In the article Try approaching grammar from a Japanese point of view (1), we looked at Tae Kim’s Guide to Learning Japanese (Introduction article) as an online learning resource that offers an alternative way of thinking/learning to other more traditional textbooks available.
Did you know that his guide is available as a free iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad application too? In terms of portability, this has a major advantage over those heavy conventional textbooks that take up so much bag space!
Tae Kim's Guide to Learning Japanese Application by Ronald Timoshenko (iTunes) Compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. Requires iOS 4.3 or later
The application allows you to download the whole Japanese Grammar Guide from the website onto your iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad, meaning you can access it even when you can’t go online. Since the content of Tae Kim’s guide was released under the Creative Commons License, this application (programmed and designed by Ronald Timoshenko) is free to download too.
This handy portable version of the guide is set out like this:
2) Writing System (Hiragana, Katakana, Kanji): The Hiragana and katakana sections include audio for pronunciation and stroke-order animations too.
3) Basic Grammar: 11 lessons looking at the fundamental grammar structures, to give an impression of how grammar works in the Japanese language. Topics range from expressing a state of being to adverbs and sentence-ending ‘gobi’.
4) Essential Grammar: 18 lessons here cover the grammar you need for basic practical Japanese, looking at politeness levels, potential and conditional forms, making requests and much more.
5) Special Expressions: 13 lessons here hone in on more specific areas, looking at the grammar that helps convey particular nuances and so on, to flesh out the basics into a more natural form of Japanese.
6) Advanced Topics: This looks at some grammar that comes up less frequently but that should be learned, even if you don’t get much of a chance to use it yourself.
Included here are formal expressions, i.e. “Using 「である」 to state that something is so in an authoritative tone”, ways to express tendencies, i.e. “Describing an ongoing occurrence using 「～つつ」” and so on.
As you read the guide, you can tap words/kanji characters in green with a dotted line to see readings and English meanings (this is currently unavailable in the Advanced Topics section). Also, you can tap the bookmark icon (bottom left of the screen) to save your position for later, then use the ‘Bookmarks’ tab to manage/edit bookmarks.
The format is simple, uncluttered and easy to read. In the ‘Settings’, you can change the default font size (the default setting might be too small for some people) and prevent view rotation (helpful if you enjoy reading lying down, and you don’t want the aspect to change every time you tilt the phone at an angle).
There is also something called ‘Night Mode’ which displays the content in white writing on a black background, meaning less strain on the eyes when reading in the dark!
The ‘Search’ function is a really useful feature. Type in the word/grammar structure you want to find out about (English or Japanese), then a list of the lessons/sections in which the word you searched for appears are displayed. Try to find the situation that best applies to what you want to know. The only downside is that the search cannot pinpoint the word within the lesson, so you will often have to sift through a lot of information to find the explanation or example sentence you need, particularly for common words that appear often.
There is an option in the settings for you to open the ‘Search’ tab automatically upon launching the application, which might be useful when reviewing structures from the guide, or for advanced learners who want to check up on aspects of grammar. Otherwise, you can always make use of the search function anytime you need to by selecting it from the toolbar at the bottom of the screen.
If you have an iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad, this application is definitely recommended. It differs from the web-version in that it includes only English language support and you can't read/share user comments, but the various chapters of contents are well written and cover a whole range of grammar topics, so it’s like having a large reference volume at your fingertips wherever you go. Besides being free, this application gives you the contents of Tae Kim’s Grammar Guide in a compact, portable offline package (meaning it can be referenced anywhere). Finally, it is nicely set out and easily-searchable.
It might be just what you’re looking for!