Who are you ?

MANGIN Bryan. Polyglot, great lover of books, comics and manga, web developer in my spare time and webmaster of Super Nihongo Sunshine, the site that speaks about Japan and its beautiful language: Japanese. Free and accessible to everyone, whether you are French, Quebecers, English, American, Spanish, Portuguese, Brazilian, and so on; if you’ve always dreamed of learning Japanese, you’ve come to the right place.

Do you read manga? Do you watch anime? How did you fall into the pot of Japanese culture ?

I am French, born in the early 90s and like many people of my generation, my first contact with Japanese culture was manga and anime. To quickly cite a few examples: Dragon Ball, Ranma ½, Cat’s eye, City Hunter, Sailor moon, Saint Seiya, Slayer…

However, I did not fully fall into the pot. Like many children, I watched Japanese anime, but that did not mean that I was passionate about it. I consumed anime but not manga, nor figurines, nor any other derivative products related to Japanese pop culture. At that time, I was much more drawn to French literature and Franco-Belgian and Spanish comics.

I really got hooked on manga as a teenager, when I was fourteen to fifteen. My passion for linguistics has given me access to thousands of Japanese works, exclusively manga, you will understand. If I couldn't find manga in French, I found some in English. And if I couldn't find some in English, I found some in Spanish, Portuguese, Italian and even a few rare gems in Catalan.

I have read thousands of manga for years. I have read all possible and imaginable genres: shonen, seinen, josei… I even caught myself enjoying some shoujos. I never followed the slightest trend, I always read the manga that I came across. I discovered incredible authors: Osamu Tezuka, Rumiko Takahashi, Kei Toume, Sumomo Yumeka, Tsutomu Nihei, Hiroya Oku, Tsukasa Houjo, Oh! Great, Q Hayashida, Reiji Matsumoto, Takao Saito, Gō Nagai, Mitsuru Adachi, Jirō Taniguchi, Inio Asano, Junji Itou, Itoshi Iwaaki, Kengo Hanazawa, Toshikazu Nagae, Yukito Kishiro… I will stop there because the list would be endless. As much as I have read and enjoyed world famous works such as all of Osamu Tezuka’s works, and in particular his Phoenix, I have never managed to appreciate other works yet considered by the majority to be pillars of Japanese culture: Dragon Ball, for example. Yes, I don’t like Dragon Ball!

In terms of cinematography, I had the opportunity to watch, and sometimes re-watch the films of Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata from studio Ghibli, all the films and the Paranoia Agent series by the late Satoshi Kon, CowBoy Bebop and Samurai Champloo from Shin’ichirō Watanabe, not to mention Masaaki Yuasa and Makoto Shinkai whose films I hope to watch one day. And again, the list would be way too long so I might as well stop there.

And in the midst of all this, by seeking to broaden my access to more Japanese works, namely more manga, films, anime or even novels, poetry, paintings, artistic movements… learning the Japanese language appeared to me to be the essential step to take.

I have found this site to be multilingual. And you say you are a polyglot. Can you tell me more about the languages you speak ?

Well, the most important thing to say is that I am not fluent in all of the languages on the site. I speak French perfectly since it is my native language and I have a good level of English, the language I speak most often when I am traveling abroad. Then comes Spanish and Portuguese where I can say I have a good level. Reading and writing in these languages is no problem. Speaking, if the discussion is on simple and fairly trivial topics, isn't a problem either, as long as I don't forget to do a few reviews of grammar rules and common vocabulary. Ditto if it comes to tackling very specific subjects, involving much more technical vocabulary. Once a scuba diving instructor, I still remember the theory lessons and briefings I prepared for Spanish and Portuguese speaking clients the day before. Then there is Italian and Catalan. Reading and writing is not too much of a problem except that the sentences I want to say still have a little trouble coming to fruition in my mind. The automatisms are not there yet. Catalan is the language I speak the least and translating into Catalan takes a lot more time and effort.

Who is this site for ?

This site is for everyone interested in the Japanese language and culture, whether people who know absolutely nothing about it and who start from scratch, whether it is people who already have a certain level because they learned at school or as a self-taught person, whether it's people who are simply interested, just like that, who want to see a little what language looks like without necessarily being fierce passionate. Even people who plan to take the JLPT will undoubtedly find their happiness.

I specify that the Japanese courses on this site are not designed according to the different levels of the JLPT but if you are a person who intends to take the exam or if you are simply looking for courses on such particles very precisely or such adverbs or such expressions or such vocabulary or such notions…, I invite you to take a look. Especially on the course page. You never know, you might find what you are looking for.

What can you tell us about your journey ? How did you learn the Japanese language ? And how did you get the idea to create this website ?

Speaking of my own journey – I will make no secret of it – I have never studied Japanese at university, simply because I have not been able to go to university. For many reasons, including financial and other very personal reasons that I will not discuss here, I have not studied Japanese in a conventional way. I am learning Japanese – as I have learned many other languages and many more – by myself. Alone in front of my screen, books and manga. At the start, I decrypted, then I read whole sentences, then paragraphs and finally whole manga.

So, I am NOT a professional teacher, I created this site because I like the Japanese language and I like languages in general. While trying my hand at computer science and creating websites out of curiosity, I continued my studies of foreign languages including Japanese. All this self-taught.

And as a self-taught person, I often search the web for everything I need when I’m interested in something, when I want to learn something. I go online when I want to learn a language, and I buy books at the bookstore around the corner. Like many people who are very curious but who do not necessarily have the means to afford traditional language courses with a teacher who is present to provide personalized assistance, I manage with what I find on the web or in books. This is how I learned many things all by myself in front of my computer screen and my endless notes in my notebooks. And then one day, I decided to start learning the Japanese language, and that's where the story of Super Nihongo Sunshine begins.

Super Nihongo Sunshine, what is the concept ?

For the English-speaking audience, finding the resources to learn a language is generally not very complicated. Most of the resources available in this area are in english, so yes, english speakers are rather favored on that side. Even if you have little means, by searching well on the Internet, you always end up finding resources to get you on the right track. Whether you are interested in learning French, Spanish, Portuguese or whatever, English speakers usually don’t have a problem. However, when it comes to the Japanese language, it’s a different story.

It turns out that the Japanese language has always attracted me a lot, do not ask me why, I will simply answer you that it is probably because I like manga, a little less anime, and that I always dreamed of going to Japan. Alas, I ran into a terrible problem: I could not find absolutely any resource on the Internet sufficiently complete and financially accessible to learn Japanese. Even the few books I found in bookstores were not enough and lacked explanations. Faced with this observation, I worked alone, writing my own courses. And the idea to create Super Nihongo Sunshine came during this period.

Super Nihongo Sunshine is a site that I created to share with you everything I wrote for my own learning, failing to find a website worthy of the name to learn the language. But also, for all those who cannot afford private lessons or who cannot find all the books they need or who do not hang on to long and tedious courses. Of course, I readapted and improved everything in such a way as to address you, the learners. I have endeavored to design courses that are as comprehensive as possible, approaching every aspect of the Japanese language with extreme care so that you understand why this language works this way or that way and how it works.

These are Japanese lessons designed by an enthusiast for enthusiasts, and especially for those who are ready to invest the time necessary in learning this beautiful language.

Kanji To Kana is the best

The very first (and only) book that I recommend to you is of course the famous Kanji To Kana, essential, indestructible and timeless. You will not be able to learn Japanese properly without this book, it is the absolute reference. It costs money, of course, but it doesn’t cost a lot and it is definitely worth it. You can order it from a site like Amazon or try to find it at a bookstore in your area.

Not only does Kanji To Kana contain the entire list of the most common kanji in the Japanese language and more, it also contains the many recurring keys in the composition of kanji.

However, remember that the Kanji To Kana is a dictionary of kanji. It is therefore mainly used to search for kanji, not words although there are examples of words according to the kanji you are looking for. For example, if you are looking for the « dog » kanji, you’ll find several examples of words written with the kanji of « dog » in it.

The Kanji To Kana does not work like a traditional dictionary but it is a reference. You absolutely need one.

I would like to find a simple and free online English-Japanese dictionary. What do you recommend ?

On this side, English speakers are particularly spoiled. All you have to do is type "English-Japanese dictionary" in the Google search bar and you will immediately come across several online dictionaries. However, I will present here only one online dictionary, the one which seems to me the best and of course free of charge: Jisho.org.

Jisho.org is a very interesting dictionary. You can search for a word by typing the word you are looking for in the search bar; either in English or in Romaji. You can also search for a word or kanji based on the stem of the kanji or draw the kanji you are looking for.

I highly recommend Jisho.org. You also have audio files for each word you are looking for. This dictionary is really very complete.

Is Google Translate reliable ?

Since we are talking about completely free and accessible resources online, know that I do not recommend Google Translate. I already know that many of you will want to jump on it but it is not a reliable resource. The big problem with Google Translate is the considerable margin of error. Whether you want to translate from English to Japanese or vice versa, chances are they will get you a totally wrong translation.

Despite these shortcomings, Google Translate has the advantage of being able to be used to search for simple words, on a case-by-case basis, even giving you a list of synonymous words so that you are sure of the meaning of the term according to what you mean.

Does Google Image help ?

I have never used Google Image so much to find vocabulary words but know that sometimes you will not necessarily find the words you are looking for in the dictionary or through Google Translate.

Imagine you find a Japanese word that you at least have the pronunciation of. You type the word in the dictionary, and you find nothing, you type the word in Google Translate, but you’re not quite sure of the translation. In this case, you can type the word on Google Image (with the Japanese virtual keyboard) and, hopefully, Google Image will give you images corresponding to the word in question, which gives you a little idea.

It is quite possible to have words in Japanese that have no equivalent in English, which may explain why you could not find them in the dictionary.

Finally, you sometimes have proper, rather fanciful names, which are sometimes found in heroic-fantasy video games and other RPGs, where you have characters with an unusual name, completely fictitious. These are also the kinds of words that you probably won’t find in the dictionary and that Google Translate will have a hard time translating. Again, Google Image can help you understand.

Once, I came across a name of Pokémon (without knowing it) and I struggled for a long time before having the idea to search on Google Image!

Note : when searching for a word using the Google search engine, try typing your search in hiragana or katakana rather than kanji. Knowing that kanji are basically sinograms, you may well end up with Chinese results and not Japanese, so use hiragana or katakana to make the search engine understand that you are looking for Japanese word.

I have heard of electronic dictionaries. Can you tell me more ? What do you advise ?

Personally, I have never used an electronic dictionary and for a very simple reason, they are generally extremely expensive. Prices range on average from 60 euros for the cheapest to 300 euros for the most expensive. And of course, the price is not necessarily representative of the quality. Just because an electronic dictionary costs 300 euros doesn’t mean it will be better, more complete than an electronic dictionary that costs 60 euros. And quite frankly, for all the other resources that are available for free and more easily accessible, electronic dictionaries are not worth it.

This is only my personal opinion, after that if you really want to put that much money into it, it’s your choice.

What about the Wiktionary ?

The Wiktionary works on the principle of participatory sites. Everyone is free to add a Japanese word with its translation and explanations.

But the Wiktionary can still be very useful to you. On a personal note, I use it to check the pure and Sino-Japanese pronunciations of kanji when I’m in doubt. I rarely use it to search for the meaning of a word because Jisho.org always seemed more effective for it. Anyway, the Wiktionary is not to be neglected so think about.

Where should we start when we start learning the Japanese language ?

From the start, of course. If you know absolutely nothing about the Japanese language and you are new to the site, I invite you to start the program with the first chapter, then you progress gradually through the chapters.

You will be led to study in great detail the writing of the Japanese language, the katakana, the hiragana and you will then learn your first words in kanji. Then comes punctuation, numeral system, then particles...

There is no shortcut for learning a language properly. Everything must be done from A to Z.

Do I have to use a brush to write in Japanese ?

Absolutely not ! You can use a felt-tip pen, a ballpoint pen, a pencil or a criterium. The latter is also perfect for writing small kanji. Beware, however, of fountain pens that are ill-suited to the layout of Japanese and whose nib could be damaged !

In most courses, why the reading of certain kanji is given to us in katakana ?

Because these are Sino-Japanese readings that are written in katakana to differentiate them from purely Japanese readings written in hiragana.

In the first lessons, I use a color code to help you differentiate kanji, hiragana and katakana. However, once we get into Japanese grammar, the pronunciation of the kanji, whether purely Japanese or Sino-Japanese, will be written in hiragana.

You will know more when you study the kanji study courses !

Why are some hiragana sometimes different with linked or unrelated traits, like , le , le or even ?

There are simply two different ways of writing the same kana ! It’s like in English where we often have several different scripts for the same letters! Both versions are therefore correct, remember them !

Why is the « u » sometimes not pronounced at the end of a word, for example in « itadakimasu » ?

In Japanese, the vowel « u » can be pronounced only very slightly, which gives the impression that it is silent ! It is not a particular rule, just a way of pronouncing syllables which varies from one person to another.

How do vocabulary courses work ?

Each vocabulary course focuses on a theme (birds, music, family members, beach vacations, pets, wild animals, food, etc.). Vocabulary lessons are made up of an introduction, an average list of twenty to twenty-five words and a conclusion. This last part will often be accompanied by detailed explanations of all the new words that we will have seen together in the course. It is important that you take the time to read the introduction and the conclusion, do not go over it! There are already dozens of vocabulary lessons available and many more are in the works. So, don’t worry, you will be spoiled.

You can consult the vocabulary courses via the page « vocabulary » or - I highly recommend it - follow the step-by-step path where these vocabulary courses are scattered all along. In this path, the vocabulary courses are designed in correlation with the writing courses, then grammar courses... and have been concocted according to a learning curve which is intended to be progressive.

The first vocabulary courses are therefore the easiest and, little by little, become more and more complex as you progress, but don’t panic. If you follow all the courses in order and train regularly as I will remind you, you will learn more and more vocabulary more easily.

You will undoubtedly find these new words which you will learn in sentences in grammar lessons where we will approach the system of sentence construction in Japanese, particles, adverbs and many other things. You will also have to use this vocabulary in the exercises that I give you at the end of each course.

Will there be a course on how to draw the lines of the kanji in the vocabulary courses ?

Currently, I do not think to add in vocabulary lessons a part where I show you in detail the layout of each kanji. This would require representing the layout of each kanji in the form of images or animations which are fairly complex to set up.

This is why I invite you to get the Kanji To Kana which contains the layout of several thousand kanji.

Do not worry. As the courses progress, we will see almost exclusively kanji, as mentioned in this book. And by regular practice, you will be able to instinctively write any kanji. It’s all a matter of training.

I am dyslexic / dysorthographic / dyspraxic and have trouble learning / writing kana, what advice can help me ?

There seems to be no miracle method, the important thing is to find the one that suits you best by trying several tips. To learn kana, you can use mnemonic devices. For example, to correctly differentiate between and , why not proceed as you may have done a long time ago to differentiate between d and b ? To improve learning, you can also associate the kana with drawings, different colors or even existing Japanese vocabulary words. Learning kana by hearing them and speaking them out loud can also help.

Whether it is learning or writing kana, you have to persevere by working every day, by writing whole lines of the same kana. You also need to know how to go at your own pace and take the necessary time without wanting to hurry. The kana alphabets are the first big difficulty in learning Japanese, but it is a mandatory step that you must master to be able to approach the rest serenely. So be brave !

To practice writing kana, you can use a blackboard to write, then erase, then rewrite endlessly. Many applications on smartphones and tablets also allow you to write the kana by hand and offer quizzes in which you have to recognize the kana displayed on the screen. Very convenient to test your learning !

Finally, do not hesitate to seek the advice of a speech therapist or psychomotor therapist who could give you more personal and appropriate answers !

I am left-handed and have trouble writing kanji and kana correctly, how can I do this ?

It is true that it is not always easy to write when left-handed. However, it is important to draw the kana and kanji in the correct order of the lines, that is to say from left to right.

My advice : hold your pen vertically (orthogonally to the sheet), so you will be able to better reproduce the Japanese lines! The same goes for right-handers. Only by writing whole lines with kana and kanji do you get better.

How are the exercises ?

For the exercises, I warn you right away, they are designed to force you to practice writing. Let me explain. It must be clear in your mind that a language must be learned in its writing system. For the Japanese language, these are hiragana, katakana and kanji. This site does not have an application with a virtual keyboard where you can click the keys with the mouse to answer a question or type sentences. No! The exercises are accessible via a link at the end of the course and you must write in pencil or pen on paper. Obviously, the correction of the exercises is also given to you via a link below the exercises.

There will be exercises for all courses except vocabulary courses. I will just remind you in the conclusion that you have to practice writing by hand all the new vocabulary learned so far.

Obviously, nobody will be on your back so I trust you to do these exercises with the utmost seriousness.

I noticed that there are no audio files on the site. Could you offer us an alternative to train our hearing to recognize Japanese accent ?

The first solution I can offer you is YouTube. There are many Japanese YouTube channels with a wide variety of content. Try typing keyword in the search bar, preferably in hiragana and katakana. Eventually you will find things that interest you.

Personally, I can offer you three very nice YouTube channels:

1/ Archipel. It is a documentaries channel, generally less than an hour, where manga designers, musicians, artists, video game creators… all Japanese are interviewed. Subtitles sometimes available in English.

2/ Bokeh Game Studio. Video game developer based in Tokyo, Japan. He has his own YouTube channel. It also offers high quality documentaries.

3/ 盆栽Q. Excellent bonsai YouTube channel. Do not rely on the number of subscribers which deserves to be much higher. Many Japanese YouTube channels talk about bonsai but this one not only offers qualitative reports but also the subtitles are often available in English.

Then you have VOD platforms like Funimation, Wakanim and Crunchyroll which offer a large catalog of anime in original version with subtitles. Netflix also offers Japanese films and anime, including the masterpieces of Studio Ghibli.

Finally, there are DVDs, Japanese music and Japanese video games. Losing ground for several years in the face of VOD platforms, buying DVDs is not the most accessible solution. As for Japanese music and video games (to play them in the original Japanese version, you will have understood), again this is not the best solution, especially at the very beginning. For the music, the lyrics of a song often use figures of speech, the Japanese sentence construction system is not always respected in order to make rhymes and many songs mix Japanese and English only for styling. All this makes it difficult to understand and it is better to have a very good level of Japanese. If I were you, I would therefore favor anime, films and reports to get off to a good start.

Of course, as soon as I have the means, I will add audio files to my site. And remember that the Jisho.org online dictionary also has audio files for each word you are looking for.

Do you have any tips for learning the Japanese language faster ?

This is the quintessential question that comes up most often so I will be clear with you. There are NO miracle methods to learn Japanese language quickly or easily. This site is mainly intended for those who are ready to devote the time and seriousness necessary to learn the language. Only by practicing every day will you progress.

How much time should I spend studying Japanese every day ?

I am fully aware that most of you most certainly have responsibilities and you do not necessarily have much free time. However, whatever your situation, you must train absolutely every day if you want to make real progress. If you can only train for half an hour a day, train for half an hour a day. If you can train for an hour a day, train for an hour a day. If you can train for more than an hour a day, do it.

Of course, there is also no need to line up several hours in a row. Take breaks at least every hour or half an hour. Effective learning also means letting your brain rest... but not too much either !

I’m afraid of making a fool of myself when I have to talk to Japanese people. What can I do ?

There are not thirty-six solutions. You must strive to take the first step. You will make mistakes, it is inevitable but it is part of learning. So don’t be afraid, ridicule has never killed anyone. Tell yourself that this is an opportunity to meet people, to discover a new culture more closely. Japanese people suspect that not all foreigners can speak their language, it will only make them happy to see that you are trying. The Japanese people you meet will give you advice, correct you if you are wrong.

It is better to learn by making a mistake than to learn nothing at all.

What can you tell me about the JLPT? Is it absolutely necessary to master the Japanese language? To find work?

Since the JLPT has existed, this exam has often been presented as the holy grail in order to show everyone that you can speak Japanese. Except... not at all. The JLPT, like any language exam, assesses your knowledge, particularly in terms of grammar and kanji reading, but is absolutely not representative of your level of mastery of the Japanese language on a daily basis. Many people who have made a lot of effort to pass the JLPT are able to read the newspaper or manga or even understand some anime (sometimes with subtitles) but at the same time are unable to hold a conversation about everyday life, even on very simple subjects. Conversely, people who have never taken the JLPT and have learned the Japanese language through daily practice both written and spoken and by reading manga and other Japanese literary works in the original language may have a level that surpasses holders of JLPT N2 or N1. Reading a language, writing a language, and speaking a language are three different skills, except the JLPT from N5 to N1 focuses exclusively on reading and therefore understanding text, sentences, and nothing else. There is no oral exam.

So, is the JLPT a must to master the Japanese language and speak Japanese fluently? No. Even to understand the language and be able to read texts in Japanese, it is not a necessary step. On the other hand, it may be necessary to obtain JLPT, especially level N2 or N1, to apply for certain jobs in Japan. After all, who says « job search » says « job interview » in Japanese of course. You will be obliged to speak Japanese and the more you show that you speak fluent Japanese, the more your interlocutor will be reassured, not to mention the paperwork to be completed in Japanese, which requires a mastery of writing.

To conclude, if you have the opportunity and the desire to take the JLPT, do it anyway. It can always help you. If you intend to look for work in Japan, again, pass this exam because there is a good chance that a recruiter will ask you. And again, in job search in Japan, the JLPT becomes really interesting from the N2 level. Clearly, the lower your JLPT level, the less chance you have of getting a good job, obvious, isn’t it? In certain professions such as teaching or high-responsibility positions in a company, level N1 is very often required. Of course, there are jobs in Japan that do not require the JLPT as a clerk in a konbini. Well, you understand that without the JLPT, you can try to make a living in Japan, but in terms of employment, your options will be limited.

Of course, the answer I have just given you is above all a reflection of my personal experience and that of other people I have met. However, I think I have given the clearest possible answer to this question. If you want to know more about the JLPT, do not hesitate to visit this page: JLPT : Take the Japanese test

How do you plan to develop the site ?

As of this writing, the site has been up and running for less than a year, and I will likely modify this paragraph a year later.

Broadly speaking, I have the idea of adding audio files for all the example sentences present in the lessons and vocabulary sheets so that you can get your hearing used to the Japanese accent. I know these are important in learning a language and putting it all together costs time and money so I am working to make it happen. Please don’t ask me (too much) when these audio files will be ready. They will be when they are. That’s all !

I would also like to add a forum for everyone to chat on, which involves a subscription / unsubscribe system. Of course, if you are only interested in the courses, you will always have access to them even without registration.

In short, are you the one who takes care of everything? Or are there people to help you? If not, do you plan to ask for help one day?

Indeed, I am the one who takes care of everything. I am both the web developer and the web designer: I code, test, fix bugs and pay for hosting, I also take care of ergonomics and maintenance, I make sure the site is pleasing to the eye and responsive. This kind of things.

I also take care of research on the Internet and in books, writing courses, proofreading and correction, translation into five different languages (and again proofreading and correction). Even the logo of the site is my creation made on Photoshop. However, I hope to be able to entrust the redesign of the logo to a professional when I have the time and the means.

As you will have understood, I take care of absolutely everything. I am doing the work of several people on my own and I cannot afford to pay someone to help me. Yes, this project being very personal and above all charitable, it does not bring me a penny. And to get help, you have to pay because nothing is free so I do everything myself. I hope to be able to continue to carry out this project by my own means and my only skills. Only the future will tell us.

I would like to contact you, to know more about you. How to do ?

You can contact me directly on my social networks: Twitter and Instagram. The links are available at the very bottom of the footer. I will try to answer your questions, however be aware that you will not be alone, there are others as well. I would also like you not to ask a question already mentioned on this page. You can also leave me a support message on my Twitter account or my Instagram account. I would really like.