Wandering Across the Rainbow Chopsticks #2: There's an App For That!

This is sort of like a part two of an introduction post. I was originally going to include which apps and resources I use, have used, or intending to use but my ‘short introduction’ was already getting a bit long so I decided to not add this in. Jay even thought I should release the introduction post is separate posts because it was so long. However, I am very impatient and I wanted to get to the fun stuff (i.e. actually writing entries about learning Japanese!)
This will be less of a story as the last entry and more of a ‘list and various thoughts about each item in the list’ so hopefully that’s not too boring.
First of all I’ll talk about what resources I have used in the past, this will be a short list due to the fact that, as I mentioned in my introduction, I didn’t really try learning Japanese until a year ago;
  • Obentou Standard and Deluxe textbooks and workbooks
    • These were the textbooks we used in Year 7-10.
    • The book for Year 7-8 had cute little manga-style comics in each chapter about a group of children on an exchange program.
    • The content was okay and honestly seems like a ‘Genki for kids’. I don’t think it’s as good as Genki as everything is at a very, very slow pace but it was ten years ago and  Year 7-12 LOTE in Australia, from my experience, goes along at a very slow pace.
    • I’d upload scans and examples but I let a friend in Year 11 borrow the books along with my copy of Pokemon Crystal I bought in Vietnam (yes, the one that’s a meme) and she left the school and never returned them.
    • The best part of these books are the flash cards.
    • The Year 7-8 books came with Hiragana and Katakana flashcards. I already sort of knew Hiragana from Year 5-6 but these really assisted me. One side had the character, and the other side had a drawing which would help you remember the character (e.g. ru for ruby, ro for rock and roll, nu for noodles..etc. They were lame but very helpful)
    • The Year 9-10 books came with Kanji flashcards. I’d say they were from the N5 Kanji list. It’s not the complete N5 kanji list, but it’s a decent amount. I still have these! I’ve been actually using them. I know the majority of them now. Each card had the character on one side and the on, kun, and english reading along with a few examples on the other side. I feel like some of the readings may be missing on some of them. No cute mnemonics like with the kana flashcards sadly. I’ll have to use WaniKani for that.
    • I wouldn’t recommend these books unless you work better at a slower pace or you are just starting out and need something that’s more basic than Genki. As I said; it’s slow paced Genki for kids.
    • Mr NotNice (see WARC #1) swore by these so that basically makes them a terrible resource.
  • The ‘AIUEO’ song
    • It’s a song that just goes through the sounds of the Japanese alphabet from a to n that we would play and sing along in Prep and Year 1. It must be good because I can still remember the tune. We didn’t know Hiragana and I wouldn’t know Hiragana until Year 5-6, but this song was great for learning the sounds and characters in romaji!
    • I can’t find a link to this no matter how hard I look. I can find similar songs but not the same one with the same tune.
  • Midori (iOS dictionary app)
    • This is on the ‘have used in the past’ list only because I no longer use my iPhone as I converted to Android after an unfortunate toilet incident with my iPhone 6s.
    • This is a pretty great dictionary app. It’s not free but it’s very much worth it. I am very sad that it’s not available on Android as it’s got a great interface and great features.
    • I’d give it a 5 star review if it was on my next list.
Now we’re done with the old let’s get onto the new!
I have my phone on me constantly, so the majority of the resources I use now are apps. There’s an app for everything, you see. I use an Android phone, specifically a Google Pixel, but I’m pretty sure these apps can be found on iOS as well, especially Duolingo and Memrise.
The majority of this list are resources I’ve paid money for but there are a few freebies in this list that are just as useful as the resources that I’ve paid for. I’ll state whether or not I’ve paid for something in my list.
I’ll also be giving star ratings, even though, obviously if I’m using these currently I like them.
  • Duolingo
    • Free with extras you can pay for (Which I don’t)
    • Duolingo added Japanese for mobile devices in 2017! I jumped on straight away.
    • I’m not fond of their way of teaching new words as it’s not effective as Memrise as, for the most part, it only shows your sentences with words that you learn and doesn’t focus on the word on its own which isn’t a good way of learning for me.
    • Cute little bird, easy to use interface, achievements (YES). Sometimes the sentences can be funny (example; my dog sells hats)
    • Teaches particles rather well. I’ve always been bad at particles. Now I’m less bad. Still not 100% sure when to use the ‘ga’ and not ‘ha’ and visa versa.
    • It’s a relatively short course as it’s new but it covers most, if not all, of N5.
    • It doesn’t use kanji as much as it should.
    • Voice output is robotic
    • There are some errors or weird things that it marks incorrect but it’s new and you can report errors really easily after each question.
    • For a rating I give it 3 and a half stars. It’s new so it has some errors which is fine but the fact it doesn’t use easy kanji like ‘watashi’ really feels like it hinders growth.
  • Memrise
    • Free with extras you can pay for (Which I don’t)
    • User submitted courses like Genki, Tae Kim, and JLPT bootcamps but also has it’s own Japanese course which covers N5 and N4 levels of JLPT.
    • When it teaches you a new word you can either set up your own mnemonic for it or view top ones from the community. My favourite one was ‘kaeru’ using South Park as it’s mnemonic (Screw you Kyle/Kaeru. I’m going home). Also a lot of these mnemonics are memes.
    • Whenever you have  a new word which you have ‘mastered’ (i.e. you have answered enough questions in ‘learn words’ mode), Memrise sends you an email with a list of your latest mastered words which are ready for you to review in ‘review’ mode.
    • The voice for the Memrise course is really good and doesn’t sound as robotic as Duolingo. The other courses (i.e. the user submitted courses) can also have voices. The Genki and JLPT one have REAL PEOPLE!
    • A feature which you get to preview every so often (it’s a paid preview) is called ‘Meet the locals’ this has real Japanese people speaking and you have to translate it. I don’t pay for premium but I really love this feature whenever a preview pops up for it in a review.
    • Memrise teaches you words and then uses them in sentences.
    • Fun interface, it’s in space and you travel to each planet (which is each topic). Your mastering of a word is measured by growing a flower.
    • However, the built in levels don’t teach Katakana for some reason. So words like taxi, pasta, orange juice, etc, are written in Hiragana.
    • 5 stars. This is great and it’s made better by user submitted courses. This is probably my favourite resource and I feel guilty not subscribing for premium because it is far too good to be free. I’d go premium if they had a lifetime option like WaniKani.
  • WaniKani
    • First few levels are free but then you have to pay. A lifetime subscription is 300USD which isn’t too bad. I’ve been meaning to get a lifetime subscription but I’m waiting till it goes on sale.
    • Teaches kanji and radicals using mnemonics
    • Uses SRS based on if you got an answer right or wrong
    • Also Tofugu has a podcast and the hosts are adorable and seem like nice blokes. The Tofugu website also has interesting website that posts articles about Japanese culture as well as the Japanese language.
    • 5 star – please keep in mind that this is assuming the higher levels are as good as the ones that are free. I know a lot of people who swear by WaniKani and I’ll become one of them as soon as I get a lifetime subscription.
  • Anki
    • Free everywhere but iOS.
    • Like WaniKani but you have to add your own flashcards (or import a user submitted deck)
    • Uses SRS but it asks you whether or not you knew the word, sort of knew the word, or did not know the word. So it’s sort of on a trust system as you don’t submit an answer.
    • It doesn’t teach you like WaniKani as it’s just a flashcard app.
    • I personally find the interface to not be easy to follow and kinda messy on AnkiDroid (the android version)
    • 4 and a half stars. It’s free, the user submitted decks are good, however I prefer if there was an input field like WaniKani.
  • TinyCards
    • Free
    • Made by the people who made Duolingo.
    • Flashcard app using user submitted decks
    • Features input field and a button to say ‘I got that right’ if you make a typo or write in romaji and it only accepts kana.
    • Cute and easy to use interface and logo
    • Doesn’t use SRS
    • 4 stars. Honestly, it would be five if it had SRS as it would just be a better looking Anki at that point.
  • Genki Apps – Vocab and Kanji apps
    • One time purchase for each app
    • There’s a third one but it’s iOS only for some reason.
    • Basically a really nice interface for flashcards with vocab or kanji (depending on the app).
    • It separates the vocab/kanji up by chapter and section
    • It doesn’t have SRS and once you know an item, it is completed and you have to manually unmark it so it shows up again.
    • Good app to accompany the books.
    • 2 stars. It’s just Anki with no SRS and a nicer interface. Honestly you could just import the Genki vocab to Anki and have the same thing. Considering it’s something you have to pay for, I’d expect better. I’ll be using them because I paid money for them but I would not recommend. Unless you don’t want to use Anki and don’t like SRS.
  • Aedict
    • Paid
    • Japanese dictionary app
    • It’s like Midori for iOS as I mentioned earlier in this post but it’s not as good but it’s also half the price of Midori.
    • Shows everything you’d want in a dictionary as well as frequency of use.
    • Shows lots of examples and ‘buddies’ of a kanji
    • 5 stars because it’s probably the best available for Android. All of the free ones are similar but their interfaces annoyed me and/or had advertisements.
  • Google Translate
    • Free
    • I use this to double check my sentences.
    • It’s a lot better than it used to be
    • Available as an app or in browser
    • You can also take photos of signs or words and it translates it. It’s not always accurate but it’s a fairly new feature and it’s getting better.
    • 5 Stars. The best online translator. Bing is shithouse.
  • Jisho.org
    • Free
    • Web based dictionary
    • Nice interface, examples, information
    • 5 stars. It’s exactly what I want out of a web based dictionary. I don’t use it often as Aedict because it’s usually easier to open an app instead of go to an Internet browser.
  • Genki textbooks and workbooks and Kanji Look and Learn textbook and workbook
    • Paid. I bought these second hand as in Australia I could not find them for under $70. I probably bought all four books, the kanji look and learn series, and the Genki answer key for around $100-$150.
    • Everybody swears by these. I’ve heard that they’re the best books for learning Japanese. I believe Genki I and II take you up to JLPT N4?
    • They’re designed for classroom learning but I’ve been using them just for home study. It would help if I was in a classroom but it’s fine.
    • Kanji Look and Learn
    • 5 stars. They’re not as fun as Memrise but they’re textbooks and they’re designed to be used in a classroom environment. I would give them 4 but it’s my own fault for not being in the environment Genki wants me to be in.
  • Unko Kanji
    • Paid. Each book is like ~10USD and there are six books for each grade of school.
    • These books are for young Japanese school children who hate kanji and like poo jokes. A poo who is a professor teaches you kanji and the sentences are about poo.
    • My favourite sentences are ‘1000 people came to see my poo’ and ‘I ate a lot and then I did a poo’.
    • It’s funny. It’s entirely in Japanese but the level of difficulty isn’t too hard.
    • I wouldn’t recommend this if you’re completely new to Japanese but if you can read some Japanese it’s helpful to teach kanji.
    • Uniquely Japanese humor.
    • Did I mention it’s about poo?
    • 4 stars. If there was a version that taught kanji to people who are also learning Japanese as a second language it would be 5 stars. If I was a Japanese school child I would rate it 5.
The last list for this entry consists of resources I haven’t really used yet but do have at my disposal.
  • Misc JLPT quiz apps
    • Most of them a free. Just search for JLPT in whatever app store you use.
    • I have a bunch of these installed and they seem like useful tools for when I decide to take the JLPT. I haven’t really used them much but they seem useful
  • TangoRisto
    • Free
    • I’ve sort of used this a bit. it’s a fun little app where you can read news articles and folk tales in Japanese and you can tap on a word if you don’t know it and it gives a translation. It’s pretty handy and free.
    • I haven’t used it enough to include it in the previous list but I’d definitely recommend and give it five stars!
  • Rikaigu
    • Free
    • This is a little plugin for Google Chrome (not sure if it’s available for other browsers) and it adds the ability to hover over any Japanese word for a translation and explanation. It’s pretty handy.
    • I haven’t really used it much as I haven’t jumped into many Japanese websites since I installed this.
  • Kanji of the Day
    • Free
    • Little app that gives you one kanji a day from a specified grade.
    • I should use this more. It seems handy.
  • Pen and paper
    • How ever much one intends to spend on a pen and paper
    • This is not so much a resource as it is a tip.
    • A literal pen and paper.
    • I have to start writing that shit down because if I’m looking at a kanji, I will nod and say “Yes! I know that kanji now!” but I can guarantee you that 9 times out of 10 I will completely forget what the kanji looks like as soon as I look away.
    • I like things that look nice so I got a pen with pretty colours and a textbook that looks nice. I also have messy handwriting so I’ll need to write with care.
  • Tae Kim’s Learning Japanese
    • Free as an app or on web but he did print it in hard copy form and you can buy that
    • I haven’t read it yet but there’s a user submitted Memrise course with the content!
So there you have it! A list of resources. If you came here to look for a recommendation on resources to start on, I would recommend Memrise the most out of everything. It’s free and it has a lot of different use submitted courses. As for resources that cost money, I would recommend Genki and WaniKani. If you just want to use apps and don’t mind spending money I’d recommend WaniKani and Memrise.
If you have any suggestions for more resources I would love to hear them!
I’m also looking for any feedback about WARC overall. I don’t think further entries will be as long as the first two have. Some entries might even be as simple as “DEAR DIARY TODAY I LEARNED THIS VOCAB HERE IS ONE BAD EXAMPLE AND PLEASE RATE COMMENT AND SUBSCRIBE”.

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