Monday, February 23, 2015

Informational Japan Pt. 2 - Japanese Language

"Where can I get Japanese language learning resources for free on the web?" I know this is a really popular topic because I see it on forums and other sites all the time. So here is a partial list of the online resources I currently use to learn and practice my Japanese.

Erin's Challenge - Recommended to me by my college Japanese teacher, this is my favorite online resource. It's free, fun and really helpful for language learning. You register with the site and it keeps track of you progress, you can even personalize a little avatar and your profile. The site centers around a foreign exchange student named Erin coming to Japan to study and her adventures with language and culture. There are great videos (both beginner and advanced) featuring Erin or other Japanese people in everyday situations as well as grammar and vocabulary lessons all with transcripts that you can review line by line. There are also cultural learning videos that are really interesting, especially if you've never been to Japan. The site also offers vocabulary lessons, quizzes, a fun role playing game using your avatar and a ton of other resources. Seriously, if you haven't already seen it you should really check it out.

Lang8 - There's a good chance you've already heard of this site because it is mentioned a lot by other bloggers and vloggers but it is really is worth another mention. I used this site a lot when I was taking Japanese classes so that I could check my homework and get some extra practice. It's basically a blogging website where you are able to blog in the language you are learning, but the twist is that native speakers of that language can read and correct your language. This is super helpful when you are learning to write but you don't know if you are making mistakes. I've also seen people post speeches they are going to be giving and letters they want to send to pen pals among other things. I'm slightly disappointed with it because you can no longer post pictures in the free version so it's not as useful in a purely blogging sense (I usually put my blogpost on Lang8 and then copy the corrected text to a blogger site so I can add images). But all in all it's a great resource.

Japanese Class - Lately I've been using this a lot to practice my vocabulary. It's basically a flashcard/quiz sort of site where you start as a beginner and work your way up to more kanji by earning points. There is a ranking system so if you are competitive you can try to earn more points than the other users and show up on the ranking board. It keeps track of your progress and how often you are practicing and suggests that you practice at least 20 words a day (I do it right before I go to bed). It does have an article reading section but I find that the articles are way beyond my current level and have vocabulary that isn't relevant to me personally, but the option is available. I find that this site is a good resource for reviewing and practicing what I've already learned.

Learn Japanese - Japanese Pod 101 - This is technically a free resource that you can get on iTunes and Stitcher Radio but I wanted to preface this by saying I like it so much I buy the compilation on Audible as audio books. The downside to the free version is that you have to figure out what order they go in, because they release different levels at the same time so it isn't as easy as listening to them in order. However, if you can get around that problem (the episodes are clearly marked with the level and episode number) then this is a really fantastic resource. The hosts are interesting and easy to listen to and the lessons are great for listening comprehension and learning new vocabulary and grammar. I love to listen to this while I'm doing chores or taking a walk and I always learn a lot from every episode.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Informational Japan Pt. 1

At the moment I'm pretty obsessed with Japan, but since I have no idea if or when I will be going back I have to content myself with listening and reading about it. I figured now would be a good time to go over some of my favorite informative online sources for information about Japan that isn't necessarily pop-culture related.


Just Japan Podcast - By far my favorite Japan podcast at the moment. Kevin O'Shea has more than fifty podcast episodes in which he interviews various people living in Japan about a wide range of topics. He has a very original point of view being a mature family man and his topics range from questions about the JET Program to community involvement, fast food and being a foreign woman in Japan. Not only is the podcast a great listen, but Kevin is very involved with his listeners and often gets his topic suggestions from them.

GaijinPot - Another great Japan podcast, although the episodes don't come out quite as often they are usually worth waiting for. His topics and interviews are very professional and informative. He has great information about getting to Japan, apartments, language and other resources for Japan information.

Mully's Place Podcast - Mully is a really interesting fellow and his podcast is usually a chatty style with Dave or his wife Tomoko. My favorite are the bedcasts and drivecasts with his wife (although I tend to relate more to her point of view than his.)

Myargonauts Jason - I've spent many hours watching most of his old videos and I'm always looking forward to his new ones. He is fairly informal but extremely informative about everyday life in Japan. He has a lot of older videos about the JET Program but lately he's mostly focusing on his current teaching and life experiences.

Rachel & Jun - A newer find for me, I am blasting through these videos. Rachel is very intelligent and well educated and brings a scientific viewpoint to a lot of Japan related questions. It's also nice to watch Japan videos from a married female perspective. I particularly like her videos about Japanese deodorants and the Senkaku Islands. Alternatively her husband also does videos from a Japanese perspective which is harder to find, my husband really relates to the "Being Tall in Japan" episode and he has some great language learning tips.

Cooking with Dog - Despite the unfortunate name choice (my husband can't help snickering whenever I mention it) the recipes on this channel are fantastic. The narrator is witty and well spoken and the instructions are clear and easy to follow. The recipes range from Japanese sweets and cakes to traditional Japanese dishes and Western-influenced foods.

Kimono World - I really love the videos on this channel despite the fact that there are only a few available. Sheila Cliffe is an Englishwoman who is a kimono expert and introduces various types of Kimono, shops and kimono making techniques. Beautifully produced and narrated these videos are really wonderful for the Kimono enthusiast. I am really hoping that she posts some more in the future.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Ohisashiburi ne?

I can't believe that I went an entire year without blogging. I'm more up to the task to blog this year, there are more interesting things going on in my life anyway. Most of last year consisted of being isolated at home with my toddler, being very uninspired and unproductive.

This year is very different. My red-haired firecracker of a boy is two years old this month. He's now talking in several word sentences and exploring his world like never before. Now is the perfect time for us to pursue our goal of getting to Japan.

Cute kitty obi in Japantown SF
My husband an I spent last Tuesday driving down to San Francisco in order to go to our JET Program interviews on Wednesday. This year we both applied and were given interviews so there is a possibility that we could be in Japan as assistant English teachers by the end of the year. I think I did pretty well overall, I'm pretty rusty on my Japanese language but I was confident for everything else. I feel like I couldn't really have done a whole lot better so they will either want me for who I am or they will think I'm just not right for the job. Either way my outlook is much more positive right now. I'm working as a Graphic Designer, being a lot more creative at home and have a lot more ideas that I'd like to share with everyone. So hopefully this is just the start of more great things to come.