Learning Japanese, a tale of Mana and Odder Otter.

(This post will be regularly updated)

Before I begin on the topic of today, I would like to present myself. On internet, I am known as Mana Hime, and I am a Canadian university student in the field of Education. For the past 3 years, I have been studying the Japanese language. I have also immersed myself as much as possible in the culture of the Japanese people. Along the road, I have made close friends who have been helping me both on the personal level and on the educational level.

While the Japanese language is quite difficult from the perspective of an English speak, it is my belief that it is also a very rewarding language to learn. Today, I would like to discuss why I wanted to learn Japanese, and how I did it. I hope that it will help others who would like to learn Japanese but are not sure if or how they should do.

                First, let’s discuss why I wanted to learn a new language, and why Japanese specifically. I believe that learning different language is very important. Humans are very social beings. As such, language plays a very important role in our very being. This is demonstrated by how our brain is predisposed to learning and understanding language even before we learn any. As a result, human beings will tend to perceive the world in relation to the language that they speak. I believe that by learning new languages we can learn new ways to perceive and describe the world. The presence or absence of some words can allow an understanding of what a society considers an important value.

                I have always been fascinated by the Japanese culture. I was introduced to that culture by watching anime on English TV when I was a kid. This fascination continued until, one day, I became able to watch anime in their original language with subtitles. When subtitles became available to me, I instantly fell in love with the language. Like many others, I thought that “if I could watch anime without subtitles, it would be great.” Sadly, however, learning a new language just for the purpose of watching something on TV was not a good enough motivation for me to take the step forward toward that goal.

                As I stated earlier in this text, humans are social creatures, so it makes sense that what would push me forward was making friends. I used the online game Final Fantasy XIV to meet Japanese players and try to become friends with them. At first my interactions were fairly limited, but the inability to communicate pushed me to try my best to learn the language.

You may be asking: “why would I learn Japanese?” Sadly, I do not have the answer to this question. I think that the most important thing is that one should learn a language associated to a culture they are interested in. For me, Japanese is the obvious choice, but I know many people who chose to learn other languages. I also know some people who chose lesser known languages. Passion is the most important point here.

Now, let’s discuss how I learned the language. But first, let me warn you: “language learning rewarding, but it is not easy.” My path to learning Japanese has been, and is still, full of joy and frustration. I feel joy whenever I succeed at understanding or communicating something that was impossible before. I experience frustration every time that I feel unable to express myself correctly.

The first tip I will give to any language learner is this: express yourself! It may be embarrassing to speak in a newly learned language because making mistakes is embarrassing, but I think we should think the opposite. I think that making mistakes is important in the path to language acquisition. There is a theory that says that young children have a much better capacity of learning new languages than adults do. While the brain development allows children to more easily retain information, I think children’s ability to not fear making mistakes may be one of their greatest strength. A learner should do their best to practice their new language wherever possible, whenever possible, and as much as possible.

You might wonder where to look for resources to learn Japanese. I will write a post detailing all the resources that I have used so far. But I can suggest a few that I think are great:

  • Odder Otter Discord server: I will be shameless here and suggest that you join our Discord server. We’re a community of nice people and making friends has been invaluable to help me learn Japanese. It can be the same for you! Connecting with other language learners and natives can be great to learn from other people’s experience.
  • Tofugu guides on learning hiragana and katakana: If your interested in anything related to Japan, Tofugu is great. They have amazing guides for learning to read the 2 first writing systems that you should learn in Japanese. And they also make the amazing kanji learning website wanikani
  • Wanikani: Speaking of which, for a relatively low monthly fee, this website has been fantastic in helping my kanji reading ability skyrocket. It tries to gamify the learning process a little which is good for people like me who can’t focus easily.
  • Tae Kim’s Guide to Learning Japanese: Probably the best guide online for Japanese grammar, and it is free! It is not absolutely perfect, but it’s fantastic nonetheless. You should read it.
  • The Genki textbook series: Those books are used in classrooms in universities across the world, and there is a reason to that. Those books are well made, they slowly target higher and higher levels so that you keep improving. It’s not perfect for self learners because they’re made with classrooms in mind, but you should look for them. Also, they are relatively cheap from Japanese amazon, which also does international shipping.
  • Japanese Ammo with Misa: The last resource that I will link for now. Misa’s YouTube channel is great, and I love her videos. They’re a little on the long side for some people, but she goes really in-depth with each grammar points that she covers.

I hope that some of those information will be useful to you. This post will be updated as I keep re-writing it for clarity and to work on some specific points. I hope that you like Japanese, and I hope that by learning the language, you will be able to enjoy the culture. If there is any question, I can be contacted either on Discord or on Twitter: @ManaEternal

ルルちゃんのプレゼント

ヒナタ:あの~マナヒメ…
Hinata: Hum… Mana Hime…
Hinata: Hmm… Mana Hime…

Hinata-chan

マナヒメ:ん?どうしたのヒナタちゃん?
Mana Hime: Hmmm? What is it Hinata-chan?
Mana Hime: Hmmm? Qu’est-ce qu’il y a Hinata-chan?

ヒナタ:何それ?
Hinata: What’s that?
Hinata: Qu’est-ce que c’est?

マナヒメ:この箱?
Mana Hime: This box?
Mana Hime: Cette boîte?

ヒナタ:うん!何それ?面白そう!
Hinata: Yes! What is it? It looks interesting!
Hinata: Oui! Qu’est-ce que c’est? Ça a l’air intéressant!

マナヒメ:箱の中の物を見たい?
Mana Hime: Do you want to see the things that are in the box?
Mana Hime: Veux-tu voir ce qu’il y a dans la boîte?

ヒナタ:うん!見たい!
Hinata: Yes! I want to see!
Hinata: Oui! Je veux voir!

ヒナタ:見せてください!
Hinata: Please show me!
Hinata: Montre le moi, s’il te plaît!

マナヒメ:はい、ちょっと待ってください。
Mana Hime: Alright, wait a moment please.
Mana Hime: OK, attends un moment s’il vous plaît.

ヒナタ:早く見せてください!
Hinata: Hurry up and show me please!
Hinata: Plus vitte! Montre-moi s’il te plaît!

マナヒメ:見てみて!
Mana Hime: Look!
Mana Hime: Regardes!

マナヒメ:ルルちゃんのプレゼントです。ルルちゃんはめちゃ優しいですね。
Mana Hime: A present from Lulu-chan! Lulu-chan is very nice isn’t she.
Mana Hime: Un cadeau de Lulu-chan! Lulu-chan est très gentille n’est-ce pas?

ヒナタ:お~私もルル様らプレゼントほしい!
Hinata: Oh! I also want presents from Lulu-sama!
Hinata: Oh! Moi aussi, je veux des cadeaux de Lulu-sama!

マナヒメ:ダメです!ヒナタちゃんは猫ですから、プレゼントをもらえません!
Mana Hime: No! Hinata-chan is a cat! Can’t give presents to a cat!
Mana Hime: Non! Hinata-chan est une chatte! On the peut pas donner de cadeaux à un chat!

ヒナタ:残念・・・;;
Hinata: That’s too bad… ;;
Hinata: C’est dommage

マナヒメ:お魚を食べましょうか。
Mana Hime: Shall we eat fish?
Mana Hime: Devrions nous manger du poisson?

ヒナタ:はああああああい!
Hinata: Yeeeeees!
Hinata: Ouiiiiiiiii!

マナヒメ&ヒナタ:ルルちゃん、プレゼント本当にありがとうございます!
Mana Hime & Hinata: Lulu-chan, thank you very much for this present!

Mana Hime & Hinata: Lulu-chan, merci beaucoup pour ce cadeaux!

Easy kanji learning with wanikani

“I want to learn Japanese but… I don’t know… Learning kanji is too scary…”

This has probably been the beginning of most conversation that I’ve had in the past few months when I told anyone that I was actually studying Japanese in a serious manner (serious being relative here…)

You see… There’s like a ton of guide out there on how to do just that, but even then people seem to struggle to actually get to it… (I know; it took me like 10 years to actually start doing something about it…). As it turns out, it’s actually really simple and ingenious. But first, some history.

A long long time ago, in a galaxy far far away, I discovered a relatively small youtube channel. As I would later figure out the host of that channel (Koichi) was a little (read: “really”) crazy. Somehow, little me at the time was captivated and so, it became one of the very few channels that I’d ever subscribed to.

You see, I really wanted to learn Japanese, but I was to lazy to do anything and I didn’t know where to start… But some of the videos on tofugu’s channel were able to give me some basics understanding… (or so I’d like to think (^ω^) )

Anyway, fast forward a few millennia, I’d buy a subscription to his new text guide on learning Japanese: textfugu.com. I ended up getting an email about the beta of a new kanji learning service that they’d made called WaniKani. I took a few years to subscribe and another few years to do anything on it, I just couldn’t wrap my head around it, and like a lot of people, I just skipped the “tutorial”… Cause why not…

Anyway, fast forward to a few months ago, I finally decided to take the first few steps on WaniKani and discover it’s power. It uses crazy (and sometimes really shitty (*´ω`*) )stories as mnemonics to help learn kanji and it’s SRS (Spaced Based Repetition) somehow make learning easy, effortless and entertaining. By waiting for your brain to be about to forget a kanji before asking it to be remembered again, you basically bait your brain into putting the information in the long term memory faster.

Of course the system isn’t perfect for me as english is a second language. But it has definitely allowed me to gain much in just a few months I already know nearly 400 kanji and 1000 words!

Tofugu seems very focused on teaching, it’s clear to me they’re passionate about it, I mean, they even brought their price down! Hopefully they keep working on it and making it even better!

At least for me, it has allowed me to stay on track with learning, and staying motivated! I finally feel like I can get through this and achieve my goal!

Honestly I recommend this to anyone who wants to learn kanji the easy(er) way!