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How should I approach learning Japanese


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I have been getting bored of all the visual novels that are translated and also have realized a lot of the VNs I want to play are probably never going to get translated. So I was wondering if anyone can give me some direction on how to learn Japanese, since I have no idea where to start and where to learn it from. 

Edited by SomethingFunny31
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I myself started learning japanese by just buying the books used for japanese classes and learned by going through the books. I think this is a decent way to get started, and I would recommend the book genki 1 as a start if you want to go this route. Of course there are other ways to get into learning japanese, but I found that for myself it worked really well as a start since the book is quite easy and covers a lot of the basics.

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This guide is fairly good. Its section on the DTR method is outdated however, I recommend asking about it in #learn_japanese in the /r/visualnovels discord when you get to that point.

Note that any method that you like that isn't monstrously inefficient is probably good. Conversely, if you hate something, its supposed efficiency probably doesn't matter.

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Bones>Muscle>Skin

Bones=Grammar

Muscle=Vocab

Skin=writing system

This is just a prioritization system based on my personal experiences.  Specific methods to learn each have already been outlined in numerous threads on this forum.  More than anything else, you should focus on mastering grammar.  If you have the grammar mastered, the rest is just filling in the gaps, and having a basis in grammar enables you to read from context more effectively.  In terms of vocab, I'm going to be blunt by stating that there is no way you can just out and out memorize all Japanese words from a list.  Japanese is a language with over two thousand years of history and four major eras of linguistics that make true mastery of vocabulary a task of Herculean proportions.  Instead, after you've picked up most of the 'common use' terms that get used on a daily basis (verbs and their forms being the most vital), I suggest just diving into watching anime without subtitles (various genres, not just SOL, since SOL linguistics are generally limited to a much smaller sampling) or reading VNs with text hooker and parser (no outright MTL, only a parser like jparser that gives you furigana for kanji and/or kana). 

While learning both kana systems (katakana and hiragana) is a task that can be completed in under a week if you put your mind to it, kanji takes months or years, depending on your free time for working on it.  As a result, learning kanji inevitably has the lowest priority on my personal recommendation for learning Japanese, as long as you are just interested in playing VNs.  However, that is  not to say you should neglect it entirely... there are a lot of insights that can be drawn from Japanese use of various kanji that deepen the experience in the more complex VNs and books, and kanji puns are a mainstay stupid joke in a lot of anime, manga and VNs, so having a grasp of HOW kanji are used, even if you don't necessarily know all the kanji in question, is a vital skill to pick up along the way.  Nonetheless, it is a skill that you should look into picking up along the way.

This style of learning has upsides and downsides... it is a system for the impatient.  People who don't want to wait for translations of visual novels often pick a route similar to this one.  However, if you are looking to live in Japan, it is better to take a more comprehensive route, learning kanji as a higher priority while at the same time you learn the rest of the language as a whole.  In that sense, 'classroom learning' is your best option if you intend to make a go of living for a while over there, though my method makes comprehension of the spoken language easier.

Edit:  Classroom learning has the benefit of giving you a chance to do verbal exercises.  My methodology is specialized for consumption of media and comprehension rather than usage.  While I can speak Japanese, every Japanese I've ever met says my Japanese is 'katai'.  This is because most of my learning was done from text and private practice without someone to talk back at me. 

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Coming from a fellow Japanese learner / Clephas-level of JP proficiency wannabe who has started and stopped twice (most recent - 2 months ago) in learning JP, I would say first of all you should ask yourself whether or not you have the endurance and motivation to succeed.

Japanese is a complex language (duh at myself) with thousands of letters (katakana, hiragana, and most common kanjis used combined) and misc stuff (particles, grammer etc) to memorize (a lot of them like the particles have multiple meaning/usage too). By my estimation, you will need to invest at least a year of constant studying (attending classes or not) to read the average VN comfortably (may take you, I dun know, 6 months if you feel you can study and practice everyday though).

This post isn't meant to scare you, but rather to mentally prepare you for it (I think most people gets overwhelmed by the language because they did not know what to expect). Come in only when you feel you can go through  with it, otherwise you will be wasting your time. Of course, you should think of the reward: you will gain access to comprehensibility to not only Visual Novels, but everything else in Japan :)

(FYI, the reason I lost motivation to JPN leaning isn't mainly due to the difficulty to it, but rather I can read CN and there was a skew of CN TL releases which I don't have the self discipline to put aside for the sake for learning Japanese as I started learning it mainly to read JPN VNs anyway. If that's wasn't the case, I would probably be able to comfortably read JPN Vns by now :)  )

Edited by phantomJS
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It's impossible to say right off the bat which method works best for you specifically, but I can summarize my own experience.
I started out with RTK after seeing a lot of people recommend it, but most of the mnemonics were boring and the book as a whole felt pretty outdated, which kinda makes sense since it's from the late 70's. I decided to try WaniKani instead, and it works much better for me. The mnemonics are usually pretty silly/hilarious, making them easier to remember, and you learn readings and vocabulary alongside the Kanji as part of the program, meaning you first learn the Kanji, and when you've memorized it, you'll learn vocabulary for that particular Kanji. You can learn Kanji faster with RTK, but you won't learn readings until the second book, and you have to learn vocabulary separately.

For grammar, I'm going with Tae Kim and some other sources, like this one and this one.
Other than that, I recently bought Genki I + II along with their respective workbooks and will tackle those at some point in the near future.

It's definitely not a walk in the park, but I still think it's been a pretty smooth experience so far.
One of the most important things to keep in mind is to not be put off whenever you feel like you're stuck somewhere. There are some Kanji and vocabulary that I have had some real trouble with, and I make a lot of mistakes from time to time during my WaniKani reviews, but those mistakes actually makes it easier to memorize it for the next time. Whichever way it goes, I'm still making progress and I know that if I just keep taking one step at a time, I'll eventually reach the finish line.

Edited by Seraphim88
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+1 for WaniKani for kanji learning :)

My first 'textbook' was online version of Japanese From Zero - it's pretty good, if a bit slow. As I was complete beginner, their aproach of gradually replacing romaji with kana was actually pretty easy way to learn kana. I found accompanying videos helpful as well.

After completing JFZ, I devoted myself mostly to WaniKani, while also continuing to learn about grammar from various resources - like aforementioned TaeKim or "Dictionary of basic Japanese Grammar".

I'd also like to recommend videos made by Misa from JapaneseAmmo - I really like her grammar explanations.
https://www.japaneseammo.com/

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCBSyd8tXJoEJKIXfrwkPdbA

In the autumn I plan to enroll in Japanese course, to have more structured learning approach, and to practice speaking.

 

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As someone that has learned quite a few of languages, i can say for sure that learning a language is not that hard, but it is boring and it will take a somewhat long time.

As for Japanese, if you already know a few basic words, you should then learn Hiragana/Katakana, which should not be a difficult task, it should take a few weeks if you're really bad or a few days if you're really good. However, if you have yet to learn the basic keys words, then learn them first and then go for Hiragana/Katakana.

 

Basic Key Words -> Hiragana/Katakana -> Grammar -> Pronunciation -> Kanji

 

A few tips that may help you a lot:

    Try to find someone who you can train your japanese with,  mainly the grammar, don't be shy, and don't worry that much with pronunciation at the beggining, even my pronunciation has flaws, even though my language has a similar accent to japanese in some aspects.

    Try to find a connection between Japanese and your main language, which can be one hell of a task depending on what your language is.

    Find a way to remember key words, in my case, i write them (normally as romaji and hiragana) and their translation down on a notebook.

    Take your time and be patient, if you overdo it, you'll find yourself less and less motivated to learn a new language, after all, learning a new language is exhausting.
No person will properly learn a language within weeks.

    Keep yourself entertained with something about the language while you learn it. What i did back at the time i was learning japanese was listen to music or read phrases and try to figure out what it meant. In the beggining, search for romaji lyrics and phrases, then get into japanese writing as times passes by.
 

Maybe you should try to watch an anime without subs whenever you get to mid-term, that's also a great idea, i do it sometimes with animes i am re-watching.

 

There also is a few VNs which helps you to learn hiragana, katakana and kanji. But i can't really remember their names, if someone can link one of them down i would really appreciate.

In my opinion, the ones that properly learn a language are the ones that are motivated from the beggining to the end, thus VNs may or may not be a way to keep you entertained.
If you're not motivated to learn, you may quit without learning the language completely since learning a new language is tiresome, especially a difficult one, such as japanese.


Well, i think that as long as you're motivated to keep learning, you can do whatever you want.

 

If you become a language enthusiastic, you may learn the language within 8 months, that is, if you study every single damn day. But if you don't have that much time or motivation, it can take up to 2 years to get into a acceptable level, it depends on how much effort you're putting into it.

Edited by Sekan Orochi
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Different people have different ways to learn something, so my advice is to figure out which method works the best for you.

Some people need visual cues to learn something, some people need to listen to it, and some others need to put in practice what they are learning to understand it. There may be more ways to learn something than the ones I've listed.

If you manage to understand your personal way to learn, apply it to Japanese and you will progress.

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  • 2 years later...

Hi,

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