Have you been so busy working, studying, or downing eggnog lattes that you forgot to get a gift for that special someone in your life? Here are some great last-minute gift ideas for those you know (including yourself!) learning Japanese. All but one of them are digital products that can be emailed to the recipient, so there’s no need to worry about shipping times. I’ve also made sure to select gifts that focus on action and application, not theory and academic “procrasturbation”. Have a wonderful holiday season and a fruitful New Year!
iTalki Gift Card
If you’ve read this blog for long, you know how much importance I place on practicing with native speakers. There is no substitute for the messy, organic process of communicating with Japanese speakers in Japanese. While input (reading and listening) is an essential part of the language leanring journey, no amount of passive input will ever get you ready for output (speaking and writing). So how does one go about finding opportunities to practice? If you live in Japan, just leave the house! But don’t despair if you still live in your home country; using online tutoring sites like iTalki provides you an easy, affordable, and highly targeted way to practice with native Japanese speakers. In fact, the tutoring context can be even more ideal for language learners than random conversations since your tutor will be more likely to point out mistakes in pronunciation, grammar, word choice, etc. than Japanese friends, colleagues, etc.
To purchase an iTalki gift card:
- Click the button below.
- Scroll down to the bottom and click “Buy a Gift Card” under “More”.
- Select an amount and enter the name and email for the recipient.
- You can send the card now or choose a date (e.g. Christmas day).
- Enter a personalized message (optional).
Gift Cards can then be redeemed for italki credits which can be used to schedule time with a Japanese tutor or professional teacher, get one’s writing corrected, and more.
JapanesePod101 Gift Voucher
JapanesePod101 produces some of the highest quality Japanese learner podcasts and tools available. Each episode includes show notes with a complete transcript in kanji, kana, and roumaji, and an English translation. While you can get some episodes for free via iTunes, a membership gives you unlimited access to all previous seasons (including 1,700+ audio and video episodes). You can use their lesson checklist to keep track of which episodes you’ve already listened to, and create a custom feed with content for only your level (Absolute Beginner, Beginner, Intermediate, or Advanced). They also have spaced repetition flashcards, kanji tools, pronunciation and accent review tools, a grammar bank, and more.
iTunes Japan Gift Card
iTunes Japan is a great place to find Japanese apps, music, books, anime, TV shows, movies, and even American movies dubbed into Japanese! But there is one major problem: you need either a Japanese credit card or an iTunes Japan gift card to buy content in the iTunes Japan store. This used to be a non-starter for those who don’t live in Japan. But thanks to Japan Codes, you can now buy iTunes Japan gift cards of various denominations (e.g. 1,000 yen, 1,500 yen, 3,000 yen, etc.) right in your home country. And since the gift card code is emailed to you (not mailed in the post), you can start downloading what you like from the iTunes Japan store right away. Note that to use the gift card, you will first need to change your iTunes account to the Japan store by clicking the flag icon in the lower right hand corner of iTunes.
Midori Japanese Dictionary App
There are lots of Japanese dictionaries to choose from these days (see my top 8 recommendations here), but Midori for iOS is by far my favorite: it’s elegant, powerful, easy to use, and includes a number of excellent features I love:
- The option to enter searches using Midori’s Japanese handwriting recognition system.
- The ability to quickly change the search type to 1) Japanese-English/English-Japanese, 2) Japanese proper names, or 3) example sentences.
- Kanji breakdowns for compound words, with the meanings and readings of each individual kanji shown.
- Conjugation charts for verbs and adjectives.
- The ability to quickly save a given dictionary entry to multiple bookmark categories. For example, you may want to save the word shinobi komu (忍び込む・しのびこむ, “to creep in”) in both your “Verbs” and “Ninja” folders.
- The ability to use the app offline.
To send the app as a gift:
- Click the link below and then “View in iTunes” below the app icon.
- In iTunes, click the dropdown arrow below the app icon and select “Gift This App”.
- Enter the recipient’s email, your name (the “Sender”), and an optional message.
Lonely Planet Japanese Phrasebook & Dictionary
Phrasebooks are a highly underrated source of useful, high-frequency Japanese vocabulary, phrases, and structures. Though they are designed for travelers, don’t underestimate their potential to help you master the basics of the language you will need to live and work in Japan, too. And best of all, phrasebooks tend to be small and portable, so you will always have some foreign language material handy when “hidden moments” arise throughout your day for language study. There are many excellent phrasebook publishers to choose from (and the best of the best varies a bit from language to language), but for Japanese, I find the Lonely Planet Japanese Phrasebook & Dictionary to be the best designed and have the most useful vocabulary. I also really appreciate that Lonely Planet goes to the trouble of including phrases in English, Japanese (written in kanji), and roumaji (a phonetic transliteration of Japanese using English letters). This allows learners of all levels to get use out of the book, and also enables absolute benginners to point to a Japanese phrase in the book, if efforts to convey it aloud to a native Japanese speaker fail.