Dr. Lingua Kana Games (Review)


I’ve got someone I’d like introduce to parents, home educators, and teachers of children interested in learning Japanese. Say konnichiwa こんにちは to Dr. Lingua.

One of the challenges I’ve had when finding Japanese learning resources for my kids was finding interactive kana (hiragana and katakana) games that were well designed, in terms of both aesthetics and functionality. The resources at Dr.Lingua.com pass the test for both.

These games were created by a game designer and father from Australia for his two young children who study Japanese at school.   His children enjoyed the game so much they got their teachers to share the games with other students, and even others schools in Australia. And after playing the games myself and sharing them with my kids, I can see why they’re such a hit.

The first game we tried it out was Kana Grid.

kana grid

Kana grid works best on tablets and computers.

Here’s brief explanation of the game per the website:

 “The user is shown a screen listing games ‘focus’ in a familiar script – starting with a / あ / ア, and a grid of hiragana or katakana kanas, six matching the ‘focus’. Once the player has selected the six matching kana, the round ends, and the game moves onto the next kana. Each game has either 5 or 3 rounds consisting of kanas from a row of the hiragana/katakana chart.” (source Dr.Lingua.com)

The little puffer fish dudes on the right-hand side indicate the number of kana hidden in the grid so you know how many you’ll have to find. For each one you get, a puffer fish puffs up. Incorrect results in a slide whistle sound effect (much better than having to endure a horrible buzzer every time your child makes a mistake, amiright?) and a sad face on or plump little lucky cat friend.

In the above image, the game is Romaji mode (just a regular letter ‘a’), but you can also select hiragana and katakana modes — a super helpful feature to target specific learning areas.


The other game we tried was: Kana Bento.

Kana Bento can run on mobiles, tablets, and computers. It can played in a few different modes. Again, I seriously love being able to have both options from a single resource. I cannot stress what an awesome help it is for teaching and learning.

You can pick a romaji chart with hiragana or katakana.


You can also pick all hiragana, all katakana, or all romaji. Or just mix it however you’d like.

There is a timer at the bottom to track the completion time, but it’s also easy to ignore if you or your child just want to practice your kana recollection skills without it.

Final Thoughts

The Dr. Lingua resources are excellent tools to add to your Japanese learning toolbox. You can learn more about the Dr. Lingua by clicking HERE. You can also follow them on: Facebook and Twitter.


Happy Learning,

Shiga Shar




*I was not paid for this post. All opinions are my own.*

Wind Science Activity with Japanese Vocabulary


tractor wind
Photo from Thumbwind.com

風が強い。 (かぜがつよい。)(kaze ga tsuyoi)

The phrase above means, “It’s windy” in Japanese. However, it literally translates as, “The wind is strong.” Which is definitely the case where I live in Michigan.

Huron County, the county I live in in Michigan, is home to the largest wind energy operation in Michigan. In fact, the “Thumb” area of Michigan is home to over 2,800 wind turbines. That’s a lot of turbines!

Today’s activity, Wind Around the Home, is brought to you by the nice folks over at Education.com. I’ve used their site often throughout the years to assist with home educating my kiddos, so when I was contacted by them to share an activity on the blog, I was happy to do so.

I’ve also included some Japanese vocabulary words to accompany the lesson, something I do often to tie in Japanese language learning into our daily lives and homeschool activities. Alright, let’s move on to the lesson.


wind-around-home-350x440 (1)

Wind Around the Home

Grade Levels: 4-6

Questions: On which side of the house would you put a windmill? Is there more wind at higher altitudes?

Possible Hypotheses: There is more wind on the south/north/east/west side of the house. There is more wind at ground level/at roof level.

Materials: Pencils with erasers Thumbtack Thread – 25 cm Paper Protractor Compass


1. Draw a diagram of your home. Be sure to draw the things around your home such as trees, shrubs, and other things that might block the wind. Label the north, east, west, and south sides of your home with the help of a compass or parent. Mark sites that represent the areas you will be testing.

2. Make a device to measure wind strength. Push the thumbtack into the eraser of a pencil and tie the thread around the thumbtack.

3. Measure the power of the wind using your device. Hold the device in the air and observe the wind blowing the thread. Record the angle of the thread. The larger the angle, the higher the wind energy at the location. Repeat the experiment several times at different times of the day and in weather.

4. Make a chart to record the time of day, the weather conditions, and the angle of the thread at each site.

Analysis and Conclusion: At what height was the wind strongest? Was this true at different times during the day? Where would you put a windmill around your house to provide the most energy? Is there only one good location or are several locations equally good?



Wind:  かぜ (風)kaze

Windmill:  かぜぐるま (風車)kazeguruma

North: きた (北) kita

South: みなみ (南) minami

East: ひがし (東)  higashi

West:  にし (西)nishi

Home: いえ (家) ie

Blow/blowing (VERB):  ふく (吹く)fuku

-Example sentence: The wind blows. かぜがふく。(風が吹く。)kaze ga fuku

-To learn how to conjugate the verb, fuku, click HERE.



I hope you enjoyed the activity and learning some new Japanese vocabulary words!

Happy Learning,

Shiga Shar

Practice Using the De で Particle

Whenever I’m learning something new, I like to associate the new material with familiar things to better recall and retain the information.

Today, I thought I’d share how I practiced learning the basic uses of the de で particle using one of my all-time favorite movies, Beetlejuice. I’ve included five example sentences using movie scenes to demonstrate how the de で particle may be used.

First Off, What is the De で Particle?

The de で particle is used to indicate things such as:

  1. where an action takes place,
  2. the means by which an action takes place,
  3. a total, time, or cost,
  4. what something is made of, and
  5. cause.



  1. WHERE AN ACTIONS TAKES PLACE (location: in, at, on, etc.)


いえおどりましよう。       Let’s dance in the house.

We look in front of the で to learn the house [いえ] is where we’re being invited to dance. で is used here, rather than に because the focus of the sentence isn’t the house, it’s the action happening inside the house: dancing.



beetlejuice door

かれはチョークドアをつくった。He made the door with chalk.

We look in front of the で to learn that chalk [チョーク] is the means our subject (は) he [かれ] made [をつくった] the door [ドア].



beetlejuice movie

あなたは1時間半えいがをみることができます。You can watch the movie in an hour and a half.

Notice that the amount of time it takes to watch the movie comes before the で particle.



shimp hand

この手はエビつくられています.    This hand is made of shrimp.

この=this, 手=hand, エビ=shrimp


5. CAUSE (Because of, due to, owing to, etc.)


車が落ちたの、彼らは死んだ。 Because the car fell, they died.

The cause (falling) comes before the de で  particle.


Hopefully this helped give a bit more clarity on the basic uses of the de で  particle. If learning this way isn’t your cup of tea, you can also visit the following resources on the de で  particle:

Japanese Meow: http://japanesemeow.com/lessons/japanese-grammar-particle-de/

PuniPuni Japan: http://www.punipunijapan.com/japanese-particle-de/

Nihongo Ichiban: https://nihongoichiban.com/2011/03/27/particle-%E3%81%A7-de/

ChopsticksNY: http://www.chopsticksny.com/archives/contents/language/2010/02/3788


Thanks for reading!

Shiga Shar

If you enjoyed this post or learned something new, please share it on social media and consider donating a few bucks toward my 2017 Goodwill trip to Shiga through PayPal.

ありがとう // Arigatou // Thank you!





Memrise Japanese 1 Vocabulary Worksheet {Levels 1-7}

I’m a proud nerd.

steve urkel
I love you, Steve Urkel.

So making worksheets, flashcards, and other study materials most definitely puts me in my happy place.

These worksheets are specifically for the vocabulary words/phrases in the first 7 levels of Japanese 1 on Memrise. There is a total of 15 vocabulary words/phrases. For each word, you’ll need to write down the meaning of the word and write down the word in hiragana.

For example:

konnichiwa: ko / n / ni / chi / wa                   Meaning:

Write in hiragana

The answer:

konnichiwa: ko / n / ni / chi / wa                            Meaning: Hello, Good Afternoon

Write in hiragana: こんにちは

Writing practice* is easy to overlook when using apps, so hopefully this helps prevent that problem. These worksheets are inspired by the way I did my handwriting practice while learning Memrise Japanese 1. Hopefully someone else will find this practice as helpful as I did. 🙂

*You can also check out THIS free printable worksheet from Japanese-lesson.com for hiragana writing practice .

Just click on the link below for the downloadable .pdf file of the worksheets, print them out, and get studying. Please let me know if you have any questions or suggestions.

Japanese 1 Memrise Level 1 – 7 Practice Sheet


Thanks for reading!

Shiga Shar

If you enjoyed this post or learned something new, please share it on social media and consider donating a few bucks toward my 2017 Goodwill trip to Shiga through PayPal.

ありがとう // Arigatou // Thank you!






DuoLingo Japanese is Here!

pickachu dance



Duolingo Japanese is here! (iOS only for now)

If you’re not new to learning Japanese, there is an option to test your skills to determine your learning level. Every level has an option for testing out, actually.

I was able to test out of all of the hiragana levels and a few others, which made me feel pretty good about my learning progress so far. 🙂



My Thoughts So Far

The Duolingo app is another free option for learning Japanese that’s worth giving a try. It has around 40 levels total, covering a wide variety of topics. So far, it’s okay. I’m a bit of a Memrise junkie, though, so that will most likely be my go-to learning application.

If you’ve never used Duolingo for learning, it does take a little getting used to. For example, sometimes words/phrases are introduced without an introduction. To figure out what they are, just tap the colored/underlined section and an explanation should pop up.

I’d never seen the phrase: といいます until I saw it today.  As you can see, it roughly means I am called/it is called/my name is/etc. So when introducing yourself you can say:

はじめまして,(your name)といいます。

hajimemashite,(your name), toiimasu.

Nice to meet you, my name is (your name).


Have you tried it yet? What are your thoughts?

Thanks for reading!

Shiga Shar

If you enjoyed this post or learned something new, please share it on social media and consider donating a few bucks toward my 2017 Goodwill trip to Shiga through PayPal.

ありがとう // Arigatou // Thank you!




Talking about Possession in Japanese: Basic Grammar for Beginners

Today I want to talk about possession.

I’m talking grammatical possession here, NOT the Grudge-type possession.


(How do people watch that sorta spooky stuff, anyways?)

the grudge

This simple intro and explanation of possession is a great early grammar lesson for beginners, even those of you still in the hiragana and katakana learning stages.  I kept this really basic, I promise.

In English, we can indicate possession by using the words, my/mine/your/yours/his/hers/ours/theirs, or adding ‘s.

But in Japanese, we use the particle:   (pronounced: no).

Particles (in case you’re familiar with them yet) are a bit like the little laundry tags attached to the neck of t-shirts.

clothing tag

Except Japanese particles at attached to the ends of Japanese words in a sentence, not the back of your shirt.

And instead of giving you care instructions for your clothes, they give you grammatical “care instructions” for Japanese words.

And instead of chaffing your tender neck flesh, they burn your precious brain cells.


At least that’s how I feel for now. Hopefully particles won’t be such a painful part of speech down the road. Only time will tell. 🙂

Let’s start with some basic possessive pronouns created with the  particle:

Yours, Mine, Ours

There’s also:

HIS: かれの (kareno – pronounced ka-ray-no_

HERS: かのじょの (kanojyono – pronounced ka-no-joe-no)

Here’s the basic sentence structure for using  の as a possessive particle.

basic possessive sentence structure

As you can see, it’s pretty simple. You can also see how to use the particle to indicate possession with ‘s, as is done in English.

Lastly, here’s how to use the  particle to indicate possession in question sentences.

basic possessive sentence structure for questions

だれ (dare – pronounced da-ray) means whose.

です (desu), which is a verb coupla meaning. it is or to be.

The  (ka) at the end of the sentence is used as a question particle. (I can go more into the ka particle later)

You could also get more specific and ask: だれのすしですか?Whose sushi is that?

And a simple response might be: わたしのです。It is mine. OR あなたのです。It is yours.

Like I said, this is just a super simple intro and explanation to some really basic possessive Japanese grammar. Nothing fancy, just another small piece of the Japanese language learning puzzle. I hope you found it helpful. 🙂

Other links for learning possessive particle and grammar in Japanese:

PuniPuni Japan 

The Japanese Page

Thanks for reading!

Shiga Shar

If you enjoyed this post or learned something new, please share it on social media and consider donating a few bucks toward my 2017 Goodwill trip to Shiga through PayPal.

ありがとう // Arigatou // Thank you!





Motivation, Meltdowns, and Motherhood Mental Health: My First Four Months of Japanese Self Study

Four months goes by fast, you guys. Not only am I four months into my Japanese studies, I’m only four months away from my big trip to Japan.


I know that the trip doesn’t require any Japanese language skills, but I’m pushing myself like a crazy lady because really really REALLY want to be able to chat a bit with natives, my host family, and believe familiarity with Japanese will help enrich my overall experience in Japan.

I was doing great with my studies until February when we got our income tax returns filed in February. I was hoping to use this money to pay for my trip (including spending money), but the amount was half of what I was expecting. I dry-heaved and cried for a few days, and gave up on studying for almost a week while I wallowed in self-pity and snacks.


After a week, I told my husband that one way or another the rest of the money would come. I wasn’t sure how, I just believed it would. My dream was too big to me to just let it fizzle out because of stupid money. Even as I write this, I’m still short on funds. I’ve sent in my application fee of $200, and need to pay the first installment in early July, then the rest in early August.

The rest money will come. I just gotta believe.


Picking up language learning after that week or so break was rough. I was surprised how much I’d forgotten. It totally bummed me out, but the experienced was good motivation for never making the same mistake again. It took around a week or two of super diligent practice to get back on track again, but I did it.

Language Learning Tip: If you can help it, don’t miss a day of practice! A few minutes of practice is better than doing nothing at all.

Once I got my groove back, I hit yet another wall in my studies. Memorizing phrases and vocabulary wasn’t enough. I needed to study grammar, but I was scared. I spent the entire month of April tearfully navigating grammar.

grammar cry

Honestly, grammar isn’t so bad once you have learning resources that bore or frustrate you. The Japanese from Zero videos (info below) and the Memrise App grammar levels (info below) have worked best for me so far. What I love most about grammar is finally being able to write and read basic sentences, not just memorizing them. It’s so rewarding!!!

So let’s move on to the tools I’ve used during my first four months of learning and my goals for the rest of the year.

Study Tools for January – April 2017

Memrise App for iPhone

I friggin’ love Memrise!!! I don’t think I’d be as far along in my learning without it.

What I completed from Jan. 2017 to April 2017:

  • Basic Katakana
  • Introduction to Japanese
  • Japanese 1
  • Japanese 2
  • Started JLPT N5 Grammar & JLPT N5 Vocab

My next Memrise App learning goals are to complete the levels listed below along with Japanese 3, JLPT N5 Readings, and Beginner’s Japanese Grammer 1 (JLPT N5 Grammar) before my trip to Japan in September.

I don’t know how or if my phone will work in Japan for the 10 days that I’m there, but I’m hoping to at least keep up with my review words while I’m there. If not, my plan is to spend the rest of September catching up on reviewing all my words.

Oct. through December goals are to get started on JLPT N4 Vocab, JLPT N4 Readings, and regularly review all completed words as needed to keep them fresh in my mind.

MLC Learning Center (Meguro Language Center) Free Online Resources

My goal for my first year of learning Japanese is to learn the first grade level kanji, along with any others that appear in my Memrise studies.

I have the Basic Kanji 120 MOSTLY memorized.

  • Basic Kanji 120 Lesson (first grade kanji). Sign up to get the e-mail lesson for free HERE. There is also an option on the page to download the whole booklet at all once.

Japanese from Zero Video Series on YouTube

I didn’t discover these until my second month or so learning Japanese. The videos are created to go along with the book series, but have a lot to offer even if don’t have the books.

View the Playlist HERE.


Website HERE. Jisho is a free online Japanese dictionary. It’s crazy useful for learning kanji, vocabulary, and general reference. I use it a lot when I’m trying to figure out words or kanji in captions on Instagram by native Japanese speakers. It’s also useful for learning stroke order of kanji if you’re practicing handwriting.


I wrote a post HERE about accounts to follow on Instagram if you’re learning Japanese. The other way I use Instagram is by making friends with natives speakers and other nice folks learning Japanese. I absolutely love my IG friends! 🙂

Instagram has forced me to look up kanji, read/translate, figure out how to create sentences, and have conversation with native speakers through a sort of digital immersion.

The Results (So Far)

I’m pretty darn with happy with how much I’ve learned in such a short amount of time. There is no reason to let limited funds or limited time set you back from learning a new language. I’m proof of that.

Thanks to the Internet, there are hundreds of incredible free ways to learn a new language without ever having to ever leave your house or put on pants if you don’t want to. If you have a smart phone and/or computer, you can learn a new language.

As far as finding time. Well, it really comes down to priorities. I spend WAY less time in Facebook, which has not only given me more time to practice Japanese, I feel like I have way less negativity in my daily life. I also feel like spending my last half-hour before bed practicing Japanese has helped me sleep better, too.

And as crazy as this may sound, I feel like learning Japanese is making me a better mother.  Instead of having a glass of wine at night to unwind, I practice Japanese. And to be honest, I think my nightly “wine-down” was negatively impacting my health and well-being, including my sleep habits. As of today, I’ve been “sober” for a little over two months.

I also feel like the intellectually satisfying part of learning Japanese has given me more self-confidence and self-appreciation. It’s like the self-care practice I’d been missing to help maintain daily balance in my life. If I’m feeling stressed out or in need of “me time,” I grab a cup of tea or coffee (sometimes a snack), and study Japanese. I love it.

I look forward to what the future holds for my Japanese learning experience. I’ve even recently thought about how I might be able to use my skills for some kind of job, perhaps once all my little ones are grown up and done with homeschooling. A bit of extra income around these parts would be a huge bonus, for sure.

Thanks for reading!

Shiga Shar

If you enjoyed this post or learned something new, please share it on social media and consider donating a few bucks toward my 2017 Goodwill trip to Shiga through PayPal.

ありがとう // Arigatou // Thank you!




Drinking Beer & Learning Japanese with Nomitalk


I wouldn’t normally advise drinking while learning Japanese, but I think I’ll make an exception for Nomitalk, a new YouTube series for those who enjoy language and libations.

I love the natural feel of the Nomitalk videos, which feature ordinary conversation in ordinary settings with native Japanese speakers. The two videos I watched included a trip to a takoyaki bar and a walk through Yoyogi Park for Hanami. I’d never heard of a takoyaki before and didn’t realize people could sit and openly drink during Hanami. Interesting.

The Nomitalk videos are appropriate for all learning levels since they’re captioned in Japanese, romaji, and English. If you’re in the JLPT N5 learning range like myself, you’ll recognize a lot of the words, and actually be able to understand them since most of the speaking is slower, casual speech.  Perhaps that’s due in part to the alcohol. 🙂

alcohol aliens

If you’re looking for some high-quality edu-tainment, check out Nomitalk. You can find them on:




If you’d like to read more about alcohol and drinking culture in Japan, check out:

Drinking Alcohol in Japan by Tofugu

Drinking Culture in Japan

As for me, I’m not much of a drinker, but I do appreciate a nice craft beer or tasty cocktail once in a great while. I’m pretty curious to see what Japanese beer and alcohol tastes like, and hope to sample a few things during my visit in September.

japan beer


Thanks for reading!

Shiga Shar

If you enjoyed this post or learned something new, please share it on social media and consider donating a few bucks toward my 2017 Goodwill trip to Shiga through PayPal.

ありがとう // Arigatou // Thank you!







Usagi’s Hiragana & Katakana Drag-n-Drop Game

usagi chan

Usgai’s Hiragana Drag-n-Drop Game is a simple way to quiz yourself on your hiragana knowledge. Simply click on the hiragana with your mouse and drag it into the correct sound space. There’s also a timer at the bottom of the game square, if you fancy that sort of thing.

I memorized hiragana and katakana using the Memrise app, but enjoyed using these on the side to help reinforce what I’ve learned.

Using multiple learning tools is a great way to strengthen your learning, and keeps you from getting a rut with just one study method or resource. 

There’s also a Katakana version HERE.

Technology Required: PC with Flash Player

Price: FREE

Language Level: Absolute Beginner

Link to the hiragana game here: http://www.csus.edu/indiv/s/sheaa/projects/genki/hiragana-timer.html


Thanks for reading!

Shiga Shar

If you enjoyed this post or learned something new, please share it on social media and consider donating a few bucks toward my 2017 Goodwill trip to Shiga through PayPal.

ありがとう // Arigatou // Thank you!




10 Instagram Accounts to Follow if You’re Learning Japanese

If you’re not currently utilizing Instagram in your language learning, you’re missing out big time.


One way to use Instagram for learning a new language is as a “studygram,” where you post your daily handwriting practice, journal entries, etc. to hold yourself accountable and track progress. Following other studygram accounts for your target language is also a great way to hold each other accountable, learn together, and make new friends. 🙂

The other way to use Instagram for learning a new language is by following people who offer daily lessons or learning tips. I do follow some of these people on Facebook, too, but I try to avoid Facebook as much as possible these days since it seems like most posts are political and/or negative junk I’d rather not contaminate my good vibes.

Now on to the list!


Honestly, this doesn’t even need an explanation does it? Tofugu is the like the ultimate place to be following on every social media platform if you’re learning Japanese or need to satisfy your regular Japanophile cravings.

Language Level: Beginner to Advanced


Daily posts of Japanese proverbs and lessons by a helpful Japanese native speaker.

Language Level: Intermediate to Advanced


Daily posts of a Japanese word with an adorable illustration. There’s usually a helpful explanation in the caption, as well. Ringo in Japanese means apple, so A Ringo a Day is a play on words of the phrase, “An Apple a Day.”

Language Level: Beginner

@easyjapan_lessons (Crunchy Nihongo)

Mini grammar and vocabulary lessons. The Crunchy Nihongo website is a treasure trove of learning resources, too. They even have an app. (Android only at the moment)

Language Level: Beginner to Advanced


Instagram account for the MLC Japanese Language school in Tokyo. They always post great learning content, and a have a number of free resources and lessons available on their website. Material is organized by JLPT learning levels.  I’ve learned TONS thanks to MLC. They rock!

Language Level: Beginner to Advanced


Learn Japanese with this adorable cat comic. (Neko = cat, manga = comic book). Lots of romaji, which can be helpful for new learners. Having the context of the comic really helps reinforce the language learning. Plus, it’s just so darn cute!

Language Level: Beginner to Intermediate


A mix of vocabulary and grammar. Most posts also include an audio file to hear pronunciation.

Language Level: Beginner to Intermediate


Vocabulary, grammar, proverbs with well-written explanations by Romy Ellis, a native Japanese speaker and teacher.

Language Level: Beginner to Advanced


Such a pretty page to follow. Vocabulary is taught using kana on sticky-notes next to pleasant visuals to really reinforce language learning. I believe the IG user is a native Spanish speaker, so some captions include Spanish, but it shouldn’t hold English speakers back from reading and learning from the content.

Language Level: Beginner


Simple useful phrases in Japanese with a cute little illustration. This is mostly beginner level content, but you’ll definitely need to know your kana for sure.

Language Level: Beginner to Intermediate



Renshuu means practice in Japanese. I meant to include this originally, but I didn’t think they had an IG account. But they do! やーた!!!!Yay!!! I really love the kawaii comic style of learning. Again, having context when learning is such a huge help for me when reinforcing what I’m learning.

Language Level: Beginner to Intermediate

Thanks for reading!

Shiga Shar

If you enjoyed this post or learned something new, please share it on social media and consider donating a few bucks toward my 2017 Goodwill trip to Shiga through PayPal.

ありがとう // Arigatou // Thank you!