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Contemplating Japanese Language School

Do you want to improve your Japanese level? Maybe you have just moved to Japan and want to get a leg-up on your language studies? Maybe you have been in Japan for years and would finally like to learn to speak fluently? Maybe you want to move to Japan, but are afraid you won’t be able to understand anything around you?

Using the Japanese language everyday is one of the most challenging things foreigners to Japan encounter when facing life in this country. As an expat you must command more than just the basics; living here requires an entirely new vocabulary, alphabet, and way of speaking. Like most foreigners who end up in Japan, I had a dream of living here for a long time. As an English speaker, I always thought the best way to try out life in Japan would be to teach English for a year, but a full-time job gives most teachers little time to study the language, which can lead to missing out on myriad rewarding experiences. While searching for other options, I discovered language school. It was a perfect plan to catch a glimpse of life in Japan while learning the language. After graduating from the program, I had basic Japanese under my belt and enough knowledge about Japan to get started in the workforce.

Everyone learns differently, but when you are in an environment where you are using Japanese everyday, you are almost guaranteed to see your skills improve. Like any language learner will tell you—immersion is key.

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Tips For Learning a Second Language

Learning a new language, whether you are looking at adding English or Japanese to your list, is difficult for many individuals. Something that often times makes the process less frustrating and much, much easier is to simply keep an open mind and make sure the attitude stays in check. Maintaining a positive outlook during the learning stage and keeping a zealous attitude about the process can go a long way in making it easier and more enjoyable to learn a new language. So whether you have a trip planned, are looking to make future education plans easier, are seeking an enchantingly attractive foreigner mate, or simply want the ability to speak another language, get ready to learn with these important yet fairly simple tips:

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The Best iPhone Apps for Studying Japanese - Part 2

NOTE: I now document my favorite iOS apps for studying Japanese in the directory:

Human Japanese
Brak Software, Inc.
The author of this app is a saint.  He has an uncanny gift for explaining the language in a transparent and comprehensible way, and has graced us learners of Japanese with this diamond of an app.  Points that I've struggled with for years and years have been melting away in flames of coherence.  "OMG!  So that's how that works!"  I wish I had this app when I first started studying Japanese.  It would've rescued me from countless nights crying myself to sleep.

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The Best & Worst iPhone Apps for Studying Japanese

NOTE: I now document my favorite iOS apps for studying Japanese in the directory:

The Best Apps
Flashcards Deluxe

If you plan to study Japanese (or any foreign language for that matter), you have loads of new words to learn.  You're gonna need a solid flashcard program.  Sure, there are Japanese-specific study programs that have volumes of included flashcards, but there's a significant memorization advantage to making your own customized flashcards.  Namely, the words you'll study are relevant to your current Japanese study--they're words you're working on and/or covering in class.

I tried a bunch of highly-rated flashcard app demos before settling on Flashcards Deluxe because it was the only one I found with a critical feature I was seeking.  It allows you to create cards with up to 5 "sides."  So I put the kanji on side 1, furigana on side 2, meaning on side 3, and a mnemonic hint or note on side 4 (if I can come up with one).  This feature alone sold me on Flashcards Deluxe, but awesome also is the "spaced repetition" study algorithm and ability to import cards via the developer's website.

Flashcards Deluxe is now my go-to app for studying Japanese vocabulary.

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Studying Japanese With Mnemonic Devices

I learned in my psychology classes that memory is most deeply encoded when associated with concrete imagery.  That is, memories are strongest when they appeal to all the senses and can readily recreate an imaginable scene or context.  Rote memorization (e.g. reviewing flashcards over and over) is considered a weak encoding technique because it relies solely on repetition to encode memory.  Herein lies the problem with remembering new vocabulary, especially new vocabulary in a second language.  Is there some way to study it using "stronger" memory encoding techniques?  Rote flashcards are boring and don't work very well.  The memory of them is literally gone in a flash.

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The Best Software For Studying Japanese

Being an IT guy and a student of Japanese, I'm expectedly a fan of using software to study.  I've tried just about every type of Japanese learning software there is, so here I've compiled a list of my favorites:

The Rosetta Stone (PC / Mac) -
The Rosetta Stone is the Ferrari of language learning software.  It's fun and extremely interactive, engaging all the senses to maximize retention.  It's automatic lesson review feature quizzes like a real teacher, and it's the only software I've ever found that supports voice recognition, making speaking practice possible.  It's by far the software that comes closest to classroom learning.

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