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December 19, 2007 5:09 PM   Subscribe

I'd like to teach myself some various languages. Help me find some resources for Spanish and Japanese.

I'd like to brush up on four years of Spanish and start teaching myself Japanese. I'd like to do this in several different ways that may not necessarily include classes. (I work a job where I don't know my schedule more than about a month in advance and I travel, so a regularly scheduled class is right out.)

What I have right now:

1. iPod.
2. Nintendo DS (and My Spanish Coach)
3. four or five beginner Japanese grammar books and kana books.
4. high speed internet
5. Spanish textbook left over from college

What I'd like to get:

1. I'd really really really love to get a DS game to learn to write kana. I'm willing to buy from an import site if it's a good product. Also, if you have recommendations for other language learning titles, that'd be helpful too.

2. If you have recommendations for podcasts and how to utilize them, send them over.

3. Websites that I could integrate into my studies.

4. Suggestions for formatting my individual studies. How much should I study and when? Other strategies?

If you have suggestions for shops/classes/bookstores/language schools, I'm in Chicago in Lincoln Park.
posted by santojulieta to Education (21 answers total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
This does not directly address your questions but if you are serious about learning these languages and are looking for a really good language-learning resource, I highly recommend the Rosetta Stone material.

Rosetta Stone - Spanish (Latin America)

Rosetta Stone - Japanese

Google them for more information and reviews.
posted by hellhammer at 5:14 PM on December 19, 2007

Free resources on Learn Spanish.

Spanish & Japanese links from Word2Word.
posted by mlis at 6:13 PM on December 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

Since you have an iPod, you should check out McGraw-Hill's iSpeak series. They cover various languages, including Japanese and Spanish, and they also have special editions covering just verbs or especially made for beginners.

I have not tried any of the above, btw, but they seem like well executed ideas.

What what I _have_ tried is iFlash, a nice little Mac software for flashcard-style study aids. It is really great for drills, as it keeps tracks of how many correct or incorrect answers you have, and so forth.
posted by TheyCallItPeace at 6:23 PM on December 19, 2007

There are a number of online kana drills, such as this one. Once you master kana, you can move on to kanji drills!

One of the best Japanese how-to books I've encountered in a long time is Japanese the Manga Way. This actually teaches grammar that people use in normal conversation - not the usual "is this a book?"/"this is a book" routine.

I learned most of my Japanese when I was a kid from watching tv, listening to pop music, and reading comics and magazines. I'd recommend supplementing your book-learning this way. You can find a lot of Japanese music, tv, and commercials on YouTube.
posted by chez shoes at 6:35 PM on December 19, 2007 [2 favorites]

There are some free Japanese podcasts via iTunes- here are a few: one, two, three (found via).

Also, here's a big reference list to random Japanese learning resources on the web
posted by p3t3 at 6:58 PM on December 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

so there's nothing on the DS to help learn languages? anything at all?
posted by seawallrunner at 7:16 PM on December 19, 2007

Even more podcasts. There might be some more useful resources in Lifehacker's language section.

so there's nothing on the DS to help learn languages? anything at all?

Well, there is this absolutely horrifying game. Not sure it's educational, but it is unintentionally hilarious.
posted by Nelsormensch at 7:28 PM on December 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

There are a couple kanji/dictionary games for the DS. The ones I know of are in Japanese (sold in Japan), but they are good because you can draw the kanjis to look them up. Here's one of them.
posted by p3t3 at 7:44 PM on December 19, 2007

Best answer: Let me try that link one more time..
posted by p3t3 at 7:45 PM on December 19, 2007

Best answer: On his blog, the irrepressible 'languagehat' posted this great link today:


Full of fine language links for many languages!
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 7:50 PM on December 19, 2007

Sorry, not links exactly, but vocabulary exercises for the beginner in bright and cool-looking interfaces.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 7:52 PM on December 19, 2007

Best answer: Many people swear by James Heisig's Remembering the Kanji. I am awaiting the Chinese edition myself.
posted by eritain at 7:52 PM on December 19, 2007

I took Japanese for years in college, and we actually used a series of books, tapes and videos called "Japanese for Busy People" as our text. You can find it easily on Amazon.

There are several volumes, and I highly recommend using it as your main text. Make sure you buy the kana version, though. You will learn a lot more at once.

Also, I recommend downloading this free Japanese word processor. It says that it is a 30-day trial, but frankly, I downloaded it years ago and it still works. I wonder if they have changed the policy since I got it? Anyway, I used to challenge myself to use this product to write a variety of documents in Japanese. It really helped me to learn my kanji.

When teaching yourself Japanese, I think you should try to learn the spoken language and the written language at the same time. You should teach yourself Hiragana, then Katakana, then move on to Kanji. You should be able to memorize all of the Hiragana and Katakana in under a month, if you are able to spend a little time every day on it.

After you learn the Hiragana and Katakana, you should try to get some children's books in Japanese and practice reading and translating them from a dictionary. When you are ready to learn kanji, you should perhaps start with the Joyo Kanji, which are the first 2000 or so kanji Japanese schoolchildren learn by 12th grade. You will find that many kanji build on each other through the use of radicals, and 2000 is not at all as daunting as it sounds. Just spend a little time on it every day. Just a little. In college, we learned 15 kanji every week, which I think is very managable. I would practice writing them over and over all week. Then I would practice writing paragraphs and stories, making a point to incorporate the kanji I had already learned with my new kanji.

Anyway, there are a lot of resources out there, and I think that Japanese is not as difficult a language to learn as some people fear it is. I am no great scholar, but I think I really learned Japanese very easily. Much more easily than I learned French. The grammar and sentence structures in Japanese are all very logical, and unlike French or English, it seems to me that there are not a lot of exceptions to remember with Japanese grammar. I hope that makes sense.

Good luck.
posted by waywardgirl at 7:59 PM on December 19, 2007

Foreign Service Institute courses, no Japanese though.
posted by caddis at 8:51 PM on December 19, 2007

Check out White Rabbit Press for book, flashcards, bilingual material, etc.

A fantastic program for DS aimed at children learning to write kanji is Kakitori-kun.

Good quizzes here.

Download some anime from AnimeSuki, watch and repeat. Did this and it helped a lot with my pronunciation and learning colloquial phrases.

Good online dictionary here, although best to buy a real one.

I recently learned about this free game, but I haven't tried it yet.

More free quizzes at JGram. And here.
posted by fan_of_all_things_small at 9:02 PM on December 19, 2007

Sorry, I meant the above post in reference to learning Japanese. ganbatte! ^_^
posted by fan_of_all_things_small at 9:04 PM on December 19, 2007

Regarding Japanese:

I have been taking college classes for three years, of questionable usefulness (slow but sure progress).

I'd recommend http://www.alljapaneseallthetime.com/. Khatzumomo has a very energetic and infectious drive to readers of the website and very good advice. Especially useful if you aren't intending at any time to go through the school way. This website recommends using the Heisig method (which looking back, I wish I had done), and learning much of the other competency through grammar guides and SRS (spaced repetition software, such as SuperMemo, Mnemosyne, Khatzumemo) on authentic sentences. Read the site for more details.

If you want a textbook, I'd recommend Japanese for Busy People, or Genki: an Integrated Course in Elementary Japanese I if you strictly want a textbook. If you have a choice as self study, and have real motivation, use the site from the previous paragraph.

I have a strong recommendation for Kanji sonomama Rakubiki Jiten for Nintendo DS. Pound for pound it has a lot of entries, and is both J->E, E->J, and J->J. I ordered mine from Playasia.com and it came out to $50 or so. It is well worth it though, compared to how much most word-tanks (dedicated kanji dictionary electronics) will cost you. Being able to write in the characters for lookup is extremely more efficient than looking them up in a trees and ink dictionary.

I can't give much advice regarding spanish.
posted by mezamashii at 12:11 AM on December 20, 2007

Best answer: If you've already taken 4 years of Spanish, I recommend checking out some Spanish news podcasts. I subscribe to La Matinal from NPR and Mundo Hoy from the BBC. It really helps you listen to spoken Spanish and learn some everyday words you don't pick up much from textbooks.

I found an excellent German podcast from Deutsche Welle called Langsam gesprochene Nachrichten (slowly spoken news) and I wish it existed for every language. It's a version of the news read intentionally slow for non-native speakers. If you could find something like this for Japanese, I imagine it could help a lot.

I also really recommend Rosetta Stone.
posted by atomly at 9:35 AM on December 20, 2007 [2 favorites]

As for Spanish, I didn't study that far, but I found the book Madrigal's Magic Key to Spanish most helpful.

As for Japanese, there are a lot of good online resources. Most notably, check out JapanesePod101.com. They have excellent audio lessons, and they're free if all you want is audio. A few $$$ gets you some extras too.

I also highly recommend the book Remembering the Kana by oft-mentioned James Heisig. I was able to read both Hiragana and Katakana effortlessly after just one week casually reading this book.

All non-native Japanese speakers should have Jim Breen's Japanese Dictionary in their bookmarks.

Thejapanshop.com sells a lot of useful books and study tools.

And I definitely recommend Pimsleur audio courses for any language you might want to study. They're pricey though.
posted by Vorteks at 9:42 AM on December 20, 2007

Best answer: It's not my primary resource, but I'm studying French right now, and pretty impressed with the design of Mango Languages. Free with registration, in beta.
posted by solotoro at 11:12 AM on December 20, 2007

Try downloading some free podcast lessons from SpanishPod.com to your iPod. They have lessons from Newbie to Advanced, although so far haven't haven't posted any Advanced lessons yet.
posted by metabody at 6:41 PM on December 21, 2007

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