Here is a collection what I consider to be my best posts for those of you new to this blog. My earliest posts often cover what I think are the most important because they were the things I most wanted to talk about. Unfortunately, the blog format places more importance on what’s new and hence older posts tend to get hidden under a pile of other posts. So this page is here as a permanent place to show case what I consider to be the best of each category. I will keep it updated as the content in the blog continues to grow.


The difference between 「は」 and 「が」
Written in February of 2005 apparently, this was my first real post and also the first thing I wanted to get off my chest. It was so simple I couldn’t believe nobody else had realized it. We were all so confused about the difference between 「は」 and 「が」 because nobody ever explained what they actually mean. All you had to do to really learn the difference was to understand the ideas 「は」 and 「が」 expressed.

Repeat after me, there is NO such thing as a subject
This post is similar to the previous one but with a different approach of looking at what 「は」 and 「が」 are not, namely the subject. In fact there is no such thing as a subject in Japanese. Of course, you have the concept of a subject but it is always deduced from context. There is no exact equivalent to what we consider the subject of a sentence in English and there is definitely no such thing as a subject particle.

I’m soooo boring! Hee hee *snort*
Here’s another post about the difference between 「は」 and 「が」 using an amusing anecdote that I actually witnessed.

Debunking the Japanese sentence order myth
The SOV sentence order is another unfortunate attempt to fit Japanese into the English way of thinking. I find the stubbornness of this teaching idea incredibly curious when the real sentence order is so much easier to understand. Also, it’s so easy to disprove just by creating an OSV, SV, OV, or V sentence. Of course, there is no such thing as a subject to even begin with as I just mentioned so this whole exercise is moot.

Bet you didn’t know it even existed, well… it doesn’t
This post isn’t very useful in the practical sense but I put it here because the topic of the empty particle is so interesting to me personally. It’s something you never really think about until somebody points it out to you. It also shows why using particles all the time is not always correct and the importance of realizing what kind of nuances you’re adding with your choice of particles.


的: A very useful ally
This kanji is so useful, it’s almost a crime that it’s usually not taught in most classes and textbooks. I mean, you can change any noun into an adjective! You can then change that into an adverb! You can also clean your toilet with it. It’s just that useful!

Wait, so it’s the same word but not? When does the madness end??
Japanese: You see Mr. Bond, things would be too easy if a word had only one kanji. Behold! 「とる」 can be written in 9 different ways! Muwhahaha!!
Bond: You’re insane! Do you expect me to memorize all that kanji?!
Japanese: No Mr. Bond, I expect you to die.

The NEW 常用漢字 and why we shouldn’t give a damn
Who or what determines whether a Kanji is often-used or not? And really, who cares anyway?

Learning Japanese

For those completely new to Japanese
A broad overview of the Japanese language as a whole for those who are completely new to the language.

Tae Kim’s Language Studying Tips
I know there are other websites that tell you very specific methods on how to study Japanese but I don’t really think it matters so much as your attitude and willingness to practice the language. I just can’t understand why people take classes, buy software, and come up with these elaborate methods while not going out and actually using the language. If you want to learn how to speak, talk to people. If you want to learn how to read, find something to read. And actually, those two things are probably the most difficult things to do for language learners. I’m completely for any technology that aids those activities such as Skype, Mixxer, or www.amazon.co.jp. But all the other websites and tools, I’m not so sure about. Think about whether your “methods” aren’t just an excuse to avoid having to actually use the language.

Do I need to take a class to learn Japanese?
Taking a Japanese class can be very helpful but in most cases it seems to do just the opposite. It really depends on the teacher and of course, you really have no idea what kind of teacher is good until you’ve already learned the language when it’s already too late. Learning a foreign language is one of the most difficult endeavors I can imagine and the rewards are so great. Mastering a new foreign language can open up a new world of opportunities and exploration. Yet people think they can just stick a native speaker in front of a class and you’ve got a teacher. People need to wake up and realize how rare and valuable good language teachers are.


Using the shortest letter 「ん」 for slang
Oh man, I really wished somebody taught me this stuff when I was learning Japanese. Going through a whole year of Japanese class dying to know how to talk informally is just not right. It’s worse that I eventually had to learn it on my own.

Oh crap, it’s 「やばい」
I remember my first experience with real Japanese people (exchange students from 中央大学) and their attempts to explain 「やばい」. Them: It means… (frantically looking in an electronic dictionary) dangerous! Me (confused): Huh? Is something dangerous going on?

It’s like, like 「なんか」
People really do say this ALL THE TIME and eventually you will too just like I did. YOU CANNOT ESCAPE!


You think Japanese is hard?
This is arguably my oldest post since I jacked it from my first blog on Blogger. It still amuses me to read it, which is a good sign. Why don’t I just go back to my first blog? I dunno except I feel like that part of my life has ended and I don’t feel like picking up where I left off more than 2 years ago. Plus, I’m scared to import two blogs into one.

And then… (scroll… scroll… scroll…) …never mind
I have to confess, I copied the idea for this post from another blog (can’t remember where) but it’s just so cute I couldn’t resist. (Sorry)

It started with a language requirement
Here’s the full scoop on when I started learning Japanese and how I got where I am through the years. I think it’s a fairly balanced account and hope to illustrate that yes, you too can become proficient in Japanese. You just need a little elbow grease and some years to dedicate depending on how good you want to get.

Going through all my posts (it took like two minutes), it was striking how little I actually wrote in these 3 years. I dunno… I feel like I worked hard at it. But all of my posts AND comments in a xml format only comes to 105k. (T_T)

8 thoughts on “Highlights

  1. No matter how little you wrote, it is still *very* useful. Nobody is going to complain about the fact you concentrate on things that matter instead of posting countless posts on yet-again-the-same-thing. Thanks for this blog!

  2. Thanks Alex. I hope to keep writing about things that people find useful and/or interesting. It just might take me a while.

  3. It’s great that you’ve moved away from the ad-ridden 3yen, thanks for keeping it going! I’m looking forward to reading more posts about language-learning experiences in your other languages too.

    I was wondering though, seeing as you’re still studying Chinese, whether you are planning to do an update on the ‘which is harder, Japanese or Chinese’ subject you wrote about nearly 2 years ago.

    As somebody who is learning Japanese in Japan at the moment but is keen to start studying Chinese in earnest at some point, I’d be very interested to hear if your opinions have changed. Back then you were pretty much 100% convinced that Chinese is easier in most every way than Japanese. Is that still the case?

  4. Ha ha, no it’s not! I think grammar is the hardest part of Chinese. It’s much easier than Japanese at first but there really is no framework you can build like in Japanese. So I still feel lost with things like sentence order. You’re right, I should do another update.

  5. Also very glad you moved away from 3yen and the infamous ads! The look and feel of this site is a lot better. Now I can happily recommend your blog without adding a caveat to the email about the adverts!
    Highlights page is great with loads of useful articles from your old blog I’ve missed. Please keep it up!

  6. Hi Tae Kim,

    I just found your blog. I don’t know how come I did not find you sooner because you’ve been around for awhile. Anyway, thank you so much for your very honest account of your Japanese learning experience. I read your chapter on ‘It started with a language requirement’ really impressive and really inspirational. I agree that it all comes down to two things: hard work and consistency. I first tried Japanese lessons exactly 10 years ago and I am so ashamed to say this because if I had continued then, today I would have 10 years of Japanese learning. (sniff) I must say that I prefer your school’s approach, that is class every day. I studied in a private Japanese school in Paris, three times a week and often it clashed with the Maths courses that were compulsory at university. I gave up because of the clash and I feel bad when I think about it.

    Today, I still really want to learn but there is a twist now. I am currently learning Mandarin (8 weeks and counting) and in 2 months time I’ll add Japanese. Both being completely different and Chinese (to me) being much easier than Japanese, I feel that Chinese is demystifying the Japanese Kanji and that really boosts my confidence and gives me more energy to trudge forward.

    I really really appreciate your blog, I have added you to my blogroll and will be following you starting from the beginning and I hope someday I’ll be in Japan sipping the Mighty Sake from a straw and probably draw the attention of the curious, why? So that I’ll be able to talk to them and explain to them the reasons for my bizarre bar manners.

    The failure I encountered last time, I believe is largely due to not documenting my progress in any way. My blog represents my diary and once a week we meet up and I write down the week’s progress and how I feel. It helps to reflect.

    Thank you ever so much!!!

  7. Hey Tae Kim, i think what you’re doing here is awesome! your guides are the best and most informative i have ever seen , read ,heard and learned about, from japanese!
    keep up the good work and i’ll be continually awaiting all that you put up for us, thanks once again for all your effort these past few years, atm having a marathon of all your videos and , they’re all great and truly informative! thank you!

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