“Shiitake” is an edible mushroom very common in Asia. It is one of those things I always buy when I go to the supermarket, it’s yummy and you can put it together with almost whatever: pasta with shiitake, soup with shiitake, asparagus with shiitake, whatever with shiitake :). Shiitake has tons of vitamin D, and you can always find it in any supermarket all over the year since it is a species that can be cultivated pretty easily.
The other day I saw for the first time how “shiitake” are cultivated:
This post is for all of you who want to learn Japanese or who are starting to study Japanese.
1.- Learn Hiragana and Katakana
The first step to learn Japanese is to learn the syllabaries Katakana and Hiragana. You can start learning Japanese without knowing Hiragana and Katakana but I would never recommend it. What would you think if a Japanese starts learning English using their characters? For example, “My name is David” would be written by a Japanese student like this “マイ ナイム イス デービッド”. Do you think it is a good idea for a Japanese student to learn English with their characters? Then, don’t do the same when learning Japanese, learn Katakana and Hiragana first, and then start studying vocabulary, grammar and conversation.
2.- Go to a Japanese school
I think that at least at the beginning is important to go to a school. I think the ideal is six months or one year. With that you will know the basic things you need to know to start learning by your own. That is my style, I find it boring to go to classes when I feel I could learn more by my own. I guess it depends on your personality, think about what fits you best.
3.- Recommended books
I’ve used tons of books, my recommendation is to use as many sources as possible and make your own conclusions.
4.- Tango Cards
“Tango Cards” is a method that many Japanese people use to learn English vocabulary. Basically “Tango cards” are cards where in one side you write the word in one language and on the other side the translation. There is no magic at all, but the cool thing is that you have all your cards together with a ring so it is very easy to take a look to the words even inside a crowed train or wherever.
These are “Tango Cards”
Usually “Tango Cards” are blank and you write the contents. But there are also packs fo “Tango Cards” with vocabulary and kanjis written for you, I don’t like these because just by writing the words in blank cards you are learning. If they give you half of the work don’t it is more difficult to learn.
5.- Official exams
Exams are good to put pressure on yourself. Following the JLPT levels is a pretty good idea. Between the 3rd and the 2nd level there is a huge gap but from 2010 the system is going to change and there will be an intermediate level between the current 3rd and 2nd. The level 2 and level 1 difficulty will not change.
If you want to focus in Japanese for business then maybe the best option are the JETRO exams.
6.- Learning Japanese with the Nintendo DS
There are tons of software for the Nintendo DS for Japanese improvement, most of it is for Kanji learning. The main problem is that most of the games are designed for Japanese adults and Japanese kids but not for foreigners learning Japanese. There is only one game designed for foreigners, it is called My Japanese Coach and it is pretty bad and only recommendable if you are a very beginner with Japanese.
Here there is a list of the software you can find in Japan that I have used (And I’m using) to learn Japanese. I do NOT recommend you any of these if you don’t already have an advanced or nearly advanced Japanese level:
Capture from 美文字トレーニング
6.- Video games
Playing videogames is also a great and fun way to learn new languages. The best way is to start with games with not much text and learn the basic vocabulary to move around the menus etc. Once you feel comfortable then get an easy RPG, for example a Zelda (In the last Zelda’s games there is even furigana). And the last level is to play hardcore RPG games with tons of text.
7.- Movies, Anime, Television, Manga, Music
Watching anime for kids, for example Ghibli movies like Totoro or Ponyo, is a great way to test your basic listening skills. Reading simple manga is also gratifying since you’ll be able to read and understand some real Japanese, I had tons of fun with Doraemon and Shin-chan.
Once you reach an intermediate level watching television (whatever) is great to improve your Japanese. On TV you’ll listen different accents, different ways to talk Japanese (a humorist Japanese and a news reporter Japanese is totally different). Also watching Japanese films with subtitles (Rent or buy Japanese DVDs) is great. At this intermediate level you’ll be able to read more complicated manga, I read tons of Tezuka Osamu during this stage.
And when you reach the advanced level… then start reading books, novels and whatever. Read a lot! It is the clue in order to perfectionate your skills in any language.
Doreamon es a perfect manga for beginners.
8.- Electronic dictionaries
Using a traditional-analogic-paper dictionary in order to look for japanese-english translations is a pain in the ass. Use dictionary with your computer (JDIC for example) or buy a portable electronic dictionary. In Japan tons of electronic dictionaries can be found in any electronics shop. The problem is that most of them are designed to be used by Japanese people learning English, but not the other way around. The main brands are Casio, Canon and Sharp. I recommend Canon, the Sharp models have to many useless features (With some of them you can even watch TV). On the other hand Canon focuses on usability, making the task of searching words very easy. Casio also have pretty good models.
8.- Resources on the net
Use the power of the net to learn languages. Read Japanese blogs, read Japanese news sites. Use Japanese SNS services like Mixi to meet Japanese people and practices with them, you can also use Facebook, Skype or Twitter where there is a pretty big Japanese community. There is no end, there are some many places where you can find resources to learn languages on the Internet:
You can become an expert reading and talking Japanese but if you don’t know anything about the Japanese culture it will be difficult for you to follow certain conversation. For example, you can be fluent in English but if you travel to New Zealand most probably you’ll not be able to feel integrated in conversations with locals, since they would talk about local politics and sports, or they’ll have their own jokes and expressions. The same applies to Japanese, you can be very fluent with standard Japanese but you MUST be able to move in as many environments as possible and learn about Japanese culture, how Japanese people think, their traditions, their non-verbal communication etc.
I recommend you to read books and blogs about Japan, in order to improve your knowledge about Japanese culture.
10.- Live, study and work in Japan
I’m sure that you can learn more Japanese living two months in Japan than studying Japanese in your home country during two years. If you REALLY want to learn Japanese, then you should REALLY think about coming to Japan for a while. There many options, you can come to Japan without visa for three months, and if you are a student you can apply for a Monbusho, or a Vulcanus, or other programs. But there are so many options, that the best thing you can do is to go to the nearest Japan Embassy or to your University’s International Relations department and ask for further information about which options do you have to come to Japan.
11.- Japanese girlfriend or Japanese boyfriend (Who can speak English)
This is the best method of ALL, forget about all the previous advice!
For you girls… Tomoya Nagase:
For you guys… Maria Ozawa:
Good luck and 頑張って！
Previous posts from the Tokyo 2008 series:
In order to take these pictures I used these lenses with my Nikon D40:
Japanese are pretty extreme when it comes to protecting their skin against solar rays. Most people use 50 factor protection creams, parasols or gloves; but the most advanced technique consists on using the “megaprotector”!
This pictures was taken a few days ago, at the end of November!
Matcha is a powdered green tea variety used in the traditional Tea Ceremony. It is also used to flavor sweets, cakes, ice creams etc. It is easy to recognize since its color is the darkest amongst green teas. The first time I drank matcha I didn’t really liked it, but the more I drink it the more I like it.