Progress Update: Japanese (Plus My Learning Materials)

Japanese learning books

(These are all my Japanese learning materials. I’ll go through them at the end of this post.)

Hey all, just wanted to give you a quick update on my progress so far. Tomorrow it will be exactly one month since I started (re)learning Japanese. With this and university it feels like the month just flew by! I’m not quite as far along in Japanese as I would like, but I knew this was going to happen since learning languages can’t be my sole focus right now. I have to mainly focus on school and languages are secondary. That being said, I’m still trying to put a good amount of my focus on languages.

So, progress report! I managed to (finally) make it through the six lessons in my text book, Elementary Japanese, which I had gone through last year and I’ve gone through two more. I had originally intended to go through the whole book in a month (ha!), but I got distracted and as I got to lesson 5 I realized that it wasn’t going to be possible with my school. Sometimes I feel like the textbook is going too slow, but then I hit a lesson with a lot in it and I think it’s going too fast! I can’t win. Ha ha. So I will continue on with it, as I really like it.

I have a good hold on basic grammar, but my vocabulary is still limited. And, obviously, it still takes me a little while to put a sentence together. I haven’t been able to test my ability through chat yet, but I’m hoping to remedy that this week. It will probably be awful, but I’m looking forward to it anyway. 😀

I have written a few journals on Lang-8 and I plan to continue that. Using it to use new grammar points I learn in the textbook. Since Lang-8 in based in Japan there are a lot of Japanese people on the site and most of them are really friendly. It’s pretty neat.

I’ve also been listening to the JapanesePod 101 podcast when I get a chance. I really enjoy their podcasts. They are a paid site though (for the most part), however there is sometimes a promo deal when you sign up where you can get access to the whole site for a month for $1. That’s pretty cool. Do what you want with the download feature. 😉 (The company that does Jpod 101 also does podcast sites for a bunch of other languages. It’s pretty cool.) I use these mostly for listening practice and some vocabulary building.

I have continued to use Anki to learn the song “Klaxon” by immi and review stuff from my textbook. I also listen to a lot of Japanese music, well I listen to some songs a lot, and have been watching Iron Man in Japanese on Nico Nico Douga. They talk too fast and I can’t quite understand it, but that’s okay ’cause I already know what’s going on. It helps that for some reason the Japanese like to use a lot of English loan words, so I can pick some words out as I watch. (Like sector is sekutaa, percent is paasento, etc. it’s actually really funny. And a lot of katakana words make you feel like you’re cheating. Ha, ha.) I was super happy that I was able to understand an entire sentence in the movie today. “でも、私はトニースタークじゃありません。” (“demo, watashi wa tonii sutaaku jya arimasen.” “But I’m not Tony Stark.”) And of course all the times Pepper asks Tony if he’s okay. Seriously, how many times can you say 大丈夫 (daijoubu) before it gets old?

So really, even though I’m not where I’d like to be, I’m happy with where I am.

Now onto my ridiculous collection of Japanese learning material. 😀

So, starting at the top, the first book is Barron’s Japanese at a Glance Phrase Book and Dictionary for Travelers. I haven’t used this extensively but it has a ton of useful words and phrases. Includes kanji, kana and romaji. This is probably one of those phrase books that Benny from Fluent in 3 Months would use. I think it’s a good one.

The second one is a Langenscheidt dictionary. I’ve heard from several people that they’re a really good brand. Unfortunately most of their language courses are in German. But they have dictionaries that are in English. It’s a good dictionary that includes kanji, kana and romaji.

Third book is Barron’s Japanese Vocabulary. This was a book my brother-in-law’s mom found at the thrift store and gave me. I don’t actually use it, because it’s only in romaji, though there is a lot of good vocabulary in it. I have a hard time with books that don’t include the script. I realize that they do that because the script intimidates people (especially stupid Americans) and they want it to be accessible to them. But I really think this promotes illiteracy in Japanese. I know that’s not a nice word, but really when you get down to it, if you can only speak a language you are illiterate. Whether you like it or not. I realize that sometimes speaking is a priority, but can we please not promote illiteracy? Thank you.

The fourth book is All About Particles by Naoko Chino. This book is an absolutely must have as it covers a ton of particles in an understandable way. (I don’t think it covers all of them though, because Japanese is ridiculous that way.) Really good for deepening your understanding of particles.

Fifth one is 13 Secrets for Speaking Fluent Japanese by Giles Murray. This book covers thirteen parts of Japanese that aren’t always covered in a course, but are really useful. Cool little book.

Sixth book is Oxford’s Beginner’s Japanese Dictionary. I absolutely love, love, LOVE this dictionary. It’s a basic dictionary but has a ton of useful stuff in it. The middle of the book has a great overview of the grammar and it shows you how to revert verbs back to the dictionary form so you can look them up. No example sentences in the Japanese-English side, but there some in the English-Japanese side and they are geared for beginner to intermediate and are great for learning from. I can’t recommend this one enough.
Also, a dictionary I don’t have, but I borrowed from the library is Kodansha’s Furigana Japanese-English Dictionary. It is more advanced than the Oxford one and so it might be more useful (if you’re looking for a paper dictionary), but it is more expensive. I really liked this dictionary too. I highly recommend it as well.

Seventh book is Remembering the Kana by James R. Heisgi. This is a great way to learn hiragana and katakana (Japanese phonetic scripts) using mnemonics. I highly recommend it. Fun too.

Eighth one is Easy Japanese by James Seward. This was the very first Japanese book that I bought. It’s an okay book (though whether it’s “easy” or not is debatable), but I don’t use it anymore because it only uses romaji. The second edition might have kanji or kana I don’t know. Not one I would recommend.

Ninth book is Remembering the Kanji by James R. Heisgi. I highly recommend this one. It teaches you how to read and write the kanji by mnemonics. It doesn’t teach how to say the kanji in Japanese, only what they mean and how to write them and remember them. I know this sounds crazy, but it works. Maybe I’ll write a post about it someday, but for now, here are a couple of posts from Khatz at All Japanese All The Time to tide you over. For now, just get the book and do it. (The first chapter is even available for free in PDF format. Just Google “remembering the kanji PDF” it’s the first result.)

Tenth book is Elementary Japanese Teacher’s Guide and Vol. 1. This is by far my favorite book for learning Japanese that I’ve used. The vocab is a little limited because it’s set at a university, but they do a good job covering other things like weekend plans. The grammar is covered in a fun and easy way. I personally love it. Someone over at Kanji Koohii recommended it to me and I’m really glad I got it. It includes a CD with audio of each dialog and all the vocab and has other exercises with audio in PDF format. The teacher’s guide includes the answers to the exercises in the book and the CD. I highly recommend this. It is however a little more expensive because it is a university textbook.

Eleventh are Japanese in Mangaland 1 and 2 by Marc Bernabe. This is probably my second favorite series for Japanese. It’s pretty much a slam, bam, thank you ma’am, grammar overview. It has, as the name implies, examples from manga, which is really neat. They’re fun books. I use them for reference more than anything. For example, Elementary Japanese didn’t really go into adjectives and how to conjugate them, they did in JiM. So I read the part in EJ and then looked it up in JiM to understand it better. It’s really concise, but really thorough. I also have a workbook for Vol. 1 that’s handy, but it’s not in the stack because I couldn’t find it (I can barely find my floor my room is so messy). Highly recommend this series as well. It’s also cheaper than Elementary Japanese too (half the price on Amazon new, and a fourth of the price on used).

Second to last, is my notebook. I only have this in here because it has all my notes and handouts from a Japanese class I took back in the fall of 2007 and spring of 2008. It was an adult education course put on by the alternative high school in town, not a university course. (Ironically I met my sister’s husband at this class. We hit it off right away and I invited my sister to come with us to a movie and they fell head over heels for each other. :D)

And last is Barron’s Japanese the Easy Way. I haven’t used this one either; I just found it at the thrift store for a couple bucks and picked it up. (I am a bibliophile and I really do have a problem. :D) It seems like it could be a pretty good book from what I can tell. My biggest gripe (again) is that it’s mostly in romaji. It does however introduce hiragana right away; it just doesn’t use a lot of it. It also introduces kanji, but seems like it does so rather poorly. But it could be good for someone (like my mother) who is intimidated by the writing systems.

And one last resource that I don’t actually have a book for (but has now been published as a book) is Tae Kim’s Japanese Grammar Guide. You can view it on the website or download the PDF (or now, buy the book!). This is the bomb dot com. It is really amazing and really thorough. I highly recommend this one (there’s even a premade Anki deck for it). The downside is that like Japanese in Mangaland it moves really quickly through the grammar. Lots of immersion is a good companion for this.

Well that’s it, my extensive and ridiculous collection. I don’t plan on letting it get any bigger any time soon. I would rather get more native materials than study materials at this point. So I hope you enjoyed this (short) update and (ridiculously) long material review.

What’s your favorite resource for learning your language? A textbook? A website? A phrasebook? Let me know in the comments!


About veronica226

I'm a dedicated Christian learning Japanese to be a missionary and tell people about Jesus! I LOVE to read. I like hiking, swimming, watching thunderstorms and just generally anything outside.
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