some of my favorite 日本語 resources for self-studiers

I just wanted to share a few of the resources I’ve been using lately for learning Japanese through self-study!

LingoDeer (app): a free app similar to Duolingo, but focused on Asian languages. Has superb grammar notes, engaging exercises, really useful vocabulary, and did I mention it’s free? The Japanese course on LingoDeer is very well put together and would be a great companion app to Duolingo to learn grammar somewhat more formally and to get extra vocabulary.

Memrise (app, website): another free app similar to Duolingo, but has a huge amount of user generated content. Memrise does have “official” Japanese courses, but I think Memrise shines more as an SRS (spaced repetition system) program for grinding out vocabulary and kanji. The official Japanese courses are also good for getting in some extra vocabulary, but much like Duolingo, you learn the grammar mostly by induction.

imiwa? (app): I’m constantly running into kanji I don’t recognize, and when that happens, I go to imiwa? to help me learn more about it. You can look up the kanji by radical, type in the reading with a Japanese keyboard enabled, or draw it if you have a Chinese (simplified) keyboard enabled.

Google Translate (app, website): a great catch-all app for helping to find or define words, but I’ve been a little more creative with it. I set it to translate from Japanese to English and, using the microphone on my phone/computer/earbuds, I practice my speaking skills by making up sentences with the material I’ve recently learned to train my brain to think more creatively in Japanese. Great for beginners (or really anyone) who aren’t quite ready to practice with other people in real life. Just make sure your microphone is set to listen to you in Japanese, otherwise it will transcribe nonsensical English.

Anki (app, program): free SRS program you can download on your computer or download on Android phones (maybe other non-iOS devices too, but I don’t have one of those to check). You can also get it on iOS devices, but it costs $$$. Anki is particularly powerful because you can customize the content, format, and timing of the card deck to fit your study needs. For example, I made a custom “sentence mining” deck and formatted the cards to make me type in the answer in Japanese to improve my recall skills. There are TONS of user-made decks out there for drilling kanji and vocabulary, and just about every popular Japanese textbook/learning material already has a deck made for it. If you’re savvy enough, you can even have a separate program transcribe your favorite anime / shows to make custom cards with images, audio, and I think even video from the show to give you context for what you’re trying to study (it’s called subs2srs for those interested).

Various books for learning kanji: I’m a big fan of the Kodansha Kanji Learner’s Course for learning the Jōyō kanji plus a few extra deemed important by the Japanese government. The book teaches you how to look more logically at the kanji instead of just looking at them as a block of lines, and offers great mnemonics to help them stick in your head (e.g. it encourages you to learn 東=east by having you imagine the 日=sun rising behind a 木=tree). There are some great Anki decks out there for the book, too. Having said that though, there are lots of books out there that aim to do similar things. Have a look around to find one that suits you, because IMHO it’s super important to get comfy with kanji ASAP in your Japanese studies!

(EDIT) Forgot to mention one! (website): really clear and thorough explanations and examples for grammar organized by JLPT level. May be intimidating for anyone who doesn’t know a ton of vocabulary, but if you’re there to learn grammar, you’ll get a lot out of it.

Feel free to post some of your favorites! Happy studying!

January 7, 2018


My favourite for kanji/vocab: Japanese Kanji tree. It has three sections - recognition, reading, and writing, which means that you're not trying to learn everything at the same time. What makes this app even better is that in reading you can learn kana-only words, as well as jukugo.

My favourite for grammar: Tae Kim's Guide to Learning Japanese. Someone mentioned it, but only as a link, so here's a bit more detail. It's a web-based but it also has a decent reader app, which I use. This guide covers every aspect of grammar you can possibly think of, and the explanations are pretty easy to understand.

My favourite dictionary: Takoboto. You can search by meaning, kanji, romaji, kana, and radicals, and you can make study lists out of the words (and you can favourite words).

Another good app: Tangoristo, which is a news reader. It has different levels, and you can tap on a kanji to find out the meaning/reading.

Lastly: A podcast player (I use podcast addict, but it doesn't really matter what player you use) to listen to Japanese podcasts. When you have enough vocab but find it hard to understand actual speech, you can just listen to people talk about whatever in a completely natural way. It's very useful for comprehension.

January 13, 2018

The site RomajiDesu is very useful, if almost too comprehensive in the number of possibilities for words or kanji.

January 7, 2018

Thanks for mentioning it. I started using it, which I describe above, and it's been an amazing resource.

January 23, 2018

Thanks for those apps. I personally use:

Master kana in three days, using the one hour videos from Japanesepod101:

Then use these sites:

1) Keyboard inputs

2) Google Translate

3) For my daily lesson and vocabulary....if you do this series ahead of Duolingo, you'll probably have a good chance of knowing what the vocabulary of the early lessons are, and have an ear for the pronunciation. In fact, I may stop using Duo because these series of lessons are so thorough.

Each of the 48 lessons has a teacher's lesson at the end where all your grammar questions are covered. To access them, you can simply change the number below from 1 to anything up to 48, and jump there.

This one site can take you far, so please take a look.

4) 50 Languages Phrase book Japanese

The 100 sections of phrases have a lot of ERRORS, like the incorrect MP3 being played. Once I am done with the sections, I may sit down and provide them error feedback...we'll see.

5) 50 Languages Japanese Vocabulary

6) Boka Japanese - Learn Japanese using anime.

7) If I used Anki, which I do not anymore, but many use this timed interval technique:

8) Lingohut has an interesting program with simple features:

9) Dictionaires

10) Blogs and Websites for Grammar:

11) Kanji

There are 560 quizzes each with 50 words. The words were chosen in the order of the frequency in which they appeared in 4-years of Mainichi Newspaper.

12) Other Tools:

13) Quizlet decks:

14) To find sentences, I gave up on...

and now use:

15) A verb chart that still confuses me but as I learn, I may one day understand it:

16) When I need to convert Hiragana or Katakana to Romaji:

17) Simple Dialogues that you will actually have in real life:

18) Children’s Picture Books

19) Memrise

20) Sentence structure is easy in Japanese, read about it here and here:

One of the most difficult things to do is to find grammatically correct phrases in a foreign language. This is how I do it:

Decide which word (verb, noun, adjective) I want to explore.

Go to the Ultra Handy Japanese Verb Conjugator’s Sentence Finder:

After I get a list of sentences, I copy and paste them into Excel, and then I copy the kana into this website:

The translation will color code the particles and words, which is really helpful.

I then copy the Romaji into the Excel column of choice, next to the English or Kana equivalent.

I keep the translation page open though, because if you hover your arrow above certain words, you will see the translation and other interesting information.

January 7, 2018

Very good resources indeed. ありがとうございます!

January 8, 2018

Wanikani is amazing to memorize kanji. It uses SRS.

December 2, 2018
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