Japanese Resources for Beginners: Part Two

Picking up where I left off yesterday, this post is about resources that help you learn basic grammar and kanji. I’ll also be mentioning where to find structured guides and supplemental resources. If you haven’t already seen yesterday’s post, you can read it here.

Basic grammar

After you’ve begun studying vocabulary words, the next logical step is to learn how to put them together.

Japanese grammar can be difficult for English speakers because of how different it is, but you’ll come to realize that it makes far more sense than English grammar and its endless exceptions.

Where to learn it

One of the best free guides on the internet is without a doubt, Tae Kim’s Guide to Learning Japanese. The lessons on this website expect knowledge of hiragana and katakana as a prerequisite, but it’s completely beginner-friendly otherwise. There are of course other quality grammar resources on the internet if you search for them, but it’s nice to have lessons all in one place.

I also love reading through Maggie Sensei’s blog. The explanations are so detailed they leave no room for confusion, and the examples are natural because they are written by a native Japanese speaker. The only downside is that the lessons aren’t in any specific order, and you may not find everything you need. I would use this blog as a supplement to your grammar learning.


Kanji

Kanji is the third and most vexing of the Japanese writing systems. Because of the number of kanji that exists (approximately 2,136 that are commonly used), it’s a pain to learn. But unfortunately, there’s no getting around it.

Where to learn it

I have relied solely on WaniKani, a website made for kanji study, and I’m not quite sure how I’d go about learning kanji without it. I love it because it:

  • uses a spaced repetition system
  • breaks kanji down into parts called radicals to make it simpler
  • provides humorous memory tools using said parts
  • only shows you vocabulary and readings that are commonly used
  • provides example sentences for context
  • gives you access to an incredibly informative and helpful community in the forums

However, it does cost money. The three available plans are:

  1. $10 per month
  2. $100 per year
  3. $299 for lifetime access

I know it’s an investment, but there aren’t many resources like WaniKani out there. The price isn’t unreasonable considering how much it teaches, and you can try out the first few levels for free to make sure you like it.

If the price is too much for you to commit, a popular book series other Japanese learners often reference to is James Heisig’s Remembering the Kanji. Although I haven’t used it myself, I’ve heard mostly positive reviews.


Structure

You’re not likely to find everything you need on one website, but for people like me who prefer a structured curriculum I would recommend the following.

Tae Kim’s Guide to Learning Japanese

I referenced to the grammar section of this website earlier, but it contains a lot more content. It’s useful for both beginners and advanced learners, and everything is free. This is definitely a good place to start.

TextFugu

This is yet another resource that costs money (sorry!), but I can vouch for the quality. As a beginner this online textbook was incredibly helpful.

Rather than just throwing the information at you, TextFugu is written in a conversational tone and explains complex concepts in a simple manner. It’s designed for self learners, so you’ll never feel as if you need a teacher to help you.

No prerequisite is required to use this textbook. In fact, it’s more useful as a complete beginner, as it’s supposed to be a comprehensive guide for novices.

If you’re not totally sold (I wasn’t either at first), try the first chapter to see if you like the teaching style. You’ll have learned hiragana, basic sentence structure, and some kanji by the end of it.


 

That concludes the beginner resources post. I hope this has been useful to anyone who’s been feeling lost. I plan to write more posts about resources, so make sure to visit again!

 

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