Learning to read/speak Japanese

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Learning to read/speak Japanese

Unread postby Lancer » March 9th, 2007, 11:01 am

Hello, and this question is for bilingual folks out there.

I want to learn Japanese specifically for playing Visual Novel Games, and watching raw anime, but I really don't know where to get started.

I understand that the language has many different dialects, so I'm not sure which one, I should I learn. If anyone could me to the right direction, I'd be more than grateful.
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Unread postby TakaJun » March 9th, 2007, 11:50 pm

Well, you always want to learn the ones without special dialect... I donno how that's called in English though "Hyoujyun-go" (standard dialect?)
There's a thread below that shows you some good book to get if you want to get started.
Hope that helps
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Unread postby marus » March 10th, 2007, 12:33 am

I still don't have a great grasp of the language, so I'm not the most qualified to answer this, but this site helped me get a basic grasp about the grammar and sentence structure. You'll also need to spend some time learning the alphabets. It's a bit complicated, but I'll give a quick rundown.

There's two phonetic alphabets, hiragana and katakana. Each has about 50 unique characters, each representing a specific sound. You're going to want to learn these alphabets first before you do much else, because you won't be able to get far without them.
After hiragana and katakana, there's a symbolic (that's not a technical term) alphabet called kanji, which consists of thousands of characters that each represent a different idea or object. You don't need to beat yourself up about learning these right away, but don't neglect them either, they're essential to reading and writing.

For learning the hiragana and katakana I just looked at some charts and memorized them after a couple weeks; there's not too many so it shouldn't be difficult to just drill a couple a day.
For the kanji, I originally used James W. Heisig's Remembering the Kanji. It gives meanings to different "primitive" characters that are used to build up the more complicated characters, then uses those primitives to create a mnemonic you can associate with each character. It works great, but the copy I was using I had rented from the library, and I had to return it when I moved (ironically, I started taking my study much more seriously after I left Japan). I looked around to see if I could buy one, but everyplace I looked was either out of stock or wanted to charge $70+. Now I'm going through Kenneth G. Henshall's A Guide to Remembering Japanese Characters, which I found for about $20. It uses a similar method, but the mnemonics it uses are a bit more "refined" scientifically. It goes over the history and evolution of each character, then uses this along with primitives to create the mnemonic. I find that both books work good, but Henshall's might be a bit more difficult in the beginning because some of the mnemonic's he provides aren't very usable, so you have to fill in the gaps yourself and make your own with the information he gives you. Also, while both books teach the meanings of each character, neither is very good at teaching the pronunciations (Henshall's book tells you what the sounds are but doesn't offer any learning aid, and Heisig's doesn't even mention the sounds, although they are covered in a second volume).

If possible, see if you can take a class as well. Even if you find that you study better on your own, it helps to immerse yourself, and in a class you'll be better able to do that, hearing what the language is supposed to sound like. Plus, if you get stuck you'll be able to ask for help from other students or the teacher. And don't just look at textbooks, use anything you can find. Web posts, children's books, random tattoos, imported movies, any practice helps. I had an advantage in this regard since any walk outside provided a chance for me to use my skills, plus trying to copy people I heard talking on the streets and in stores really helped my accent. But even outside of Japan, just a google search should give you plenty to practice with.

So yeah, there you go. Sorry that was long and ranty, but I hope you found some useful information. Oh, and one more thing, it doesn't hurt to listen to them, but don't try to learn Japanese from anime. There's a lot of weird over-the-top speech patterns that would get you laughed at if you tried to speak that way in real life.

EDIT: Grrr, TakaJun posted while I was writing this long post of mine. I need to paraphrase more.
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Unread postby Hyperbeast » March 10th, 2007, 7:15 pm

Regarding learning Japanese, I think that post of marus is quite possibly the most helpful one I've ever seen.
I'll need to check out those books and the site. Cheers.

Unfortunately I've yet to find a single school in Australia teaching Japanese... In university perhaps, but I'm still in year 12....
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Unread postby marus » March 11th, 2007, 12:13 am

I should probably mention that you can download a trial of Heisig's book here (link is at the bottom). While I found the book useful, the method used is a bit different from conventional methods, and may not work for everyone. The trial goes over the first couple hundred kanji, so it's a good way of testing whether it's worth the investment. And thanks for the positive feedback.
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Unread postby asceai » March 18th, 2007, 11:43 pm

Hyperbeast wrote:Regarding learning Japanese, I think that post of marus is quite possibly the most helpful one I've ever seen.
I'll need to check out those books and the site. Cheers.

Unfortunately I've yet to find a single school in Australia teaching Japanese... In university perhaps, but I'm still in year 12....


That's odd, because both my primary school and secondary school (also in Australia) taught Japanese as the only available LOTE (languages other than english) class.
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Unread postby miszou » March 19th, 2007, 5:52 am

australia has a special relationship with Japan, so its should be fairly easy to get some help there learning japanese, plus there are a lot of japanese tourist in australia you could practice your japanese on, they'll love it :]

I learned some japanese on university (we can freely join any other university for a course then our own here), but after 4 years, I forgot most of the kanji and most of the words, leaving me with just kana and grammar XD

I think the only real important thing is to keep practicing. Especially kanji need to be seen nearly everday to keep them in mind. When you learned something, it is good to keep reading Japanese to make sure you don't forget them. Another important thing is, if you just learn reading and writing, it might be difficult to have a actual conversation in Japanese, so try practicing some conversation too if you want to be able to do that as well (this is actually the main reason why most japanese people can read engelish fine, but can hardly have any english conversation).

As a last thing, watch out with what you learn. Some books tend to only teach you the formal Japanese, while the real spoken japanese (this is also the kind you're likely to see in books) is usually not that formal and uses a lot of speech like extra's that are usually not taught in formal language books.
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Unread postby haderach » March 19th, 2007, 6:04 pm

how long did it take you guys to learn japanese? and in what conditions?
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Unread postby miszou » March 20th, 2007, 3:30 am

I did both self study and disciplined study (university)

in the disciplined study you learn all kana in about two week, and after one year you should know about 400 kanji or something? not sure. By then all grammar should be recognized too, and you know enough basic words to make decent conversation.

Self study however, in my case it will take for ever, since I'm bad at motivating myself. Thanks to self study I basically forgot everything I learned in university some long time ago -_-

So it depends on the person I think. Some persons can discipline them selfs for some self study and get fast results others like me, keep forgetting everything they learned and will go pretty slow up XD

Of course, when being in Japan when learning, everything goes much much faster. At you own country you wont see Japanese outside the studying, making it hard to get used to it and will limit the learning curve.

Also it depends how good you are with learning languages.
You are here alone again
In your sweet insanity
All too calm, you hide yourself from reality
Do you call it solitude? Do you call it liberty?
When all the world turns away to leave you lonely
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Unread postby unclejemima » April 18th, 2007, 6:31 pm

i hate the kind of people that usually attend japanese classes in college o_o

as for learning japanese, kind of depends if you actually want to learn japanese or if you just want to watch more anime and be annoying by adding desu and nani into everything you say like most kids. if you wanna be able to read type-moon games... ^^ takes me forever, myself.
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Unread postby md » April 18th, 2007, 10:42 pm

unclejemima wrote:i hate the kind of people that usually attend japanese classes in college o_o


That's pretty true at JC. Try to get a night class, that'll cut down on the bullshit. There were only two Inuyasha fan girls when I took it. Most of them were there because their parents made them go, they're doing it for their career, or they're doing it for a vacation.

Take classes, it'll help a lot, especially to learn grammar, vocabulary, and pronunciation. When you've done two semesters, you probably want to get into _Remembering the Kanji_ by Heisig, recommended by me and Ryuu, it's really, really great.
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