This post is about how you shouldn’t be reading this post.

Still here? Tsk tsk.

Lately, I’ve been wrestling with the ratio of how much English vs Japanese to use in my guide. The more Japanese I can get you to read, the better. But if there’s too much, it will be too difficult and overwhelming, having the opposite effect.

I’ve noticed that many websites for learning Japanese use WAY too much English. You can spend hours reading pages and pages of English text on how to learn Japanese (which seems ironic to me). This blog is mostly in English as well, so really, you should stop reading this and spend your time on something more productive.

I’ll try to keep it short, then. If your Japanese study material consists of reading a lot of English, you might want to try something else that has more Japanese text. Oh, I dunno, maybe something like this? (I know, totally no bias here).

As a fellow Japanese learner, I should probably be writing this in Japanese too… でも、めんどくさいからやめとこう。

Anki 2 review

So since I did a review of Anki, it seems only fair that I revisit it now that Anki 2 is out. I’ve been using it for the past few weeks and my overall impression is that things have improved significantly.

Overall, the look and usability have been greatly improved. There is no longer a popup per deck, which is great because popups SUCK. Though browsing a deck is still a popup, it’s not as annoying as Anki 1. AnkiDroid is much better as well in that it’s actually usable now. Before, it would crash on my phone at least once basically every time I’ve used it. In addition, Synch can now actually SYNCH (ie “synchronize” not just whack one set of changes with another).

I would highly recommend upgrading though the upgrade process hosed all my old decks (don’t know if this is just me or a common issue). It’s much better once you get everything setup. However, I must warn you that getting setup initially is very confusing. The UI can still use a lot of improvement in that regard.

  1. No menu option to login. You do this by synching for the first time, which also doesn’t have a menu option. You have to use the icon on the top-right. Not very obvious.
  2. Do not use the Default deck! It disappears when you add another deck. As you can see, the Default deck is nowhere in the desktop app even though it appears in AnkiDroid.

    Anki 2 Screen Shot

    AnkiDroid 2

  3. “Full synch” is a misnomer. What it means is basically, scrap everything I have locally, and replace it with what’s online. This caused me to lose my changes several times before I realized what was going on. This should be called “Reset”.

Once you get over the initial confusion and get all your decks setup and ready to go, it’s not too bad.

You may be wondering, didn’t I recommend against using SRS? Well, while I still think it’s an inferior way to memorize things, I have to admit, it’s nice to have something to study when I’m waiting in line at the grocery story or whatever. I don’t have much time nowadays to sit down with a book or watch a show so it’s a convenient way to review something when I have a few minutes to spare. Also, I was previously using iGoogle, which is going away, so it’s also a convenient way to store interesting words to share on twitter or facebook later.

By the way, my main deck had only one side and it completely failed to migrate over to Anki 2. Obviously, I’m not using it like most people. 🙂

Finding time in a busy life

I must confess, I’m a pretty fickle person. I usually start work on something, ignore it for a long time, and come back to it when it’s fresh and exciting again. I’m sure some of you have noticed long periods of neglect on certain projects of mine (such as this blog). As it is, it’s pretty much impossible to work on everything I have going on at the same time with a (completely unrelated) full-time job and a family. I could decide to just work on a single thing at a time but since Japanese is my hobby, I have no obligation or inclination to work on anything unless I feel like it.

Lately, my speaking has been getting very rusty so I’ve been trying to find a conversation partner via mixxer. However, I found out that the west coast is pretty much the worst in terms of time difference for conversing with people in Japan. Also, most of my activities are done in small spurts, 5-10 minutes at a time (like this blog post) so allocating a contiguous block of time is difficult.

On the other hand, I’ve also been reading/listening a lot and learning tons of new vocabulary. I probably learned hundreds of new words and expressions in the last year. These include words in my twitter feed and more such as: うなぎのぼり、くまなく、鬼が出るか蛇が出るか、甚大、にっちもさっちも、もどかしい、色白、往生際、大往生、雑然、しらばくれる、張り子の虎、森羅万象、波乱万丈、前途洋々、後悔先に立たず. So how much has this improved my speaking?

Not one iota, zilch, nada, zip

So don’t fool yourself into thinking studying hours and hours with classes, dictionaries, and books will enable you to speak Japanese.

Anyway, my (admittedly poorly-made) point is that while you might not have as much time as you’d like to devote to something, the important thing is to do as much as you can and to get enjoyment out of it. I listen to podcasts on my commute and read things online here and there whenever I have the chance. This morning, I learned the word for fuse (信管), reading this short article. This word in particular took no effort to remember because I know the kanji and it’s a memorable combination (“a pipe I believe/rely on” = fuse).

What did you learn by doing what today?

PS: Lately, I’m totally addicted to Disgaea. It’s evil. Even though the game is in Japanese, even I have to admit that the education value vs time spent (wasted) is extremely low.

Rocket Japanese review (Updated)

Update: Ok, these guys are now spamming my youtube channel with obvious and obnoxious spam. DO NOT BUY FROM THESE A**HOLES! Hopefully, this post ranks #1 for any search related to Rocket Japanese so that people are aware of their shady business practices.

I was asked to review Rocket Japanese several months ago and totally forgot about it. So before I forget about it some more, here it is.

My first impression was wow, there’s a lot of marketing and no clear picture of what products are available at what price. You have to scroll through various links and pages of marketing to even see what’s for sale. A simple product matrix would be nice.

Signing up for a free trial shows a checkbox: “YES! I want to try Rocket Japanese for free!”. Ok, why would I want to uncheck that? Anyway, once you’re in, there are 5 major sections, parts of which are inaccessible in a trial.

Interactive Audio Lessons

I could only force myself to listen to the first few lessons. Overall, it’s a nice introduction to some useful Japanese phrases but Kenny’s pronunciation is so bad, it’s really a mystery why anyone would want to learn Japanese from him. Unfortunately, he drives the lessons instead of the native speaker. JapanesePod101 had the same problem in the beginning but they now have much better hosts on their staff. (I should do a review of JapanesePod101, they’ve come a long way.)

The grammar explanations are useless and creating your own sentences from these lessons is impossible. For example, they mention things like the stem or te-form but offer no explanation on how one would go about conjugating a verb to these forms. The explanations also sound like they came out of a 20 year-old Japanese textbook including instructions on how to bow and the overuse of 「あなた」. Let’s review the definition of 「あなた」.

From 大辞泉:
1 対等または目下の者に対して、丁寧に、または親しみをこめていう。「―の考えを教えてください」
2 妻が夫に対して、軽い敬意や親しみをこめていう。「―、今日のお帰りは何時ですか」


1. Address someone of equal or lower social status politely and/or with familiarity.
2. Wife addressing husband with light respect and/or familiarity.

*In modern Japanese, the level of politeness is low so it’s not preferred for student or young people to address a teacher or elder (with あなた).


  1. Exposure to Japanese phrases


  1. Kenny’s pronunciation is terrible
  2. Quizzes use romaji
  3. Grammatical explanations are terrible
  4. Cultural notes are outdated
  5. Kenny

Basically, if you want to get some exposure to Japanese and get to repeat some phrases, ignore everything Kenny says and you might get some value out of it.

Language & Culture Lessons

Once again, there’s no real explanation of how the example sentences are constructed so you won’t be able to make your own sentences but you can hear the pronunciation of the sentences that are there. Some of the culture notes are informative but romaji is used in quite a few places including most of the quizzes.


  1. A smattering of words/sentences with audio you can use to practice listening and pronunciation
  2. Some informative culture notes


  1. Frequent use of romaji
  2. Grammatical explanations are nonexistent


There are tons of websites that teach Hiragana and Katakana because it’s an easy thing to learn and teach. Rocket Japanese’s version has nice videos for the stroke order though it only covers up to 「な、に、ぬ、ね、の」 in the trial. I also don’t see any mention of long vowel sounds in the menu (though I can’t verify). It’s a very important and often overlooked part of Japanese pronunciation. Considering how many free resources there are for learning kana such as Memrise‘s innovative approach, it’s surprising that you get so little with the trial.


The games are really cool! But it uses romaji. Darn. I haven’t progressed far enough to know if they switch to kana/kanji at a higher level.


On the left nav panel, there’s a section called “My community” which is basically an online forum and “My motivation”, which has some good learning tips worth perusing.


It’s not clear which of the five sections on the top I should start with and when to go from one to the next. Replace Kenny, teach the full kana in the trial, kill the romaji, and make the navigation and progression clearer and you might have a decent package for practicing and learning phrases. However, if you want to learn grammar and how to construct complex sentences from scratch, you won’t get it with their teaching methodology, which basically consists of translating bits and pieces of pre-constructed sentences.

To sum up: Rocket Japanese is a confusing mishmash of audio lessons, culture notes, writing lessons, and unhelpful quizzes with no clear ordering or curriculum covered up by a mountain of marketing. You can find some useful learning tips and nuggets of good audio phrases buried in a confusing interface, romaji, and Kenny’s horrible pronunciation.

Verdict: Try out the trial if you’re really bored but keep your money.

Pocoyo Japan

My daughter (now 1.5 years old) is obsessed with Pocoyo. She has watched Pocoyo on Netflix like 20 million times. Recently, I wondered, “Hey, since she likes it so much, I wonder if it’s available in Japanese?” The Great Internet has answered and here it is.

Interesting phrase I noticed in this episode at 5:15: 「ポコヨを慰めてあげてくれる?」

Who doesn’t like comics?

So my last blog post really paid off because I got contacted by a very talented artist who offered to draw up some comics for learning Japanese! He’s been going full steam and I’ve been barely managing to keep up with the lines. It’s really hard to come up with lines for an interesting comic when, for example, you can’t use any verbs.

Here’s the first one but the rest are (mostly) in Japanese. They are scattered throughout the complete guide. Make sure to check out the hover text too.

Roumaji comic

The further along it goes, the easier it is for me to write because I can use more grammar but probably harder for Japanese learners. Which is kind of the point. I hope you like them! Also, check out Martyn’s site. He’s really good!

Review of Anki & SRS

I use iGoogle everyday so I was shocked and bummed to hear it was going to be shutdown. I have a bunch of new vocab sitting in my notes in iGoogle that I go through for my #JWOTD. Sure, the shutdown isn’t happening for another year but I thought it was a good excuse to finally try Anki and this whole SRS thing for myself. So below are my impressions and opinions on Anki specifically and SRS in general.

Anki Review

The user interface is pretty clunky especially for the Android version. For example, I have to download a deck for every client. If I synch, why won’t it grab all my decks? What’s the harm? Also “synch” is not an accurate term because if it detects changes on both sides, it forces me to pick one even if I just added cards on the PC and only reviewed it on the phone. There doesn’t seem to be a concept of merging. AnkiWeb is also missing a lot of pretty basic functionality such as browsing your deck. Given the advances of modern webapps, I personally would ditch the desktop client and focus purely on the web and mobile apps. It’s silly to have to install the program on every computer and launch it every time. I would much rather have a richer and interactive web version always open in my browser with tab synch on every machine.

Overall, gets the job done but a LOT of room for improvement.

SRS Review

So I discovered this SRS thing is not for me at all. First of all, it takes way too long to make the cards. Eventually, I just imported all my words using only one side. There’s really no point to filling the other side because I usually read whole web pages and articles to fully get the nuance of new words as people following my twitter account know. At this point, simple words like “car” and “doctor” are not really on my list.

Second, the whole review thing seems backwards to me. If I review a word that’s completely new, I pick “Hard” and then it shows up again right away. For me, seeing a word I don’t know over and over again does not help me. I need new words to bake over time. If I know the word, I want to delete it, and if I don’t know it at all, I pick “Easy”. If the word looks familiar to me, I pick “Hard” so that I can see if I want to delete it the next time.

If you are just starting out, given all new words you would need to learn (and quickly), I would not recommend SRS. Given the additional time it takes to make the cards and the time wasted reviewing words you already know, it’s not worth it. If you know a word, you don’t want to hide it so that it comes back in 8 days. You want to get rid of it and move on. You have thousands of new words waiting for you to waste any more time on ones you already learned.

I personally recommend the “firehose” method of dumping your brain with TONS of interesting content. This means plowing through pages of books and manga, hours of dialogue, and conversation practice forgetting more words than remembering them. Don’t sit around wasting time entering and reviewing what you’ve already seen, just get more, more, and MORE STUFF!!! You’ll be surprised at how much just seems to stick somehow like osmosis. Some people feel this is not effective because they end up forgetting so much stuff. They don’t realize that the fact that they even remember forgetting it means they’re learning it.

I don’t know, maybe I’m just weird…

LOL – imitation is the sincerest form of flattery?

Before I decided to start making videos for learning Japanese on Youtube, I first looked to see if there was anything good on there already. If there was something I liked, I probably wouldn’t have bothered. Much to my surprise, I could not find a single channel that went over ALL the sounds in Japanese including voiced consonants, long vowel sounds, etc. Sure, there were many videos that went over the Hiragana characters but that was usually the end of it.

I put a lot of thought into how I would structure my videos and how to fix what I didn’t like about many of the existing videos on Youtube.

Keep it short. Don’t try to be funny.

A lot of videos fill up a lot of time by trying to make things funny and interesting. Unfortunately, not everybody find the same things to be funny and frankly, a lot of the videos I saw were just not funny to me. One of the disadvantages of video vs text is that it’s harder to skim through so I try to keep things as short as possible. Look, you’re probably busy and I know I’M definitely busy. Let’s not waste each other’s time with my poor attempt at humor and just get straight into learning Japanese.

If I want to try to be funny, it’ll be in the Japanese examples. That way, at least, you’re learning something in the process and it may make you more interested in learning the Japanese instead of listening to me ramble on with some stupid joke in English.

Why would you want to stare at my face while you’re trying to learn?

I know Youtube started out as people recording themselves on their webcam but do you seriously need to stare at my face for minutes at a time while trying to learn Japanese? I’m not exactly Brad Pitt or Johnny Depp. I’ve even seen videos of people giving lessons on tiny whiteboards while they take up most of the shot! That’s kind of like sharing a word doc by printing it, scanning it, and emailing the scanned image.

I know watching mouth and body gestures help in learning a language but unfortunately, I don’t have resources to create scenes with staged dialogues. I would love to if I could though.

Cover everything step-by-step

I wanted to have a set progression where a person with zero knowledge of Japanese can start from the first video and learn by watching the videos in order. Too many videos just start kind of in the middle without really going over everything before it in full. I know it’s an ambitious project but I figure no matter how long it takes, the next wave of Japanese learners can benefit with whatever I get done.

As far as I knew, there were no videos for learning Japanese as I just described when I started making them. So today, I saw this video published 4 months after my first video. LOL.

Wow, it’s defintely more professional than my lame Powerpoint slides. And they have more than just one guy (me) that can read the Japanese examples! I’m so jealous. I’m just this dude making videos from my house with a cheap USB mike.

I applaud the “new” format but unfortunately, the grammar explanations suck! 「AはBです」 pattern means “A is B”??? No no no no no! Bad boy! You can’t learn Japanese with sentence patterns!! What are you, an American Japanese linguistics grad student from the 60s?? Please watch my latest video or let me make your slides so I don’t have to spend all my time trying to make these videos by myself. Argh!

Word of the day

If you’ve been following my twitter account, you may have noticed that I’ve been posting a new word along with an example sentence and a link to the source material every day for the past few weeks. I wanted to see if I could keep up with it before I blogged about it. So far, it’s been really easy to take a few minutes out of the day to pick a word, search for something using that word, and post something on twitter every day.

What I haven’t mention yet is that each word I pick is a word I just learned personally. Usually, I pick a word from my dictionary history, which has things I looked up recently while reading books or listening to podcasts and then search around for something online that uses that word. It’s actually more for myself than anything as it allows me to review a word I just learned in a different context. At first, it annoyed me that I couldn’t just add a bunch and schedule them to appear later on twitter. But it’s actually helping me to memorize the word because it may be a few days after I learned it that I actually post it. As fans of SRS know, it’s best to not think about a word for a while before conjuring it up again.

If you’d like to try your own WOTD on twitter, post a link to your account in the comments so I can follow you. Don’t just post the word though (which is same as looking it up in the dictionary). Try to find a sentence that uses the word and post a link to the source.