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.

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.

NES/SNES Classic Manuals

If you are a fan of classic Nintendo games like I am, then you might be interested in reading the original game manuals in Japanese!

The SNES Classic was released today, and along with it Nintendo has posted up the original manuals for all of the games included on it, in multiple languages! And of course, the manuals from the NES Classic are all available as well. It can be a lot of fun to compare the Japanese manuals with the English versions as well!

NES/Famicom manuals

SNES/Super Famicom manuals

Language selection is in the Top-Right corner of the page.

anime-manga.jp Anki Decks

Some time ago, The Japan Foundation created a website to help Japanese students learn the type of Japanese that is often heard in anime and manga. While it’s got some decent content, I’ve rarely ever heard anyone mention the site. That’s probably because they stuck all of the content into a crappy flash application. You can’t view it on mobile, you can’t copy and paste text, you can’t resize it, you can’t do ANYTHING useful.

So, I dumped some of their content into Anki decks so that it would be possible to actually learn something from it. I have made a deck containing phrases, and a deck with grammar points. This is only a portion of the total content from the site, but I felt that these parts would probably be the most useful and work the best in a flashcard format.

The grammar deck in particular is a bit dense with all of the information available, but I thought it best to put too much info rather than too little. You can of course customize which fields appear on your cards, since Anki gives you complete flexibility to display the cards as you like.

One cool aspect about the site was that it has 8 different Japanese character archetypes who all speak differently. I have kept this aspect in the flashcards by indicating which character the card is for. There is also full audio, so you can hear the personal spin that each character puts on the phrases.

After studying the cards, there is still some cool stuff to go back on the website to do. For instance, they have several manga stories that you can read, which utilize all of the phrases and grammar.

Content difficulty is probably Upper Beginner – Intermediate. You should probably have at least a good command of JLPT N5 grammar before tackling these.

Grammar Deck

Phrase Deck (updated 5/3/17 to fix image links)

http://www.anime-manga.jp/

Extracting Subtitles from Netflix

Updated 3/18/2018

Having subtitle scripts from TV shows that you are watching is an excellent study aid. Not to mention that they can be used with Subs2SRS to easily import sentences into Anki! These days, many people tend to watch Netflix more than a lot of the traditional media. I’ve also seen numerous people talking about how the Netflix Original “Terrace House” is great for Japanese listening practice, because it is unscripted and captures natural dialog.

When I originally wrote this post, it was because I had discovered a way of ripping Japanese subtitles from Netflix, which to my knowledge, no one else had figured out how to do at the time. My method was long and clunky though. But thanks to the help of several users, we have eventually arrived at newer methods that are MUCH easier and better. So now, it is really quite simple to rip subtitles from Netflix, to the point that just about anyone can do it.

Download Subtitles I’ve Already Ripped

I have already downloaded subtitles from over 30 Japanese shows and movies that are available on US Netflix, and you can grab them all here.

 

How to rip Japanese Subtitles from Netflix

Getting the subtitles from Netflix is quite simple now, due to a tool that does all the hard work for us! 

First, you will need to download an addon for your web browser which allows you to run userscripts. One such addon is called ViolentMonkey, and it works with either Firefox or Chrome (as well as some other browsers). There are several other similar addons as well, such as TamperMonkey and GreaseMonkey. These all mostly do the same thing, so just pick one. A simple Google search for any of those titles should easily lead you to a page that lets you install it in your web browser.

Next, you want to install the Netflix Subtitle Downloader. After installing it, you will notice some new options appear inside the subtitle selection menu on the Netflix website. Simply select the subtitle language that you want, and then click on one of the download buttons. It’s that simple! You might need to give it a moment after clicking the button while it begins downloading.

Note: On my system, I have run into some issues where the subtitle downloader will sometimes try to download the subtitle for the previous video that I was looking at. If you run into this issue, this can be resolved by hitting the “refresh” button in your browser after loading a video.

For many languages, especially ones with simple character sets like English and Spanish, the subtitles are downloaded as SRT files. However, for languages with more complex character sets like Japanese, Chinese, or Korean, the subtitles are stored as images. So in order to convert these into a text format, you need to perform OCR (optical character recognition).

To assist in performing this OCR, I have created a tool called PNG2SRT which makes it simple. You can see how to use PNG2SRT here.

New Method (download as text)

There is now a new method of downloading the subtitles directly as text rather than as images. However, the new method doesn’t work on every show. The method listed above will work on any show that has Japanese subtitles, so it is still useful in many cases. You can read about the new method of obtaining subtitles here.