For those of you trying to learn a language, I hope my experiences will be helpful to you! I am currently attempting to improve my ASL, while learning Spanish, Russian, and Japanese at the same time. Crazy, I know, but I want to learn these languages and I'm curious to see how much I'm really capable of accomplishing when I set my mind to it. I'm also a glutton for punishment, evidently!
I have been studying Japanese for a couple of months now. I have primarily been using two apps for learning Japanese: MindSnacks and Memrise. Unfortunately, Duolingo doesn't currently offer any Asian languages.
Let me start by saying that Japanese (or any other language) doesn't need to be extremely difficult. I believe that it's all about mindset. It's exactly as difficult as you tell yourself it is. That's not to say it will be easy, but it's not impossible, either.
You can learn any language by maintaining a positive attitude, putting in a lot of hard work, and embracing "unrealistic" expectations. In other words, just go for it!
Next, we will cover some of the tools that I have used so far.
The MindSnacks app is great for what it is. I like the variety of little games that help with learning vocabulary, rapid recall, error recognition, and other important aspects of language learning. The gamification approach of this app has helped motivate me to try to break my own records in the games, which no doubt helps push me to be better. I'm also in a friendly competition with my eight year old (he is definitely winning at the moment), which keeps me on my toes. I don't think this should be your primary tool for learning the language, but it is a very helpful and fun app to add to your language learning arsenal. I am also using MindSnacks for Spanish. They don't offer a version of their app for Russian or I would be using it as well. Overall, I would give MindSnacks a 7/10 as a supplemental app.
I don't really know where to start with Memrise...
First off, Memrise is amazing! It's well worth the $8 or $9 per month. It's amazing, but it's also frustrating...
The great thing about Memrise is that there are so many users creating courses in such a wide array of languages. The bad thing about Memrise is that there are so many users creating courses...
Not all courses are created equally.
I have used this app daily for a couple of weeks for Japanese, Spanish, Russian, and ASL. Nearly every course has been of high quality. However, I have also dabbled in Ukrainian, Estonian and Urdu with this app and the results were varied. The Estonian lessons were especially bad. The audio on the courses I tried was barely audible. I have been interested in learning Estonian for several years, but there are only 1.3 million people in Estonia and many of them speak Russian as their first language. Nearly all of them speak either Russian or English (or both) as a second language. This makes it very difficult to find a satisfactory method of learning Estonian. Memrise is the best option I've found yet, without actually going to Estonia, but it was disappointing, to say the least.
Most of the Japanese lessons that I've tried, however, have been comparable to my experiences with Duolingo for Russian and Spanish. The quality of the lessons is good and the variety is refreshing.
Overall, I give Memrise an 8/10. Your mileage may vary, but as long as you have reasonable expectations, I think you will enjoy this app. I would add that, as soon as Duolingo adds Japanese courses, I will add that to my practice, but I will most likely continue to use Memrise.
It's fairly easy to find good Anime and Samurai movies in Japanese, either on DVD or on Netflix. If you consider yourself a cinephile and are also studying Japanese, I would suggest that you check out www.criterion.com. They have several high quality transfers and remasters of old Samurai films on DVD and Blu-Ray. The prices can be a little high, but if you appreciate film history and high quality sound & video, they are well worth the cost. There is also a streaming service designed specifically for Japanese anime, called CrunchyRoll (www.crunchyroll.com). I haven't used this service, so I can't speak to the quality of the experience, but it's an interesting concept.
Specific Challenges with Japanese
I am still at the beginning of my journey with learning Japanese, so this will not be an exhaustive list of challenges. As a beginner, these are just the ones that stand out to me. Some of these will apply to other Asian languages, as well.
Good luck as you expand the borders of your world through language learning! Learn to speak, learn to listen, and experience something new! You won't regret it!
Who am I?
I'm a random guy.