Free Japanese Learning Resources
Since Duolingo doesn't have a Japanese course available yet, I want to give all you prospective learners all of the resources I have in my arsenal so that you have the opportunity to learn on your own.
I've separated these out a little bit, so the topmost are for new learners, and the ones toward the bottom are for those with more experience. That being said, however, all of these are great and useful no matter what your skill level is!! :)
This is more a method site. AJATT will give you tips about how to start your journey into the Japanese language and how to keep going and keep it interesting and fun. His posts are a little long but they're full of great info no matter where you're at in your proficiency.
It's changed quite a bit since I've been there last, but it still seems to have all the old stuff. This site will teach you some basic Japanese through videos and songs you can remember. It covers basic words, phrases, and kana.
This is just a fun site. Full of games, stories, new Japanese trinkets... odds and ends about the Japanese culture.
This was recommended to me in the comments. It looks like a good starting point for beginners AS WELL as a good continuation for intermediate students!
Recommended to me in the comments. I have a little bit of experience with NHK, but only their radio podcasts. I was using them as part of my immersion for a while.
More interesting bits on Japanese culture, Japanese news, and a few lessons and tips now and then. I still frequent this one.
Tim's verb and grammar lessons are great for beginners. I used this a lot and come back to it now and again if I need a brush up.
A staple for any learner, this is an online Japanese to English-English to Japanese dictionary. For those just beginning, after searching for a word you can click the box that says "Kana as Romaji". They also have a box for "Common words only" :)
Those are Rikaichan (firefox) and Rikaikun (google chrome) respectively. It's a browser hover dictionary. They come in a couple of languages, including Japanese of course. This is great for learning new Kanji (definition and reading) and for a pseudo spell-checker if you're like me. XD Unfortunately... well IDK... but mine doesn't show romaji. It's Kanji and Kana only.
Once you've found a word, run it through Tatoeba to get some example sentences by native speakers. whispers it's also works for other languages, not just Japanese!
A fun site full of bite sized Japanese lessons taught by Maggie Sensei and her other animal friends!
If videos are more you're style there's "Japanese for Morons". This is by the creator of Maggie Sensei. He brings humor to each of his bite-sized Japanese lessons. :)
If you don't already have Anki on your computer or phone now's the time to get it! I wholeheartedly recommend the Japanese Core 2000 decks! Anki is a virtual flashcard database and will offer you everything from Kana flashcards to words, sentences, and Kanji. As well as cards on probably any other subject you could ever need.
It's very textbook in nature. But Tae Kim covers Japanese grammar from the basics to the really complicated stuff in a way that is easy to understand.
This one is full of short skits that help test your ability to understand spoken Japanese in everyday scenarios. Each skit also has a transcript, available in romaji, kana, and Kanji, as well as the English translation. Fill in the blank activities, fill in the speech bubble activities, and quizzes!
For those of you willing to take that next step, here's lang-8. Write a status or a story in whatever your target language is (works for more than Japanese) and native speakers will read through and correct your grammar and give you tips. Likewise you can do that for other users! It's a great social learning tool.
Kanji Damage will teach you Kanji by starting with a simple radical and a mnemonic and then building up on that radical to it's final form. They also have an Anki deck! For this one... ALL the information on the cards are super interesting... but I've found cutting it down to the kanji/radical, the english meaning, the mnemonic if you need, and the kun'yomi and un'yomi if you wish is the best way to go. DO NOT try to memorize the entire cards. x_x
We're now up to reading practice. Yotsuba has 2 sample comics in full original Japanese for you to practice with. This one is more beginner friendly as the Kanji has furigana (small hiragana next to the kanji) for its younger target audience.
And finally, for those of you hard up for some challenging Japanese reading practice... or for those of you who are huge fans of Hetalia... or both. Here is Himaruya, the creator of Hetalia, 's blog. Full of artwork, photos, and full Japanese articles.
Good luck to all of you on your Japanese journey! I hope these help you out to the extent that they helped me. ^_^
Thanks for all these links Demon-Kiyomi i will bookmark this for sure. I plan to learn Japanese later.
Also there is really good app on iOS called HUMAN JAPANESE. I manage to go only trough first couple of lessons but it really looks like HUMAN japanese. There is also LITE version (i think first 8-9 lessons) so you can try it and also versions for Mac and after that there is HUMAN JAPANESE INTERMEDIATE
EDIT: looks like it is for every OS: Windows, Windows phone, Android, OS X, iOS LINK: http://www.humanjapanese.com
ああ、日本語を少し話します。二年間勉強しないから私の日本語はとても変になりました。 (translation:) Ah... I speak a little bit of Japanese. I haven't studied for two years, so my Japanese has become a little strange. (end translation)
... not that my Japanese wasn't a little strange before... XD But I'm probably making more mistakes now. x_x I'm working on getting back to where I was with it.
The hardest part of learning Japanese for me was learning kana (hiragana and katakana). Kanji's a breeze.
For grammar... some stuff doesn't sink in at first. don't even worry about it, move on to another part of the language... eventually grammar points will click. Don't try to force them. Just come back to trouble grammar now and then to see if you can figure it out or not.
10,000 input before output. 10,000 words, 10,000 sentences (I got this from All Japanese All The Time.com) Learn a lot of example sentences... and then know a lot of words so you can switch out words for the ones you need. (if that makes sense) :) It's a method that makes learning a lot easier. Esp. if you're like me and don't grasp parts of speech very well. XD
^_^ Just go for it! I'm sure you'll do great! And if you have any questions you can ask me.
Let's seee... My Japanese is a little rusty now because I've been away from my studies for the better part of two years... I might still be able to hold a decent full Kanji conversation...
Let me give you my stats from before my two years away from the language. Last time I actively was keeping track of the Kanji I could WRITE (I can read more than I can write) I was at 200 kanji... that was in 2010... I'd say I've at least doubled that. I could read and respond to most text based conversations, though I'd have to look up words now and then. I DO have Rikaichan on my browser... XD I use it more as a pseudo spell check for the time being.
My auditory Japanese is down right crappy. No lie. I can speak it, but understanding what's spoken to me is mind numbingly difficult. Probably because I think about it too much. So I work on that with TV shows and the like... and get super excited when I understand a full sentence and have to rewind it 5 or 8 times because "OMG I ACTUALLY UNDERSTOOD THAT!"
The only site not listed here that I used that really helped me gain ground in Japanese was Smart.fm's Japanese Core 2000 course. Smart.fm is now "iKnow" and is no longer free... but the courses are available in Anki. :D
I also use any DVD's (anime/movies) I have with a Japanese language option for audio practice. Jpop/Jrock songs, any Japanese Disney clips I can find online, etc.
The only paid for resources I've used are... I have a Random House Japanese-English English-Japanese dictionary, Barron's Japanese Grammar book, Lonely Planet Japanese Phrase book, and a Let's Learn Japanese Picture Dictionary. ... and I briefly had a subscription to Famitsu DS+Wii which was good reading practice.
Other than those listed, yes, those are all the resources I have used to learn Japanese. :)
Honestly... I started picking up Kanji before I had kana all the way down. How I do it, and how I've done it from the beginning, is if I see a new one I write it down. Hell if I see an old one I write it down. I have notebooks upon notebooks of repeated material (because I'm bad at studying).
My advice to you. Try EVERYTHING! Try every technique and method out there for learning Kanji until you find one that fits YOU. I write them when I see them. Kanji Damage is good if you need flashcards and mnemonics (they have an anki deck available also) Um... I'm sure that there are other ways. Try them all first.
When I see a new word, though, I pop out my handy-dandy 10 cent Japanese notebook and write it as follows:
(i don't use romaji anymore)
And then I NEVER LOOK AT IT AGAIN. And if I ever come across that kanji again, and still can't read it, I pull out my handy-dandy 10 cent Japanese notebook and write it down again. It's made the process really non-stressful to me because I don't expect myself to actually remember the Kanji. I also keep a couple of tools at my disposal like Rikaichan (rikaikun for chrome) which allows me to hover over Kanji and get a quick reading and definition, and jisho.org for when I can't just copy and paste a kanji I find, or can't otherwise get a definition. it doesn't sound very productive but they have stuck pretty well for me using that method.
I was wondering if it's possible to become reasonably fluent if I don't have any money to spend on textbooks? Because I've seen a lot of people saying that you have to buy books before you can start learning and it's kinda discouraging
(PS I'm sorry that I ask you so many questions)
NOpe. NOPE. NOPENOPENOPENOPENOPE. You don't have to spend a single dime.
I haven't been very consistent with my studies (which is why I'm not farther than I am) but I've never spent ANY money on learning Japanese. The above websites are what I used to learn.
Without spending any money (and bearing in mind I've taken even year long breaks between studies) I can now FULLY understand about 1/4 of everything I read or listen to. Which doesn't sound impressive but actually with that much ability I can piece together and understand about 1/2 of whatever I come in contact with. Even if I've never seen the thing before.
To test my skill I actually have TWO "blind" skill level testers. "Blind" meaning I've never come in contact with the Japanese Language Item in English before. Those two are Puella Magi Madoka Magica, whose plot I can ACTUALLY follow and understand. And Pokemon Y... the overhanging plot is kind of escaping me at the moment... BUT I've made it through several objectives and around half the map with reasonable ease. :D Actually some guy lost his poodle-pokemon and I was able to understand and meet the objective with virtually NO problem. (which is really cool because I'm often too lazy to even bother looking up the words I can't read. So I have to guess by the context of the rest of the sentence)
:) And I learn new words almost every day.... I'd call that reasonably fluent given the circumstances.