Monthly Archives: December 2013

A closer look at Japanese particles wa (は) and ga (が)

As I mentioned in a previous article, in my initial years of studying Japanese I made a huge emphasis on learning as much grammar as I could. For me, one of the most difficult elements of Japanese grammar is distinguishing between the particles は and が. There are surely hundreds of books and websites that describe… Read More »

Japanese bookstores in America

We are fortunate to leave in an age where nearly unlimited resources, in nearly any language, are available online. This is a boon especially for those studying a foreign language.  Blogs, news, message boards, and even videos are available with a simple search, in a matter of a seconds. But the quality and variety of… Read More »

Get a pen pal to help your foreign language learning [Beginner/Intermediate]

For those who are serious about learning a foreign language, reading online sites and blogs only gets you so far. To really understand how the language is used by native speakers, you have to have two-way conversations with them. Of course its great to travel to Japan, and some of us are fortunate enough to… Read More »

Age-related expressions in Japanese [Beginner / Intermediate]

This time we’ll learn some age-related expressions in Japanese. Age is dealt with a little differently compared to English so it’s good to make sure you have the basics down. The simplest way to say “age” is とし(年)which also means “year”. Here are two common expressions when asking age (remember いくつ means “how many”): お年、いくつですか?… Read More »

Enjoy a piece of Japan at the Morikami Japanese Museum & Gardens(森上博物館・日本庭園)

For lovers of Japanese culture and language, living in South Florida can be tough since there is a limited number of native Japanese speakers and authentic Japanese restaurants. One thing that goes a long way to compensating for this is the Morikami Japanese Museum & Gardens, located in Delray Beach, Florida. The Morikami gardens are… Read More »

Grammar – it’s the linguistic glue that holds things together [beginner/intermediate]

All through my Japanese studies I have always dedicated a large portion of time to learning grammar, almost to the extent that I would call it “grammar-driven learning”. Of course it’s great to have a rich vocabulary, but without knowing the rules for how to transform and combine words to get across your intended meaning,… Read More »

Podcasts: an essential tool for foreign language self-study

I’m not exaggerating when I say that Podcasts are one of the most important tools for self-study, especially for experienced students of Japanese who are living outside of Japan. I’m always surprised when I mention to people I listen to podcasts and they have no idea what that means, or have only a vague clue.… Read More »

Japanese Pitch Accent: It’s more important that you realize [beginner/intermediate]

There are many learning resources for Japanese that glaze over the language’s pitch accent, which differs greatly from English where emphasis (not using pitch) on a single syllable is used instead. For example, one of the first textbooks I studied from mentioned that the accent differs from region to region (this is true), so there… Read More »

Kanji: pictographic compounds [beginner / intermediate]

One of the misconceptions I had before I got deep into Japanese study was that Japanese kanji are ‘pictographic’, meaning that each character represents some type of picture that is visually similar to a real object. This is true to a certain extent, especially with some of the very simple characters. For example: Tree: 木… Read More »

Japanese learning pitfall: Don’t wait too long to learn hiragana! [Beginner]

ひらがな、よめますか? If I could go back to the time when I first began learning Japanese and change one thing, it would be to learn the hiragana alphabet as fast as possible, and avoid romaji (the romanized version of japanese script) like the plague. This is something I’ve seen expressed on other Japanese-learning web sites and… Read More »