Tohoku (Sendai) ETJ Expo -Sunday December 2 at Tohoku Bunka Gakuen University

I’ll be presenting at the ETJ Expo in Sendai this weekend, talking about useful online resources to help students study more effectively.

The schedule for the event is here, and the map/directions are here.

My workshop is at 12:30 -hope to see you there!

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.

Popjisyo supports online reading for learners of English or Japanese

I am a big fan of rikai and it’s various browser plugins (little programs you can download to add to the Firefox or Chrome browsers that give you rikai’s functionality), but the main page has personal ads on it, so I feel a bit hesitant about introducing it to students. Rikai allows you to copy and paste text or go to a website, and then provides mouseover (popup) vocabulary for words on the page. Basically, if you don’t know a word, you can move your mouse cursor over it, and a translation will pop up. It is incredibly quick and makes reading online very easy. Mouseover translations are much better than using translation software because they allow you to figure out a text rather than scrambling it, as is so often the case with machine translation between Japanese and European languages.

A while ago I found an acceptable alternative in popjisyo. It has the same functionality as rikai, but looks much more respectable. It also has a very cool ‘save to vocabulary list’ function, where if you double click on a word it saves it and then gives you the option of emailing the list to yourself. A great way to keep track of all the words you couldn’t understand during your web surfing session. Best of all popjisyo doesn’t require registration and is available in both Japanese and English, so it is very easy to introduce to students.

On the whole, junior and senior high school students tend not to be as impressed with the site, as almost all of their English studying is still through textbooks. University students, on the other hand, were extremely excited by the prospect of being able to read articles online in a more efficient way.

I recommend popjisyo (or rikai, they are very similar) to anyone who is studying or using Japanese or English (they have functionality for other languages too, but I haven’t personally tried them). I use them for two main tasks:

1. Reading email
I get a lot of group emails at work, most of which do not really pertain to me. If I can’t get the gist quickly, I cut and paste the email into popjisyo and can scan it easily using the popup translations to fill in unknown words.

2. Reading websites
This is a form of extensive reading, where I use popjisyo to make websites easy enough to read for fun. As an added bonus, I can save words by emailing them to myself and come back and review them later.

As tools, these websites can allow us to interact with our target language much more quickly and effectively. While there is a place for intensive reading and meticulous dictionary use in study, sometimes we just need to get a rough idea of the meaning and move on. Popjisyo and rikai allow us to do that.

*I talk about rikai in a previous post about learning Japanese here.

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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