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Learning Japanese for a beginner. In what order?

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I'll start by apologising because I am sure the frequency of these sorts of posts is incredible and usually by people who think they will teach themselves Japanese on a whim and then give up only a matter of days later.

Obviously there is the great tools of books, youtube and google to find out almost anything I need to know whilst teaching myself this new language. I do however still have some questions and because of the amount of information out there (some conflicting) it has been pretty difficult to find a logical solution.

My quandary isn't how to learn Japanese but in which logical order. These are rhetorical questions but of in which order do you learn them.... (if that makes sense)

I want to know what would be the logical order of learning Japanese?

Whilst I have done research it is pretty difficult to know where to start because I have little knowledge or comprehension.

Basic Rules? Right to left? Writing in columns(up down)? What the correct terminologies are for the aforementioned?

How many alphabets? Why the different ones?

What comes first learning how speak, listen or write Japanese?

What to avoid to ensure I don't pick up bad habits and pursue things like Romanji?

Which alphabet first?

From my research I have come up with the content I should be learning and how I should be learning it but not come to terms with in which order it would be most beneficial.

If somebody could break down a list or refer me to a different source that could answer this then that would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you for your time.
 

Mike Cash

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Education professionals have already taken care of all those concerns for you by preparing textbooks. Find a proven textbook, get whatever supplementary materials are available for it (workbook, audio, etc), carefully read the preface, start from Chapter 1, study hard, review old material often, don't neglect doing drills, come ask us for help with anything you're stuck on....and that should get you started.

(Many learners recommend the Genki textbook series.
 
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Education professionals have already taken care of all those concerns for you by preparing textbooks. Find a proven textbook, get whatever supplementary materials are available for it (workbook, audio, etc), carefully read the preface, start from Chapter 1, study hard, review old material often, don't neglect doing drills, come ask us for help with anything you're stuck on....and that should get you started.

(Many learners recommend the Genki textbook series.
Thanks for the response.

That is the problem when using a variety of online sources. You end up with a lot of different information from here, there and everywhere and the majority of it is conflicting.

Do you have any textbook recommendations?

Thanks again?
 

Mike Cash

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A lot of online sources are not only conflicting, they're also ill-prepared, inadequately understood by the well-intentioned soul who made them, and are sometimes just flat out wrong.

The Genki and Minna no Nihongo textbooks enjoy good reputations and are commonly used at universities.
 
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Thanks.

I will take a look into these books.

Hopefully they won't be too advanced with them being a 'University' level text book.
 

Mike Cash

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Thanks.

I will take a look into these books.

Hopefully they won't be too advanced with them being a 'University' level text book.
They start from zero, so no worries there.

That they are used in universities is merely a testament to the quality of the materials and presentation and an indication they have been prepared by professional educators with an eye towards presenting everything in a comprehensive and sensible manner with each step building upon the foundations laid by previous chapters. They also benefit from revisions to the material based on real-world feedback from classroom experiences.
 
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If you want to know the historical background behind the Japanese writing system, Wikipedia will cover all that just fine. However, it's no more relevant to learning Japanese than knowing why English uses upper and lower case, and why we use Arabic numerals rather than Roman. Neither is there a single "logical" order for learning a language (any language) - there are multiple possible routes.

I would suggest two basic rules:
1) Pick one main source (preferably an established text like Genki) and stick with it. If you would like a secondary source to help with listening, Erin's Challenge is the most reputable online source (produced by the Japan Foundation) in my opinion.

2) Study every day. Ideally, set some time aside in the morning or evening which is your study time and stick to it. Half an hour a day is better than a five hour study session once a week. Listen to something on your commute as well if you can (in addition to not instead of daily study!).
 
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These may seem like stupid questions or over thinking but here goes...

1. Would you recommend practicing on lined or plain paper? Like I say it may seem stupid or a case of personal preference.

2. In the meantime if eating until pay day to invest in the books mentioned I would still like to practice. However I don't want to start writing from right to left as that is likely the wrong way to approach things. Any advice?
 
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If money is an issue check out Ebay and local libraries. In the mean time you can try out the webpage I linked earlier, and start learning kana (hiragana/katakana), which doesn't require you to buy a book, just download an appropriate chart to copy from.

Japanese can be written horizontally. In that case, just write as you would in English, starting from the top left. Webpages are also normally horizontal left-to-right because html doesn't handle vertical very well. You might want to start off with unlined because you might need to start off writing larger. Pay attention to stroke order.

A lot of printed material is still written vertically. If you want to practice that, it's best to print out some 原稿用紙 (a sort of squared paper) to practice on. You can read about that here. (wiki link - in English). You can also use this paper, or just some plain squared paper, for horizontal writing - it's one way to keep all your kana approximately the same size. :)
 
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If money is an issue check out Ebay and local libraries. In the mean time you can try out the webpage I linked earlier, and start learning kana (hiragana/katakana), which doesn't require you to buy a book, just download an appropriate chart to copy from.
Japanese can be written horizontally. In that case, just write as you would in English, starting from the top left. Webpages are also normally horizontal left-to-right because html doesn't handle vertical very well. You might want to start off with unlined because you might need to start off writing larger. Pay attention to stroke order.
A lot of printed material is still written vertically. If you want to practice that, it's best to print out some ナ陳エツ稿窶廃ナス窶? (a sort of squared paper) to practice on. You can read about that here. (wiki link - in English). You can also use this paper, or just some plain squared paper, for horizontal writing - it's one way to keep all your kana approximately the same size. :)
I really appreciate the effort you put into this post as there is some really good advice and directional information.

I checked my local library today and considering how large it is, the collection of books they had was slightly appalling. Two books on hiragana dating back to 80's that had been overdue since last year and one lonely planet guide to Tokyo mini edition but I will be looking on ebay.

Just out of interest. Is it possible to buy said Genkō yōshi paper or workbooks ? I'm sure regular mathematical paper would suffice but it would be nice to use the real thing. I have googled and looked on ebay but can't seem to find any.. Unless of course I am missing the point. I would print it out but I guess, I will be going through a lot of it and printing wouldn't be too economical.



On a side note. I assume you can speak Japanese considering your great advice.

What is your first language? and did you use the same methods to teach yourself that you have recommended to me?


Excuse any spelling or grammar mistakes. I am writing on an ipad and the process can be a tad laborious and fiddly when writing a large block of writing.
 
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P.s . I notice a lot of places start with lesson one as been simple things like greetings etc. Would it be beneficial to start like that or with the learning of Hiragana and Katakana?
 

Mike Cash

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P.s . I notice a lot of places start with lesson one as been simple things like greetings etc. Would it be beneficial to start like that or with the learning of Hiragana and Katakana?
A proper textbook will introduce the writing systems as part if their comprehensive approach. Seriously, get a real proper text and you don't have to worry about any of the stuff you're worrying about.
 
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My first language is English. I started off learning in high school in New Zealand, where at the time it was one of the standard options and I thought it would be more interesting than French. I did okay. Then we moved countries and I couldn't keep it up in my new school. Also at the time, because I did better at sciences than humanities, I had decided that I "wasn't good at languages" and wasn't inclined to put much effort in. So then there was a blank for a few years.

I picked Japanese back up after university. I'd forgotten pretty much everything, started by relearning kana. I did some evening courses, but of course an hour and a half a week by itself won't get you anywhere, so in addition I did:
1) Listening to podcasts on my walk to and from work. That's an hour of listening practice a day. (These days I'm lazy and just have Japanese music on there).
2) Crunching through as much grammar as I could. I went through the set textbook for the evening course (think it was Japanese for Busy People) outside of class, and used the class time itself for revision and practice of what I'd learnt, rather than waiting for the teacher to get to that point in the book. When I got through with that I got myself the follow-up textbook in the series, then when I was done with that, a more advanced grammar book.
3) For kanji - I got a second hand DS lite and a couple of kanji games aimed at native speakers. These forced me to learn a lot of vocabulary as well.

So basically, one main source (textbook), plus a couple of secondary sources (listening + kanji), used every day. Having access to a teacher helped but the course alone wouldn't have been enough. The combination of these things got me to the point where I could start reading, so I did (I also kept up the grammar/kanji study on the side, but daily reading/listening is very important). I do believe that the "study every day" part was more important than the exact order of what I learnt or my choice of materials.

I have passed JLPT N1, for what it's worth (probably not as much as many people think - it's multiple choice and I test well). I can read pretty much any fiction/non-fiction that I have an interest in. My speaking is still pretty weak, because I live in the UK and don't really have much of a chance to talk to anybody outside occasional chats with my old teacher. I manage fine as a tourist, though.

Don't worry about whether you should learn kana first or some vocab first or something else first - pick one, start learning. Kana should be something you do early on as there is a lot of study material which does assume you know it, but if you were to pick up some vocab or greetings or something first, it won't hurt. If you do the kana first and then start on vocab - that won't hurt either. In the long term, it won't matter. Nothing really will except whether or not you sit down and put the time in.
 
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My first language is English. I started off learning in high school in New Zealand, where at the time it was one of the standard options and I thought it would be more interesting than French. I did okay. Then we moved countries and I couldn't keep it up in my new school. Also at the time, because I did better at sciences than humanities, I had decided that I "wasn't good at languages" and wasn't inclined to put much effort in. So then there was a blank for a few years.
I picked Japanese back up after university. I'd forgotten pretty much everything, started by relearning kana. I did some evening courses, but of course an hour and a half a week by itself won't get you anywhere, so in addition I did:
1) Listening to podcasts on my walk to and from work. That's an hour of listening practice a day. (These days I'm lazy and just have Japanese music on there).
2) Crunching through as much grammar as I could. I went through the set textbook for the evening course (think it was Japanese for Busy People) outside of class, and used the class time itself for revision and practice of what I'd learnt, rather than waiting for the teacher to get to that point in the book. When I got through with that I got myself the follow-up textbook in the series, then when I was done with that, a more advanced grammar book.
3) For kanji - I got a second hand DS lite and a couple of kanji games aimed at native speakers. These forced me to learn a lot of vocabulary as well.
So basically, one main source (textbook), plus a couple of secondary sources (listening + kanji), used every day. Having access to a teacher helped but the course alone wouldn't have been enough. The combination of these things got me to the point where I could start reading, so I did (I also kept up the grammar/kanji study on the side, but daily reading/listening is very important). I do believe that the "study every day" part was more important than the exact order of what I learnt or my choice of materials.
I have passed JLPT N1, for what it's worth (probably not as much as many people think - it's multiple choice and I test well). I can read pretty much any fiction/non-fiction that I have an interest in. My speaking is still pretty weak, because I live in the UK and don't really have much of a chance to talk to anybody outside occasional chats with my old teacher. I manage fine as a tourist, though.
Don't worry about whether you should learn kana first or some vocab first or something else first - pick one, start learning. Kana should be something you do early on as there is a lot of study material which does assume you know it, but if you were to pick up some vocab or greetings or something first, it won't hurt. If you do the kana first and then start on vocab - that won't hurt either. In the long term, it won't matter. Nothing really will except whether or not you sit down and put the time in.

Once again some great advice and I thank your for that. It's great to be able to speak to someone and get some advice.

I am currently drawing up my plan of how I intend to learn Japanese. I want to be organised and do my research first before jumping into it with little organisation. Doing this will maderised chances of success and hopefully ensure I don't give up.

I am currently waiting for my copy of Genki to arrive in the post so just finalising my plans before I start by asking advice on forums and getting together resources from blogs, apps, forums, videos and podcasts.

What podcasts did you listen to? Was this so you became familiar with the language rather than understanding what they said at first? Then understanding more as time went on?

Also. Is it possible to buy Genko Yoshi paper? I have looked around but don't seem to be able to find any. I'm sure mathematical paper would do but it would be nice to get the real thing.

Kind regards
 
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Hello Mindflowers,

I would urge you to forget about genko youshi, and begin memorizing hiragana and katakana (in that order). There are only 46 of each, and they can be memorized in a short time. Memorizing these two alphabets will immediately begin unlocking doors for further, meaningful advancement in your studies of Japanese. They can be practiced on regular lined paper, legal size paper, notepads, backs of envelopes, old newsprint, etc. etc., etc.,. I can understand the desire to get outfitted with proper gear before embarking on a serious endeavor, but in the time spent worrying about paper you could have easily memorized the two alphabets and have been well on your way to knowing a bit of Japanese. The important thing is to start studying, rather than looking for excuses to postpone studying.

If, after all of the above, you are still determined to get your hands on genko youshi, despite it being a rather unimportant distraction, you can visit amazon US, where they have a huge supply of cheap, affordable genko youshi.

Genkouyoushi Notebook for Japanese Writing: Genko yoshi paper, 100 pages: Reissa Roni: 9781491259344: Amazon.com: Books

Sincerely,
Majestic
 

Mike Cash

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The notebooks for elementary school kids to practice writing are far more practical than genkou youshi, which is intended for something else entirely anyway (handwriting materials to be submitted for typesetting/publication and ease of character count for page calculation and payment).
 
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On the whole, again generally more great advice apart from the unnecessary comments about excuses and postponement which is all out wrong.

I am currently in a research faze about something I know nothing about. I have an empty vessel that needs filling and understandably have a large amount if questions to ask, especially considering how much time I am going to commit to it.

So a couple of days 'postponement, now in the greater schemes of things is no time at all. Especially if I get months down the line and realise I didn't do enough research and have picked up some bad habits.

Also if you had read further up the thread you would have noticed I said I would begin when my edition of Genki comes in the post (hopefully tomorrow).

If I do things I want to do them properly and not jump in to something completely unprepared.

I am however done for questions now on this topic and the advice I have received in this thread / postponement has been invaluable already.

Thank you to all :)
 

Mike Cash

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Just make sure you read the preface and whatever explanatory notes the book has before diving into the lessons and you'll be fine.
 
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For podcasts you can refer to Japanesepod101.com. It has a large collection of podcasts and are arranged by difficulty levels too. ^_^


And Genki is a good starter book, you can count on it. It starts from almost zero level. It's having Hiragana and Katakana charts however it won't teach you how to pronounce these. So until the book arrives, learn the pronunciation either from YouTube or from some native sources.


After that, just start following Mike:
Just make sure you read the preface and whatever explanatory notes the book has before diving into the lessons and you'll be fine.
 
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