Methods to Achieve Japanese Learning Independence

As described in Japanese Learning Loop, achieving learning independence is fundamental to unlocking language acquisition.

The most important thing is being able to navigate the vast amount of resources available to you on the Internet without getting lost or incorrect advice.

These are the resources, tools, and steps that I follow whenever I get stumped by something new in Japanese that I cannot understand.

What does this word mean?

Check the dictionary:

  • Jisho is the best J-E online dictionary available.
  • Weblio similarly to Jisho, it can often provide better and more flexible results. It’s definitely worth it to check both.
  • Goo is a very useful J-J online dictionary.
  • Nicovideo has a decent slang dictionary.
  • And so does Pixiv

How do I look up the meaning of this kanji?

  • Go to Jisho (or use the mobile app)
  • Hit the search by radical button to bring up the radicals menu:
  • Compose the kanji with the various radicals until it appears in one of the listed options.

Alternatively, if you cannot find the kanji on jisho:

  • Go to Google Translate
  • Use the handwriting tool to scribble something that looks similar to the kanji you want, and look at the results. Google Translate is quite smart and does not care much about accuracy or stroke order.

What is the difference between these two words?

  • Look the two words up in a J-E dictionary
  • Look up the definitions for both words in a J-J dictionary
    • This is very important because often the J-E dictionary won’t be detailed enough to point out nuances and slight differences between synonyms
  • Google 「word1」 「word2」 どう違う and read the (usually) Japanese explanation
  • Use Jisho Sentence Search to check how the two words differ in context with real sentences and usage

What is the difference between this word written with these two different kanji?

This is what is called an 異字同訓 (ijidoukun).

Aside from following the steps from the question above this one, you can also look the most common ijidoukun on this site.

What does this particle or grammar structure mean?

What is the counter for this word?

  • Search on google for <word> 数え方
  • Look up the word on benricho

How do I pronounce this word?

  • Forvo is a huge repository of recordings of native speakers reading words out loud.
  • Youglish is an amazing site that lets you search for a word in a youtube video as it is being used in context by a (usually) native speaker. It is also a great way to find native listening material.
  • OJAD is an online pitch accent dictionary for Japanese.

How do I read this word?

  • Use to find how often a certain word is read in a certain way (some words/kanji can be read in multiple ways).
  • Search on google for <word> 読み方