How much Japanese can you learn with Duolingo?

The Duolingo Japanese was finally launched for Android Users and Japanese is in my “Languages to learn list”, so I decided to start learning it, but as you can notice for the scarcity of posts, despite loving languages, I’m not having time to study them right now.

So, what I’m going to do is use Duolingo, ONLY Duolingo to study Japanese. At the end of my experience I intend to do a video showing how much I’ve learned.

My experience will last until I finish my Duolingo Japanese tree.

Another thing to note is that I have started to study Japanese before, but never seriously. So, I do know some very basic phrases like “My name is…” or “Good morning”. In total, I know about 100 words in Japanese and I’ve learned Hiragana and Katakana, but forgot most of it. Therefore, I considered myself a novice in the Japanese language.

So I’m starting today.

Wish me luck!

Grammar books

Grammar: some people love it, most run away from it. I am part of the majority, I do not like to study grammar, but unfortunately, it is impossible to escape from it if you want to speak a language well. So now and then I dedicate myself to it. Today, I will give tips on some books I like.

grammar books (1)


Grammar in Use

I believe that these are the most famous grammar books in the world. The series has become a reference for English learners, mainly for its simple approach. In one page, simple explanations and in the other, exercises. I really like this kind of book, because of its simplicity.

Essential Grammar in Use with Answers: A Self-Study Reference and Practice Book for Elementary Students of English

English Grammar in Use with Answers and CD-ROM: A Self-Study Reference and Practice Book for Intermediate Learners of English

Advanced Grammar in Use with Answers: A Self-Study Reference and Practice Book for Advanced Learners of English

Cassell’s Students’ Grammar English by Jake Allsop

For those who like to dig a little deeper; a good option is the book: Students’ Grammar English. The book has a simple approach, but it has very good explanations and illustrations.

Students’ English Grammar

Students’ English Grammar Exercises with Answers


Planet@ ELE. Libro de referencia gramatical: fichas y ejercicios

For beginners I recommend the Planet@ ELE. Libro de referencia gramatical: fichas y ejercicios, which is divided into four levels. As the collection Grammar in Use, the book has the explanation in one side and in the other exercises. The difference is that it is more simple and short.

Planet@ 1. Libro de referencia gramatical, fichas y ejercicios (Spanish Edition)

Planet@ 2. Libro de referencia gramatical, fichas y ejercicios (Spanish Edition)

Planet@ 3. Libro de referencia gramatical, fichas y ejercicios (Spanish Edition)

Planet@ 4. Libro de referencia gramatical, fichas y ejercicios (Spanish Edition)

Another book that I also recommend is the Diccionario Práctico de Gramática which is a work of grammar reference. The explanations are simple with lots examples. Besides the grammatical structures, they explain also words and their typical uses.

Diccionario practico de gramatica (Spanish Edition)

Diccionario practico de gramatica: libro de ejercicios: 800 fichas de uso correcto del espanol (Spanish Edition)

Diccionario practico de gramatica. Claves del Libro de ejercicios (Spanish Edition)


Grammaire Progressive

Again, a course that puts the grammatical explanation in one page and in the other exercises. It is also a simple, progressive and well-illustrated book. . The course has four levels. In my experience, it is the most recommended by French teachers.

Grammaire Progressive Du Francais: Niveau Debutant (French Edition)

Grammaire Progressive Du Francais – Nouvelle Edition: Livre Intermediaire 3e Edition + Cd-audio (French Edition)

Grammaire Progressive du Français: Niveau Avancé (French Edition)

Grammaire Progressive du Francais: Livre Perfectionnement (French Edition)


Klipp und Klar – Ubungsgrammatik

This is the book that I am currently using to learn German. And it has the same style of the previous books. At the end of the book, it has great reference lists. There are two books, one that is destined to the B1 level, and another to the most advanced level (B2/C1).

Klipp Und Klar: Klipp Und Klar – Ubungsgrammatik Grundstufe Deutsch – MIT Losungen (German Edition)

Klipp Und Klar: Klipp Und Klar – Ubungsgrammatik Mittelstufe Deutsch B2/C1 (German Edition)

Collection Practice Makes Perfect – McGraw Hill

For other languages, there is also the Practice Makes Perfect series. There are available in several different grammatical topics and by level. There are, for example, books just about verbs or just about pronouns and prepositions. As they are full of exercises, they are great for testing your grammar skills intensively and to devote yourself to subjects in which you have more difficulty. Here is a list of the books I found.


Practice Makes Perfect Arabic Pronouns and Prepositions (Practice Makes Perfect Series)


Practice Makes Perfect Basic Chinese


Practice Makes Perfect French Verb Tenses (Practice Makes Perfect Series)

Practice Makes Perfect: Complete French All-in-One

Practice Makes Perfect French Problem Solver: With 90 Exercises (Practice Makes Perfect (McGraw-Hill))

Practice Makes Perfect: Intermediate French Grammar: With 145 Exercises (Practice Makes Perfect Series)


Practice Makes Perfect Basic English, Second Edition: (Beginner) 250 Exercises + Flashcard App + 90-minute Audio (Practice Makes Perfect Series)

Practice Makes Perfect Intermediate English Grammar for ESL Learners (Practice Makes Perfect Series)

Practice Makes Perfect English Articles and Determiners Up Close

Practice Makes Perfect English Grammar for ESL Learners, 2nd Edition: With 100 Exercises

Practice Makes Perfect English Problem Solver: With 110 Exercises


Practice Makes Perfect Intermediate German Grammar

Practice Makes Perfect German Verb Tenses, 2nd Edition: With 200 Exercises + Free Flashcard App

Practice Makes Perfect German Problem Solver: With 130 Exercises


Practice Makes Perfect Basic Hindi


Practice Makes Perfect Italian Problem Solver: With 80 Exercises

Practice Makes Perfect Italian Verb Tenses, 2nd Edition: With 300 Exercises + Free Flashcard App


Practice Makes Perfect Basic Japanese

Practice Makes Perfect Complete Japanese Grammar


Practice Makes Perfect Basic Latin


Basic Portuguese


Practice Makes Perfect Complete Spanish Grammar

Practice Makes Perfect Spanish Pronouns and Prepositions, Premium 3rd Edition

Practice Makes Perfect Complete Spanish All-in-One

Practice Makes Perfect: Intermediate Spanish Grammar: With 160 Exercises

How to enrich your reading with audio

Reading in another language is a great activity to acquire more vocabulary, to learn more expressions, to immerse yourself in the target language, plus, you increase your cultural knowledge. But how to boost this activity?

Igor Barca

Reading with audio is one of the best ways I found to study a language. The only drawback is that you must be prepared to manage two media: your text and you audio file. But I assure you, nothing better than to hear a native reading while you follow the text.

The association word-pronunciation is strengthened and you begin to realize that you were pronouncing words incorrectly or that one word has more than one pronunciation. Reading and listening to a poem at the same time can be a great way to start applying this technique, since,  for the most part, the poem is a short text and contains rhythm and rhymes, elements that facilitate and invite the reader to read aloud. Although a book is (almost) always longer than a poem, you can still follow the reading with a certain ease. Another benefit is that you can retrocede the audio when you want to solve a doubt about pronunciation.

I know it may sound crazy, it looks like you will not be able to concentrate on both at once, but if you try, you will see that is not like that. It’s a matter of habit; adaptation is faster than you think.

This method also works great for when you are unable to focus on a very boring book, required by the university, for example. I can’t tell how many books I’ve read in this way and for that reason: from Shakespeare to Proust, all the books that I considered boring or difficult were read exactly like that. There are some sites that you can use to undertake this task. I’ll show links in five languages: Continue reading

The Japanese alphabet – Part 2

The first post on the Japanese alphabet introduced some basics of writing. Now, in this second part, we will learn some details.

Modified Hiragana and katakana

The Japanese has three diacritical symbols that change the hiragana or the katakana. The most common among them is the dakuten or ten-ten, that consist in two small lines placed at the top right of the kana, it is similar to the quotes of the Roman alphabet (゛).

Image from:

The handakuten or maru is similar to our degree symbol (゜). It modifies only the kanas “ha”, “hi”, “hu”, “he” and “ho”.

Image from:

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The Japanese alphabet – Part 1

The Japanese alphabet has, in fact, three different types of writing: the katakana, the hiragana and the kanji.

The hiragana consists of 46 syllables and is used on a daily basis to replace the words that are not commonly written with kanji. However, any Japanese word can be written using hiragana. Therefore, this is the first alphabet learned by children and is used in children’s books, since they know fewer kanjis. Hiragana is also used to write particles, endings of verbs and adjectives.

Hiragana table. Image from:

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Japanese Animation Movies – Studio Ghibli – Part 2

Grave of the Fireflies – Hotaru no haka – 火 垂 る の 墓

The film tells the story of two brothers, Seita and Setsuko, during the World War II in Japan. Their father works in the Japanese Navy, and their mother died after being burned during a bombing raid. Since then, the two have to learn to survive in the middle of chaos that the country is facing.

Continue reading

Japanese Animation Movies – Studio Ghibli – Part 1

Kiki’s Delivery Service – Majo no Takkyūbin – 魔女 の 宅急便

Kiki is a 13 years witch in training and following witches’ tradition, she leaves her village with her cat Jiji. She arrives in Koriko, after some misadventures she founds shelter and work in a bakery shop. The film explores the difficulties that growth brings, as well talent and creativity issues.

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Multilingual Movies

Following with the tips of movies, after recommending movies in Spanish (Part 1 and Part 2), and movies in French (Part 1 and Part 2), I will recommend films in multiples languages; each film has dialogues in at least three different languages.

The first three movies I will recommend are practically an extension of the first post about French films, as one of the protagonists is Audrey Tatou.

L’Auberge Espagnole (The Spanish Apartment)

Languages: French, English and Spanish + few phrases in Catalan.

One of my favorite movies, L’Auberge Espagnole tells the story of Xavier (Romain Duris) who goes to Barcelona to finish his studies in economics, with the goal of getting a job in the French government. In the city, he stays at an apartment for young students who are not from Barcelona. There, Xavier finally discovers the taste of freedom and the experience will change his destiny forever.

Russian Dolls – Les Poupées russes

Languages: French, English, Russian + few words in Spanish

Russian Dolls is a continuation of the movie L’Auberge Espagnole. Five years pass between a movie and another, and in the second Xavier (Romain Duris) is already 30 years and work as a freelance writer and gets a job as a soap opera’s writer. To help him finish the job he will need an English partner and he ends up choosing Wendy (Kelly Reilly). Meanwhile, William (Kevin Bishop), Wendy’s brother is getting married in Russia.

Chinese Puzzle – Casse-tête chinois

Languages: French, English, Chinese + half a dozen speeches in Spanish and Yiddish

This is the last film about Xavier (Romain Duris); he is already 40 years old and ended up divorcing. With the change of Wendy (Kelly Reilly) to New York, he also goes to the city to stay close to his children. Struggling to stay in the country, Xavier will need to find an apartment, a job and a wife to stay in New York.

Merry Christmas – Joyeux Noël

Languages: French, German and Scottish English

The film is based on reports from soldiers on Christmas’ 1914, when soldiers of different nationalities fraternized during war. Nominated for an Oscar, the movie shows how even in times of stress, enemies can fraternize and comfort each other.


Languages: English, Spanish, Berber, Japanese and sign language (Japan)

Babel is one of those films with various nuclei of independent characters who are somehow related. The first nucleus portrays tourists traveling by bus in a mountainous region of Morocco; a shot is fired towards the bus where they are and hits Susan (Cate Blanchett) who is traveling with her husband Richard (Brad Pitt). In the middle of the mountains are the brothers Ahmed (Said Tarchani) and Youssef (Boubker At El Caid) manipulating a rifle. At the same time, in the United States the nanny Amelia (Adriana Barraza) takes the kids she is taking care to a wedding in Mexico. Meanwhile, in Japan a widower tries to take care of his teenage daughter (Rinko Kinkuchi) who is deaf and has yet to surpass her mother’s death.

Diaz Don’t Clean Up This Blood

Languages: Italian, English, German, French + very few lines in Spanish

The film Diaz narrates the events in Genoa in 2001, during a summit of the G8. While the meeting is happening, world activists are in the local to the World Social Forum. Many of them are camped in the school Diaz-Pascoli, where is installed a group of lawyers and an Independent Media Center. On the night of July 21st, the police burst the place and attacks people on site unscrupulously.