From time to time, I get a burst of motivation to learn Japanese. I wish I had learned as a kid from my grandma, but she was working hard to learn English. My mom was so young when she moved to the U.S. that she mostly lost the language as she grew up in the U.S. My mom still understands a little bit of Japanese though. In fact, I took some college level Japanese classes and can usually read non-Kanji writing. When my mom and I go to Asian markets, I try to read the packaging on products, and my mom normally translates. Maybe one day I will be able to make learning Japanese a major focus, but for now I just dabble.
How can I just dabble in learning Japanese? Well, there are a lot of programs and apps out there that give you an opportunity to just dabble in a lot of languages. My choice though is an online program developed by NHK World. Their program, Easy Japanese, allows me to access free audio lessons online. Because the lessons are only about ten minutes long, I can do the lessons during my lunch break.
A few months ago, I found out that the entire Easy Japanese website and program had been updated. The improvements they have made are fantastic.
First of all, the website is beautiful, organized and easy to use. It is colorful and full of anime illustrations. The lessons are easy to access, as are the the supplementary resources and materials.
Audio lessons, based on skits in Japanese, teach the listener specific conversational skills, like how to ask for a phone number. The podcasts have two hosts, Michelle Yamamoto and Jonathan Shear (I’m trying to find out more information about them). They listen to the skit and discuss the dialog, vocabulary and sentence structure. The listener can follow along by reading the script that is posted on each lesson’s page. The script is written in English, Romaji, and Japanese writing. During the podcast, listeners also learn about Japanese culture and onomatopoeia. The podcasts and text can be downloaded for free from the website. A new feature they have added are short anime videos of the skits, which is just another way of making the lessons memorable and more likely to stick with you.
If you have more time to study, there are many extra resources to explore on this site. You can study more about two forms of Japanese writing, Hiragana and Katakana. NHK provides free downloadable resources so you can even practice doing the writing on your own. For each lesson there is a list of vocabulary words. If you are trying to memorize the words, you can take online quizzes to test your skills. NHK World also has content to teach visitors how to make Japanese food, plan a trip to Japan, and posts clips from newscasts.
NHK World’s Easy Japanese site is definitely worth checking out if you are interested learning about Japanese language and culture. Whenever I have students who show interest in learning Japanese I steer them towards this website because it’s all free. Even if Japanese is not of interest to you, maybe this will inspire you to use the internet to find free resources to explore the cultures and languages you want to learn more about.