Thursday, February 26, 2009

Learning Japanese on a moderate budget

It has been an inordinate amount of time since my last post so here is some info that others may find useful. I already covered some books to learn Japanese. If you want an immersive leaning environment and are willing to pat with a few hundred bucks to get it you can supplement your education quite nicely with just a few items.

Genki is an integrated immersion course with materials published by The Japan Times. It is geared towards those in college with a lot of the vocabulary but it isn't as if one wouldn't need to know how to say college or physics in Japanese. The entire course materials include a textbook, workbook, CDs, flash cards etc. The Japan Times has an entire course site of useful resources. Some elementary courses at universities and colleges use the materials. Retailers have them at varying prices but you can buy them directly which ships from Japan or you can search for local retailers. Of course some of the materials can probably be found in the usual dark alleys of the internet.

JapanesePod101 is a great way to take in a short daily lesson. You can find it in iTunes or just go to their website. The basic podcast is free which is a few minutes of vocabulary or grammar with practice phases thrown in. This is a simple way to lean something new or practice in the car or at the gym. The paid memberships add access to the forums which can be useful with the community feedback. The forums are great if you are stuck on something o need help finding a tutor or school.

You gain access to the dictionary and quiz area which help to get you off of the romaji crutch. The most useful, to me at least, are the transcripts and the videos. Nothing quite like seeing the phrases on the page as you listen or watching someone speak a language.

If you have a Nintendo DS you are in luck since there are some great games that can be supplementary aids to your learning. My Japanese Coach is the most obvious. It features a quiz when you first start it up and create your profile that tests your knowledge of vocabulary, grammar, basic phrases etc. Once it determines your level it proceeds though a series of courses. These courses cover the elementary level of Japanese. I wouldn't recommend it as your only source but the writing practice, speech practice, and fast recognition of words in the mini-games are a decent supplement to Genki and JapanesePod101.

If you have the desire for true mastery, a DS, and a little cash you can do a lot worse than Zaidenhoujin Nippon Kanji Nouryoku Kentai Kouinin: KanKen DS. This game is basically a huge amount of kanji that you practice writing correctly. This is designed to prepare you for the kanji certification. This can also be useful to improve fluency even if you're not looking to be certified. There are other software options such as Kageyama Method - Dennou Hanpuku: Tadashii Kanji Kaki to Rikun. I'd also recommend checking the prices between PlayAsia and National Console Support.

Games are a good option along with movies to give yourself some immersive practice. You might as well take advantage of the fact that the games for DS, PSP, and PS3 systems are region free. Especially, with the PS3 setting up a Japanese PSN account and downloading a demo from Japan isn't that hard. Understanding what is being said in the movies or the games? YMMV