5 Ways I Study Japanese

I have made several short, lackluster efforts over the past few years to study Japanese. I remember way back in junior high during my anime-obsessed days I rented a series of Japanese learning tapes from the library; however, I didn't dedicate myself to using them daily. Since then, my Japanese knowledge has been limited to phrases here and there that I've gotten from Japanese media, especially music and television. 

Nevertheless, over the past year or so I've been making efforts to learn more Japanese. Compared to Chinese, I think it's certainly a more difficult language in terms of the grammar and writing systems among other things. At least with Japanese, when it comes to speaking, there's only intonation to concern yourself with rather than tones.

See how I use Chinese to learn Japanese here.

Although Japanese challenges me, there are five methods I use to casually study the language and check what I've learned or how much I know. I'm conversational in Mandarin, but not Japanese; I think my strongest Japanese skill at the moment is reading. Nonetheless, hopefully I will be able to hold a decent conversation in Japanese by the end of this year.

1. Learn Kana & Practice it Everyday
A hiragana-katakana chart. Memorize it!

There is simply no way one can learn to read and write Japanese efficiently without learning the kana systems, hiragana and katakana. Hiragana is used to write words of Japanese origin that do not have a corresponding kanji or Chinese-derived character. Katakana represents foreign/foreign-derived words and sounds. 

While you still need to know several kanji to read most Japanese text past early elementary level, there's a host of words you can read once you learn kana:
  • カレー (karē) - curry
  • おにぎり(onigiri) - Japanese rice balls
  • オレンジー (orenjī) - orange (the color)
  • ドキドキ (dokidoki) - badum, badum; onomatopoeia for a heartbeat
  • ハンバガ (hanbāgā) - hamburger
As you probably noticed, many of my examples are food items. Therefore, if you're taking a trip to Japan, I'd strongly recommend you to learn kana so you can articulate what you want to eat instead of pointing at displays! You can easily do it within a weekend.


Opinion: Congrats, President Tsai! But the Status Quo Will Remain...

Don't get me wrong, I have no interest in Hilary Clinton becoming the next president of the United States, but Taiwan deserves major kudos for electing its first female president in its history, Tsai Ying-Wen—a feat we Americans have yet to achieve.

Who is Tsai? In a nutshell, she is a 59-year-old professor-turned-politician and prominent member of Taiwan's democratic party. Hailing from southern Taiwan, the calm, mild-mannered Tsai rightfully takes her place as the island new president as she is of Hakka and aboriginal Taiwanese decent.

Arguably, thanks to many Taiwanese's distrust of the former President Ma and his cozy relationship with the Chinese Communist Party, Tsai was able to nab a convincing 60% of the votes in the recent presidential election.



恭喜台灣第一位女生主席!她真的代表台灣的希望,前途。 但是,我覺得她沒有辦法改變大陸台灣關係的現狀。對,喜歡共產黨的人很小,但是中國的世界存在是非常非常大。西方的國家沒有認真的興趣承認台灣因為會傷害他們跟大陸的經濟關係。對不起,但是我覺得如果台灣沒有別亞洲的國家,西方的支持,台灣沒有機會成自己的國家。

我覺得蔡主席的任務應該是經濟發展和提高台灣跟世界的關係。我也希望她會促進第一世界的思維在台灣。在我的看法,台灣人跟大陸人的世界觀差不多一樣。技術,基礎設施,學英文...對,都是很好,但是如果你沒有很現代的世界觀那個東西都沒有用,對不對? 蔡英文,加油,可是請別賣台灣人高不可攀的夢想。


Morris Thompson Cultural & Visitors Center

With its clear signage and prominent location at the edge of downtown,
Morris Thompson Cultural & Visitors Center can't be missed.
A beautiful display of indigenous clothing
and other items.
The Morris Thompson Cultural & Visitors Center is a free attraction not far from downtown Fairbanks. The center is open to the public between 8am and 9pm daily, which allows visitors to choose a flexible time to stop by. 

While most tourist centers mainly offer brochures and a couple of staff members you can quiz for advice regarding your trip, the Morris Thompson Center virtually doubles as a free museum. It's easy to spend an hour or more there exploring the exhibits, taking in all the artifacts on display, and simply learning about life in the Last Frontier. Many of the stories shared within the exhibits are centered on the people—both relatively famous and virtually unknown—who have helped carve Fairbanks and more generally Alaska into what it is today.

The Visitors Center includes a gorgeous garden.
One of those people is the late Alaska Native leader Morris Thompson for whom the center is named. Thompson, who had a White father and Native mother, became an assistant for the Bureau of Indian Affairs in the early 70s, and later became the youngest Commissioner of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. He also served on the University of Alaska Board of Regents. Tragically, Thompson died in the Alaska Airlines Flight 261 crash with his wife and one of his three daughters in 2000. The Morris Thompson Cultural & Visitors Center was completed and dedicated to him in 2008.