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Learning to read Japanese

Leodip

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Ok, I've finally worked out some time to study Japanese. It's been a dream of mine for a long time, and as such I've already attempted studying it a couple of times (as such, I'm familiar with the very basic things, hiragana and katakana).
Finally, though, I've worked out some time and shaped my ideas on what to do. I thought that, given that my main use for Japanese would be reading some japanese blogs/forums (which is mostly what I'm interested in, I'd rather watch subbed anime and read translated manga, at least for the first time), I'd work more on the reading part.
The idea is: I don't have to care about onyomi and kunyomi pronunciation, how something is pronounced when coupled with something else (人, "jin", vs. 人間, "ningen", but still 巨人, "kyojin") and I don't care about how to sound formal or how to tone a phrase correctly and stuff like that. I don't even care about kanji strokes or even correct phrase construction (did I mention that I don't plan on writing?) (at least, not at first). I only need to learn the most common kanji and most of the rules, getting some guided examples and then I'm ready to go (mostly).
It's not like this is going to be easy, but at least much easier than taking on the whole challenge.

However, I need some opinions on how to work on this:
-Which kanji should I study first? How many would be a good amount to start with?
-Where to learn the grammar? (I assume Tae Kim's guide would be good enough, right?)
-Where can I get some examples of phrases in Japanese translated (if possible, with an explanation, like "Learning Japanese: the Manga Way") online? I'm not planning on spending anything on this (not now, at least), are there online textbooks to cover this?

Thanks for reading.
 

lanthas

 
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You do need to learn the pronunciation, for the simple reason that sometimes words that are normally written using kanji, are written with kana instead. E.g. in children's books, "difficult" kanji might be replaced by hiragana; and even in texts aimed at adults, you'll see words written in katakana for indicating emphasis, similar to writing something in capital letters in English. (お前ホントウに馬鹿だろう, instead of 本当). Without the kanji and without recognizing a word from its pronunciation, you won't be able to read these. And then of course there are puns where a word is intentionally written with a wrong kanji, that has a different meaning but the same pronunciation.
 

Morphling

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The only way you can shortcut this is if you already have kanji background via Chinese or Korean. In which case you would only worry about grammar and can skip pronunciation. You can get context from kanji compound from either Chinese and Korean especially since 固有名詞 is the same across all 3.

A Japanese person would be able to understand the following string of Korean without any Korean knowledge for example if hanja is used. 會社에 電車로 通勤합니다。

However since it sounds like this is not you, then I really don't think there is a shortcuts once not remembering reading is not going to save you much time and could hinder your understanding of kanji anyway.
 

Leodip

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I partly agree with what you said: knowing the pronunciation is important even when reading, but it's not vital. Point is, puns are for intermediate/advanced Japanese, and I'll be nowhere near by the time I reach my goal. As for kanji written with hiragana or katakana, lucky side is that I'm on my computer, I can easily type "hontou" and get 本当, and then link it to what I know it means. What's more, I'm bound to understand the pronunciation little by little, so by starting with the basics I think I can work it out. I'm aiming at a short term goal which could, in the future, become something more ambitious.
 

Mike Cash

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A Japanese person would be able to understand the following string of Korean without any Korean knowledge for example if hanja is used. 會社에 電車로 通勤합니다
会社に電車で通勤する
会社に電車で通勤しない
会社に電車で通勤できる
会社に電車で通勤できない
会社に電車で通勤したい
会社に電車で通勤したくない
etc etc etc
 

Kraise

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Im afraid you're going to feel overwhelmed easily with that method, even if you break the kanji barrier, grammar will put you on your knees
 

Leodip

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Im afraid you're going to feel overwhelmed easily with that method, even if you break the kanji barrier, grammar will put you on your knees
I don't think you should be doing this kind of reasoning: I'm as affected from the grammar the same way someone is when they are learning to speak Japanese. Instead, I should have less work to do because you need a major understanding of the rules to speak about something rather than to read about something in the same language (if a Japanese reader read 僕は生徒会長です, they will understand it as long as they know the words in it, and writing the same phrase would be easy, as long as you know the particle は. However, a much harder phrase wouldn't be as easy to write, but much easier to understand. One might understand 私はそれを食べるつもりはない as long as they know the words in it, which are all pretty basic, but might not be able to build the phrase from simple recalling of the rules. Heck, the first phrase is most likely understandable even without knowing what は means).
 

lanthas

 
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Looking only at the individual words and ignoring the grammar that connects them won't get you very far. Take this: もう母さんに納豆を食べさせられたくない. With your method, you might conclude that 母さん is (or is not) eating 納豆, but nothing is further from the truth.
 

Leodip

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Looking only at the individual words and ignoring the grammar that connects them won't get you very far. Take this: もう母さんに納豆を食べさせられたくない. With your method, you might conclude that 母さん is (or is not) eating 納豆, but nothing is further from the truth.
Ah, re-reading the OP I realized I must have given the wrong idea. Of course I mean to study words which aren't written with a kanji and learn how to conjugate.

P.s. correct me if I'm wrong, but the phrase means "come on, mom, I want to eat natto", right?
 

lanthas

 
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Nope :)

食べる -> to eat
食べさせる -> causative, "to make someone eat" (or "to let someone eat" depending on the context)
食べさせられる -> passive causative, "to be made to eat by someone". The "someone" is marked by に in passive sentences (like the "by" in English).
食べさせられたい -> <verb stem>たい form of the above, "wanting to be made to eat"
食べさせられたくない -> negative of the above

もう can be used as an interjection to express frustration, but it is also a word that means "already" in affirmative sentences and "anymore" in negative ones.
So the end result is: "I don't want to be made to eat nattou by mom anymore."

Don't underestimate the importance of grammar.
 
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Morphling

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会社に電車で通勤する
会社に電車で通勤しない
会社に電車で通勤できる
会社に電車で通勤できない
会社に電車で通勤したい
会社に電車で通勤したくない
etc etc etc
Not sure what your point is Mike. Knowing you have zero knowledge in the other Asian languages, not sure if you know what u r on about.
 

Mike Cash

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Not sure what your point is Mike. Knowing you have zero knowledge in the other Asian languages, not sure if you know what u r on about.
I forgot that native Japanese speakers all learn Hangul. How silly of me.
 

Morphling

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I forgot that native Japanese speakers all learn Hangul. How silly of me.
U kinda remind me of fw with better Japanese. But still a tool. :)

Instead if trying to understand the point you nitpick with limited knowledge you have without understanding the bigger picture only shows your lack of knowledge rather than anything else. Do you really think I was implying that one can understand 100% Korean only knowing Japanese? Only ppl like you who wants to score cheap intellect points would do that.
 
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Leodip

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Nope :)

食べる -> to eat
食べさせる -> causative, "to make someone eat" (or "to let someone eat" depending on the context)
食べさせられる -> passive causative, "to be made to eat by someone". The "someone" is marked by に in passive sentences (like the "by" in English).
食べさせられたい -> <verb stem>たい form of the above, "wanting to be made to eat"
食べさせられたくない -> negative of the above

もう can be used as an interjection to express frustration, but it is also a word that means "already" in affirmative sentences and "anymore" in negative ones.
So the end result is: "I don't want to be made to eat nattou by mom anymore."

Don't underestimate the importance of grammar.
Oh, I see. Thanks for the explanation.
But, no, I'm not underestimating the importance of grammar. I simply made a rough estimate of what the phrase meant based on my basically non-existent knowledge of japanese, and it turned out quite well for that.
 

Mike Cash

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U kinda remind me of fw with better Japanese. But still a tool. :)

Instead if trying to understand the point you nitpick with limited knowledge you have without understanding the bigger picture only shows your lack of knowledge rather than anything else. Do you really think I was implying that one can understand 100% Korean only knowing Japanese? Only ppl like you who wants to score cheap intellect points would do that.
Let's not stoop to name calling to express our disregard for one another, shall we?

If you could just explain for me how any native Japanese speaker could read that one particular sentence you gave as an example and know what it meant among numerous apparent (to me) possibilities I would appreciate it. Absent a familiarity with Korean and/or some other surrounding text also containing kanji, I am at a loss to understand how they could do it without just plain old guessing or assuming. But, I don't have the benefit of your extensive knowledge of other languages and figured you as a native speaker of Japanese and a scholar of linguistics must know some trick to it. Could you tell us what it is, please?
 

Majestic

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I only need to learn the most common kanji and most of the rules,
It sounds simple enough in principle, but in practice I think it will be a bit of a sisyphean task, particularly if you are going to be reading blogs and forums, where you will constantly bump up against a variety of writing styles: formal, casual, dialogue, slang, etc. What you expect to be a short cut will actually end up frustrating you and your efforts to learn Japanese. Formality, phrase construction, tone, etc...are all an integral part of the language and are important (to say the least) when reading or discussing things on blogs. Instead of trying to avoid these things - which I don't think you can easily do - I would suggest to embrace them and learn them little-by-little, as most anyone does. Kanji stroke order is probably the one area you can be a bit lax on, since many people now rely solely on auto-conversion of the keyboard/smartphone (as you mentioned in your post above). But even then, if you learn the basics of kanji writing it will serve you well in Japanese comprehension.
 

Morphling

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I partly agree with what you said: knowing the pronunciation is important even when reading, but it's not vital. Point is, puns are for intermediate/advanced Japanese, and I'll be nowhere near by the time I reach my goal. As for kanji written with hiragana or katakana, lucky side is that I'm on my computer, I can easily type "hontou" and get 本当, and then link it to what I know it means. What's more, I'm bound to understand the pronunciation little by little, so by starting with the basics I think I can work it out. I'm aiming at a short term goal which could, in the future, become something more ambitious.
To be honest forums and blog post depending on subject, kanji don't play a huge part (obviously it still does if it's science related etc). The grammar and all that slang will get you first. Again no shortcut. Just elbow grease required and it's gonna be a slow one.
 

aspenx

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It's not like this is going to be easy, but at least much easier than taking on the whole challenge.
Unfortunately you are only half right. And even more unfortunately, you are right only on the first point.

A English grammar nazi could nitpick several problems in each of these posts here. Similarly, the blog and forum posts in Japanese you want to read are not perfect. There is an old adage that goes something along the rules of "know the rules before you bend them". For example, how many ways of representing 本当 can you think of?

I suggest you focus more on learning the language the "complete way" and supplement with trying to decipher the texts you're interested in. With the availability of the internet and what not, you could always ask more specific questions to help your understanding of the posts when the time comes.

All the best.
 

nekojita

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Suggestion: ask parents or other relatives to get you "Japanese: the Manga Way" for Christmas.

It's been mentioned that people don't always use kanji in casual communications, but the reverse is also true - people online use more kanji, including more obscure stuff and slangy/non-standard uses as well, because there's nothing really stopping them (you don't have to remember how to handwrite stuff to type it in).

So there's a guy on my feed right now, for example, using 珈琲 for コーヒー - one of those things that isn't technically "daily use" kanji but which most native speakers I think would recognise (maybe not use themselves or be able to write by hand,but recognise, yes). Just about he's only talking about what he had for lunch doesn't mean he's going to limit himself to some easy subset of kanji and grammar, not use obscure slang/pop-culture references, etc.

You can certainly try to aim your vocab acquisition at certain types of reading material - if what you really want to read is people blogging about the manga they're reading, you want to spend more time on casual language and less time trying to read newspaper articles. But you can't skip the basics - it's not a shortcut, it's more like specialisation.

Here's a quick test of blog Japanese for people (this is the entire post, btw).
(image for context: two shots of the same cat sitting on top of some folded clothes)
猫あるある!
たたんだ洗濯物にどっかり。
 
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