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Clephas' basic advice to untranslated beginners


Clephas

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Since I get asked questions constantly on this subject, I'll go ahead and list a few pieces of advice I felt apply to most beginners.

 

1) Use translation aggregator and a text hooker, even if you feel like you should be getting out your kanji dictionary, out of a sense of self-reliance. I'll be blunt, it is hard to enjoy something if you have to refer to a kanji dictionary for every other non-particle word. I am sometimes stunned at people bragging about spending 100 hours on an 8 hour moege because they chose not to use a text hooker. That is not an efficient way of using your time, even if you want to learn kanji. It is actually more efficient time-wise to do kanji exercises separately and read your VNs with a text hooker (you'll still be done with both in half the time it would have taken for you to read it using a kanji dictionary).

 

2) There are two methods you can choose to start your untranslated career... you can start off easy and work your way up, or you can smash your head into the walls of text of the harder VNs out there. I chose the latter, and most people choose the former. The walls of text method has the advantage of jump-starting your learning... but in exchange, you'll probably end up sleeping more to let you process all the new information you've gathered and you'll get frustrated more often. If you want to use the former method, I made a list here sometime ago ( http://forums.fuwanovel.net/topic/3493-for-love-of-vns-for-beginners/ ).

 

3) jparser in Translation aggregator isn't perfect, nor is Mecab. They are tools to give you a chance to parse the kanji faster, rather than a translation tool. However, there is a good side-benefit to the frequently weird choices of furigana they make... and that is that you'll naturally learn the path to understanding kanji puns without having to look them up later, and it will become ever more easy to dissect more difficult words even without the tools later on.

 

4) In the end, mastering reading untranslated VNs is an uphill battle for most people. Don't expect yourself or everything you use to be perfect from the beginning, as the very idea is absurd. You'll run into stumbling blocks constantly, and you'll worry endlessly about whether you really understood that last line for most of your first hundred VNs or so.

 

5) If you read slowly in your native language, you will also read slowly in Japanese. Reading is reading, and it is a skill honed by a simple process of practice, practice, practice that never ends. Yes, learning to read fast in your own language will help you learn to read fast in Japanese once you've gotten to a certain level. If you are barely competent in your own language, I'll be frank in saying that this isn't for you, not to be mean but because it is the same skill, regardless of the details.

 

6) Last of all, I'd suggest hitting a wide variety of genres early on, not just your favorite ones. Why? Because that sense of wonder and love for VNs is only going to last through your first twenty-five to forty VNs, and once you've gotten past that point, it is going to be harder and harder to grow beyond your limits on your own.

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I just thought I'd add on with a tip of my own. This isn't about reading untranslated Japanese per se, but learning the Japanese required to get to that point:

 

People who are learning new challenging skills generally have the habit of spending most of their time asking experts for 'secrets' or 'tips' to getting good instead of actually practicing - this includes questions such as "how did you get good at Japanese?" and "what's the fastest way to learn?" This may be because they are unconfident, unsure of themselves, don't know where to start, or just hoping that an easier method will just magically appear (I'm also guilty of this).

 

First off, there is no 'secret' to learning a language, solely due to the fact that everyone learns differently. Some people learn better with mnemonics, and some people learn better with pure grinding. It's entirely up to you to find what clicks for you. If you're unsure of which route may be optimal for you, then maybe try a bit of everything. Alternatively, you can stick with one thing and switch if you decide that it's not working for you. Learning a skill takes time, and perfecting it takes a lot of trial and error. If you're someone like me and you're always uncertain of where to start, then just do it (cue Shia Labeouf voice). There is no 'bad' starting point as long as you start.

 

I know that many of you don't have access to Japanese lessons or tutors. While it's true that it's faster to learn something if you have someone to teach you, there is nothing in this world that's impossible to learn on your own if you really put your mind to it - especially with the internet at your fingertips.

 

With regards to motivation, I know all too well how fast it can drain, even if deep down you're really eager to learn. It's easier at first because you see a lot of progress when you're first starting out, but there will be a time where results will not be as apparent. For me, this was when I first got around to learning kanji. The grammar just flew by and sort of clicked, but I'm the type of person who hates really grindy things (this is also why I hate most RPGs), so it went by really slowly for me. That is when I adapted from grinding to simply reading visual novels (easy ones at first), though admittedly I only grinded for about a week before quitting lol.

 

Anyway, I suppose that there are some people who are just better at learning languages, but a lot of it is just getting into the right mindset.

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There's optimal/faster ways to learn languages.  But if you don't actually want to do it, it doesn't matter how optimal the strategy you're using is.  I chose to learn primarily by reading VNs because I couldn't motivate myself to learn any other way.  I started with machine translation and slowly worked my way up over the course of 10 years or so.  10 years of slow progression is better than a few weeks of fast progression followed by giving up and no progress at all for 10 years.  For me, I had to achieve my end goal (playing Japanese VNs) WHILE I was learning or I would never make it to that goal.

 

More details of my journey on Reddit and my Facebook timeline.

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Those are good points. I disagree with point 3, I didn't find the wrong furigana helped. It did become very reflex to spot obvious highlighting mistakes and read over them. Though it has been a while since I've read straight from the TA box though.

 

Point 5 is very important after you get accustomed to reading in Japanese. At that point, if you don't already, you will want to practice reading Japanese in terms of words, not individual characters. Be assured that that is possible, it's how you read english as well (if not in larger chunks).

 

If I had time to gather it up, there's different advice I would give to complete beginners, novice readers, intermediate readers, and upper intermediate/advanced readers.

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3 might just be my personal experience.  I guess it is because I naturally make 'connections' inside my brain, but I learned a lot about the function of kanji from using jparser and 'parsing' its often weird choices.  When the kanji for 'head' comes up as 'tou' instead of 'atama' (as it always does for some reason), I immediately associate the kanji with all of its possible usages and my brain puts out the answer as to which is correct (this is just one example amongst dozens, lol).

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