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jeremyhendo2307

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Hi all,

Ive just moved to Japan as an English Teacher in Hiroshima and I have practically learnt Hiragana and Katakana enough to read it off easy work sheets. The trouble I am having at the moment is that I can read the characters and put them together, however, because my vocabulary is not good enough I don't know what the word means when I pronounce it.

How do I improve my vocabulary to the point that I am able to read the characters and understand what they mean. The other trouble I am having is that much of Japanese doesn't have spaces in between their words which really throws me!? What is the next step for me now?!

Any help would be great!
 

bentenmusume

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It's not just vocabulary. You need to learn the language itself, which includes vocabulary but also grammar (particles, sentence structure, and much, much more. Right now it's as if you're an ESL student who's just learned the alphabet, but literally knows nothing else about English. It's a good start, but you're nowhere near being able to understand and communicate in the language. You're in Japan, so you should be able to find yourself a Japanese language class. Failing that, acquire a textbook on your own (Genki is often recommended) and start from Chapter 1, Page 1. Failing that, you can try to find free reference materials on the internet, though these can be hit and miss depending on your own ability to self-study.

As for the lack of spaces between words, as you probably know, the Japanese language is not just written with hiragana and katakana, but kanji as well. Basically the mix of kanji with grammatical inflections and particles written in hiragana, etc. (I'm oversimplifying a bit here for purposes of explanation) is enough for natives and proficient readers to easily distinguish the boundaries of words. You'll get used to it eventually if you learn the language to a certain degree of proficiency.

Good luck in your studies.
 

Buntaro

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How do I improve my vocabulary to the point that I am able to read the characters and understand what they mean

My philosophy is, learn Kanji as you need them. Don’t just memorize list after list of kanji. Write a sentence in English, then learn how to write that sentence in hiragana, then go back again and put in the kanji. Practice and memorize the kanji in that sentence.

You may be interested in which are the most common kanji in Japanese. Look at these lists. Try to write sentence you can use, with these kanji:





The other trouble I am having is that much of Japanese doesn't have spaces in between their words which really throws me!?

This was a huge problem for me when I was learning Japanese. The only way to handle this problem is to learn individual words from one another. Let’s look at the video The Japanese Language by Paul of Lang Focus.


Let’s look at the sentence at 12:40.

イチローは野球選手だ。

We can use colors to separate out the ‘words’.

イチロー野球選手
“Ichiro is a baseball player.”

The ‘words’ are

イチロー Ichiro (famous baseball layer)
は sentence topic maker
野球 baseball
選手 player
だ is

An important thing to do is learn to separate out the grammar markers は, が, に, へ, and で. Let’s look at the sentence at that video at 11:41.

ポールがたこ焼きを食べた。

Let’s use colors to separate out the ‘words’.

ポールたこ焼き食べた
“Paul ate the takoyaki.”

The tricky point in this example is the が which is next to たこ. When we first look at the sentence, we wonder if がたこ is a single word. (It is not.) It is only by mastering the grammar particles は and が that we can see that が does not combine with たこ. You need to learn to not combine the grammar particles は, が, に, へ, and で with the words next to them. The sentences at 13:25 are good examples of は and が which are distinguished by color.

Another good example is the colorized sentence at 19:40:

今日学校行きたくない
“I don’t want to go to school today.”

There is another example at 21:08:

カメラ使い方分からない
”I don’t know how to use the camera.”

The above example is a good example of how hard it is to tell if 使い方分からない is one word or two words (It is two words), and where to separate out the two words. It is only by knowing the word 使い方 (“how to use something”) and the word 分からない (“don’t’ know”) that you know to separate the two words between the 方 and the 分.
 
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