Jake Gill (高健) is a Chinese educator, former “Teaching Chinese as a Second Language” graduate student, and the CEO of Skritter, an innovative language learning app that helps Japanese and Chinese learners master characters through active production (i.e. writing on the screen) instead of passive recognition. In the interview, we talk about how and why he learned Mandarin Chinese, why traditional language classes won’t get you fluent in a language, what he would do differently if he were to start learning Mandarin over again, the limitations of app-based learning and following “the golden path,” the importance of following your passion and curiosity in languages, how to learn to write Chinese characters the “write” way, Jake’s current language learning routines and favorite resources, and the importance of daily habits and focusing on process over outcome.
Skritter has been on my radar for quite some time, but the need to sit at a computer was less than ideal. With the release of their iOS apps, however, Skritter has finally been given the touch-based format it deserves.
There is a lot to like about language learning apps. They allow you to squeeze in more language learning time throughout your day and allow you to outsource motivation to dopamine-driven “habit loops” that keep you coming back for more every single day. That’s the good news. The bad news? Apps alone will NEVER get you to fluency in Japanese. Read on to see why.
Chris Vasselli is a programmer, passionate Japanese learner, and the creator of the Nihongo iOS app, my go-to Japanese dictionary and reading tool for authentic Japanese content. We discuss his language learning journey, how to acquire Japanese the fun, natural, immersive way, and why you shouldn’t fear the Japanese writing system.
Netflix may be associated most with binge-worthy series like House of Cards and subtle romantic preambles (“Want to Netflix and chill?”), but it can actually become a fantastic Japanese language learning tool, too, if used correctly. Read on to see how to find Japanese-language TV shows and movies, turn on subtitles and Japanese audio, and change the Netflix interface to Japanese.
Whether you find Duolingo to be a green-feathered friend in your pocket or an intimidating monster lurking outside your door waiting to pounce on you for not meeting your daily study goal, there’s no denying the app’s ubiquity and widespread cultural influence. Even Saturday Night Live has done a skit about it! Given its popularity, I am frequently asked whether I use Duolingo myself and what I think about it as a path to foreign language fluency. The answer to the first part of this question is easy: yes. Every single day. The answer to the second half, however, is far more nuanced and chock-full of caveats. Read on to see why Duolingo (alone) won’t get you fluent in Japanese, but why I think you should use it anyway…