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Posted by jamie | Posted in -Featured- | Posted on 16-02-2009

Over the last year or so there have been some amazing new sites on the intertubes that I personally believe can take your Japanese to the next level. Today I’d like to introduce those to you – hopefully saving you some pennies in the process.

Note that these sites are really not for absolute beginners. Before you start learning in this way, you really should have the basic Japanese grammar rules down, such as knowing all the different possible verb conjugations and tenses etc. From here on out, your only problem should be lack of vocabulary and fluency errors. That is where these sites come in.

Vocab:

Working on your fluency in a language is a big problem for most people. In speaking situations, there are constants debates over whether one should be even be directly corrected
iKnow is a “social learning platform“. Ignoring the social aspect of it though, what we have here is a personalized vocabulary trainer with proven method to help you remember the kanji and the meaning. Essentially, it shows you some vocab flashcards and pronounces them, then tests you on them with a variety of increasingly difficult testing methods (starting at multiple choice of meaning given the Japanese with a choice of 4, then 8, then choosing the Japanese reading given only the English meaning, and finally typing the reading straight from memory). You do this daily, and each time the system reinforces previously studied vocabulary. It sounds simple, but it does it so well and is honestly effective. There’s a huge variety of courses, not just Japanese for English speakers, and you can even create your own vocab lists (with voice recordings) for yourself or others to study from. What really makes the sites stand out is just the slick interface and how well everything is tied together. You can even subscribe to a automagically generated personalized podcast which contains example sentences of all the vocab you studied the previous day.

Fluency:

Working on your fluency in any language is a big issue. As for speaking, debates rage on as to whether it is ever appropriate to correct someone if they are understood, so this is something you will have to work out yourself with the people you communicate with on a daily basis. As for your writing fluency though – wouldn’t it be great if there was somewhere you could have your written work corrected by a native, even better if it was all free? Well, such a site does exist. Lang-8.com is precisely that. Again, a kind of social network with friend connections and blogging (or journals, as the site refers to them), but with one major differece – your journal entries are corrected by a native, usually within minutes. Of course in order for this to be free, there has to be some kind of exchange going on. The beauty of the site is that the exchange part of correcting journals is all automated – you don’t have to search for an exchange partner, you don’t have to keep correcting one particular persons journal. Instead when you login you are given a short list of journals entries written in your native language that are awaiting corrections; correct them and the system will add points to your account. Next time you add a journal entry, assuming you have points, your entry will be displayed on the awaiting correction list for other users. In my experience, my journal entries written in Japanese have been corrected by around 3 people all within the space of a few minutes of publishing. Of course, I also regularly correct others Englishs journals if I have 10 minutes free.

Both sites require a valid email address to register, but I can personally confirm they are spam free. If you’d to add my me as a study-buddy (!?), my username for both sites is “w0lfi3″ (careful with the zero and a three in there…)

If you liked this article and would like to subscribe to our feed for more down the line, click here. If you don’t know what subscribing to a feed means, you can find out more here. By subscribing, you will also be donating $0.50 towards a micro loan once I reach my first goal of 50 subscribers. At the time of publishing, we are currently at the grand total of 5 readers, so there is a long way to go yet!

Comments (10)

Great article; I love iKnow!

i've been using iKnow a lot as well and even blogged about it. Excellent free service!

My absolute favorite website for learning Japanese is http://www.kanji.koohii.com

Andrew Cowan’s latest blog post is…Send money from Japan

The Facebook application “Kanji Box” rules.

I am sure those sites look helpful for some people. But if you aren’t willing to pay for your study materials, do you really even want it? I feel like without some kind of monetary commitment there is nothing to make you feel really invested in what you are doing. But then again I am old school – learning Japanese off the internet back in 2000 meant trying to read 2ch posts and the menu on the Mos Burger website.

Good point Adam~ I think in terms of personal commitment and feeling invested, choosing to live here in Japan is quite an investment! That, and going out with someone whose only common language with me is Japanese is/was motivation enough. Investing in textbooks I think depends on the kind of learner you are and your personal tastes. I myself have bought a number of textbooks and phrasebooks over the years, but I have to say the only one that I really ever clicked with was “Making out in Japanese”, as I learnt how to ask girls if they had a boyfriend or not, and “A Handbook of Japanese Grammar” – which is just a straight up list of different grammar and examples of it, from which you are free to form your own language. The regimented rote learning of textbooks like Genki just bores me and I find it leads learners to talk very unnaturally.

But certainly, the best advice is obviously to find what works for you, especially if you aren’t living in Japan at the moment.

Very cool site, but you must improve your template graphics.

Interesting article. Bookmarked for future referrence

Very cool blog, but you must improve your template graphics.

I like your site theme. What template did you use ??

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