Japanese Is Easy grammar series by CureDolly

I thought I would take a moment to recommend a series of Japanese grammar videos that I have been enjoying for quite some time now. I find them to be extremely valuable, but it seems like the kind of thing that a lot of people might easily skip over if they come across it, so I thought it was worth highlighting. Some of the concepts might be a bit controversial because they go against the grain of what people are normally taught, but if you give it a chance, I think you would find that it makes Japanese grammar much simpler and more logical overall.

The videos are hosted by a somewhat scary looking CG character by the name of Cure Dolly from the website KawaJapa. The basic idea behind these videos is that textbooks and classrooms generally teach Japanese all wrong, introducing a lot of misconceptions and causing things to be needlessly confusing.

For example, one of the core ideas put forth is that the が particle exists in every sentence, although it is frequently just implied rather than actually existing in the sentence. The が particle also just performs one function – it marks the subject of the sentence. This in itself has huge implications for other aspects of Japanese grammar–and in every case, makes things easier and more logical. If you try to study about the が and は particles anywhere else, you will find this huge laundry list of situations and exceptions where you might use one or the other. Situations like if you are trying to show contrast betwen things, trying to emphasize something, if you are introducing new information, if you are using question words… they just go on and on! But it turns out that learning all these weird rules is completely unnecessary when you simply understand what the core function of the particle is. And this is just the tip of the iceberg. You’ll also learn about how Japanese doesn’t actually have conjugations, everything that you thought about “passive” form has been a lie, what です actually means, and much more.

I first became interested in Cure Dolly’s thoughts on Japanese grammar when I picked up her book “Unlocking Japanese“, which laid out a lot of the same things that are covered in the video series. However, the videos go deeper, cover more topics, and present things in a better way. I recommend watching all of the videos in order, since they build on each other, and just jumping into later lessons will likely be confusing.

I could keep trying to sell you on it, but, just watch it. It’s free and worth your time. That’s really all that needs to be said.

Japanese Quest

It’s been a while since I’ve posted about any Japanese learning resources that I have found, but this one was so cool that I couldn’t pass it up.

Japanese Quest is a Twitch/YouTube channel that teaches Japanese through video games! It’s run by an actual Japanese Language teacher, and runs on a pretty solid schedule, so there is TONS of quality content getting pumped out. Now, this isn’t really a “Japanese from zero” course that will teach you all of the grammar and stuff that you need. But it’s really more of just playing through games, doing live translation, and mining the games for interesting words to learn. There is a spreadsheet and Anki deck of the words that are mined.

I think this is mainly ideal for someone that has been studying Japanese for a little while already and learned the basics. If you don’t really know how to mine words and phrases from native material, this will teach you how. If you have tried to mine words from native material but given up because it was too difficult, this might show you that it’s actually not as difficult as you thought. And if you just don’t really mine words from native material because you are too lazy, well then it doesn’t get any easier than this! It’s so easy to just sit back and watch, and then import the words into Anki later on.

So far he has covered several games including Xenoblade 2, Super Mario Oddyssey, Breath of the Wild, and others. Here is a map which I assume shows most of the games that he is planning to cover at some point (though it is subject to change, as he has already done several that don’t appear on here):

I really recommend checking it out, and spend at least 30 minutes or so with it to see if it could be helpful to you!

Japanese Quest – Twitch

Japanese Quest – YouTube

 

Download Japanese subtitles as TEXT from Netflix using a Kodi plugin

Note: while this article is written from the perspective of obtaining Japanese subtitles, it should work just as well for subtitles in other languages.

Updated 7/15/18: New version 0.13.10-1 of the plugin released, and moved the plugin to Github.

My journey of obtaining Japanese subtitles from Netflix has been a long one, but I’ve finally arrived at the holy grail: downloading the Japanese subs as TEXT. We had previously discovered that you could download Japanese subtitles as images using a script in your web browser. You could then perform OCR to turn those subtitles into text. While this worked alright, the subtitles weren’t perfect, and would contain some amount of errors that would need to be manually corrected.

This new method is a little more difficult to get set up, but lets you get the subtitles perfectly without any errors. However, there is still one caveat with this method: available subtitles are mostly based on your location. So, this means that MOST Japanese subtitles are only available for people who are physically located in Japan, or who are using one of the few working Japanese VPNs. So the other method of downloading the image-based subtitles might work better for some people, depending on your situation.

I just want the subs!

I have already downloaded Japanese subtitles from over 100 shows and movies, including most native Japanese Netflix originals, and you can grab them all here.

I want to do it myself!

This process involves installing a home theater application called Kodi, and then installing a plugin for it that will allow you to sign into Netflix and then automatically save SRT subtitles for any files videos that you try to play.

The NetflixSubs plugin and installation instructions have been moved to a GitHub page here: https://github.com/Zarxrax/NetflixSubs

Just click through to that page and scroll down for instructions on how to download and install the plugin.

Here is a video tutorial by Matt VS Japan, which shows how to install Kodi and the NetflixSubs plugin, and download subtitles. This uses an older version of the plugin, and some things have changed, but this still gives you a basic overview of how to get things set up.

 

 

PNG2SRT (tool to OCR image subtitles)

Download on Github

This is a tool that can perform OCR (optical character recognition) on XML/PNG subtitles and output the result as an SRT file. This can be used for subtitles obtained from DVD, Blu-ray, and Netflix. The Google Cloud Vision API is used for the OCR, and it has very good accuracy. This program is based on a python script originally posted by zx573 on the kanji koohii forums.

Before using this program, you may need to get your subtitles into the XML/PNG format. I have previously written a guide on extracting Netflix subtitles here.

For DVD or Blu-ray, I’m not going to write a detailed guide on ripping subtitles from the disc, as there are plenty of other guides out there on the internet. It is assumed that you can figure out how to obtain your subtitles as SUB/IDX or SUP format. From there, I recommend using a Windows program called Subtitle Edit to convert them into XML/PNG format. There may be other software that can do this, but Subtitle Edit is the one I am most familiar with.

Using Subtitle Edit to convert DVD or Blu-ray subs to XML/PNG

The File menu in Subtitle Edit has several options to import your Subtitles that are in SUB/IDX or SUP format. Just choose the appropriate one, and then you will come to an import screen. From here, you just need to right-click on one of the subtitle lines, then select Export > BDN xml/png.

Then on the next screen then comes up, you just want to select “export all lines”, and select a folder to save to.

Now you should have a folder containing a bunch of PNG images and an XML file. The next step is to create an API key on the Google Cloud Platform.

Create an API Key for Google Cloud Vision API

Google’s OCR is by far the most accurate I have seen, and works quite well. It is also free for a limited amount of use each month. According to their current pricing structure, you can OCR up to 1,000 items per month for free. My program can batch several PNG images into a single item, so you should be able to do several episodes or movies in a single month without having to pay anything. Google also offers a great trial offer (at least at the time I write this). You can get $300 of free credit when you sign up, and you have no obligation pay anything or continue using the service.

If you sign up for the Google Cloud Platform, then after logging in, you need to enable the Cloud Vision API and generate an API key.

  1. In the left hand menu, select APIs & Services > Dashboard
  2. Select Enable APIs & Services
  3. In the search box, type “vision”, and then select Google Cloud Vision API.
  4. Select Enable. It may walk you through setting up a billing profile at this point if one has not been created already. Again, there is no obligation to actually pay anything, as you can use this API a certain amount for free each month, and you may get free credits when signing up.
  5. Back at the APIs & Services Dashboard, select Credentials > Create Credentials > API Key.
  6. Once you have generated the API key, be sure to copy it or keep it open in your browser so you can access it later.

Use PNG2SRT to OCR the images

Now, we can use PNG2SRT to send the subtitle images through the Cloud Vision API.

Download

Version 1.0.1 – May 12, 2018

Download on Github

Download the appropriate version for your computer, and then extract the archive.

Next, you need to paste your API Key into a text file named API_KEY.txt located in the same folder as the application (the file should contain ONLY your API key, and no other text).

When you run the application, it should look like this:

First, you need to make sure that your API Key is displayed correctly in the top area. If not, make sure you did the previous step correctly.

Then, you just select a folder containing XML/PNG files, which is what will be converted to SRT.

Note: You may get an error if the folder name contains unicode characters. In that case, please rename the folder to use English characters.

There is also an option to select the language that you want Google to recognize. It defaults to Japanese, because that is what I use, but you can select whichever language you need. You can find a full list of language codes here.

The only other option is the chunk size. The default of 15 is usually fine. If you press the start button, and the program appears to begin working but then gives you an error message part way through, you might need to decrease the chunk size to a smaller value like 10 or even 5. I had previously stated that higher values here will use less of your credit/money on Google; this was false, I apoligize for the confusion.

After you press start, if all goes well, the program should run and it will output an SRT file inside your input folder.

Year In Review

Looks like another year has passed, so it’s a perfect time to look back on how my Japanese studies have progressed, and think about making some tweaks for the coming year. Last year, I decided that I wanted to focus more on extensive reading. While I initially planned to do this using the resource of chilren’s books known as EhonNavi, I very quickly came across another resource that I liked much better, the Pibo app. I did manage to stick to reading children’s books on Pibo throughout the year. I managed to read about every other day, on average. I also occasionally read articles from NHK Easy News, though I don’t like this resource so much because the majority of the articles are just so freaking boring. However, I didn’t read as much as I really planned to. I hope to increase my reading amount this year.

I also spent a good chunk of time both watching some Japanese shows on Netflix, as well as researching into how to extract the subtitles, and then using those subtitles to help studying a bit. I am proud that with the help of some others, we have finally managed to finally make it pretty easy to extract subtitles from any Netflix show. I admittedly haven’t actually used those subtitles a whole lot yet for studying, but that is something I want to focus on more in this coming year.

I’ve also continued doing daily anki reps, slowly continuing to add content from Common Japanese Collocations. I really want to finish this up in the coming year, because it still continues to be the most valuable resource for studying in Anki that I have come across.

I feel like I’m still just taking baby steps, but progress is progress. Here’s looking forward to another year of Japanese!