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Ask sanahtlig: Answers to Common Issues and Concerns in the VN community

sanahtlig

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I see many frequently encountered issues in the visual novel community.  I've taken some time to address them, with a focus on pragmatic solutions rather than long-winded explanations.

Issue: I really like <insert type of VN>, but I can't find others like it, or I've already played through all the suggested titles.
Answer: There's over 17k VNs in VNDB's database.  2356 are available in English.  The sorts of VNs you're looking for are almost certainly there.  Time to learn Japanese.

Issue: JAST USA is really slow, and it licenses nearly finished fan translations and sits on them for years before releasing them.
Answer: Time to learn Japanese.  You'll probably finish before JAST does.

Issue: Companies keep licensing eroge and releasing them censored on Steam.
Answer: They're doing this because few people buy eroge, whereas Steam users are more than happy to overpay for softcore porn.  Time to learn Japanese.

Issue: JAST/Nukaku is censoring my lolis / guro / scat / all the content I'm interested in.  It's really ticking me off.
Answer: Distribution of offensive pornographic content is restricted in much of the English-speaking world.  Time to learn Japanese.  Also, best not to import the stuff, or you could end up like this guy.

Issue: Original English VNs are terrible.  Help!
Answer: Yes, the English VN market has thus far failed to attract professional game developers, especially when it comes to sexual content.  Time to learn Japanese.

Issue: The game I'm interested in has a fan translation or a fan translation in progress, but the translation is terrible or the project is stalled.
Answer: Fan translators cannot be relied upon to provide high-quality translations quickly and reliably.  They have real jobs / studies that take precedence.  Time to learn Japanese.

Issue: Localization companies pick mediocre or short titles I have no interest in.  Why can't they release something I want like <insert title from Type-Moon, Eushully, or other famous developer here>?
Answer: Japanese companies don't care what you want, and neither do localization companies.  They want profits, and releasing titles people want is often unfeasible or unprofitable.  Time to learn Japanese.

Issue: I tried text hooking with machine translation so I could play Japanese VNs, but I can't understand it or it's too frustrating to use.
Answer: Understanding machine translation requires practice and exposure.  It's a bit like learning a new language.  If you'd rather not learn machine translation, you could learn Japanese instead.

Issue: Learning Japanese is hard.  Like, really hard.
Answer: Yes, it's one of the most difficult languages for a native English speaker to learn.  The US government estimates that 2200 hours of intensive study is required to gain basic proficiency in Japanese.  To add insult to injury, Japanese has a special asterisk next to it reading, "Languages preceded by asterisks are usually more difficult for native English speakers to learn than other languages in the same category".  That means they lied; it actually takes significantly more than 2200 hours to learn the language.  Good luck.

So there you go: practical solutions to frequently encountered issues.  I hope everyone finds this guide helpful.



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Meh. I'll stick with not learning Japanese.

If you care about your time or have any sort of life, that's probably the best call, and it's certainly the most popular decision.
 

There seems to be a similar theme to your answers, but for the life of me I can’t figure out what it is. I think you’re being a little too subtle... :P

Common solutions for common problems that you have full control over.  That's what it means to be a problem solver!

Edited by sanahtlig

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Learning Japanese really isn't all that hard. It does take a bit of time, though.

My first-year Japanese language college course was probably the hardest course I've ever taken--and I'm working on a PhD.  I can't recall another course that required 5hrs of dedicated study a week in addition to class time (1hr per 1hr of courses).  After all that I was nowhere near where I needed to be to even read a simple sentence.  Now I can finally read some simple phrases unassisted--10 years later.

Edited by sanahtlig

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Learning Japanese really isn't all that hard. It does take a bit of time, though.

My first-year Japanese language college course was probably the hardest course I've ever taken--and I'm working on a PhD.  I can't recall another course that required 5hrs of dedicated study a week in addition to class time (1hr per 1hr of courses).  After all that I was nowhere near where I needed to be to even read a simple sentence.  Now I can finally read some simple phrases unassisted--10 years later.

Hm. I've never taken a course and didn't spend all that much time studying and I can read many VNs without using a dictionary and most without using a dictionary much. Although I guess the way I read VNs before I got to this level probably counts as studying - I extracted the text and used JDICT's text glossing or Rikaichan to read all the words I didn't know. I started about 9 years ago, but didn't use Japanese all that much until about 5 years ago. I figured it would take a lot less time if one were to actually sit down and study a lot. I think the only part that may actually be hard is getting an idea for how Japanese grammar works. Once you've gotten past that, the rest is just increasing the amount of words and grammar you know and getting more practice. If you use something like Tae Kim's Japanese Grammar Guide and spend 10 hours a week for a few months on just that, you should be able to understand and memorize at least most of it. Take another two to three months to acquire a very basic amount of vocabulary and you can start reading VNs using a dictionary. Then it's just a matter of how much time you spend reading.

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This is a sore reminder of why I should resume my Kanji studies soon.

Just think: if you took all the time you spent Internet posting about the inadequacies of the English VN market, you too could be playing VNs in Japanese--10 years later!

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If you attempt to learn Japanese for the sake of reading a VN, I can pretty much promise you, you will never learn Japanese.

Just because you failed doesn't mean others can't do it. I'm reading untranslated stuff quite well after a year of learning.

I never tried because wanting to read shitty porn is not good enough motivation for me. Oh sorry. I shouldn't assume your reasons. As you shouldn't assume why I don't know Japanese. 

Learn Japanese because you think it will help you in life. Not to read some random entertainment medium. 

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Answer: Yes, it's one of the most difficult languages for a native English speaker to learn.  The US government estimates that 2200 hours of intensive study is required to gain basic proficiency in Japanese.  To add insult to injury, Japanese has a special asterisk next to it reading, "Languages preceded by asterisks are usually more difficult for native English speakers to learn than other languages in the same category".  That means they lied; it actually takes significantly more than 2200 hours to learn the language.  Good luck.

I recall reading that 2200 hour label before I started learning Japanese. The time doesn't really says it. The more important part is how the activity studying Japanese is like, and whether or not you can adapt to it.  It's not that difficult. It's not like high level math, where if you don't develop serious intuition and analysis skills you'll never become competent. It's just a ton of work, and there are pitfalls for new learners who miss finding a reasonably effective method of studying. Throughout the process, there are places where you have to make your thinking flexible, and stop comparing Japanese to how English works (that's a whole other beast, and you could spend hundreds of hours becoming a linguist, except that it wouldn't help your Japanese at all.). Although to be fair, studying grammar is about as hard as studying any other course material, and reading native material a bit above your level is mentally exhausting. You can end up mentally spinning your wheels, or misinterpret a topic. Hopefully as time passes you learn where to spend your brainpower and what to just accept as being "some noun/word/thing" or "maybe some grammar I don't know yet".

To give you a picture, if you some up all my Japanese VN reading and Japanese studying combined is probably about 2700 hours over 3.5 years. Can read unassisted basically all topics which aren't technical (vocab sometimes is a limiting factor). In an easyish light-novel in a familiar setting probably look up about 0.4 words per page , in actual modern literature aimed at adults, about 3-6 words a page.

If you are used to reading off of TA, reading unassisted (off the VN text instead of the TA window) is just a matter of getting used to it (varying fonts, no word highlighting, no automatic furigana). It's faster to look up words while reading off of TA, which is why most people stay on it for a long time, until they get the common vocab down or start using J-J dics more. Nothing wrong with reading off of the TA window, the vocab lookup speed is great, the only downside is, when it comes to reading unhookable text: not being used to different fonts, and reading only having the kanji. Not that you can still use TA as a faster dictionary while reading off the the VN text.

I don't want to put an hour count to how long it takes to start reading untranslated novels with a TA dictionary because that sort of gives the wrong impression. People get to that step at different speeds and using different methods. http://forums.fuwanovel.net/blogs/entry/779-japanese-learning-for-vns-skills/ It's not nearly as helpful for me to tell you how long it takes to learn 1000 words, as it is for you to try learning 50 first and see. Of course, everything: grammar and especially vocab/kanji gets easier to learn more the more you learn.

Learn Japanese because you think it will help you in life. Not to read some random entertainment medium. 

Oh come on, one man's random entertainment medium is another man's laifu.  How is Japanese going to help me, unless I want to work in Japan or be a translator (not like the pay is any better) . It's all subjective enrichment of one's life.

I think what he means is that
1: Don't expect to get far unless you really want it, and have a solid reason. "I'd be cool if I could know Japanese", doesn't cut it.
2: There's more you can enrich your life with through learning Japanese, besides reading otaku media.


 

Edited by Chronopolis

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Took me 6 months with Japanese classes (classes 4 hour + 1 hour at home a week) to start reading VNs in Japanese.  Now 1 year later I can read VNs pretty well. Of course I still need dictionary help but I can read VNs. This doesn't mean I know the language but I know how to read it :P (Also I'm still young so learning is easier~)

Edited by Kiriririri

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New title takes away the incredible " subtelty" previously present. I'm against the change.

Could not agree more. The trolling in the comments is a meta-addition to the post, not something to be expressed in the post itself.

I personally learnt what Japanese I know specifically to read porn games; of course, finding other reasons can be an additional source of motivation. Whether bats is jelly or not is up for interpretation :^)

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If you attempt to learn Japanese for the sake of reading a VN, I can pretty much promise you, you will never learn Japanese.

Just because you failed doesn't mean others can't do it. I'm reading untranslated stuff quite well after a year of learning.

I never tried because wanting to read shitty porn is not good enough motivation for me. Oh sorry. I shouldn't assume your reasons. As you shouldn't assume why I don't know Japanese. 

Learn Japanese because you think it will help you in life. Not to read some random entertainment medium. 

Learned english to understand shitty music of a few decades ago, learned JP to read Asian PowerPoint slides porn. No regrets.

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Instead of reading this I could be learning Japanese...

But in all honesty, learning to read Japanese is easier than you would think (mostly thanks to ITH and translation aggregator). I've been self studying for a bit over a year and I can finally read untranslated VNs decently well so long as I have those tools aiding me. Now speaking the language is where I truly struggle. Just like how you learn to read by reading, you learn to speak by speaking (and my speaking practice is comparatively much lower). I am convinced that within 1 - 2 years of self studying with an emphasize on reading, you will be able to read untranslated VNs. But if you want to speak and communicate in the language, that's where classes come in handy (and why I'm in a class now). Also, vice-versa. Classes won't really help much with reading, you're better off self studying if you want to read Japanese stuff.  

Edited by Zalor

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Instead of reading this I could be learning Japanese...

But in all honesty, learning to read Japanese is easier than you would think (mostly thanks to ITH and translation aggregator). I've been self studying for a bit over a year and I can finally read untranslated VNs decently well so long as I have those tools aiding me. Now speaking the language is where I truly struggle. Just like how you learn to read by reading, you learn to speak by speaking (and my speaking practice is comparatively much lower). I am convinced that within 1 - 2 years of self studying with an emphasize on reading, you will be able to read untranslated VNs. But if you want to speak and communicate in the language, that's where classes come in handy (and why I'm in a class now). Also, vice-versa. Classes won't really help much with reading, you're better off self studying if you want to read Japanese stuff.  

That pretty much matches my experience.  You need about a year of Japanese study to effectively use dictionary lookup tools.  After that you can read untranslated VNs very slowly if you invest the effort.  Another couple years of doing this and you'll reach the level I'm currently at; still reliant on tools, but capable of understanding dialogue at speaking pace, and narrative a bit slower.  Some basic knowledge of Japanese can be useful even if you rely on machine translation.  In my case, I relied on machine translation early on, which extended the learning stage but made it more bearable.

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