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Kana reading tips and bad study habits


22 May 2003
So I threw down and got a kana practice book and a little beginners guide to the japanese language. The guide I got is weird... it doesn't teach the hiragana/katakana in order. It just throws new random kana at you every chapter, it pisses me off. But anyways, I decided that before I dive into the guide I'd learn all the kana stuff. Is this a bad idea? I'm avoiding romaji like the plague. I've already got hiragana down w/ all the bilabials and whatnot. I'm just drilling it into my head some more before I go off on katakana and forget everything :)
I wish I would have gotten a kit now or something... because buying two different books from two different publishers is starting to conflict.
Also, I just can't read. I've been trying to get some practice in just identifying characters by playing some imported Dreamcast games (specifically Miss Moonlight) and then reading what I can out loud. Now, there doesn't appear to be any spaces between words. I know the kanji are supposed to throw in spaces or something but it's just really hard. I go off and read this big long string of characters and wonder, "Man is this a really long word or am I just not noticing something?"
Any tips on the *actual* reading of kana? I'm going to try and sign up for a Japanese language course at UMBC this spring so... ありがとうございます.
Holy crap I feel so cool now that i know what that means.
And just type in anything you don't understand here. Surely someone should be able to make sense of long kana strings ;).
Yeah but rushing over to my pc every three seconds and flooding the board doesn't sound like too good of an idea :D
I guess it takes practice, but there's gotta be some kinda trick to it.
I'm going to tackle the first ten katakana tomorrow after I finish up memorizing the combination characters. It's easy but sometimes I get brain farts and can't remember what really simple kana like へ looks like.
*bangs his head on the desk and mumbles, 'short slanty line up, long slanty line down... short slanty line up, long slanty line down...'*
Oh well... it's only been a week since I started. What can you expect? :D
I think kanji is gonna throw me for a loop... I mean glancing at a character makes me scared. So many strokes... so little brain cells left... *sigh*
Thanks for the link, I'm gonna check it out later today when I've got some time.

edit: @jeisan , you mean like instead of saying ラ = RA that I should say ラ = ら? Well basically what I'm getting at is asking if I should use romaji or the hiragana that I already know.
The study method I use when initially learning new characters is to place them all like so:

A あ A あ etc..
I い I い
U う U う
E え E え
O お O お

I use my hand to cover up the left side with the roman characters, then write them on the right side of the kana. So, I would cover up A, I, U, E, and O, then write the correct vowel next to the correct character. This way I can associate the image with the sound. Then I reverse this by covering up the kana, thus exposing the roman letters I've just written. Now I write the kana next to the corresponding sounds, so I can associate the sound with the image. I dunno, it seems to work out with me. I just go off like that across a piece of paper and by the time I reach the other side I've got it memorized. Flashcards don't work so well... I'm not about to go shell out money for them so I tried making my own. Problem is, I can see the answers through the damn index card. Well... anyone else have any study tactics?

edit v2.0: After reading the above I've realized that I make no sense whatsoever. If you can decypher it, congratulations. You win a cookie.
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I guess I get a cookie, that sounds like a really good study method :)

I suggest learning how to read romanji, but use kana as much as you can. Kana good, romanji bad. Learn how to read romanji because it's used in a lot of books and websites, it's a lot easier for everyone to deal with. But think of pronunciations in kana if you can. I tend to think in romanji and I think it's a big disadvantage. :\
you mean like instead of saying ラ = RA that I should say ラ = ら? Well basically what I'm getting at is asking if I should use romaji or the hiragana that I already know.
whatever works best for you, i just suggested the hiragana to katakana since you said you were "avoiding romaji like the plague"
Originally posted by jeisan
whatever works best for you, i just suggested the hiragana to katakana since you said you were "avoiding romanji like the plague"
The only problem with avoiding romaji entirely is you are essentially going to have to become fluent in kana (and even then comprehension will be very low) before even beginning work on Japanese basic sentence structures and anything but rudimentary vocabulary. Naturally you are not understanding strings of kana without knowing any grammar or, it sounds like, even the words in English.
Originally posted by Elizabeth
Naturally you are not understanding strings of kana without knowing any grammar or, it sounds like, even the words in English.
Which brings it all back around to should I learn how to write or speak first? I'm having a hell of a time trying to do both at the same time. It's mainly my fault because I honestly think I got a crappy beginners guide :x
I'm really kind of at the "Holy sh*t where do I start?" phase of it all. I really want to get into some kind of structured course but it's too late for registering for fall so I'll have to wait till spring. I don't want to spend all those months in between just sitting on my butt... I wanna try and do as much as I can until then. And yeah, understanding strings of kana is indeed quite the ***** for me. I can pick out really really basic words (just stuff from anime that I've picked up on) but that's about it.
It all seems so daunting. I thought I was on a roll but now it seems more like I've been treading water.
Oh, and before I forget, *hands out cookies as needed*
I would recommend getting a private tutor if that's possible where you are. And unless you're around Japanese friends or a large population, learning to speak is almost out of the question. Re the kana strings, you may want to run them through one of these machine translation systems and see if anything legible comes out on the other end.

At any rate, it's incredibly normal to feel frustrated two or three weeks on. These things take months and months if not years to master. Ganbattene!
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Indeeeed. I'm not expecting to master it in only a week or two, but I agree that I need to find someone that I can bounce japanese off of. I'm going to look around today for some classes or a tutor or just someone who I can work with on it. Hell, maybe I could start off by showing up at an anime club? I doubt my local community college has one, but I know UMBC/College Park does. I think that if I can get deeper than just reading a book that things will come a bit easier.
I feel like an *** advising people because my Japanese is so poor. I haven't taken an active role in learning it, like a fundamental buckling-down structured role or anything. I have reasons for this. I'm not just lazy.. my german isn't as good as I'd like it to be, and I need to finish it up first. :p

BUT, I have some suggestions that work well for me :)

Find a sentence you like a lot. The best place I'd say is from fan-subbed anime. The kind in which it displays the romaji, the kana/hira/kanji, and the English during the opening and closing theme songs. Memorize the pronunciation of that sentence first, which won't take long at all. Then write it down over and over and over on a sheet of paper.

This is good for learning kanji (make sure you learn the correct stroke order, though). Ermmm, so anyway, you have the pronunciation memorized, and you've written it at least 30 or so times. Do that one night or something. Then the next night, try to write it out again without looking. You'll probably forget a decent bit of it. Just look up the characters you forgot and write it a lot more.

This sounds a lot harder than it is, I think. The thing I like about this method is, you WILL NOT forget certain characters. I have a few sentences down 100%, and I will NEVER forget the characters used in that sentence. Whenever I see them written, if I can't immediately read them, I can always read the sentence I memorized out in my head, and then I can track each character and find out which it is.

Most sentences will have AT LEAST ten characters in them.. find a good variety of sentences.. memorize ten or so of them in this way, and you'll have almost all of the hira/kana down and some kanji as well. Plus, as a side-effect, you'll learn a decent bit of the actual grammar/nouns/verbs/particles, etc.

I hope that made sense... :|
Just keep at it. They say it takes seven years of solid, constant study to read a newspaper for the average person. You are going to be dropping strokes and making mistakes for years and years. I don't want to get you down, but just take a step back, give yourself some time, and find a class somewhere that has a structured program. Lastly, just stick with the language.

My advice for memorizing the basic stuff is flash cards. Good, simple, cheap, homemade flashcards. I know you said they don't work for you as well, but I use pencil on one side and pen on the other (or find thicker paper). You can go from many directions; cat means 猫/ねこ; 猫 means ねこ etc. You have a good way for fast review, you can carry them in your pocket. I knew I had something down when I could stop what I was doing, like folding laundry, pull out a vocab card and get it right away. Plus slowly adding to a stack of vocab I knew was a good way of getting a self-confidence boost. Not so good for writing practice though. Your system would be better for that. Use both!

Don't ignore any of the systems. Romaji is important too no matter how much it feels like cheating.

Kanji will eventually start to look like the radicals it is made up of. You will start to remember that kanji A, is made up of this, and this and this. It is kind of like spelling. Don't let the kanji psych you out! They are symbols for a sound, similar to the alphabet or any system. You learned "A says, apple" as a kid right? Same type of thing.

Oh, and the no spaces between the words thing you mentioned, you are right, there are usually none. Spaces come after punctuation for the most part. You will get used to it.

Good luck!
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