Wanna Learn Japanese?
To get started learning the wonderful language of Japanese, check out whichever level interests you. You're sure to find a treasure trove of information!
・Okinawan (Just 1 lesson for now)
4/17/20: Lesson 100 has been completely revised.
3/24/20: Lesson 337 has been completely revised.
All feedback is greatly appreciated. Both learners and natives are free to help collaborate. IMABI would not be what it is today without the help of individuals who share my same wish for everyone to know Japanese. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to get that question answered you want an answer to, or if you have ideas on how to update and expand content, let me know!
I also accept questions through Facebook.
The Origin of IMABI「いまび」の命名について
The Japanese word for today is kyō. This word is an ancient one, and through the adoption of Chinese characters into Japanese, it became spelled as 今日. These characters then gave birth to other possible readings for the word "today," one being "kon'nichi," which many will recognize from "kon'nichi wa" meaning "hello/good afternoon."
When learning how to read and write Japanese, foreigners and Japanese speakers alike struggle to learn the many pronunciations of each character. As for 今日, many learners will recognize 今 (read as "ima") as the character for "now" and 日 (read as "hi") as the word for "day." When a reader gains a decent control of spelling, accidentally uttering nonexistent words is inevitable. However, these trial and error moments encapsulate the very journey of learning Japanese.
As a kid myself, one of my first questions was why 今日 couldn't be read as "imabi." Yes, the word for "today" is kyō, but 今日は alone demonstrates that even the simplest combination of characters can produce multiple words. In fact, 今日日 is also a word and it happens to be read as "kyōbi", and if that doesn't strike as being strange, then why does "imabi" have to be so strange?
Upon trying to come up with a name for my own Japanese curriculum, with "guide to Japanese" not being an option, my mind returned to this trivial yet inquisitive thought. Why not call it 今日? But with a twist! That twist I had thought of years prior, and so I did. IMABI was going to symbolize the new "today" for learning Japanese. Love or hate the name, it has stuck around for the decade this website has been a place for learners to know more about Japanese from a perspective very much unlike anything else.
What is IMABI Exactly? 「いまび」とは何ぞや？
It goes without saying that IMABI is no Genki, it is no Tae Kim's Guide. If my goal was to do what they did, I could have just uploaded their pdfs to the Internet as my own, but even then I would be late to the game. To those that wish for it to be more like these much needed resources, my response is NO, but I'm not saying no to further changes over time. IMABI is still an UNFINISHED work, though, and my vision for it will continue to evolve over time. As I strive to devote more of my passion to this work, you will see that the best is yet to come.
First and foremost, IMABI is a compilation of all information I've ever thought needed for someone to fully know Japanese. Unlike a standard textbook or series, there is no end to how much information is stored here. If you stumble on something you find peculiar and want an answer for it, I've likely already thought about that. Each lesson is more like an article on a given topic or topics. I take the liberty in defining how important I feel each topic is. If you find it in my Beginners 1 section, I'm telling you that it is important to learn before anything else. If something is in my Veterans section, I'm telling you that you don't have to know it to speak decent Japanese, but the information is still a part of the language. The organization of IMABI, though, is subject to change, so if you disagree with where something is, I will listen to your feedback.
This question has been posed to me a lot over the years, often times by people who haven't bothered to read it themselves, but I too will admit that IMABI is not designed to be easy. When does a small explanation ever suffice to fully understand a topic. That'd be like telling a class of algebra students that X + Y = Z, that that's all they need to know, and then leaving the room. If you want that experience, let me introduce you to www.guidetojapanese.org.
All jokes aside, the world is full of resources designed to hold your hand. Everyone's goal is different. Do you want to learn Japanese just to understand anime? Do you have a Japanese spouse and wish to communicate with them on an even level? Do you aspire to become a translator? Each motive brings about a different level of proficiency required to meet that goal.
As stated above, each lesson is like an article for that topic(s). Lessons are intended to be ordered by importance. What is the most logical progression you should learn each piece to the Japanese puzzle? There is no single right answer to this question, which is why I continue revising, reorganizing, and creating content to better solve this puzzle. This brings us to something rampantly misunderstood by people, and that is the use of vocabulary, Kanji, and grammar in any given page. IMABI can be friendly to you so long as you allow yourself the time to fully understand the topic at hand. The moment you get ahead of yourself is when IMABI becomes too difficult.
One thing frequently misunderstood is the use of varied vocabulary, Kanji, and grammar. When reading through any mainstream textbook or resource, a learner is expected to study a few hundred words here and a few hundred Kanji (Chinese characters) there. At most, a learner may pass N3 if they study really hard with a textbook like Genki. In reality, an educated native speaker will know upwards of 50,000 words and will recognize 3-5,000 Kanji. The gap between learner and native by these numbers is terrifying.
It is also true that of those 50,000 words that only about 2,000 unique words will be used by a speaker on any given day. The amount of Kanji used will also be significantly less than 3,000. What makes the rest so important is that with each new conversation, different words and Kanji will be needed. If you were tasked with devising a way of teaching as much vocab and Kanji as feasibly possible, what would you do?
Mainstream textbooks and resources choose to opt for that 2,000 word benchmark, but in reality a learner will only be made to learn a few hundred handpicked vocabulary and Kanji, always centered around readings created to achieve that purpose. Mistakes brought about from the simplified explanations are meant to be corrected by the teacher, whose goal is to make sure you're on topic and not so much that you're learning as much Japanese as possible. Your hand is always being held, and there is zero obligation and incentive to steer off course, lest you wish to fail your class.
As for IMABI, your hand is not meant to be held. You are in control of how much time you devoted to Japanese. I encourage all users to use other textbooks and resources on top of IMABI. If you make the choice to go to Intermediate without having done your hours of vocab and Kanji practice, that's your problem. You have just as much access to what's on the Internet as anyone else. If you're happening to study Japanese at school, you have all the more resources at your disposal. If you do not bother to read a single book and find the word choices used in the Advanced lessons out of reach, perhaps you should've read a book or two.
It goes without saying that there are many different kinds of learners. Some are much more comfortable with learning through practice with natives. Most adult learners, though, require instruction to understand a foreign language properly. When you read a page on IMABI, it's my job to make sure that that topic is explained as best as possible. You are tasked with having that dictionary tab opened. You are the one responsible for reading practice. If a new Kanji is used here and there, take the time to learn it.
Now, if the material of IMABI as a whole is supposed to be progressive in nature, that still means there is a time and place to learn anything. If you don't know the word 動物, you have no reason to already know what 薨去 means. This is a principle that I am still trying to address, and so if you feel like other vocabulary or Kanji should be emphasized, especially for a page in a beginner or intermediate section, please let me know.
The site has remained free throughout its long history, but it does require a lot of time and energy to upkeep. Due to financial hardships, I personally cannot entirely devote myself to this website. Any financial contribution to help keep me afloat will always be greatly appreciated.