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.

Hirogaru – Yet another source of beginner’s reading material!

I can’t believe how much reading material I have been finding recently. I remember my early days in Japanese, struggling to find anything at all that was on my level, but now I keep seeing more and more material becoming available. This latest resource is the newest website from The Japan Foundation. Called ひろがる、it launched in 2016 and seems to have at least 50-60 easy articles on it so far.

The level of the material seems to be aimed at those who have perhaps completed about one year of studying (able to pass JLPT N5, or completed the first Genki textbook), but may still be somewhat challenging for more advanced students as well, due to the diverse range of topics that the articles cover. Topics include:

  • Astronomy
  • Outdoors
  • Martial Arts
  • Tea
  • Sweets
  • Shopping
  • Calligraphy
  • Anime/Manga
  • Books
  • Temples
  • Music
  • Aquarium

Each topic generally contains about 4-5 articles that you can read. I believe that they may be adding new articles from time to time, but it does not seem to be at a very fast pace. Besides just the articles, there is usually a short video about each topic, as well as some short commentary from Japanese people saying what that topic means to them. For some reason, most topics also have a section containing pictures of food. There is also a comment section in each topic, which allows you to write a Japanese response to three different questions.

The articles are really the main attraction of this site, so let’s talk about those for a bit. Each article is fairly short, so that a beginner student could probably read it in 5 or 10 minutes. The articles are broken up into several paragraphs, and each paragraph has audio so you can hear it read aloud. At the end of each article you will find a quiz with a couple of multiple choice questions, to test your comprehension. At the top of the site, there are some controls which can assist you in reading the articles. One is a “Ruby” toggle, which turns furigana on or off for all of the kanji in the article. The other setting is an “English/Japanese” toggle. This seems to be poorly named, because it does not function how you might expect. If you set it to “English”, the articles remain fully in Japanese. The only thing that really changes is the navigation buttons, and also when it is set to English there will be a button under each paragraph that you can press to see a list of the difficult vocabulary. As such, I would recommend keeping it set to “English” at all times so you have access to the vocabulary words.

Overall its a nice site, and certainly worth spending some time on. My only real gripe is that the articles are kinda lame and boring (to me at least), but that’s sort of hard to avoid with these kinds of generic topics. But all in all, it’s a fantastic source of reading material at a level where such material has often been overlooked. Check it out!

What you need to know to learn a foreign language by Paul Nation (book)

I finally got around to reading this great book by Paul Nation, What you need to know to learn a foreign language. The book is offered as a free PDF from his website. If you are unfamiliar with Nation, he is a leading researcher in Foreign Language Education with an interest in vocabulary acquisition and teaching methodology. While most of his research is aimed at the classroom, with this book he attempts to bring the results of his research to the student who might be trying to learn a language on their own.

It’s a somewhat short and easy-to-read book that just gets right to the point rather than giving you long-winded anecdotes and motivational stories. It could easily be read in a single afternoon. Much of the book in influenced by his “Four Strands Principle”, in which he believes that the most effective way of learning a language involves balancing your study across four different types of learning.

The Four Strands consist of:

  1. learning from meaning-focused input (listening and reading)
  2. learning from meaning-focused output (speaking and writing)
  3. language-focused learning (studying pronunciation, vocabulary, grammar etc)
  4. fluency development (getting good at using what you already know).

The main meat of the book consists of descriptions of twenty different learning activities that you can do, with different activities fitting into each of the different strands. He also spends a short bit of time explaining exactly WHY certain activities can be helpful. For instance, did you know that doing just a bit of timed reading can quickly improve your overall reading speed by 50-200%?

Here is a list of the different types of activities described in the book:

  • Reading while listening
  • Extensive reading
  • Narrow reading
  • Role play
  • Prepared talks
  • Read and write
  • Transcription
  • Intensive reading
  • Memorized sentences or dialogues
  • Delayed copying
  • Repeated listening
  • 4/3/2
  • Repeated reading
  • Speed reading
  • 10 minute writing
  • Repeated writing
  • Word cards
  • Linked skills
  • Issue logs
  • Spelling practice

I mention this just to give you a general idea of what you can expect to read about in the book. For the details of what each activity actually entails, you’ll need to read the book (which again, is free).

There are a lot of different opinions out there about how to learn a language. There is one camp which advocates focusing solely on input, and not worrying about anything else. Nation, on the other hand, argues that a fully balanced course is the way to go. While there is research out there to argue a lot of different opinions, we may never know for sure exactly what is truly optimal. With that said, nothing that Nation writes in this book feels terribly controversial, and it all just seems to make sense. I can’t imagine that these ideas could really steer anyone wrong, so I highly recommend this book for anyone who is currently learning a language.