I’m not going to lie, at first glance, Japanese looked super intimidating. None of the characters seem to resemble familiar letters or make any sort of sense. I wasn’t really sure it was something I could teach myself, let alone teach my children, especially since I had no idea where to even begin learning. After about three days scouring the web, I came up with a handful of resources that are great for newbies, free, and fun to use. Hopefully, this post will prevent the newbie overload I faced when beginning my Japanese learning journey.
Before you start learning Japanese, you should know that the Japanese language is called, Nihongo. It’s made up of two main parts of the Japanese language: Kana and Kanji.
Kana consists of Hiragana and Katakana. These are called, syllabaries, which are like alphabets made up of sounds. These should be learned BEFORE learning Kanji. They each have 48 characters, and are rather similar, but I’ll show you more about that in a moment.
Kanji are the thousands of symbolic characters. You know, the ones you always see tattoo’d on the biceps of 20-year-olds.
And sometimes, you’ll also see Romaji, which is the English spelling/pronunciation of Japanese words, such as konnichiwa.
Here’s an example of the ‘A’ Kana.
The A sounds like the “ah” sound you’d make when the doctor tells you to open wide to look at your tonsils.
If you look closely, you can see hidden letter A’s in the hiragana and katakana. Little tricks like this are incredibly helpful tricks for memorizing the kana.
I recommend learning both hiragana and katakana together. It helps you see similarities between characters and get through the memorization process quicker. I’d say that the average adult should be able to memorize the kana in about a month if you practice for at least 15 minutes or so a day.
Now on to the resources….
MY FAVORITE FREE JAPANESE LEARNING RESOURCES
Memrise App – The app is free, but you can upgrade the service to access other features. My 13-year-old and I both love this app!
Miraii Japanese App – The first 20 lessons are free, and super helpful for learning some basic grammar and vocab.
Puni Puni Japan – Cute videos of colorful little blob aliens who want to learn Japanese. I think it’s aimed toward younger children (my youngest adores these videos), but they’re fun for all ages. They also offer a set of free e-books to learn Kana and Kanji when you sign up for their newsletter.
Tofugu.com – This is a link to Japanese language learning resource page, which includes some of their own resources. Their Ultimate Hiragana Guide is awesome!!! Tofugu offers hilarious (sometimes a bit vulgar) articles and makes learning Japanese language and culture a lot of fun.
Japanese From Zero – I just signed my 13-year-old up for this a few days ago, but he hasn’t done a lesson yet. It’s basically a free virtual Japanese classroom, and looks pretty awesome. I’ll have to report back once my son gives it a whirl.
YouTube – There are far too many videos for me to list, but you can find a TON of helpful language learning videos on YouTube. You can check out my Resource page for a few specific channels I’ve tried and liked so far.
Have fun learning Japanese and don’t forget to
Ganbatte! Do your best! 頑張って! (がんばって!)
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