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Japanese (日本語 Nihongo?, [nihõŋgo], [nihõŋŋo]  ([1] listen)) is an East Asian language spoken by about 125 million speakers, primarily in Japan, where it is the national language. It is a

member of the Japonic (or Japanese-Ryukyuan) language family, whose relation to other language groups, particularly to Korean and the


suggested Altaic language family, is debated.

Little is known of the language's prehistory, or when it first appeared in Japan. Chinese documents from the 3rd century recorded a few Japanese words, but substantial texts did not appear until the 8th century. During the Heian period (794–1185), Chinese had a considerable influence on the vocabulary and phonology of Old JapaneseLate Middle Japanese (1185–1600) saw changes in features that brought it closer to the modern language, as well the first appearance of European loanwords. The standard dialect moved from the Kansai region to the Edo(modern Tokyo) region in the Early Modern Japanese period (early 17th century–mid-19th century). Following the end in 1853 of Japan's self-imposed isolation, the flow of loanwords from European languages has increased significantly. English loanwords in particular have become frequent, and Japanese words from English roots have proliferated.

Japanese is an agglutinativemora-timed language with simple phonotactics, a pure vowel system, phonemic vowel and consonant length, and a lexically significant pitch-accent. Word order is normally subject–object–verb with particles marking the grammatical function of words, and sentence structure is topic–commentSentence-final particles are used to add emotional or emphatic impact, or make questions. Nouns have no grammatical number or gender, and there are no articles. Verbs are conjugated, primarily tense and voice, but not personJapanese equivalents of adjectives are also conjugated. Japanese has a complex system of honorifics with verb forms and vocabulary to indicate the relative status of the speaker, the listener, and persons mentioned.

Japanese has no genealogical relationship with Chinese, but it makes extensive use of Chinese characters, or kanji (漢字?), in its writing system, and a large portion of its vocabulary is borrowed from Chinese. Along with kanji, the Japanese writing system primarily uses two syllabic (or moraic) scripts, hiragana (ひらがな or 平仮名?) and katakana (カタカナ or 片仮名?). Latin script is used in a limited way, such as for imported acronyms, and the numeral system uses mostly Arabic numerals, alongside traditional Chinese numerals. Japanese was little studied by non-Japanese before the Japanese economic bubble of the 1980s. Since then, along with the spread of Japanese popular culture, the number of students of Japanese has reached the millions.



Michel Thomas[]

  • Superior to Pimsleur
  • Recommended as a beginning tool.
  • Strongly not recommended to be used as the only tool.
  • The tapes tell you to just sit back and listen to them, but in order to get the most out of them you should be writing everything you hear down on a piece of paper (preferably in Kanji, but as long as its not in Romaji, you should be fine.)
  • You can find it easily on ThePirateBay, but for now you can start with this Youtube video of the full first disk.

Rosetta Stone[]

  • 3 levels available
    Recommended as a beginning tool.
    Strongly not recommended to be used as the only tool.
    Covers pronounciation, reading, listening, vocabulary, writing.
    Very poor for grammar.
    Easy to use. Shouldn't take more than an hour to set up and begin using.
    More expensive than it's worth. Thank you based internet!


  • 3 levels available with 90 lessons
    Recommended as a learning tool.
    Strongly not recomended to be used as the only tool.
    Covers mainly speaking and being able to hold a conversation.
    Easy to use, just open the audio file and repeat. Try a free lesson![]

  • 6000 words divided into 6 courses
    Recommended as a learning tool.
    Strongly not recommended to be used as the only tool (not meant for grammar).
    Covers vocabulary, listening, reading, pronounciation
    Very poor for grammar.
    Easy to use, just create an account and start.
    Mobile app available, progress synced over all devices.
    Subscription service, 600-1000円 a month. Trial available.

Tae Kim's Grammar Guide[]

  • Covers most grammar you'll need.
    Recommended as a beginning tool.
    Strongly not recommended to be used as the only tool (not meant for vocabulary).
    Covers grammar, reading.
    Easy to use, available as paperback, pdf or online.
    Free, creative commons license


  • Has courses for all the Vocabulary needed for the JLPT N5 - N1. (N5 here to start)
    Recommended as a beginning tool.
    Strongly not recommended to be used as the only tool (not meant for complex sentences).
    Covers reading, grammar, and listening (but not complex sentences).
    JLPT courses play sound for words for listening comprehension.
    Has Tae Kim as a course.
    Easy to use, just create an account and start.
    Mobile app available, progress synced over all devices.
    Free, but has a premium membership block for certain options.


There is an English to Japanese course, though Duolingo should NOT be used as the only learing tool.
  • Alternatively, a Japanese to English learning program exists, so just click the button at the top that says your an English-speaking American and switch that to Japanese so you can start learning English. This works a lot better than you might think.
    Read this for more information:
    This should not be dismissed to quickly, since Duolingo have been scientifically proven to be superior to A FUCKING COLLEGE COURSE.
    NOTE: Science is incapable of 'proving' anything and anything claimed to be 'proven' by science should be treated with serious skepticism.
    There are also two major problems with this study:
    1. There is no comparison group of an actual college Spanish class, they only say the average college class is over 34 hours and is supposed to achieve a certain score on a WebCAPE exam and then since Duolingo can achieve the same score in 34 hours of practice, they consider it more effective.
    2. They don't test for retention over time, they just have them take the WebCAPE one time after they finish the Duolingo hours, so it's unclear whether people are more likely to forget what they have learned from Duolingo as compared to what they've learned from the class.
    tl;dr this study has flaws and Duolingo is not 'proven' to be better than a college class.
    NOTE: If your native language is something other than English, you should pursue mastery of the English language since Duolingo doesn't offer a Japanese course unless you already know English.

Mango Languages[]

  • Covers conversational phrases in 40 Chapters and 499 Lessons. Only uses kana. Available in the United States and Canada through your local library website (with library card) or through individual subscription.

User tips[]

(Originally written by ocat in 2010, revised version here )
First of all, you're going to learn hiragana and katakana and ditch romaji as soon as possible. Romaji is BAD FOR YOU. It will fuck you up if you get used to it.
Watch nama sensei. He is rude as hell, but he is a good motivator. I wouldn't have bothered to be where I am if it weren't for nama sensei.
Whenever you learn a hiragana, katakana or kanji, write it fifty fucking times, CORRECTLY, you bitch! Use these sites below for learning them. Learn 5 at a time, and then go to: and practice what you learned until you have a strong grasp of the ones you know. And when you learn 5 more, practice with just the 5, then all the ones you know. Before even going further, you must know, without a doubt, every single hiragana and katakana. It's like the fucking alphabet. Can't read without that!
Anki is a fucking lifesaver for memorizing the kana, in my opinion. More information about Anki below. The dude at Textfugu made a deck of Hiragana♙and Katakana with him pronouncing every one (both are hyperlinked there to the download from Textfugu), and it helped me so much when learning them.
After you get all the kana down, get Genki I and II and read it ALL. Here is their setup: they have a paragraph for each chapter, then they explain what they did in the paragraph. So read the chapter, then go BACK and read the paragraph. At the back of the book they have kanji. You best be learning these too. Every 2 chapters or so, learn 1 chapter of kanji in the kanji chapters in the back.
Then download Rosetta Stone, then Japanese II and III (skip one if you want). Here's my take on Rosetta Stone: it will teach you a lot of bullshit words and sentence phrases, terrible in teaching grammar, but is AMAZING for listening comprehension. Turn that shit up and listen to what they're saying. It REALLY helps you identify words in speech. Sucks dick at everything else. Don't bother with their 'writing' portion.
Get this for all your random translations, which you WILL need. Expect to translate hundreds of things, over and over. It translates anything you mouse over, 1 word at a time. If you don't know grammar though, you won't be able to figure it out, so that's what you read Genki I and II for. If you don't know what a word means, just write it down and mouse over it. This is, without a doubt THE MOST IMPORTANT THING YOU CAN HAVE. It's better than a normal dictionary because it will unconjucate for you and show all possible answers to your words.
Again, I recommend Rosetta Stone for listening practice only. They don't teach grammar for shit, but it keens your ears to listening. MAJOR FUCKING HELP. Use Rosetta Stone side by side with Genki, if you want.
Finished all those books? Time for practice. Find and SNES, GBA, GB, or NES game you like... in Japanese. They don't use kanji, so after you know your kana, you can start playing. If you know zero grammar, you won't get very far though, so best get some grammar first. GENKI teaches you grammar, do that first. When playing, if you come across shit you don't know, and fucking believe me, you will constantly be doing this--type the whole sentence into some text box, turn on rikaichan (the Firefox addon), mouse over words you don't know, then piece the sentence together.
Now for remembering words, you will need anki. Anki is a little timed flash card thing. EVERY time you come across a word you decide is worth remembering (which should be like 95% of the words you see), add it to ANKI. Do it however you want, but I recommend having the front of the card be kanji + kana reading, then right below it, full kana reading (so you can read it), then on the BACK of the card, the meanings. Let me rephrase that.
  1. Find new word
    Open your word deck in Anki
    New deck
    Cut and paste the entire definition of the word onto the back of the card
    Cut and paste the entire reading of the word (they have a reading with kanji, then a reading without, copy both) onto the front of the card.
    Add to deck
PS: Set your card timers to this (there are 4 timers). hard-show in 6-12 hours, medium-show in 1-2 days, easy-show in 3 days.
When you review your deck (FUCKING DAILY), if you can't guess the meaning, flip the card, then set it to 'soon', so its back in your queue. If you can guess it, choose whether or not it was easy, medium, or hard. Eventually words will burn into your head, so you can throw those out of the deck.
When you want to lookup word, use RomajiDesu , a pretty good online dictionary
here is another dictionary.
So how long will it take before you feel pretty good about Japanese? Maybe 100 hours or so. For all you WOW players, that's like level 60. By 150-200 hours (level 80?) you will be able to understand simple RAWs. How long until you are an expert? Well, typically a thousand hours. Think that's a lot? I put 7,000 hours into WOW itself. What do I have to show for it? I can fucking tell you anything about WOW between the years of 2004-2009. Means jack shit for everything else though. Anyways, 1,000 hours you should be pro at Japanese.
PS: When you watch your anime, try to listen to what they are saying. Fuck the subs, just listen sometimes. And for god's motherfucking sake, PRACTICE DAILY. do SOMETHING Japanese for a while every day. You can watch anime with subs as long as you LISTEN to the shit they are saying without reading much.
Good luck bitch. One month from now you could know basic Japanese. Remember though, learning isn't a function of total time since you started, but how much time x work you put into it. Every day you don't learn Japanese, you forget something. Get your shit together!
More shit you should look at:
  • Remembering the Kanji: Some people like this, I don't. At least check it out though.
    Hiragana in mangaland: Read this after Genki. They have lots of stuff Genki didn't cover, but Genki is still better.
    Kanji in mangaland: A bit childish, but good Kanji reading practice. Definitely recommend it.
    More to do with Anki: Look at the shared decks, you will see JLPT 2,3,4 Kanji decks. Start with Deck 4, once you conquer it move to Deck 3.
Note about Kanji: Learning Kanji can be a bitch, but deal with it bitch. You NEED to know this if you're learning Japanese. Don't think you can just ignore it. Too hard? Cry more. People learning English have to learn a thousand odd grammar rules. People learning Japanese have to learn a thousand Kanji.
How many Kanji are there, really?
  1. Kyōiku Kanji: 1,006 Kanji that you learn in grades 1-6.
     Jōyō Kanji: Another 939 Kanji taught in Middle/High School.    K
    There's a few hundred more you learn after high school, and an extra thousand if you go to college.
So that's what, like 3,000 Kanji right? Does that make you want to quit? Fuck off, it's not that bad. Once you get started this shit can roll easily. First of all, you don't even need to learn all fucking 3,000. If you learn only a few hundred you can be pretty functional. Sure you would need to know about 2000+ to read the newspaper, but be honest, could you read the newspaper in 6th grade? I couldn't. Too many big fucking words. I could, however, function in daily life, watch TV and understand everything, read shit like Harry Potter, all that. Really, don't let Kanji turn you off from learning Japanese.
I bet everyone here can name all the 151 original pokemon. Some of you could probably name 300. You could name their attacks, their types, items in the game, all that bullshit. Learning Kanji is easier than that, so don't fret. Also, if you like anime songs and shit, translate those for fun.
Anyways, better get started. Believe me, learning Japanese was a very fun experience. Think of it as like, playing WoW or something. Only when you reach level 80 does the game begin.
(added by DickForce in 2013)
If you read the above, you should be able to get to a lower-intermediate/upper-novice level. That's great, you've probably gotten through the hardest part in terms of investment capital. The next part is harder in terms of actual difficulty, because the amount of resources is shrinking, the amount of people you can talk to about where you are is going to shrink, and your goals are going to be less obvious. You'll have learned essential grammar, the basic writing system, and most of the top 100 essential kanji. So where do you go from here?
First of all you're going to need to get a copy of Tobira. Basically everyone in existence agrees that it is the definitive resource for bridging between the upper-novice to upper-intermediate level. It's a lot better than some of the proprietary garbage I had to use when I studied abroad. It's very simplistic and does not bury you in the challenge that many other "intermediate" books utilize, but at some point you're also going to need them as well. The listening practice is hilariously watered down with attrocious voice acting that will distract you from just how campy it is, but it's functional. There's not too much in the way of circuit activities, which may be a bit of a letdown for hands-on learners, but there's still a wealth of vocabulary, a bit of reading, and some interactive dialogue questions in each super-condensed chapter. This book should be your go-to for spoken Japanese, and the authors were so diligent that they made sure to specifically address the objectives of people who had come off of introductory series including Genki and Nakama. Make sure you read those addendums.
Next, you're going to need a little beef for your reading/writing work. Tobira is great for colloquial Japanese, but it doesn't really address the challenge of approaching written Japanese, which is a whole different ballgame. Chuukyuu e Ikou and J-Bridge (google around for the text) are common for bridging in literary skills. Generally I like the series that J301 (probably also available through google somewhere) comes from a lot more than any other reading textbook I've ever used, but there's nothing to keep you from trying multiple resources. Actually, these books are a bit boring, and J301 is the only one I find anywhere near endearing, but you're not going to find textbooks that you really enjoy until you move up a little bit. The next book over would be Chuukyuu o Manabou which follows the same style as Chuukyuu e Ikou and is comparably uninteresting, with a handful of psuedo-sciency readings that will piss you off if you understand how sneezing works and a bunch of specialized vocabulary you will forget almost immediately. It's largely only beneficial for building your reading skills and giving you something to do as you slowly advance, but it's good to have benchmarks anyway.
There's another book in the Chuukyuu series, but at this point you could do a lot better, so you should: invest in J501 which has very clear and practical explanations to a lot of useful grammar points, a fantastic amount of intuitive JLPT N2 prep, a substantial amount of new, useful vocabulary, genuinely enjoyable narratives taken from real writings, and a language track that's actually pretty (intentionally) funny. It makes you feel a lot more like a big boy, and it also has a lot of good circuit work as well, without bogging you down with the overly logical approach that the JLPT prep books smack you with. The downside is that reading difficulty ramps up quickly, and there doesn't seem to be any translation index you can compare with. Regardless, it's still probably my favorite textbook out of any I've used.
At this time vocabulary, kanji, and listening practice are all going to be haunting you, no matter how much time you've spent on the other textbooks. You're going to have to be a little more methodical here, which will make you die on the inside, but practice makes perfect. Anki is a MUST and go ahead and get the mobile app even if you have to pay for it. Anki includes a number of JLPT vocabulary lists and sample sentences, start from N3 and work your way up. Make sure your vocabulary decks include cards in the following styles: back-kanji, front-hiragana/meaning; back-meaning, front-kanji/hiragana. Decks styled in this way will allow you a more intuitive approach to learning kanji, as instead of drilling characters and readings, you will just be learning new vocabulary and how to read them at the same time which is much like learning how to spell new English words. If you want to implement writing into your regiment this same way, go ahead and do so, it should integrate cleanly into this study method. I personally give little time to character writing, because it's the least important skill in learning hanzi-based languages and will dramatically slow down progress that could be used towards fluency in every other area including writing (through a word processor). Anki also includes the Core 2000 (beginner to lower-intermediate) and Core 6000 (mid-intermediate to advanced) vocabulary and listening series, which is incredibly valuable for building listening comprehension, spoken fluency (via repetition), and experience with the execution of natural grammar. You NEED the Core series, there is nothing nearly as comprehensive and valuable, and it puts Rosetta Stone to shame.
After that, the only important thing left is to make the jump from Japanese as language study to Japanese as a communicative medium. I can't stress the value of My Language Exchange, the fee is very low for how effectively it filters out people who would pollute the community, and you will find people at all levels of English mastery. Try for as many friends as possible even if you have to shotgun messages; some people wil almost never talk, others will refuse to ever talk on Skype, and the total number of people willing to actively talk to you over webcam/phone and who can also accommodate the time difference will always be extremely low. Another good source is Cafe+ (formerly LINE Cafe) available free for smart phones. Developed as an add-on for LINE, a messaging service originally created to facilitate communication after the Tohoku Earthquake, it services a large amount of Asian users, many of whom are based in Japan or are fluent foreigners. Even if you find typing Japanese on a cell phone a pain, you can use the PC application for LINE to chat with people after you've met them in Cafe. Slowly develop your communicative skills this way; people will inevitably want to chat first (or only) in text, which is a good chance for you to start thinking of Japanese in terms of communicative language and pick up in the speed of assembling coherent thoughts. When you feel confident, go ahead and start calling people, many of whom will think you are some kind of movie star for the fact that you're Western and will be glad to see your face (but many Japanese are SHY and they love to emphasize this). Expect to make a lot of mistakes, but don't expect to be corrected; Japanese are generally strict about their social behavior and equally insecure, if not more, about their foreign language skills, so they will praise you even when you're doing poorly. You'll have to work to convince them to criticize you.
You will also need to start developing your reading skills at this point, so start with some casual blogs. Nihongo Day By Day is written by a native Japanese tutor for use by intermediate language learners, so it's filled with topics that should be of interest to a language student, written in a very collected and straight-forward manner. It's nothing like reading a Mori Ogai novel, which you might consider doing as you improve in comprehension. You can also move to manga and video games at this time, if you like, but consider that you won't have Rikai to help you and you're going to find a ridiculous amount of special-use language which will put you off in your intermediate stage.
The last thing you need to do, of course, is go to Japan. If you have the chance to study abroad, take it, you're going to improve no matter what. College graduates can also sign up for a host of teaching programs which pay a liveable salary and are much easier to get into than JET. Eikaiwa, NOVA, and Interac are just a few of many programs you could look at. A generic entry permit into Japan is also 3 months, free of visa for most people, and there is nothing keeping you from crashing at a guest house for four or five hundred bucks a month for that time, just wandering into universities or international parties to introduce yourself to new people. The longer you can stay, the better; it took me two months to get off the ground, even after having often chatted with Skype-buddies. Good luck.

Japanese Kana Kanji