's learning style is different. I am sharing only my personal experiences with these assets and cannot guarantee they will benefit everyone.


Basic Japanese Grammar - This is the first textbook I bought when I started learning and I found it a really useful resource in the early days, as it covers all the beginner grammar elements clearly and concisely and it's easy to search within if you quickly need to check something.
Essential Japanese Grammar - This book covers all grammar points you need to know. My only complaint is the way it's ordered, as it's alphabetical (by kana) for each grammar point. That's fine if you need to look up a particular grammar item and know what you need, but it's not so useful if, say, you want to write a cause and effect sentence but don't know what grammar pattern to use, as you cannot search in that manner.
Japanese Kanji & Kana - A good reference work for kanji, showing stroke order and common usage examples.

Kodansha Kanji Learner's Dictionary - I had another kanji dictionary prior to this one, but it often brought me close to tears. I would spend half an hour desperately trying to look up a kanji in it, only to be unable to find it. I then heard about the Kodansha book and splurged to get it. It was well worth the money, as the way the kanji are ordered makes it so much easier to find the one you are looking for!
600 Basic Japanese Verbs - A good reference book for common verbs, showing the most frequently needed conjugations.
Shin Nihongo 500 Mon - This series of books centres around the different JLPT levels, but I find them a really useful resource for revision. I can attempt the questions to check my comprehension and current ability level and to see where I am still making mistakes or not fully understanding something.
Minna no Nihongo - I am only just starting to look at this textbook series, after seeing it recommended by a number of learners. The information and exercises seem good at first glance; however, for solo study, it does require you to buy two books, as you also need the English translation and grammar notes, which are a separate volume. This might mean it's not a good option for those on a tighter budget, unless you can borrow from a friend or the library, or find some cheaper secondhand copies.
Japanese for Busy People - This is another series that I often see recommended and recently decided to try for myself. Currently I am only doing swift revision through Book 1; however, in general I like the layout and the way the material is organised. I think it's a decent self-study option for students who like some structure to their learning. The one negative for me personally is that it's all in kana with no kanji, at least in this first book, and I am used to kanji by now, so it's weird not to see them at all while reading the dialogues.
Japanese-English English-Japanese Dictionary - This is a dictionary that includes romanisation of words (and the Japanese side is ordered according to romanisation). I found it useful, especially in the early days, when I heard a word I didn't understand and didn't have the option of looking up a kanji as it was purely audio. I generally could find the word in this dictionary as long as it wasn't slang.

Japanese Short Stories for Beginners - This is a fun collection of stories that are suitable for the indicated level. They offer a second beginners' volume, too, and also an intermediate volume.

Japanese Stories for Language Learners - Unlike the Korean version of this book, which starts at beginner level and works up to intermediate, the stories in this volume are really for a more intermediate-level reader. At my level, I can just about manage, but I need to refer to the notes and English versions a bit more than I would like.

Parallel Text Short Stories in Japanese - I bought this book, but at present it's still a little advanced for me. I skimmed through it but relied a lot on the English version. I liked the stories, though, so I plan to come back to this book once my Japanese is a little more advanced, to try again with more focus on the Japanese text.



Japanese Ammo with Misa is one of the first Japanese channels I followed when I started learning. Her grammar videos are always easy to understand and she takes time to explain things and give plenty of examples.
Japanese with Shun is the perfect channel for beginners. Shun's podcasts and vlogs cover a range of interesting topics and most are at a beginner to low-intermediate level, only occasionally dipping into something more advanced when he does interviews. You can listen to the podcasts on YouTube or other forums like Google Podcasts.
Miku Real Japanese is another good channel for beginner and intermediate learners. She mixes things up between useful grammar lessons, cultural vlogs and interviews.
Japanese by Chunking offers some well-presented, quick videos on different grammar forms from JLPT5 to JLPT2.
The Japanese Page has a wide variety of content, but my favourite videos to watch there come from the Nihongo no Tane podcast series, which is excellent listening practice for high-beginner and intermediate students.
Comprehensible Japanese provides videos for beginner learners. They are presented only in Japanese, but accompanying illustrations and images help to explain what is being said.
Nihongo Life is a slightly different style of channel with a focus on grammar and vocabulary. I mainly watch the Sentence Builder videos, where you are given words mixed up on the screen and you have 10 seconds to order them in your mind into a correct sentence. It's a good challenge.
Learn Japanese with Noriko is a podcast/vlog aimed at intermediate-level learners and above. I listen to them a bit, but I currently understand only around 50-60% depending on the topic. I'm saving them more for later study as I improve.
Yuyu Nihongo Podcast is another podcast/vlog series presented for higher-level learners. The added Japanese subtitles assist, but you still probably need to be at least intermediate level to make the most out of it.
Onomappu is a fun channel. It started out specialising in onomatopoeia, but it also includes a lot of fun comedy focused on explaining nuances of Japanese culture.
Dogen is known for his amazing lessons on Japanese pitch accent. He has a paid series on this, but even the free content on his channel is useful. He also does short comedy sketches in Japanese.


Easy Japanese - A podcast aimed at learners at a high-beginner level. They generally run for 10-15 minutes.

Everyday Japanese - This is a slightly more advanced podcast than some of the others listed here and it's probably more suitable for learners at an intermediate level.

Nihongo con Teppei - A long-running podcast suitable for beginners. Each episode is general only about five minutes long, making it easy to listen to on a commute etc.

Sakura Tips - A sweet little podcast suitable for beginners. If listening via the website (linked) you can also see the transcript for the episode. Each episode is a compact 5 minutes.

Mochifika Slow Japanese - Slowly spoken Japanese podcast on a range of topics, suitable for high beginner and above.

Tofugo - A mix of episodes on grammar and culture.



I follow a number of Japanese language-learning accounts on Instagram. Here are a few I find useful:

Takashionary - Nihongo Master - Japanese Teacher Mari - JLPT Sensei - Japanese Language MLC



I have used/am using the following websites in my studies

Grammar/Vocabulary/Kanji:  Study Kanji - JLPT Sensei - Takoboto - Tofugo

Reading: The Japan Shop - Watanoc - Natively - Tadoku - Soseki Project

Media & Audio: SBS Japanese - News Web Easy Japanese

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