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Kiragana Questions

Feuryn

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Hi everyone,

I'm new to the forum; though having come across the website during work earlier, I thought it would be a good place to ask for any help/advice.

I'm teaching myself Japanese, for now; that may change when it comes to actually speaking it, in which case I might look into some sort of mentor/etc to talk to on Skype. I'm trying to be as logical as possible in my approach; learning the Hiragana and Katakana first. In regards to these alphabets, i'm doing a lot of work (several hours a day) in order to get to the point where the characters are as easily recognized/recalled as the English characters I am accustomed to. My reasoning for this is that because of the Japanese scripts, not having to waste time trying to decipher the characters would be a huge advantage; particularly when, what follows, is deciphering the words they create.

In any case, i'm going on a bit of a tangent. I'm going to Tokyo for 2 weeks in January; my aim for the approximate 8-9 months I have to work with is to be at least conversational by that time, or at least more fluent than the average tourist. So far (since last Thursday) i've been working on memorizing the Hiragana; ideally to the point where I know it like the back of my hand, if not better. Whilst doing this, however (using the TenguGo Kana smartphone app, and various other resources), i've encountered a few quirks/inconsistencies; and I would love if anyone would be able to help me in this regard. They are as follows:

1) My app tells me that the character ふ should be pronounced 'foo' as in 'food'. In spite of this, having listened to and translated it from various sources, I have on occasion heard it pronounced 'hoo' as in 'who'. In one way this seems more believable, as ふ falls within 'h' characters of the hiragana (は, ひ, etc), though i'm not sure which to believe.

2) Is there any way of knowing where there is a space in Japanese, or is it literally just a case of getting to the point where you recognize the words and are able to separate them on that basis?

3) My app tells me that the character き(chi) should be pronounced...well, chi. Having done some translating earlier, I came across the combination きょうは (Kyō wa); which confused me. Are there circumstances in which 'Chi' becomes 'Ky'?

Thanks in advance :)
 

Feuryn

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A few more that have cropped up:

4) A Ten Ten attached to 'T' characters (Eg/ た, て, etc) changes the sound to a 'D'. What happens if they're attached to ち/つ, however; if that even happens?

5) Touching on #3, that seems to have been a misunderstanding on my part. I confused き with ち; just goes to show that there's no such thing as too much learning :thumbsdown:
 

Mike Cash

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Please do yourself an enormous favor and buy a proper textbook immediately instead of using the dog crap you're using now.
 

Toritoribe

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1)
There is no voiceless labiodental fricative "f" in Japanese. ふ is not a voiceless glottal fricative "h", either. It's a voiceless bilabial fricative "ɸ".

Japanese phonology - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The point is not whether it's pronounced "fu" or "hu". It's recognized as ふ by Japanese people in either pronunciation. The more critical point is whether it's pronounced as a short vowel or a long vowel. For instance, ふき(short vowel; two morae), ふうき(long vowel; three morae) and ふっき(A pause is inserted between ふ and き; three morae) are completely different with each other in Japanese.

2)
There is no space in Japanese.
Reading Straightforward Japanese? | Japan Forum

4)
Hiragana - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
 

Feuryn

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Please do yourself an enormous favor and buy a proper textbook immediately instead of using the dog crap you're using now.
The apps (TenguGo specifically) aren't too bad, in fairness; for learning the very basics such as Hiragana/Katakana. I've already bought 'Remembering the Kanji, Volume 1: A Complete Course on How Not to Forget the Meaning and Writing of Japanese Characters' (James W. Heisig), which all being well should be here today. That said, i'm not quite at the point where i'd start learning the Kanji just yet (aiming to be as familiar as can be with the Hiragana/Katakana by Thursday, though in a worst case scenario i'll be off from Friday-Tuesday) due to Easter.
 

Mike Cash

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So you're going to attempt learning a couple thousand kanji before you start learning the language?

If the apps you had were any good, you wouldn't have had the questions you had. Q.E.D.
 

Feuryn

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1)
There is no voiceless labiodental fricative "f" in Japanese. ふ is not a voiceless glottal fricative "h", either. It's a voiceless bilabial fricative "ɸ".

Japanese phonology - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The point is not whether it's pronounced "fu" or "hu". It's recognized as ふ by Japanese people in either pronunciation. The more critical point is whether it's pronounced as a short vowel or a long vowel. For instance, ふき(short vowel; two morae), ふうき(long vowel; three morae) and ふっき(A pause is inserted between ふ and き; three morae) are completely different with each other in Japanese.
Thanks for clearing that up; needless to say that's a new sound for me. Will have to give it a bit of practice later today :)
 

Feuryn

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So you're going to attempt learning a couple thousand kanji before you start learning the language?

If the apps you had were any good, you wouldn't have had the questions you had.
Not as such. My main focus is to know my way around written Japanese, first and foremost; so the only real concern left from that point is to associate the sounds i'd be able to read/pronounce/recognize with the words they create. That said, i've only just started last Thursday and i'm always open to different approaches; or even recommendations, in regards to text books/etc.

As to the apps, i'll take your word for it. That said they were free, so I suppose that might explain a thing or two.
 

Mike Cash

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Not as such. My main focus is to know my way around written Japanese, first and foremost; so the only real concern left from that point is to associate the sounds i'd be able to read/pronounce/recognize with the words they create. That said, i've only just started last Thursday and i'm always open to different approaches; or even recommendations, in regards to text books/etc.

As to the apps, i'll take your word for it. That said they were free, so I suppose that might explain a thing or two.
Knowing your way around written Japanese involves a whole lot more than just knowing the characters used to write Japanese; you have to know the language. You can do all of Heisig's RTK and still not be able to read a blessed thing if you haven't also studied the language.

Get something like the Genki series, together with workbooks and audio.
 

nekojita

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For the 8-9 months before your trip, I would concentrate on speaking/listening, specifically for the likely situations you'll be using Japanese in as a tourist. Also sounding out katakana (as an English speaker you can "guess" the meaning of a lot of words), and perhaps a scattering of the sort of kanji you're likely to see on signs/menus.

While you're waiting for your textbook to turn up, you can also try Erin's challenge: WEB版 エリンが挑戦!にほんごできます。|Global Home
It's pretty good for listening practice.
 

Mike Cash

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Here are some kanji:

男 "man"
犬 "dog"
噛 "bite"

犬が男を噛んだ
男は犬に噛まれた
犬に噛まれた男
男を噛む犬
男が犬を噛んだ
犬は男に噛まれた
男に噛まれた犬
犬を噛む男


In the interest of time, I will refrain from posting another dozen or so illustrative examples.

Based on just "knowing" all the kanji and knowing the sounds of the hiragana, and without having learned the language....how confident would you be that you could correctly discern the differences between the above?
 

Feuryn

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Here are some kanji:

男 "man"
犬 "dog"
噛 "bite"

犬が男を噛んだ
男は犬に噛まれた
犬に噛まれた男
男を噛む犬
男が犬を噛んだ
犬は男に噛まれた
男に噛まれた犬
犬を噛む男


In the interest of time, I will refrain from posting another dozen or so illustrative examples.

Based on just "knowing" all the kanji and knowing the sounds of the hiragana, and without having learned the language....how confident would you be that you could correctly discern the differences between the above?
By no means confident, but then I don't expect to be at this point. The main issue, I suppose, is that i'm not entirely certain where to begin when it comes to Japanese. My thinking so far is that if I can at least read the characters first and foremost (it's an entirely different/foreign script, after all); then the understanding can come later. To use an English comparison:

"That crane has beautiful wings."

Am I referring to a mechanical crane, or the bird? Understanding English, it'd be the latter. If I didn't understand English however, yet knew the English/Latin script, then I could at least read it. Even if I wouldn't yet understand it, being able to read it would provide the basis upon which to gain that understanding.

The kanji likewise can have multiple readings/understandings; ranging from 2 to 12, if memory serves. If I don't even recognize a kanji, though, then how can I go into its various readings/meanings in the first place? That line of thinking seems to be my understanding of James Heisig's 'Remembering the Kanji' (the first of which arrived today, coincidentally). His method, from what i've read/written thus far, entails teaching you to recognize a Kanji; by exploring its features/particles, attaching various sayings/meanings to them in order to recall them. Above all that, however, is the main/primary meaning of the Kanji; all of which comes before learning any pronunciation or nuances concerning what the meaning might be and how it might change in various contexts.

Don't get me wrong; i'm not trying to argue or anything like that. I don't doubt that you know more about the language than me. I'm just not sure what you mean by language; should I be going into the words/vocabulary/pronunciation first, before learning to read/write it? Or should it all be done simultaneously? Rest assured i'll be buying the first of the Genki books on Thursday, as recommended; I do appreciate the help, even if my understanding isn't the best :)
 

Feuryn

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Having done some reading/writing exercises earlier today though, I do see what you mean. From the very first one I tried:

"Ogenkidesuka."

I translated the characters, sure; but didn't actually recognize the words within them. Since Japanese rarely has any actual 'spaces', then I can see why that's important. Doing the same in English:

Howareyou?

Unless I actually knew the words 'How', 'are' and 'you', it'd probably look like a mess; one in which something could be easily misread, leading to a subsequent misunderstanding. I think I see what you mean, now; which now has me thinking that i've gone about this all wrong, which textbooks/etc can hopefully rectify. Still, I suppose in a worst case scenario, having taken the time to learn hiragana/katakana and some kanji was not entirely useless; albeit of less use that I previously thought.
 

Mike Cash

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RTK may very well be a fine supplementary resource. I have no experience with it (it didn't exist yet when I was at a point that I might have thought of using it).

A common thing I see these days...not saying this applies to you...is for people to somehow mistakenly think "Japanese = kanji" and put all their time and effort into learning characters, only to then find out they haven't learned the language at all....the rules of grammar/syntax that make the distinctions between each of the examples i presented unambiguous and mutually understandable between speakers of the same language....the way you know the differences rather than just having to guess at them based on knowing (or thinking you know) a word because you recognize a kanji.

Kanji and their various readings and seemingly arbitrary combinations of readings in compounds make a lot more sense when learned in conjunction with the language they are employed to represent, as part of a holistic approach to language acquisition. Absent any knowledge of the language, I can't imagine how anyone can remember all the readings or have the foggiest notion of the difference between on/kun readings or keep them straight in their heads.
 

Feuryn

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RTK may very well be a fine supplementary resource. I have no experience with it (it didn't exist yet when I was at a point that I might have thought of using it).

A common thing I see these days...not saying this applies to you...is for people to somehow mistakenly think "Japanese = kanji" and put all their time and effort into learning characters, only to then find out they haven't learned the language at all....the rules of grammar/syntax that make the distinctions between each of the examples i presented unambiguous and mutually understandable between speakers of the same language....the way you know the differences rather than just having to guess at them based on knowing (or thinking you know) a word because you recognize a kanji.

Kanji and their various readings and seemingly arbitrary combinations of readings in compounds make a lot more sense when learned in conjunction with the language they are employed to represent, as part of a holistic approach to language acquisition. Absent any knowledge of the language, I can't imagine how anyone can remember all the readings or have the foggiest notion of the difference between on/kun readings or keep them straight in their heads.
I see what you mean. As I said, i'll be ordering the first of the Genki textbooks on Thursday. I'll probably keep practising the hiragana/katakana and work through a bit of Heisig's book until it arrives; better than doing nothing, and it'll at least allow me to read/pronounce a bit of what I encounter; even if I don't yet understand what it is i'm reading/saying. With all of this in mind, if this particular textbook is written in the way that I expect, then i'll probably scale things back to the very bare bones/basics and go from there. Possibly what I should have done to begin with; but then this is quite new to me, and I have quite a bit of time to work with lately.
 

WonkoTheSane

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I think you'll find that knowing hiragana and katakana will be very useful while working through Genki. I'd focus on that in the interim.
 

Feuryn

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I think you'll find that knowing hiragana and katakana will be very useful while working through Genki. I'd focus on that in the interim.
Thanks, I will do. I suppose the way to think about it would be a Japanese person learning the English alphabet/letter pronunciations. They might not understand what they're reading/writing/saying, but at least they can read/write/say it; and work from there.
 

Toritoribe

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I suppose the way to think about it would be a Japanese person learning the English alphabet/letter pronunciations. They might not understand what they're reading/writing/saying, but at least they can read/write/say it; and work from there.
Japanese people(or probably also other non-native English learners) don't learn English in that way...
 

nice gaijin

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A friend just linked to this page: Learn Japanese - Tofugu , could be useful. It mentions the Genki books, which I highly recommend. You need to learn kanji in context in order to understand it. Knowing what something means and how it's used are very different skills.
 

nekojita

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A lot of people seem to like Heisig, but you need to be aware of what you will and won't learn from it.

For example, your above sentence would typically be written in mixed kana/kanji as follows:
お元気ですか?

Heisig's first book only teaches English "keywords", which are often (mistakenly) thought to be "meanings" or worse "only meanings", and no readings. The keywords for those two kanji are apparently "beginning" and "spirit". So knowing hiragana and Heisig keywords only, you would see:
お(beginning)(spirit)ですか?

You'll be able to write them, individually, sure, but that doesn't mean automatically reading (meaning/sound of words in combination).
How about:
手 (hand, て)
切手 (stamp, as in postage stamp, きって)
歌手 (singer, かしゅ)
上手 (skillful, じょうず)

There are some adjustments to Heisig's method - one is having keywords in Japanese, i.e. actual words written with that kanji, not vague English keywords, another is RTK lite so you don't have to churn through all the joyo. The combination of these two takes away what I think are the main issues with the system.
 
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