What's new

Decided to learn Japanese: tips & experiences needed

Marchi

Registered
Joined
Dec 8, 2014
Messages
2
Reaction score
0
Hi all at JRef!

My name is Marchi. I am a video game Producer (yaay!).
I've always liked Japan (in Holland where I'm from there was once a cinema viewing of Akira and Ghost in the Shell and I was intrigued since). I wouldn't consider myself the typical 'fan of Japan, I want to be Japanese' but more someone who is interested in their culture.

I was in Osaka and Tokyo last year (I was in South-Korea for work and then went to Japan since it was the perfect opportunity, my colleague who was there as well suggested this and it was a great plan!).

I totally fell in love with Tokyo (Osaka is cool too but I was there very short).

A lot has happened in my life lately and I wanted to find something positive, interesting and unique to put my energy into and I thought 'a very big challenge would be to learn Japanese.. but I have learned several languages (I used to live in Madrid and learned Spanish, I used to live in Germany and learned German and now I live in Portugal and I'm learning Portuguese) so I can learn languages.

My question to all you guys is: what have your experiences been with learning Japanese?
Also important: where do I start? And how do I practice while not being in Japan (internet duh, but where?)

Arigato!
Marchi
 

nekojita

先輩
Joined
Jan 14, 2009
Messages
1,660
Reaction score
439
Having some experience of learning other languages will help - you presumably have some idea of what works and doesn't work for you in terms of techniques for learning vocabulary, etc.

1) Find one good beginner's source (ideally a textbook aimed at the university level, like Genki), and stick to it, try not to bounce around between different resources. There's also a lot of rubbish on the internet - a reliable site if you wanted something to supplement a textbook would be Erin's Challenge although it is aimed rather more at teenagers.

2) Set some time aside to study daily and keep at it.

On average it will take longer for a speaker of a European language to get to the same level in Japanese compared to learning another European language, but I don't think it's really harder as in "more difficult" it just takes more time.

For practice: you can practice here, or try lang-8.com, or try to find a penpal/Skype language exchange partner.
 

Stuntie

Kouhai
Joined
Nov 26, 2014
Messages
25
Reaction score
1
I'm in the same boat - a newcomer to Japanese, but with experience of learning languages.

If you are studying on your own I would second the Genki recommendation. It's pitched at a slightly higher level than many total beginner text books, but you should be fine with that level.
I would also recommend Tae Kims Grammar book. Available as a free Download. (It is especially useful for people that have experience of learning other languages for the introduction section that goes over the failings of a lot of Japanese tuition books. Don't let it discourage you, but bear it in mind when working through Genki etc. )
I would also follow Tae Kim's advice about learning Kanji from the start and get a Learn Kanji book.
 

Marchi

Registered
Joined
Dec 8, 2014
Messages
2
Reaction score
0
Thank you guys!

One of my 'worries' is that I understand that the language is built up of 'four sets of characters, hiragana, katakana, kanji and romaji to remember' (I got this of the website www.learn-japanese-adventure.com).

For me this is like 'ok.. so, in English, Spanish, German and all other 'European' languages we have the alphabet, we use these letters to create words.. How does this translate to Japanese and where do I start?

This is pretty confusing but I am sure that the sources you guys have provided are a start.

Other question: how do you guys get study buddies to practice with over e-mail or Skype?


Greetings,
Marchi
 

lanthas

 
Joined
Apr 27, 2014
Messages
940
Reaction score
240
Indeed, written Japanese uses four different character sets in one big mix; you just need to look at a random website to see it. Typically, there are multiple character sets used even for spelling out a single word. As a quick simplified overview:
  • Kanji for nouns, verb stems and (Japanese) people's names
  • Hiragana for words that don't have a kanji, grammatical particles, verb conjugation endings
  • Katakana for "Japanified" loanwords and (Western) people's names, or native words that are emphasized
  • Latin characters for unchanged foreign words and names
This will all be explained once you start studying though.

Kanji are obviously the hardest to learn (and in fact probably the hardest part about the language in general). Personally I used KanjiDamage for this, I can recommend it. It's *very* pragmatic.
 
Last edited:

Stuntie

Kouhai
Joined
Nov 26, 2014
Messages
25
Reaction score
1
One of my 'worries' is that I understand that the language is built up of 'four sets of characters, hiragana, katakana, kanji and romaji to remember' (I got this of the website www.learn-japanese-adventure.com).
The two Kana scripts are based on the same consanant+vowel system but used for diferent purposes as mentioned above.Doesn't take long to get the hang of them. Especially hiragana as it's used for Japanese words, so used a lot. Don't stress about having to look stuff up - it will sink in as you read and learn more. I'm getting there with Hiragana, but still need to look up bits of Katakana now and then as it's not used as much in the stuff I'm learning.

Romaji or 'Roman- ji (ji = letters)' is just writing it out in the Latin alphabet. Useful as a tool, and whilst learning the kana. You can get tutorial books in romaji, but that would be like like learning Russian in the Latin alphabet - possible but misss the point and causes more trouble than its worth in the long run.

Kanji is, as mentioned above, a big task. Books like Genki are largely in hiragana (with katakana where appropriate). But start to introduce Kanji early on. However, if you start learning Kanji as an extra specific task along side your main textbook you get both used to them, and build up your vocabulary of them as you go, rather than having to learn them all later on.
The problem here is that whilst litle kids books and textbooks are mostly in the kana, everyday stuff like signs, newspapers etc. are mostly in Kanji with the grammatical extra bits in hiragana etc., so if you didn't study Kanji you would know from your textbook lessons that the word was a polite past tense verb, but not know what the actual verb was!
The good news though is that they reckon if you learn the first 1000 Kanji (about what Japnese kids get taught at school) you can probably understand 90% of what is written. Seems a lot, but Chinese needs a lot more to reach fluency. The better news is that they are not as bad as you may think at first glance. There is often a pictorial logic to parts of them which aid the process of remembering what they mean.
Besides, you need to learn a lot of words to become fluent, but just a few basic words can be a great help even to a beginner ("Can I buy please" and pointing has got many people through entire trips.). Kanji is the same. Learn some key ones and your options expand dramatically.
 

Andromedashun

先輩
Joined
Jan 3, 2012
Messages
842
Reaction score
9
I think by a guide book is the most efffective approach. You can listen to anime. That also helps.
 

Andromedashun

先輩
Joined
Jan 3, 2012
Messages
842
Reaction score
9
It isn't easy. I lost almost all memory about Japanese. I only concentrate on Japanese game now. I'll try to read to text to get back my knowledge. Damn I even forgot the JLPT exam >_<
 

Mike Cash

骨も命も皆此の土地に埋めよう
Joined
Mar 15, 2002
Messages
16,454
Reaction score
2,227
It isn't easy. I lost almost all memory about Japanese. I only concentrate on Japanese game now. I'll try to read to text to get back my knowledge. Damn I even forgot the JLPT exam >_<
You even forgot ここ and で.
 

nekojita

先輩
Joined
Jan 14, 2009
Messages
1,660
Reaction score
439
To get back to the OP's question about kanji:

Step One: DON'T PANIC.
You have successful experience with learning languages. You may find it a little slower going with a language that doesn't use latin script, that's all. Slow and steady wins the race - study regularly, make kanji part of your studies.

Step Two: Prioritise learning over learning about learning.
Order a textbook and start learning your hiragana and katakana while you're waiting for it to arrive - all you really need is a pen, some paper, and a list of a few basic words for practice.

Do not neglect katakana, many people think it is "just for foreign words", but it is used constantly. Many of those words are loan words which are now a common part of the language, e.g. コーヒー (koohii - coffee) and パン (pan, bread) are good examples. Any child in Japan knows what "pan" is even if they couldn't tell you which European language it came from (or even that it's a loan word).

You might be interested to know that a lot of older Japanese words of foreign origin come from Dutch and Portuguese, not English, because these two countries were major trading partners when contact with the outside world was still heavily limited. e.g. メス (mesu, meaning scalpel), comes from the dutch "mes".
see also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rangaku
katakana practice for you:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japanese_words_of_Dutch_origin

Re: practice partners.
This lad from Japan who joined us recently is into gaming and looking for people to talk to; there's also often threads on the Skype forum for language exchange and various websites set up specifically for language exchange as well.
 

Mike Cash

骨も命も皆此の土地に埋めよう
Joined
Mar 15, 2002
Messages
16,454
Reaction score
2,227
The number one thing I have always found heartening whenever I feel daunted by some new undertaking is to calmly remind myself that I am at least as smart as the stupidest person who has already succeeded at it.
 

Jaydent1

marvelous
Joined
May 14, 2014
Messages
34
Reaction score
0
The number one thing I have always found heartening whenever I feel daunted by some new undertaking is to calmly remind myself that I am at least as smart as the stupidest person who has already succeeded at it.
My sister got her drivers license. How hard can it be.
 
Top