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So You Want To Learn Japanese?

ok ... I laughed out loud.

ughh ... I sound like the Know it All ....

haha.... learning Japanese is like that at times. 1 big migrain that clears itself one day and at the same time you've suddenly understand something that somebody says to you on the street.

Hehe, Moyashi.... I felt the same.

...my wife said, in my wife's opinion, my wife's experiences, blah....

"The only thing I know is that I know nothing"
Socrates, The Apology
That was a great site! Thanks for sharing, thomas. I find learning Japanese pretty fulfilling because well, it's a language and has its applications in my life (compared to something less obvious, like say, calculus). Here's another side question... I was asked why I decided to study Japanese. My answer is because I wanted to learn another language, an Asian language, so started out with Mandarin and Cantonese because I heard they were relatively easy. I found myself struggling with it and decided that if I was going to struggle this much, I may as well try learning Japanese, which I was more interested in. To my surprise I found it waaaaay easier than the other two (which in turn lead to the surprise of my friends, some of which are Japanese). True, nearly everything is inferred and there is no distinct grammatical order, but I love it

So, why did you start learning it (please keep the sarcastic levels appropriate, you natives) and if you attempted any other language, how does it compare in terms of difficulty at grasping?
I'm still bloody beginner myself, main motivations are personal interest and well, I feel I also owe it to my wife.

To sum up my limited experiences with nihongo: I have all the books, CDs and tapes, but I am not sure where to start. What makes Asian languages difficult to "Westerners" is the fact that there's no pons arsinorum, no common denominators such as Latin or ancient Greek were to most European languages.

I've learned basic Farsi when I was a kid, so studying Arabic during my uni time proved to be less difficult. To me Japanese is - to quote a German proverb - a "leap into cold water".
Funny you should mention Latin, Thomas. I'm forcing myself (it's hard to find the time) to read and write in Chinese. When looking at Japanese film footage, I can read some of the signage in the background. (Sigh)...with Chinese, there are no shortcuts. I'm wondering if Chinese is the closest thing to Latin that Japanese has.
Actually, I too wanted to learn Chinese 1.) I love kungfu 2.) china in at about 2007 should be the hot ticket economically (I thought this back in 87 when I graduate high school) 3.) lot's of what Japan is was Chinese at one point ....

lol ... life is strange and funny.

first uni girlfriend was Vietnamese the next full out 4 year relationship was a green card holding Japanese girl. 1 introductory class was all that it took. I was hooked and canned the whole Chinese thing to the disappointment of many Chinese friends. Now a few girlfriends later I'm married and live in Japan. hahahaha ... life is definitely a box of chocolates (Forest Gump).

@affinity to Japanese
much most be my background. Parents German. Childhood growing up with the Seneca Indians (part of the Iroquois in Westen NY States) and later going to an almost all Filipino high school in California. Too many things I felt comfortable with. And some say I just have Yellow Fever and enjoy Japanese tail. (pardon the french).

I too have a library of Japanese learnign materials. That I only opened at the book store. hehe some got stashed in the bookshelf with good intentions.

My of my greatest break-throughs in learning was when I just gave up on trying to learn. I just let myself sink into it.

I also recommend starting with not learning but with something like Karaoke. I learn lot's of Kanji just for Karaoke rather than to read the newspaper. Learning Kaji this way for me is much more enjoyable.

Growing up with Seneca Indians? Wow

True. Lots of what is in Japan used to be from China. Language, religion, you name it. Got into a dicussion with friends about the different types of buddism and Zen today... some of their ponderings are very deep (e.g. the sound of one hand clapping).

Also got chatting about the youth culture and status symbols which made me feel a bit better because I know a bit more about that than religion. Maybe start off an alternative thread about young people's sensibilities and attitudes towards things like designer goods and other more taboo topics (like pre-marital)
Forgot to mention the learning techniques. I am very keen so I can go by the book, but I also go by other immersion techniques. The best way to learn anything is to surround yourself with it all the time. I am learning the Japanese language, so I do my best to keep everything Japanese themed. I watch a lot of Japanese films and listen to a lot of Japanese music. It really does help to just sometimes let go and forget you're learning it. The brain is a mysterious organ and you will find that by taking your mind off something, you're subconsciously wiring it up inside your head. At the moment I do not really have any applications for my Japanese (especially reading/written). Understanding more and more of it just makes me feel like I've accomplished something and I am so in awe of the way Kanji came about (much like hieroglyphics -- a lot of characters are based on observations of the eye and modified over the years to fit reasonably inside a square box) that it's helping me to push further with my vocab

Referring back to the site that thomas linked to above... it's actually pretty funny to read because it's a good page for putting off people who may want to get into learning Japanese half-heartedly. Anything will be hard if you do not put your whole heart into it. This will be more of an obstacle in attempting to tackle a language that is renowned for its difficulty and complexity. I am just glad that I have picked it up so easily and fast, because it reassures me that it is something I love. Realising your love for something or someone are the greatest surprises in the world
TAI has a great point...the more you surrond yourself with something your learning...the faster and better you learn it.
One of my buddies has finally decided to learn how to read kanji after living here for 6+ years. He, put up a poster on the door [inside] of the john. hehe, nothing like using idle time ;)

Another buddy, while study for the 1st level proficency test, wall-papered his apartment with pages and pages of kanji. result: he passed.
LOL I saw that site just before I really started to learn Japanese...it wasn't a good thing. Sadly, it almost pursuaded me to stop learning it. Now I know that it was a load of crap from someone who was frustrated that he couldn't learn Japanese.
Originally posted by thomas
What makes Asian languages difficult to "Westerners" is the fact that there's no pons arsinorum, no common denominators such as Latin or ancient Greek were to most European languages.

Well, Thomas, I don't know what kind of ancient Greek you guys learn over there, but I can guarantee you that it's sure hard as hell! Maybe even harder than Japanese! *has had to learn all that stuff in school : box:* *fortunately, now he doesn't have to :)*
When I first arrived in Japan exactly 20 years ago the myth that non-Japanese could not learn Japanese (and that Japanese could never learn a foreign language) was still very much alive. Very few Japanese had been exposed to foreigners who were fluent. It was a powerful reinforcement for the myth.

In Jack Seward's book "Japanese in Action" he recalls a visit to a Japanese hot spring with an American nisei. She looked Japanese, but didn't speak a word of the language. Even though Seward did all the talking in Japanese, the owner of the hot spring would invariably address himself to the Japanese-looking person.

It is an experience that, about four decades after Seward went through it, I still encounter regularly myself. There are few things more difficult than trying to accomplish something when everybody arround you thinks it is absolutely impossible and futile, and lets you know all the time.

After a few months in Japan, twenty years ago, I started to wonder if mastering Japanese was at all possible. Having grown up in Europe, and already speaking four languages I should have known better. But I started to loose courage nonetheless.

Luckily, I happened to go to a party where two Americans were telling jokes to a room full of Japanese. All the Japanese were laughing at the same time. Obviously they understood every single thing that was being said, and thought it was funny too. It is tough to properly tell a joke in your own language, let alone a foreign one. The moment I saw that happening I realized that Japanese was not the impossible mission it was made out to be, and it made my language learning an awful lot easier. Like a leash was taken off my neck.

For all of you out there, wondering if Japanese is for you and if it is possible to master the language. Go for it. Japanese is like any other language. It has a set number of sounds, which are formed into words, which follow certain rules of order to get meaning across. Like any other language it takes many many hours, and many many years to master it. But like any other language you will succeed when you keep up the good work.

There are countless non-Japanese who went before you and delivered. Follow in their footsteps with confidence. And enjoy!

"Ganbare!" :sneaky:
Well, our high-school ("gymnasium") curriculum offers three different paths of education: natural sciences (emphasis on maths, physics, chemistry etc), "humanist" (with emphasis on modern languages, but with at least six years of Latin) and "Ancient Languages" (with Classical Greek and Latin). My mother who chose Ancient languages is still fluent in Classic Greek, I decided to go humanist. That however, didn't save me from reading Caesar, Tacitus, Plinius, Ovid, Vergil et alii.
@ Kjeld

Thanks for your words of encouragement. If you're still at the foot of that mountain called "Japanese" and cannot even see its peak, it's at least good to know that the peak can be reached after all, hehe.
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