One of the critical aspects of learning Japanese is to get feedback on your progress so that you can fix any mistakes that you might possibly be making. A lot of people don’t normally think that way, but have you ever asked yourself: “is my Japanese correct?”
Unfortunately, getting personalized help for your specific needs has always been a weakness of Japanese language books and courses. They are usually designed in such a way as to cover a broad variety of topics so as to be applicable to as many people as possible.
What’s worse is that when you plug in a Japanese phrase into a translation program like Google/Bing Translate, it has no way of knowing what the context of the situation is and it can give you information that is not actually what you’re looking for.
This is one of the advantages that learning in a classroom with a teacher has over the self-study method. At any time you can ask your Sensei a detailed and specific question and you will get an immediate answer. It’s custom made, baby!
And that’s why learning Japanese in a classroom setting has traditionally dominated the learning space. Even to this day it’s still a super common way for people to learn the language.
However, with the power of the internet, and the explosion of smart phone technology in these past few years, it is no longer a problem to get help from a native Japanese person on your specific questions. And what’s even better is that you can get this kind of help no matter where you are!
In fact, today is by far the BEST time to learn Japanese due to all of the available resources for you to utilize. And an amazing amount of it is absolutely free too! What more could you ask for, right?
Having said all that, I’d like to share some tools with you that I’ve personally used myself to make sure what I’m trying to say in Japanese is correct and also sounds natural. After all, just because you learned something in a book, doesn’t mean that Japanese people actually say it in everyday life.
So without further ado, let’s begin!
How to Get Help with Written Japanese
Most students spend a decent amount of time reading Japanese. But when it comes time to actually writing it down (or typing), it can get a little tricky.
Here are a few ways that you can have a Japanese person review and correct your written Japanese.
Hi Native is a really cool app that you can download and start using for free on both the App Store and Google Play.
Is has a great question and answer system setup so that you can get answers for specific questions like “how would you say this is Japanese”” or more general ones like “can you explain to me the difference between when you would use this word and this word?”
Since it’s free to connect with Japanese people, you might have to wait for a few minutes to get a reply. But you can also help other people learn your native language by answering similar type questions while you wait.
I haven’t tried the paid version of the app, so I’m not really familiar with any of their additional features. But being able to get personalized help with your written Japanese is still pretty awesome!
Busuu is another app that you can download for free on your phone. This one is more geared towards teaching you Japanese through their own course, but it does have a “practice what you’ve learned” section where you answer questions in written Japanese and it gets reviewed and correct by a native Japanese speaker.
Busuu has a rather limited free version, so if you want the full effect you will have to go premium and pay a monthly subscription, but it’s worth checking out at least to see if you like it.
Facebook seems like an obvious choice. You might come off as a little weird if you start sending random friend requests to Japanese people you don’t know, but you can always join a Japanese language learning group instead.
These groups (I’m in a few of them myself) are usually filled with beginner Japanese students. The most common post I see is something along the lines of “will someone please teach me Japanese?” but there are usually a few people who are fluent within the group as well.
If you just write out the question in Japanese and ask “is this correct” or “does this come across as natural Japanese” then one of the pros will almost always reply and let you know.
Twitter is like the wild-child version of Facebook when it comes to getting help with your Japanese!
Maybe it’s because there aren’t really any groups within Twitter where you can connect with lots of other like minded people all in one place. Or maybe it’s because you’re rather limited on the amount of characters per tweet.
Regardless, it’s usually best to follow someone who you know teaches Japanese on Twitter (check their Bio) and just shoot them a tweet with your question. You could also just ask the question to the entire Twitter-verse with a hash tag like #Japanese.
How to Get Help with Spoken Japanese
Learning how to speak Japanese is typically easier when you can listen to how the words actually sound, instead of just reading some pronunciation guidelines in a book and going at it by yourself.
If you read a phrase in Japanese, but you also want to hear it so that you can say it with a natural rhythm and intonation, then you might want to try out these next few resources.
RhinoSpike is a website that gives you “Japanese On Demand!”
It works similar to the way that Hi Native does, where you submit your requests for natives and you can help other people with their requests in your own language.
The difference is that with RhinoSpike, the Japanese person will record themselves speaking the words and phrases that you’ve requested. That way you can download the audio files and then listen to them yourself.
It’s a great way to get some customized Japanese audio that you can master by listening to and then repeating yourself.
You can also access their public library of recorded Japanese files, as each one that a user requests gets saved and archived. It’s pretty cool to look though, although it’s probably not really in line with your specific needs since the recordings were done for other people.
WeSpeke is an online social media site that basically just pares people up with native speakers for whatever language they are learning (like Japanese!) and let’s them communicate back and forth through text, audio, and even video!
If you are looking to hold an actual conversation with a Japanese person, then this might be one that you will want to try for yourself. And you can use it on your phone as well, if that’s more convenient for you.
Out of all the different tools that I’ve mentioned in this post, WeSpeke is the only one that I have not tried out for myself. So everything that I know about it is second hand from other people’s experience with it and the information that WeSpeke itself shares with the public on its website.
If you’ve had any experience with WeSpeke, I’d love to hear your thoughts on it. Be sure to leave me a comment below and let me know.
Robots are IN this year. More specifically, I’m talking about the Google robot that pronounces Japanese when you click on that speaker icon in Google Translate.
I’ve talked about the power of Google Translate before, and in a separate post I also talked about the Google Translate extension for Google Chrome. You can read those posts if you’d like to know more, but basically what it comes down to is that you can have the robot say any phrase that you want to hear.
The upside to this is that it’s instant! You don’t have to wait for anyone to get back to you on it. And I would say that the pronunciation is actually not too bad.
The downside is that it doesn’t quite sound like a natural speaker. Obviously the robot voice can’t always “know” how to apply good intonation and rhythm through a sentence’s entirety. But honestly, I wouldn’t worry about it all that much.
I mean, if you listen to it speak English, you can understand what it’s saying without much trouble. You just don’t want to match it 100% when you repeat it.
Use it to learn how to pronounce the words, but don’t use it to learn good rhythm or intonation.
Talk to Text in Japanese is one that I personally love to use! All you have to do is open up an app on your phone that will allow you to write (like notepad) and bring up your Japanese keyboard and then click the record button and start talking in Japanese!
This one is a great way to verify that you’re pronunciation is good. If the computer pops up the Kana and Kanji that you intended it to, then you know you’re doing it correctly!
After all, if the talk-to-text function can understand you, then chances are pretty good that an actual human being will understand you too.
Just don’t ask Siri to do anything indecent in Japanese!
For When You Need It
So there are some of the things that I’ve used myself when I needed help. Hopefully you will find one or two of them useful for your own personal study needs.
I still think that an award winning language course is one of the best ways to learn Japanese. But nothing is perfect and it can sometimes be harder with a course to get a detailed and specific answer on a question that you may have.
That’s why I wrote this post! To give you some new tools! Keep what you like and throw out the rest!
Now I want to hear from you! What tools and resources do YOU use to help learn Japanese? How do you normally get corrective feedback when you need it? Let me know with a comment below!