Internet and Linux free resources for learning Japanese
This page links to free ressources for people studying Japanese, including online courses, online tools, software and browser extensions. There are many books and kinds of courses available in exchange of your money - however, I've got better results using the following online courses combined with the tools presented below. And it's much more fun, too.
Online Japanese courses
Japanese courses available for free on the internet. The sites selected below are, in my opinion, of equal or better quality with respect to commercial books or courses.
- A Japanese guide to Japanese grammar This is in my opinion the best ressource for starting learning Japanese. Contrary to many books, it doesn't assume the reader is an idiot and confronts you directly with kanjis and full grammar rules. You'll immediatly learn to "think Japanese" and contrary to what the title states, you'll also learn vocabulary. Moreover the site is very well done and translated in many languages.
- Japanese for the Western Brain Directly translating English into Japanese is the best way to make sure you won't be understood. This site maps the Japanese logic into Westerner-friendly words, highlights the differences that exist between Japanese and Western languages, and gives grammar rules.
- The JLPT Study Page From level 4 to level 2, all the vocabulary, kanjis, grammar and expressions you need to know in order to be successfull. Don't miss that one if you are training for JLPT.
- Teach Yourself Japanese I haven't looked at this much, but this site looks pretty decent. The hierarchical organization ensures that you'll easily find what you're looking for.
- LearnJapanese Another interesting online resource.
Extensions for Mozilla Firefox that will help you reading Japanese. Please click on the Firefox link in the right sidebar if you need to install this wonderful browser.
- RikaiChan Your companion when browsing Japanese websites. RikaiChan instantly gives you the meaning and pronunciation of any Japanese word under your mouse cursor using a text tooltip. If you master the basics of Japanese grammar, you are ready to read websites in Japanese.
- RikaiXUL RikaiChan is an improvement of this extension. It is mentionned here because new releases might bring additional features, so watch it out!
- gTranslate Instantly translates selected text using Google translate. Not always meaningful, but handy to figure out the global meaning of a text.
- Moji Basically serves the same purpose as RikaiChan and RikaiXUL, but using a different interface. The selected word is shown inside the firefox sidebar. I find it slightly less convenient than RikaiChan.
Other web ressources
- Don't miss Jim Breens great Japanese resources page.
- Rikai.com let you paste a text in Japanese, and returns a version of that text annotated with English translations of words that appear when you put your mouse cursor over them. It's similar to the RikaiXUL and RikaiChan Firefox extensions, but web-based.
- Kanami-chan is cute, and will make you remembers kanas in an eyeblink!
- Mixi is a social networking community similar to Orkut, but in Japanese. It is very popular in Japan, and using the tools shown above and a little bit of time it becomes possible to understand what is going on, and even to interact a little if you have a few language notions. It is a very good way to practise your written language and read everyday Japanese, not to mention the fun of meeting real people. Mixi is invite-only, so you have to know someone already there to enter it. Moreover, you need a Japanese mobile phone address to register. Sorry, I cannot invite you unless I know you personally.
- Another tool for mastering kanas and kanjis. Although not free, Nihongoup is a great training tool in which you have to choose the right kana/kanji into a given sentence, all in limited time. Be sure to check it out!
Linux (and other systems) software
- I should be full of shame to put my own software first, but hey. Tagaini Jisho is a Japanese vocabulary and kanji dictionary that supports tagging, annotations, training and review, and also features stroke order animations for more than 6000 kanjis. Of course it is free software and runs Windows, Mac and Linux. Hopefully, you will make it your Japanese learning assistant - this is what is has been designed for.
- Kiten Really cool KDE software that translates words from English to Japanese and back again. Also useful as a Kanji dictionary.
- Kangoroo Another great dictionary software, with advanced Kanji browsing. It also allows you to make vocabulary and Kanjis training lists, and best of all, is available on the Zaurus! With that in your pocket you can practise anywhere and are sure to possess the ultimate Japanese-learning device.
- Inputting Japanese under Linux is a real pain. There are hopefully some good guides about how to input Japanese under Kubuntu Linux. And for those speaking French, I have written a French guide to Japanese input under Ubuntu .
- So You Want to Learn Japanese? Poor you. Better be warned now.
- You Think Japanese Is Hard? If you read the previous text, this one should cheer you up a little bit. Japanese is actually easy to learn.
More online Japanese ressources can be found on my diigo Japanese page.