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Help with Japanese homework

taepopjunkie

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Can someone please help me with my homework?
 

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mdchachi

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Sure. If you ask specific questions we can help. We're not going to do your homework for you. What don't you understand?
 

Buntaro

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Let’s see if we can help you with this.

Question 1. Can you read はなす? What does it mean? What do you think the two forms of “I did…” and “I didn’t do…” using はなす would look like? Can you write the two answers in hiragana as well as Romaji?
 

Buntaro

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taepopjunkie,

There is one thing that really jumps out at me from your post, which is you do not seem to have mastered hiragana. Japanese teachers are notorious for not doing a good job of teaching hiragana. (When I started learning Japanese years ago, my Japanese teacher handed out copies of hiragana and just said, “Learn these.“) As a matter of fact, I almost failed my first semester of Japanese because I struggled with hiragana that first semester, and I never really recovered from it at that time. My college professor ‘gave’ me a passing grade (when I deserved a failing grade), which is another story for another time.

You need to get hiragana down cold. You need to get to the point where you can listen to spoken Japanese and write it down quickly and easily in hiragana. This will take a LOT of work on your part. You need to spend up to an hour each day just working on reading and writing hiragana. I know this would be a lot of work besides the Japanese homework you are already doing, but if you really want to learn Japanese, you must do this.

Here is how to practice hiragana. Start doing what I call ‘dictation practice’. Use your iPhone or laptop to record your voice. Make some recordings of you saying individual hiragana. Then make some recordings of you saying words that are two hiragana. Then make some recordings of you saying words that are three hiragana. Then, listen your recordings and write down the hiragana as you hear them. Slowly build up the ability to listen and write down longer and longer phrases and sentences in hiragana. (If you need help on how to record your voice on your iPhone or laptop or whatever, please do not hesitate to ask.)

Can you quickly write a, i, u, e, o in hiragana? Can you quickly write a, ka, sa, ta, na and then ha, ma, ya, ra, wa in hiragana? Can you quickly write ‘mechakucha”? Can you quickly write ‘Sore wa hon janai desu”? If you cannot, it is clear what you must do.
 
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bentenmusume

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You need to get hiragana down cold. You need to get to the point where you can listen to spoken Japanese and write it down quickly and easily in hiragana. This will take a LOT of work on your part. You need to spend up to an hour each day just working on reading and writing hiragana. I know this would be a lot of work besides the Japanese homework you are already doing, but if you really want to learn Japanese, you must do this.

This strikes me as a curious thing to focus on at first. At all the universities I've learned and/or taught at, I'm not sure I've ever see a class go about things this way.

Being able to comprehend spoken Japanese to the point you can take dictation is a far more advanced skill than just learning the hiragana and katakana syllabaries. To say that you "need" to master this skill at the very earliest stage of learning the language seems curious to me. There's a good chance that most spoken Japanese will just sound like gibberish to a student who's only been learning for a couple of weeks.

Japanese teachers are notorious for not doing a good job of teaching hiragana. (When I started learning Japanese years ago, my Japanese teacher handed out copies of hiragana and just said, “Learn these.“)

Well, to be fair, it's a syllabary with 46 base characters, less than twice as many as the English alphabet. I don't think it would be unusual, excessive, or "poor teaching" to present a first-time English learner with the English alphabet and say "learn this." If you make flash cards or use one of the infinite apps now out there for that purpose, there's no reason you can't get hiragana (and katakana) mostly down in a couple of days, tops. (And once you do, of course, you'll be reinforcing it naturally as you progress in your studies.)

Can you quickly write ‘mechakucha”? Can you quickly write ‘Sore wa hon janai desu”? If you cannot, it is clear what you must do.
"Mechakucha" is not a vocab word taught in the first couple of weeks of Japanese 101. "Sore wa hon ja nai desu." contains grammatical structures that, most likely (judging from the content of the images), the OP hasn't learned yet.

I agree with you that mastering hiragana should be the first step if the OP hasn't already done so (and yes, the romaji handwritten notes suggest that might be the case), but many educators would not agree that focusing on dictation and writing sentences/words beyond one's current level are the best way⁠—let alone the only way⁠—to accomplish this.
 
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This strikes me as a curious thing to focus on at first. At all the universities I've learned and/or taught at, I'm not sure I've ever see a class go about things this way.

Being able to comprehend spoken Japanese to the point you can take dictation is a far more advanced skill than just learning the hiragana and katakana syllabaries.
Being able to transcribe from classroom speed and clarity spoken Japanese, with appropriate levels of educational pausing and repeating, is much easier than taking dictation from natural Japanese. If you were planning to study in an international classroom where the class would be taught purely in Japanese, this would be an important goal. The sooner you hit that goal the better off you'll be, because the goal is a moving one, after all -- classroom speed and clarity moves towards natural speed and clarity as classes advance.

I'm not sure that's what was being referred to, but it seems like a sensible interpretation to me.

That said, if you are self-studying or studying in a class taught in your native language.... then I don't think it's so important as all that. Still important to both be able to correctly associate each kana with each spoken syllable, but not so important to be able to do so at note-taking speed anytime soon.

Also, in this day and age, you can just install a voice recording app on your phone and skip taking notes altogether in any language if you want. Well, actual physical note-taking still has benefits to learning, but human nature being what it is, I think there will be less and less of it as the technological alternatives get better and better.
 

bentenmusume

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Fair enough, and I may have been a bit overly critical of the initial suggestion.

It just seemed a bit much to say that intense dictation practice from the start is a necessary part of learning the kana syllabaries. Most classes I've been exposed to (as well as most self-learners I've met) seem to be able to get a basic understanding of hiragana and katakana by drilling them and writing over a couple of days, and then continuing to practice them with more exposure.

Apps weren't a thing back in the dark ages when I learned (and taught) Japanese, but these days I imagine there's no end of options out there.
 
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Apps weren't a thing back in the dark ages when I learned (and taught) Japanese, but these days I imagine there's no end of options out there.

Well, there are many implementations, but fundamentally all the interactive parts of all the "apps" are just digital flashcards. Having computer-scheduled reviews (if the algorithm is good) and the option for built-in audio is an advantage over paper flashcards, certainly -- but we've had programs that do that and do it well for 20 years.

That's not to say there aren't many great learning resources out there in websites, youtube channels, and for that matter just plethora of free books, magazines, and newspapers to read online... but the act of learning itself has not fundamentally changed, only speed and convenience of access to materials. People who think their smartphone will teach them Japanese with 15 minutes of glorified flash card drills each day will not get far. (This is where the people who have been "studying Japanese" for two years and yet still don't understand the basics of particles and conjugations come from).

Ahem. Anyway, not to say there isn't value or that everyone should go back to paper flashcards and scratchy cassette tapes, but "apps" aren't all that they are cracked up to be by the people selling them and the beginners buying into them.
 

bentenmusume

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Oh, I didn't mean to suggest that there are apps out there that can teach you the entire language, or that there are any that can replace a quality textbook and good old-fashioned self study. I have a passing familiarity with what sort of software exists and the inherent limitations and/or flaws they possess, even if I never actually used them when I learned the language. I was speaking only in terms of learning the kana (which I thought was the scope of this discussion), for which I figure a glorified digital flashcard system would work just fine.

I certainly wasn't advocating for the OP (or anyone) to throw away their textbook and go in search of some miracle app that's going to download the entire language into their brain Matrix-style. A cursory search of the internet (and semi-regular posting/reading of the Reddit Japanese-learning sub) is more than enough to reveal the quality (or lack thereof) of most of the stuff out there. (As you say, there are some worthwhile websites and YouTube channels, and of course plenty of solid reading material for more advanced learners.)
 
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Heh, sorry, that little rant wasn't really directed at you but at a certain pervasive attitude. Unfortunately there are people who do expect an app to teach them the entire language, and people making money claiming they have the app that does so.
I get a little frustrated by it sometimes, even though it's really only one more case of "Someone is WRONG... on the INTERNET!"

 
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Buntaro

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Chris,

This is an interesting discussion on how apps help a person learn a language. I personally have never used an app in such a way, so it is difficult for me to comment on this. But the bottom line is helping the OP being able to hear a hiragana and write it in a quick-enough way, first as a single hiragana and eventually in groups of hiragana. Are there apps that help with this?

I have a fair amount of experience teaching hiragana to Americans, and taking them through this process is always quite painful. Just getting them to write “a, i, u, e, o” in one continuous ‘dictated’ hiragana ‘sentence’ is a major accomplishment. The idea of then taking them through the entire process of mastering all hiragana in all common combinations becomes quite daunting to the student. It is always a battle to keep the student motivated and moving forward. I have had more than one student give up because hiragana is just too challenging for them.
 
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Are there apps that help with this?
Not that I'm aware of. Most kana drilling apps are just flashcards, which can speed memorization for reading but does not help with writing. There's no reason in theory that a touch screen and stylus could not be used for writing practice, and judge stroke order, quality of shape, consistency of size, etc, but a) how many people have a stylus for their phone anymore? and b) who wants to spend money writing a difficult program when beginners won't know any better (or pay any more) anyway?

So glorified flashcards is what's out there. There are a handful of kanji apps that support touch-writing and at least try to gauge stroke order, but nothing for kana that I'm aware of. It may exist and just not be popular. In any case, the only advantage it would have over practicing on paper is that it could judge your handwriting for you, in case you can't see the difference between yours and the model handwriting, or can't follow directions with respect to stroke order.


Since I believe writing is important, the advice I give to people learning the kana hasn't changed. That is:

I learned the kana by learning to write あいうえお (the first row) from memory
in the morning, and かきくけこ (the second row) from memory in the evening,
making sure I could write them from memory the next day before I set about
learning the next row, and practiced writing vocabulary words now and then
between memorizing rows.
(I had a list of words in romaji, which I'd rewrite with kana).

Two rows a day, three rows on days with plenty of free time, and repeat until done.

That's how I did it, and I hear almost exactly the same thing from many

successful Japanese learners.

I'm not even good at memorizing - I had a terrible time with multiplication tables and multiple-choice history tests with lots of dates and names. The kana simply isn't that hard, you just have to practice it, like anything else you would memorize.
 

bentenmusume

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This thread is quite fascinating to me. Of all the Japanese learners I've met (and continue to "meet" virtually), I had never really encountered one that cited mastering the kana as a significantly challenging part of learning Japanese, let alone something that would compel (or almost compel) them to give up learning the language entirely.

Of course, many learners initially have trouble keeping certain similar-looking characters straight (especially with katakana characters like シ/ツ ン/ソ), or can struggle with writing them properly (thus unintentionally making certain characters look like others). Both of these issues, in my experience, can typically be overcome with a bit of correction, reinforcement, and practice.

Needless to say, kanji can appear incredibly daunting to a beginning learner because of the sheer number of them, their complexity, and the idea of multiple readings, but I genuinely had never heard that sentiment expressed about the kana. (Needless to say, I do not intend this as an insult or slight toward anyone in this thread.)

Anyhow, this has been somewhat enlightening, because now I suppose I have some concrete advice to offer people struggling with learning the kana beyond just "keep practicing, they'll stick eventually."
 
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Of all the Japanese learners I've met (and continue to "meet" virtually), I had never really encountered one that cited mastering the kana as a significantly challenging part of learning Japanese, let alone something that would compel (or almost compel) them to give up learning the language entirely.

This forum by its nature only contains people who are making an extra effort to learn. It's not tremendously easy to stumble on.

The LearnJapanese subreddit on the other hand regularly features such people -- briefly -- in 'new posts'. "How do I learn kana?" is, however, considered a low effort post and such posters are directed to the starter's guide and their post deleted. (Similarly for "How do I start learning Japanese?").

In short, anyone willing to make the effort to find and register for this forum or engage properly with reddit is probably not going to have trouble learning kana.



I wouldn't lose sleep over the rest. Nearly every anime fan "started to learn Japanese" at some point. Very few of them get very far. There's something like a 70% per year attrition rate in college language classes from one year to the next.... the attrition rate, if it could be measured, for undirected self-studiers would be dramatically higher.

With anime being almost mainstream these days, the amount of casual interest and half-hearted attempts to learn Japanese. Most of them will learn half a kana table and half a dozen words, and then move on to a more exciting hobby.

Practically by definition, people who are serious about learning Japanese will overcome the first hurdle without complaint and only come online to ask more interesting questions than "How do I learn kana?".


(As a somewhat sad side-note, practically all other Japanese learning forums have vanished from the face of the internet, this is essentially the last one. Obviously there are Japanese sections of reddit, q/a forums, and language exchange sites, but that's not really the same).
 

bentenmusume

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Believe me, you're preaching to the choir here. I myself started learning Japanese sometime back in the dark ages, and in the twenty-some years since then I've frequented numerous online forums (including this one, the LearnJapanese subreddit, and many others that no longer exist), as well as spent a few years teaching/tutoring in an official capacity when I was in grad school. I'm not naive to the realities of the situation.

Really, it was only the point raised by Buntaro-san and his assertion(s) that many teachers "do a terrible job of teaching kana" and that, in turn, struggling to master hiragana has resulted in a significant number of students giving up that even got me considering this topic in the first place.

(In the meantime, unfortunately, it seems like the OP is one of those one-and-done posters who may never return. Alas.)
 
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