Lingua Critic - Japanese


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Live Japanese Radio
Yomiuri (TV Broadcast)
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Shanadoo King Kong


Japanese is a language spoken by over 130 million people in Japan and in Japanese emigrant communities. It is related to the Japonic-Ryukyuan languages. Its relationships with other languages remain undemonstrated. It is an agglutinative language and is distinguished by a complex system of honorifics reflecting the hierarchical nature of Japanese society, with verb forms and particular vocabulary to indicate the relative status of the speaker, the listener, and a person mentioned in conversation (regardless of their presence) The sound inventory of Japanese is relatively small, and it has a lexically distinct pitch-accent system. It is a mora-timed language.

The Japanese language is written with a combination of three different types of scripts: modified Chinese characters called kanji (漢字), and two syllabic scripts made up of modified Chinese characters, hiragana (平仮名) and katakana (片仮名). The Latin alphabet, rōmaji (ローマ字), is also often used in modern Japanese, especially for company names and logos, advertising, and when entering Japanese text into a computer. Western style Arabic numerals are generally used for numbers, but traditional Sino-Japanese numerals are also commonplace.

Japanese vocabulary has been heavily influenced by loanwords from other languages. A vast number of words were borrowed from Chinese, or created from Chinese models, over a period of at least 1,500 years. Since the late 19th century, Japanese has borrowed a considerable number of words from Indo-European languages, primarily English. Because of the special trade relationship between Japan and first Portugal in the 16th century, and then mainly the Netherlands in the 17th century, Portuguese and Dutch have also been influential.


Michel Thomas ( by Michel Thomas)  No memorizing, no text books, no drills, no homework!
The Japanese series using the Michel Thomas method, and presented by Helen Gihooly, is another extremely popular and effective course which is again taught in small pieces and gradually built up. After just an hour you will find yourself being able to say long and fluent sentences. Again though, the students can be annoying but its all part of the learning experience. The courses are all audio. Please also look at the reviews others have given. There is now an Advanced course.

Assimil Japanese With Ease ( by Assimil) 
Assimil has a glowing reputation for language learning based on their simple two fold approach. The first stage is known as "Passive Learning" which requires you to listen to the lesson, say it aloud (or to yourself) so you get pronunciation right and then to follow it again using the translation conveniently written directly opposite. The second stage is called "Active Phase" and starts approximately half way thorough the book. At this time you carry on doing the Passive phase (daily) then you revert back to the first lesson and translate it yourself without looking at the translation. It is more effective if you approach this as a written exercise rather than trying to recall it in your mind only. Then you do your next passive lesson and go to the second lesson of the book to translate and so on.... Don't worry, though, the instructions are clear and you won't go wrong. You need to do one lesson a day (also a translation when you reach that second stage which adds another half an hour). The dialogues are expertly written and played out by professional voice actors of the country. They are lively and humorous and keep your interest. The lessons are ordered so you build gradually on what you have learnt. Don't be tempted to do more than one lesson a day, there is a reason why its "little and often" so to maximise your learning capability. This is an approach that will take at least 6 months to complete and by then you will acquire a level of understanding comparable to B2 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages.  The lessons/stories are different for each language. There is also a book for Writing Japanese which is a great compliment to both volumes.

Click here for Volume 2

Complete Japanese ( by Helen Gilhooly) 
This latest edition of Teach Yourself Japanese has been designed by Helen Gilhooly, one of Michel Thomas's trusted tutors responsible for the Michel Thomas Japanese courses (see above). She is an excellent teacher of Japanese and this course shows how easy learning Japanese is. Each chapter focuses on a theme and has the associated conversations available on the CD. The units progress at a good rate and really do instil the language within you. The Kana and Kanji are treated separately while the rest of the course is in Romanised script. This is designed for those who want to hone their speaking skills without unnecessary cluttering of the alphabets and character sets. All in all a great course for those new to Japanese, and on completion will take you to B2 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages.

We strongly recommend that you purchase Read and Write Japanese Scripts: Teach Yourself by Helen Gilhooly to supplement the course.


Pimsleur ( by Paul Pimsleur) 
Only the first 1-5 lessons of Level 1 are linked here. You should try these as samples to see if it fits your learning style. There are 4 Levels in total for Pimsleur's Japanese. I have been very impressed by Pimsleurs' asian languages. They get you speaking right away and slowly build until you can express yourself very easily. It's not about learning set phrases, but more phrases that you end up changing yourself to say what you want to say. An extremely good technique and the best bit is you remember effortlessly. Pimsleur languages use the linguistic approach of timed repetition which forces words into your long term memory, rather than just the short term. There are 3 levels for Japanese. You can read about the method here. Download more detailed information on course content here (PDF)



Learn in your Car ( by Henry Raymond) 
The Learn in your Car series is a slight improvement on Vocabulearn in that the quality is slightly better and the music has gone! What you have instead are around 100 audio lessons of an American man saying things in English for the cute Japanese lady to translate it for you. These native speakers are dialect free and the series is great for revising on the go. Like Vocabulearn you play these over and over again, but they do work. I don't recommend them for beginners because they don't give any instruction on verb usage or sentence construction. It is however a very pleasant revision experience. Product shown is for all three levels.

Rosetta Stone ( by Rosetta Stone) 
Rosetta Stone Japanese is a fun introduction to Japanese and will quickly familiarise you with the language. It is available in the new Version 4 and is recommended. It is quite passive but extremely effective. If you treat it like a game you can learn very fast because  its addictive. It is also structured in such a way as to give a defined progression which is so often lacking in traditional language learning methods. Worth 5 stars but because of the price we gave it 4.
Vocabulearn ( Penton Overseas Inc) 
These are similar to the Learn in Your Car series by Henry Raymond. At first glance these seem like rather ineffective ways of learning as they generally comprise of an English speaker saying a word or phrase which is followed up by a Japanese lady translating it all to a backdrop of light music. You are essentially learning by rote. As such you play them until you scream! Yes you will learn hundreds of words and phrases but really for beginners this is not a good way because you are not getting an understanding of verb structure of sentence construction. However this is great for testing yourself while commuting or making use of dead time to revise what you know. Vocabulearn is great for clarification of genders which often need reinforcing! Product shown is for all 3 levels.

Earworms ( by Marlon Lodge) 
This is a very simple idea that makes learning Japanese fun and easy. Its an English man conversing with a Japanese woman and asking her how to say things in Japanese. All the time there is a rhythmic sound/beat going on to her syllables which is designed to stick in your mind rather like a catchy song. The vocabulary being taught is basic but essential and is a relaxing experience. You don't need to make any real conscious effort as your brain is absorbing it through the beats. There are two cd's in the Japanese range and you can listen to samples by clicking the pictures on the left. Overall a fun and enjoyable experience, reasonably priced and it works but only for basic survival skills. Product shown is for both levels.

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