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Does Japanese writing ever start to look natural to foreign learners?

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I'm guessing at some point it does, but I wonder how long it usually takes? What I mean is that for native (literate) speakers of English, English writing looks completely normal and you can even read things that aren't written clearly or that are very stylized etc.. I'm wondering if this is only really achievable through growing up with the kanji and being absolutely surrounded by it every day. Is it possible just through practice and study? Does it maybe require at least some amount of time living in Japan? Just something I've been really curious about. I've been studying Japanese for about four months now, took an intensive class and am now studying Kanji with Heisig/Anki. Hiragana and to a lesser extent katakana are much easier to read now than they were before but I still feel like there is a big layer of psychological distance between me and the writing. Obviously that goes away with time, but I'm wondering if anyone can say from experience to what extent it does.

Although I do wonder if at that point Kanji won't seem as interesting/beautiful, since they would become similar to English letters in your mind.
 

nahadef

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Even if you become fluent, a general estimate is that you will read a second language about 50 percent as fast as your native one, and this includes Japanese.

Personally, I read hiragana and katakana as fast as English letters, but the meaning has a slight lag. Kanji is up and down. I stopped studying it years ago, and now I have a weird thing where I see kanji and know what it means, but I forget how to say it. Happens way too much these days, I wish there was enough time in the day to study.
 
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Adult Japanese's Kanji writing ability is about an elementary school Chinese children. They almost never know how to write cursive in everyday life, so you can always read it easily.
 
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Interesting. That's a little disappointing, but maybe if I study it long enough I will get to a comfortable enough point. It would just be really cool to cross the threshold where Japanese writing really starts to look like writing rather than having that extra layer of interpretation...Thanks
 

Mike Cash

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While you might think that foreigners in Japan would be in the most advantageous position for learning and developing a familiarity with kanji, they probably are among the most lackadaisical learners of Japanese in general (and kanji in particular) on the planet. This is a country which makes it easy for people who don't speak Japanese to live here and utter and complete illiteracy is just taken for granted on the part of foreigners. The Japanese don't expect them to learn to read and the foreigners give themselves all sorts of excuses for remaining illiterate. They quickly learn that they get by here somehow despite being illiterate, and the longer they get by with it, the more comfortable they become with it and the less inclined they are to do anything about it.

Quite simply, for probably 99% of Western foreigners (by which I mean North Americans and Europeans) it isn't necessary to learn Japanese beyond a few greetings and simple phrases. And something like learning to read is entirely optional. Actually sitting down and reading a book for enjoyment or for the information it contains, rather than as part of some self-inflicted tortuous study program and with constant reference to dictionaries, is unimaginable.

If you have sufficient facility with and familiarity with the language and kanji (the two are not the same), then just as with reading English, it is no big deal.

Most people here who learn Japanese learn it as a foreign language, not as a second language. What's the difference? The difference is a matter of NEED. If your life and ability to earn your livelihood wouldn't be adversely affected by your not becoming proficient...then you're learning as a foreign language. If your ability to live your daily life and put bread on the table and a roof over your head depends on your being able to FUNCTION in the language (including being literate), then you're learning as a second language.

A foreign language is a nice thing to have, but you can live without it.

A second language is a critical tool of daily life.

So depending on your needs and your efforts, Japanese writing can begin to look just as normal to you as English writing. Or it can just be meaningless scribbles that your mind learns to ignore just as it does patterns on the wallpaper.
 

Mike Cash

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Adult Japanese's Kanji writing ability is about an elementary school Chinese children. They almost never know how to write cursive in everyday life, so you can always read it easily.
Since I usually come to work at about 2 or 3 in the morning, most of my contact with my bosses is either by telephone or by some sort of note left for me. Here's one I found waiting for me recently. Is that cursive enough for you?

 
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Mike Cash, thanks for the interesting insight. I am a rather curious person which makes me tend to stick to studying things I am interested in. I've always wanted to be near fluent at a foreign language, and have tried learning a couple before, but I haven't liked any as much as Japanese and never had the feeling until I started studying it that I was learning "the right one". So hopefully I don't drop off and can get to the other side of this hurdle some day :D
Since I usually come to work at about 2 or 3 in the morning, most of my contact with my bosses is either by telephone or by some sort of note left for me. Here's one I found waiting for me recently. Is that cursive enough for you?

View attachment 13365
労働 ... and someone named Ookawa?
[...]
renraku ni kudasai? I have a long way to go learning kanji and sussing out which handwritten ones like that are supposed to be, let alone having them look natural. I know your post wasn't an invitation to try to read it really, but I just thought I'd have a crack at it. I have to say even sloppyish Japanese writing looks rather nice sometimes
 
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Since I usually come to work at about 2 or 3 in the morning, most of my contact with my bosses is either by telephone or by some sort of note left for me. Here's one I found waiting for me recently. Is that cursive enough for you?

View attachment 13365
Couldn't he just send you a SMS?
 
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Nope, just pointing out it is easier to read Japanese Kanji than to read Chinese Hanzi when handwritten by everyday citizen.
 

Toritoribe

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Oh yeah? I thought you were going to cause 炎上 by using those kind of expressions. Then, you should have written "it is easier to read Japanese Kanji than to read Chinese Hanzi when handwritten by everyday citizen." in your initial post to avoid being misunderstood, JIMO.
 
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Of course, I would never want to flame war on purpose.
 

Mike Cash

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Couldn't he just send you a SMS?
I suppose he could, but he never has. That note was from the personnel/accounting guy and I am close enough to him to speak to maybe twice a month.

With my direct boss/dispatcher we do use SMS for some things which need to be communicated but which aren't urgent.



Among fellow drivers from the same section, we use group chat on Line to exchange information on road or port conditions.

 
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you can even read things that aren't written clearly or that are very stylized etc
You can read things that aren't clearly written if you have some idea of the topic and know the vocabulary. I think this is part of where the "doctors have bad handwriting" thing comes from. It's not just that their handwriting is messy, it's also that they use jargon/technical terms. I have a bit of paper within eyesight right now, with what looks like "arg" on it, it's actually "drg" with a short vertical stroke on the d, which makes perfect sense in the context. I have at times had to ask a coworker "what is this you scribbled in the margin?" even when both sides are native speakers of English (and been asked the same, my note-taking handwriting is fairly illegible).

It's the same in Japanese. While you could go ahead and study some 略字, the fact is that it comes down to vocabulary, domain knowledge, and context. If I go into the office kitchen and there's a note on the fridge, it's likely to say something along the lines of "fridge is broken", "help yourself to the cake", or "stop stealing my milk, you guys", not "all glory to the hypnotoad", although with my coworkers I wouldn't rule the last out. If I read something in Japanese it's naturally slower than in English, but if I read something in Japanese where I'm familiar with the topic, it's naturally much faster/easier than reading something in Japanese where I'm not familiar.
 
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Then, next time I'll remove potential sources of flame from the forum without constraint to value your will.
You would make Chinese Communist Censorship Committee very proud.
 
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By the way, I 'm not sure if I should make a new thread for this or not, but I was wondering if anyone knew of some good listening materials I could download somewhere? I have my textbook audio tapes but those are more for demonstration and memorization. I want something where I transfer it to my phone and listen to it throughout the day at free moments. I feel like listening even if you don't understand most of it helps you internalize the rhythm and intonation, as well as subconsciously planting the seeds of meaning for unfamiliar words.
So maybe like a good podcast or radio show, preferably about video games or another interesting topic. Or an audio book, if the speech style is not too far away from how people really talk (that might be better for farther along in my studies). Not really sure what to search for.
 
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