Hiroshima-ken JET Jonathan Fisher reviews various tools for learning Japanese, including books, websites, flashcards, podcasts and more. Tools are rated on a scale of 1 to 5 stars, with 5 being the best.
By Jonathan Fisher
Sometimes you just have to trick yourself into studying Japanese. And if you check your email fairly compulsively (as many of us do), signing up for one of the Yookoso! Kanji-a-Day or Grammar-a-Day mailing lists could be just what you need to boost your study time. This fairly simple method, which I’ve seen applied fairly effectively to boosting native vocabulary with so-called “word-a-day” lists, is as easy to sign up for as it is to use. You just type in your email address, select the leveled lists of kanji and grammar points you’d like to read about and you begin receiving quick, one-off study pages in your mailbox everyday.
Each email is full of links to relevant sites, and chock full of example words and sentences. Of course it’s up to you how thoroughly you engage with these emails. If your study habits are like mine, some days you’ll spend half an hour on one kanji, reading through all of its uses and example words, its component radicals and its stroke count, whereas other days you’ll just mark the email as unread and save it for a less busy or more boring day.
I suppose the beauty of these emails is precisely their shortfall as well: they come every single day. It’s easy to get swamped if you are away from email for vacation, or you get into the habit of instantly archiving or (as I have done recently under the guise of “better organization, less clutter”) creating a separate inbox folder for all of my daily Yookoso! mails. Receiving these emails is passive, like having the TV on in your apartment while you’re cooking dinner; it takes an effort, however slight, to pay attention, but until you put forth that effort it’s only background noise. Then again, what do you have to lose from a free service, which may end up being just the pressure you need to get back on top of your studying?