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Never having formally studied Japanese before, I went to Nihongo Master last week as a true Nihongo Rookie. “Nihongo” by the way, means Japanese in Japanese, which I clearly didn’t know as a rookie. If you’re a Chinese reader, you’ll see that the characters used in Nihongo—日本語—mean “Japanese language” in Chinese, but pronounced “rìběnyǔ” in Mandarin instead of “nihongo.”
I’ve experienced other virtual language learning options—Duolingo, Rosetta Stone, and a variety of podcasts—and I am incredibly impressed with Nihongo Master. It manages to dive deep into concepts and provide quality understandings, while keeping the lessons simple and fun. For example, this is the festive message you receive after making an account:
The learning hub of Nihongo Master is called “The Classroom.” This is where you’ll find lessons, practice sheets, “Dojo” (A.K.A. drills), and quizzes. Although I knew that Japanese sometimes uses Chinese characters, I really never took the time to understand the other writing systems used in Japanese—yes, systems, plural…three to be exact! Nihongo Master’s first lesson introduces the three systems: kanji, katakana, and hiragana.
Kanji (漢字), known as “Hanzi” in Chinese, refer to the writing system made of Chinese characters and is the most complicated of the three systems. While knowing Chinese characters helps navigate Japan since most of the meanings remain the same, about 20-30% of the time the characters do not express the same meanings, so when in doubt, make sure to double-check the meaning of a character with Waygo instead of assume the character holds the same meaning in both languages!
Since Hiragana is considered the base writing system and is the first writing system taught to Japanese children, it’s the first writing system Nihongo teaches students. I love this approach to Nihongo’s process of following how a native speaker learns the language.
Nihongomaster.com: The Highlights
- As you learn on Nihongo Master, you can see other members’ activity on the site, which can be motivational if you enjoy being part of a team or class. You can also interact (chat real-time!) with other members and make new friends!
- Nihongo Master has a mobile version for studying on the go (or for more convenient studying from bed!)
- Comprehensive and easy-to-navigate dictionary with over 35,000 words. Each word contains definition, usage, and sample sentences.
- Ability to make your own customized study lists or access other members’.
Not only is Nihongo Master a good place to learn Japan’s language, it also holds a ton of insight into Japanese culture. Spend just a few minutes on the blog and you can find out about Japan’s Coming of Age Day—when 20-year-olds officially enter adulthood, additional language learning tips, and crazy Japanese sports you’ve never heard of. There are also a variety of ocus groups. You can join groups focused on topics you also care about, like anime, or meet other newcomers to the site.
It’s hard to believe this nimble team of three can create such an incredible tool and community.