Learning Japanese is not only the best way to get involved in your local community, it’s also essential to do anything more than ‘tread water’ here.
You have a right to know Japanese just as much as someone who happened to be born here. It’s your language. Don’t let Japanese people, or other JETs, tell you it’s ‘hard’ or ‘difficult’. It’s do-able. It takes time and effort, sure, but it is do-able.
Here are some resources that may be of use to you as you make your way closer and closer to fluency.
The Dirty Guide to Japanese: A look at the very basics of the language. Clear style, written for absolute beginners.
Tae Kim’s Guide To Learning Japanese: An informative guide to Japanese grammar basics, written in a clear style. Useful for first time learners as well as people looking to revise basic grammar.
NHK Japanese Lessons: A series of lessons about learning Japanese from NHK.
Learn Japanese Online: Run by a professional Japanese teacher, this blog uses text, audio, and translations to help teach you Japanese each week.
Meguro Language Center: This site offers a lot of free PDF worksheets for all levels. They are very useful if you are preparing for the JLPT.
Social Learning Sites:
The Mixxer: Create a profile and message/receive messages from people who speak Japanese, who are looking to learn English/other languages you know. Conduct Skype sessions (chat, voice, video) with them and exchange linguistic knowledge.
Lang-8: Write blog/diary entries about any topic in Japanese and have native speakers correct them! Then, do the same for people learning English.
Anki: This Spaced Repetition Software (‘SRS’) is basically a flash card maker that will time your to-be-studied cards based on when it thinks you will forget. Great for whole sentences, individual words, or kanji. Can include sound files for listening practice and photos in your cards. The downloadable sentence packs can be a little strange.
Drama Note: Has many transcriptions of Japanese dramas, allowing you J-Dorama nuts to discover exactly what was being said without relying on subs. Being online means you can copy & paste instantly into a dictionary or SRS program. Note that not every drama is fully transcribed (although a lot of the more popular ones are) and occasionally there will be a typo (usally a Kanji-error).
Free Japanese Audio Books: A collection of free Japanese audiobooks available online, from Brother’s Grimm Fairy tales, to The Tale of Genji and Sherlock Holmes stories.
NHK Online Senior HS Course: A collection of PDFs and videos (uploaded yearly as they are broadcast) relating to SHS subjects. Great for more advanced learners to brush up on some academic language.
Kanji Clinic: Informative articles about Kanji from The Japan Times
Jim Breen: A thorough bi-lingual dictionary. Can search in English, kana, kanji, and Rooma-ji. Great for slang, compound verbs, or obscure words, although be wary as some of the example sentences are a bit ‘off’.
SPACE ALC: A thorough dictionary, with many organization names, legal terms, law names, set phrases and so on. Can be a little finiky (e.g.; words must be spelled exactly correct) sometimes and cannot search in Rooma-ji.
Goo Dictionary: Search for the definition of words in Japanese (great for when the English translation is the same!). Also has an English dictionary, but it is more limited than the above two entries.
Slang Dictionary: Contains slang terms with a definition and history for most entries, although it is entirely in Japanese. Contains a lot of sexual/potentially offensive material, so don’t be looking at it at work!
Yamasa Online Kanji Dictionary: Has the stroke order (via animation) and hand-written form of just about every Kanji you could ever come across using Japanese.
Denshi Jisho: A thorough Japanese-English online dictionary that you can search by word, kanji, or sentence.
Yahoo Dic: A thorough dictionary with definitions in Japanese for when the English translations are the same!
e-Words: An only Japanese dictionary full of tech, PC, software, and hardware-related terms.
Tofugu: Japanese-Korean-American Koichi explains Japanese terms as well as provides tips and advice on studying Japanese. A little ‘otaku’ styled, but the advice is good and the main site often includes articles on Japanese culture.
Tae Kim’s Blog: Advice from Tae Kim (currenlty writing a begginer’s text book) about learning Japanese.
Antimoon: A site about using natural linguistic input for learning English. Has some useful advice that can be applied to learning Japanese as well.
Feed Me Japanese: Although this blog hasn’t been updated in a while, it’s got a lot of interesting advice on learning Japanese through reading and linguistics in-general.
All Japanese All The Time: The blog’s author, Khatz, claims to have learned Japanese from zero to fluency in around 18 months and he goes through his tips, advice, motivation techniques, and methods. Has a writing style that grates on some people’s nerves, but always an interesting read. Ignore all the donation requests/ads.
Difficult Foreign Languages: An article on difficulty and foreign languages.
Words From A Polyglot: An article about a man who has learned 50 languages and how he did it.
Please let us know if you have any other useful sites you’d like to be included in the comments!