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How I learned Japanese: Interview about habits and learning Japanese in Japan (koipun.com)
55 points by tatsuhirosatou on June 27, 2017 | hide | past | favorite | 32 comments

I'm currently learning Japanese and what I've found is most apps designed around helping you learn focus around memorization of words out of context, and often the definitions provided are wrong, or the words antiquated.

I haven't found an app that revolves around reading words in the context of example sentences, or a narrative. I find this to be the best way to learn a language.

I totally agree with you on context. Something that has worked for me is to add the Core10k(http://rtkwiki.koohii.com/wiki/Core_10k and the Core6k decks to Anki and then when I bump into a new word I want to learn, I search for it on these decks and move the corresponding cards to my main study deck. These decks have the words in the context of one whole sentence including audio and images. Also, I only add words to my main study deck that I have seen in a real Japanese text.

That is not enough though and that problem you are describing is the reason I am developing Koipun Reader(https://www.koipun.com/reader/). My goal for Koipun Reader is to help intermediate level learners go through any arbitrary Japanese text and give them the ability to save words they want to learn, so that they can review them later within the same context of the text they read. I only have preview version of the app right now, but I will release an MVP in a month.

Edit: fix typo

For learning vocabularly and grammar in context, I've found TPR (Total Physical Response) to be really effective. I've written about it before here:


I much prefer that method over things like flashcards, Anki, SuperMemmo, etc.

The best "app" I've found is a DS game designed for Japanese speakers : https://www.nowpro.co.jp/menu/products/game/kanzen/

Everything is in context, it has a practice portion for things you needed help on, you can make lists of vocab, it tests for kanji writing as well as reading, and the zatsugaku challenge has lots of interesting things going on.

I haven't found any other tool to be even in the same league

Ah, I learned first going to normal classes and for me the experience was the exact opposite. Now I'm doing a lot of memorization, since it's one of the pillars for learning a language that I was lacking. I recommend trying to do both at the same time, but the good thing about learning a lot of vocabulary and some grammar is that you can start reading on your own and then learn while having fun. I am reading Yotsubato for example, which is widely recommended for beginners.

I think if you already know to read/know the basics, learning vocab is fine. That's why SAT prep is a lot of vocab memorization, but even then you'd have to know how the word is used in a sentence.

Learning from scratch, I think vocab is better memorized in context.

Not sure if they have an app, but the "minna no nihongo" books I had at university in Japan when I was there for a semester (10+ years ago) taught with contextual scenarios, as you said.

I'd be also interested to hear. Btw. the interviewer of the linked site has an app that helps with reading.

Check out LingQ. It's pretty much exactly what you've described wanting.

I made a small tinder-like website to help me memorize the Kanji since it is my personal bottleneck now and it's working quite better than I expected:


It is based on spaced repetition and frequency lists to optimize what you learn (see the About page).

It has to be complemented with other learning methods of course. The required login is with github for sync with different devices.


Tip: grab a movie with slow-to-moderately paced dialogue and varied speaking styles like ghost in the shell innocence from 00:09:30 to 00:20:00 ish. read the subtitle first. Open the srt file and read it. Watch the episode with or without the subtitle so you know what's going on, and cuz the movie is beautiful. Next rip the mp3 or aac of that section of the movie with some added volume, i used 10db.

Now listen to this every night right before bed, and try to parrot off whatever they are saying verbatim. comprehension has no relevance. Just repeat it. Rewind if you want. Make a game out of it. 'Im gonna do my best to make this exact combination of noises with my mouth. dont try to do too much at once. 5-30minute spurts are a good range. It should not be the center of your day, at first, now matter how bad you want to learn. a good rule of thumb is u should spend about as much time as it takes for you to do your morning bathing and hygene ritual.

Add it to your music playlists so it catches you off guard. hunt down some more pieces of films you like and grab the audio of those. alternate between a few audios. adding them incrementally 1 3 5 5 5 5 5 5 10 20

If you find any good japanese audios, let me know!

Source: i work with language learning

I posted this before,

The best app I used to learn Hiragana, Katakana and JLPT N5/N4 Kanji was "Kanji Study"


Though I do agree with the other threaded replies about being out of context. You don't learn the grammar, you just learn the immediate meaning/subject of the sentence and then kinda guess what it really means.

The easiest way to learn Japanese, at least spoken Japanese, is to find a Japanese boyfriend or girlfriend. And to live away from other gaijin.

I've been warned that the Japanese consider this the way to learn English and if you investigate your "girl friend" you will eventually discover the real boyfriend that she treats like a boyfriend when not with you.


That is how I learned English and I totally agree! However in Japanese he way women and men speak is quite different, so I've been told several times that some expressions were "wrong" for me to use.

This is very important.

Men should at least have some interaction with other native male speaker otherwise they'll talk like women and that will hurt them socially.

And what is the real value of learning japanese? (apart from being an english teacher in japan) sure is fine as a hoby, but for a professional, I believe the japanese are the ones that should learn english, and don't take me wrong, my native tong is spanish and english my second one, but I see english as the universal language to learn.

Does everything need to have monetary value? Learning a language can be done for many reasons.

I know a bit of Spanish because I holiday in Spain occasionally, although lately it has become valuable as we are working in LatAm a bit.

I know passable Italian purely because it was enjoyable to learn. It has since been useful on two vacations across Italy.

And finally I'm learning Polish due to my partner being Polish. It's hard as hell compared to Romance languages, but it'll be worth it when I can have a conversation with her parents beyond courtesies.

How did your knowledge of Spanish help with learning Italian?

It helped a bit, in that the breaking the habit of English sentence structure exhibited in "I want it" to "(yo) lo quiero" rather than "yo quiero lo" had already happened somewhat.

On the flipside, it made my Spanish vocab quite a bit worse as I keep recalling the Italian word in place. Happily this doesn't lead to many problems in reality, most Spaniards I have interacted with have either understood the word anyway or I could recall the correct word quickly.

"what is the real value of learning japanese? (apart from being an english teacher in japan) sure is fine as a hoby, but for a professional, I believe the japanese are the ones that should learn english,"

Are you interested in Japanese culture, history, literature, religion, or people?

Do you or your company want to do business in Japan, with Japanese companies, or Japanese people?

Do you have friends, family, or a significant other who's Japanese? Do you want to make new Japanese friends or contacts?

Are you interested in what the Japanese have to say, and want to read or hear it in their own language?

Have you ever wanted to visit Japan and feel less like a tourist and more like a native, to be able to better know what's going on around you, read the signs, maybe have some ability to find your own way?

Well, if you're not interested in any of these things, perhaps you'll forgive or at least understand some others if they actually are interested and find these things valuable.

To me, this question sounds absurd. That's how much real value I got learning Japanese. I'm employed in a Japanese company, speaking Japanese with my friends, eating Japanese food which I love and generally enjoying my life. It wouldn't be possible for me to do what I do speaking only English.

As a person who has spent a couple of years in college with Japanese, leisure time, and time in Japan -- I can tell you that it's one of the richest cultures I've come into contact with to date. Mind you, that's completely subjective.

One of the things that exists in their culture that doesn't exist in the US is the notion of "oneness." If you get on the train in the morning and observe people going to their jobs, you'll notice that there's almost a "uniform" - very similar suit, haircut, and overall style. In America, individuality has become a disease that has lead to everyone feeling the need to be special and different. I'd argue that this 'disease' is the plague of our politics and economy, as companies nor politicians typically think about society's greater good ( save a handful who are now trying to align business with humanitarian efforts ).

Also, embedded in the language is respect. You use different words and sentence structures to address your friends vs. your boss.

So, what is the value? Probably experiencing life in a different way, and gaining more perspective.

Well, for me it helped me land a gig working for NHK as local staff during one of the Olympic games. I was able to access all venues, make invaluable contacts, interview famous athletes and celebrities, be beyond the front row for events and ceremonies, learn interesting skills and have an amazing experience that would have otherwise been impossible to have even if you were willing to pay for it. Oh, and I got paid great as well.

tldr: it opens doors that would not normally be open to you

By all means stick to that attitude; the Japanese-speakers will keep making money with Japanese companies.

Note that this is valid for more countries than not: learn the language, and the locals will look on you more favourably. It is still a must to work well in places like France and Italy, for example (albeit less so than 10 years ago).

English is a fallback language, but the preferred option is still the native lingo.

Well..you can wait for the whole world to learn English--which may eventually happen, but don't hold your breath--or you can be proactive and learn the languages you want to communicate in!

In every single language-learning related thread in HN, we can see this question. I learn other languages for fun. It's simple as that.

Japan is the #3 economy in the world, the #2 cultural exporter after Hollywood thanks to cartoons and video games and most Japanese people don't learn English very well. In fact, Japanese interest in learning English peaked nearly 20 years ago.

What is the real value of learning math? What is the real value of learning to draw? of listening to music?

It lets you experience things you could not have otherwise.

Demonstrating a knack for learning languages and lots of soft skills required.

Why do you only post terrible comments here?

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