Websites I Actually Use
There are a million websites out there about the Japanese language and how to learn it—so many, in fact, that it can be hard to narrow it down. That's why I thought I would write an article about the websites that I've used in the past and the ones that I still frequently use today. There's a lot to cover, so I'll split the sites up into groups based on the type of content. Let's get started!
Looking up words, Kanji and terminology
If you're learning Japanese, a lot of your time will be spent looking up new words. As such, it's important to know where you can get the information you're looking for. For your general word or Kanji look-up, a English/Japanese dictionary such as Lorenzi's will serve you well. It uses the same basic dictionary file that many free online dictionaries like Jisho.org use, meaning that the results will be pretty consistent. The main reason I recommend Lorenzi's is the extra features it offers, like creating word lists you can easily export to Anki.
But there are many cases where simply looking in an English/Japanese dictionary won't be enough to get you the information you're looking for. The big disadvantage of English/Japanese dictionaries is that they contain possible translations, but not really definitions. This can make it hard to differentiate the nuances of similar words. In those cases, it is much better to consult a monolingual dictionary, with actual definitions written in Japanese. Of course, this does require you to at least be proficient enough to make sense of the written definition, so I personally tell people not to worry about using monolingual dictionaries early in their studies. However, if you are a little bit more advanced (maybe what we'd call lower intermediate) then such a dictionary can be very powerful, so let me introduce some of them to you:
- goo 辞書: Pretty standard dictionary with brief definitions, example sentences, and some linguistic information like what part of speech the word is.
- Kotobank: A sort of collection of dictionaries. Will show you entries from different dictionaries for the same word.
- Weblio: Weblio is similar to goo, however it tends to show more detailed grammatical information like conjugation patterns.
- Japanese to English Weblio: A Japanese to English version of Weblio. This can be very useful if you have a term in English you want to express in Japanese.
Those are general purpose dictionaries, but there are also few more specialized ones that I want to mention. Sometimes, you might not find a word in the normal dictionary if the word is slang or pertains to some sort of special interest group like gaming terminology. Or what you're trying to look up might not even be a word to begin with, but rather some sort of a grammar point or a reference to the origin of an idiomatic word. One of the dictionaries below may help in those cases:
- Gogen Allguide: This website contains information about the origin of words and phrases. Don't expect it to have information about every single word, but especially the ones with interesting cultural backgrounds tend to have information listed.
- Sanabo Kazoekata: This Japanese dictionary specializes in counters. Counters are pretty unique, at least from a western point of view, So having a place to look up the appropriate counter for a given word is very useful.
- Jaded Network SFX: A community sourced database of Japanese sound effects and onomatopoeia. If ever you find a sound effect in a Manga that you cannot find in other dictionaries, try this one.
- Kobun Weblio: A dictionary of classical Japanese grammar. This is a pretty niche resource but if you ever need to look up classical grammar, its very useful.
- OJAD: More of an online tool than a dictionary. You can input a word or sentence and it will generate a nice pitch accent diagram for you.
- Nico Nico Pedia: An encyclopedia of slang, Anime, Manga, and gaming terminology, along with other special interest terms.
These are the majority of the dictionaries that I use. Combining them should give you about as much information as you could ask for.
Reading is my personal favorite way to improving your overall language skill with Japanese. But the question is: What are you gonna read? Well, to that end I've provided some resources in the form of websites that are perfect for reading practice. I've even sorted them by the approximate difficulty of the texts they offer, just for you.
Reading as a beginner is certainly daunting, but I encourage everyone to start reading early nonetheless. As long as you're prepared to consult a dictionary fairly often, you ought to be fine. Some websites that contain beginner friendly reading materials are:
- Hukumusume: Japanese children's stories.
- Traditional JP Children's Stories: More stories, but with included translation help.
Once you're past the beginning stages your options really start to open up. There is a sort of snowball effect with reading proficiency. As you get better, you'll be able to read a wider variety of things more quickly and improve your Japanese even more. Use this chance to challenge yourself to harder texts. Remember that the best place to be for improvement is just slightly outside of your comfort zone. Check out these sites for reading practice:
- Watanoc: Web magazine in simple Japanese.
- NHK News Web Easy: A website with news articles for children and learners provided by NHK. They add new articles daily.
- Bilingual Books: A small selection of famous novels in multiple languages, including Japanese. The key feature is that it displays two languages at a time side by side.
This is where the real fun begins. Now that you've cleared the hurdles of the beginner and intermediate stages you are ready to dive into just about anything. At this point I recommend you to just read whatever you're interested in, but if you're still up for some recommendations, check out these websites:
- NHK: You can read news articles here and even listen to radio or watch some news broadcasts. Some stuff might be region locked though.
- Gendai Business: A business oriented blog. Can be very complicated in terms of vocab and complexity but very good for practicing more formal Japanese for things like the JLPT N1.
- Aozora Bunko: A huge collection of Japanese novels that are in the public domain. You can read these legally and for free. This includes many of the classics like Souseki's 吾輩は猫である.
- Syosetu: A website where people publish web novels for free. There's tons of reading material here. A lot of it is written by new authors and hobbyists so the quality of the writing can vary but there is a lot of good stuff so you're sure to find something that'll fit your taste.
- Comic Walker: Free Manga provided by Kadokawa.
The links above comprise most of the websites I use on a regular basis, however there are a few more things I want to share. These don't really fit into a category so I'm adding them down here.
First of all, I wanna talk about just using Google. Often I find my answers not on some specific website but rather via a simple Google search. There a few tricks you can use to get better results though. For example, when looking up a word in full Kanji with standard settings on Google, you'll most likely get results in Chinese rather than Japanese. To avoid that you can either change your search settings or simply add とは or some other Kana string at the end of the word. At that point, it is unmistakably Japanese. Another query I often use is simply AとBの
To finish up, here are some final random websites about Japanese that might be useful or interesting to you:
- Kanji Level Check: Check your Kanji knowledge on this website. I don't actually know how accurate the prediction is but it's certainly fun.
- Nihonshock Kanji Radical Article: An article about Kanji radicals which will definitely prove useful to you.
- IPA Mania: Rendaku: A Japanese article about Rendaku.