ER@TU (Extensive Reading at Tohoku University)


I gave this short (30m) presentation about our ER program here at Tohoku University. The presentation is in Japanese.

Annotated list of websites from the “SRS, RSS, LMS: Online Tools to Boost Learner Efficiency” presentations

Hi everyone

A friend from Sendai reminded me that I promised to post the list of websites from my presentation on the blog. Here it is:

Anki is a spaced-repetition program is an amazing listening resource: over 1200 short conversations with transcripts has short videos with interactive subtitles as well as vocab and pronunciation practice

Facebook needs no introduction

Google search settings have some interesting tools, like reading level

Google translate is partially useful

iTunesUniversity great content for advanced students and teachers can now use it to show their classes

Network (Oxford University Press textbook) new series based around social media

OxfordOwl incredible resources including Oxford Reading Tree ebooks with sound

pikifriends a closed social network for junior high schools amazing resource for reading online content a simple (paid) system for learning kanji a very powerful site for learning kanji and vocabulary -freemium but most of it is free

rikaikun for Chrome/rikaichan browser extension Firefox gives popup translations within the browser

skype for video calls phonics and reading practice for children great content for teachers and advanced learners you know this

Hope you find something useful in there.

Japanese learning tools online

Learning Japanese can be frustrating, mainly because the writing system makes it difficult to read for language acquisition. Here are my top five online learning resources. A few minutes of these every day will really help.

Very slick site with reading, listening, example sentences, and some typing. It’s basically an online SRS (spaced repetition system) that someone else has made for you. People with more time/discipline can make their own with Anki.

Learn kanji by typing in the readings. This site has the best system for showing progress I have ever seen, using a kanji chart that slowly changes colour as you progress.

This site is amazing, because it lets you practice handwriting kanji, keeps track of progress, and rates your stroke order and appearance. Amazing.

This site is great for studying for the JLPT or Kanji Kentei tests. Again, the site organises what you need to know, and keeps track of your progress.

5. iTunes
A bit of a cheat, this last one. Combined with an ipod, podcasts (audio and video) are probably the best way to get listening input and practice.

Hope that helps! Would love to hear about any other good sites in the comments below.

Kanji Kentei, the best Japanese test?

The ???? (kanji kentei), or Japanese Character Proficiency Test, is in my opinion one of the best tests for non-native residents of Japan who want to improve their whole language skills.
Given that the test is designed for native speakers, and focuses on reading and writing Japanese characters, what basis could I have for making that statement?
I am not just being controversial for the sake of it, I honestly believe that, unlike it’s best-known competitor, the test is well-made, good value for money, and that studying for it yields benefits that amount to more than a passing score on a test.
The test has the following benefits:
1. it tests kanji and vocabulary in context, as well as on their own
2. in order to pass, you need a good knowledge of the meaning, reading, stroke order, compounds, usage, and antonyms of each character
3. you learn to write, which is an important skill if you live in Japan
4. the study materials are reasonably priced and widely available in book stores and even 100 yen shops (the earlier tests mirror school grades, so you can buy kids’ kanji workbooks and use them to practice)
5. the test is held three times a year and is reasonably priced
6. you get your results in a month or so, and they also give you the answers when you finish the test so you can check how you did while it is still fresh in your mind
There is a range of materials you can use to study for the test, but I have found the following the most useful:
1. allows you to drill data sets specifically for the kanji kentei
2. the official range of study guides are excellent
3. the range of Nintendo Wii and DS software
I will be trying for level 6 the next time I take the test, which is the equivalent of 5th grade elementary school.
The kanken is not for everyone, but if you are serious about improving your Japanese and need a structured approach with regular, achievable goals, it can be a useful tool.

Top Five Free Ways to Learn Japanese Online

I know a lot of people who despite living in Japan, just don’t get the exposure to comprehensible input that they would need in order to really make significant progress.

This is a list of five free ways you can get started on increasing your input, and the best thing is that you don’t even have to be in Japan to use them.
1. (or rikaichan plugin for Firefox)
Rikai is a website or app that allows you to read Japanese online by giving you a small pop-up window with the pronunciation and meaning of individual words. Assuming you have a minimal knowledge of Japanese grammar, this is much better than a translation program because it allows you to choose the most appropriate meaning for each word. A few minutes a day reading sites on topics that interest you is sure to boost your vocabulary and reading fluency.
This is not a radio station, but rather a website that allows you to learn vocabulary in context, using a spaced repetition system to help you transfer the words to your long-term memory (something that takes between 20 and 50 exposures to the word in context). Including text, pictures, audio, and a really fun practice system, this site makes it easy to study for just five or ten minutes a day.
I finally got my hands on an iPhone recently, and one of the best things I have been doing with it is listening to all sorts of podcasts in Japanese. There is a huge range of material available for free at all levels, and listening to podcasts while commuting or exercising is one of the easiest ways to improve your listening comprehension (with the added bonus that listening will also help your speaking ability).
4. LingQ (pronounced ‘link’, I think)
LingQ is another website featuring a learning system. It is mostly free (you can pay to practice speaking with a tutor online or to have your writing corrected) and offers an easy way to read texts, listen to audio, and learn vocabulary. I always think of it as the grown-up, more serious version of (see above). It takes more time and effort to use, but you will make more progress.
This is a site made by a friend of mine, and it is one of the best I have seen for learning kanji or vocabulary sets, particularly if you are studying for the JLPT or the Kanji Kentei (which I thoroughly recommend, more on that in a future post). The site is free and well worth looking around. It is not as pretty as some of the others, but the mechanics are solid.
I am very lazy, so I haven’t used these resources as much as I should have, but for anyone with some self-discipline, they should prove very useful to increase that all-important listening and reading input.
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