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Before I Start Learning Japanese


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I'm finally beginning the long process of learning to read (and maybe speak/listen/write afterwards) Japanese. As a programmer, I'm treating this process a little bit like learning a new programming language. First, I find as many guides and helpful resources as I can find, and then I spend around a week (though I expect to spend longer on an ACTUAL language like this) just learning the the basics, which would be basic grammar rules in this case. For now, I'm starting with Tae Kim's guide to Learning Japanese, since it came highly recommended when I went searching. There were also a lot of resources I found for learning later down the road. Eventually, I'm planning to use VNs to learn, but I don't think starting on VNs would be an efficient way of doing this.

Anyways, my question is... are there any tips you can offer a noob trying to learn? Things you wish that someone had told you when you first started?

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I tried few of the programs but they are mostly for tourists and pretty lame. Yes they can teach you how to order food in japanese but most of the time they teach you the polite masu form, which sure is handy to know because some characters in both VNs and anime use it - but they don't tell you that, they teach it to you like it is the only form (to make it simple), where as when character talks in this form in non formal events (in school) it says something about the character etc. Like the masu form is basics and you need to know it to make for example the -tai form for wanting something.

They never explain the plain forms though and how to form those from the masu form.

Well I don't want to trashtalk all the programs as I tried only few and don't even remember which ones exactly, some audio etc.

But mostly I really found them to be waste of time.

I then asked around as well and got few recommendations which I followed and changed a little and this is the way I took:

1. learn hiragana and katakana - this one is the most important because most of the actual guides will require you to read it

2. learn grammar, I got few recommendations and I liked this one the most: http://www.japanesegrammar.com.au/

it has it simple and even some examples of words you can use there.

Any other youtube videos are handy like what you mentioned tea kim guide http://www.youtube.c.../taekimjapanese

However that one doesn't get you that far.

3. What I did after this was just watch shitloads of anime and read VNs in english and pay attention to the spoken japanese.

that got me some basic dictionary etc. When I noticed something I recognized I often googled why is it that way and why they use this form and got some more.

4. and now I am on the probably hardest step - actual dictionary and kanji. - what I am doing here is learning words with kanji, not just the kanji itself. I try reading and when I meet kanji I learn it and the word it forms in that sentence.

I am at beginning but if I explain what I mean, there is the list of top 2500 used kanji in newspaper or whatever, but even there are kanji you will never ever see in VN or anime so no point learning those, yet there are kanji you often see in VNs and anime that are not there. Its not like they are used in single VN.

For example kanji 儚 for word hakanai - fleeting/ephemeral is used so often in songs and VNs or "cool" souding stuff you read on the internet about the games. And it is so easy, its just 夢 (yume - well this one is like the most used in anime/vn xD they dream so often there xD) with that first part from 化. So why not learn that one together when learning yume.

Actually what I personally would like is to find a list of the 2000 most used kanji in EROGE, listed in categories with similar radicals and words for those kanji xD but I didn't find anything like that.

oh and for the end I will add few useful sites

http://nihonshock.com/2010/04/12-japanese-ime-tips/ - useful info

http://www.jisho.org/ - very awesome site, it has words, kanji, sentences, radicals, everything you need from dictionary

http://kanjidamage.com/radicals - I got recommended this recently, the actual site is not as good for me as it uses mnemonics but it has this list of kanji for specific radical which makes it very useful for me

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Thanks a ton! For now, I guess it would be best for me to learn the Hiragana alphabet? There are some really helpful-looking worksheets on the Tae Kim website, but I won't have access to a printer for another week (at least), so I'm just absorbing as much info as I can before I can get started on those.

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Yes I believe you should learn their hiragana and katagana first! And kanji should be taken it slowly at your own pace..

I started off by learning them as well, and it helps to understand as i can read the sentence in my head.. (To which I can refer to my vastly...limited vocab and speech manners from anime and VNs)

As for kanji, if you know chinese that would be a great help as the kanji words are really just traditional chinese characters so if you know the meaning of the chinese words, you can understand the context of the sentence better.. it's also better to remember the kanji this way, at least for me.. (seeing that i'm also a programmer and i try to learn it like a programming language as well :P)

For example,

that being said, I'm still very much learning Japanese as a whole, and while i cannot hold a conversation or speak fluent japanese, it helps me play untranslated VNs faster, especially during conversations where (involving simple enough sentences) I listen to the voice of the heroine without referring to TA/ATLAS or the japanese text itself and understand what she is trying to say..

I guess in programming terminology, it works for me similarly to a lookup table or a data dictionary *Programming nerd alert :X*

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A lot of what I'm going to say appears to be said already (which is good)!

Hiragana and katakana first. Get these two down 100%. Do this before you dive too deeply into anything else. From there you can start learning the basics of kanji. Keep in mind that Japanese students spend their entire school life learning kanji so don't expect to learn it all in a few months... this is a long-term and potentially life-long process! It helps to learn hiragana and katakana since you can write out anything using these two syllable alphabets... including your notes! You should refrain from using "romanji" as much as possible.

Immersion helps. Any opportunity to surround yourself with native Japanese text and/or voice will help you recognize parts of the language or vocabulary you are learning. Watch some anime with subtitles instead of an English dub. Pay attention to the Japanese voices in the VNs you're playing and see what you can pick out. As an extreme, go to Japan! There's nothing like experiencing the real thing! Surround yourself with as much Japanese as you can if you want to pick it up in a hurry.

Having studied in college and abroad, I have a couple of textbook recommendations. Namely the Genki series, as it is straightforward but teaches effectively and goes from the basics to some advanced concepts. There are several hiragana/katakana/kanji practice books available... go with whatever one makes the most sense to you. If you practice writing the characters I would recommend finding a Japanese friend to look over your handwriting and give you a few pointers. To learn them, make flash cards and practice with them at least once a day. If you need some additional guidance feel free to send me a message... I'm a linguist and an educator with lots of studying abroad in Japan. ^_^

Learning a language is no small task, even if you have a knack for it. It will be work, but it will be worth it! One other important note... once you start, please don't stop. Languages work on a "use it or lose it" principle... if you stop using it you will forget a lot of it! Find a pen pal or someone to practice with and keep it going! I'm not sure what your endgame goal is but I wish you luck in learning.


Genki I Textbook - A great introduction.

Genki I Workbook - Goes with the textbook.

Basic Kanji Book I - I like this one. Simple to advanced with lots of practice space.

POPjisyo - A decent translator. It makes a nice resource.

There's a start. I'll see what other resources I have lying around that would be helpful. If you have a Nintendo DS look for a kanji practice game... those are fun and educational. ^_^ がんばって!

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oh btw don't buy those books genki, just tell me and I can send you those.

I have genki 1 in pdf and genki 2 in djvu, but I only read it for a while (I think about 100 pages) as I preferred those video tutorials because of lazyness xD

But I agree they are well made.

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oh btw don't buy those books genki, just tell me and I can send you those.

I have genki 1 in pdf and genki 2 in djvu, but I only read it for a while (I think about 100 pages) as I preferred those video tutorials because of lazyness xD

But I agree they are well made.

PDF = Win. I have the actual textbooks from some college classes... didn't even consider the possibility of getting them in PDF. Much simpler and more affordable. ^_^

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Just don't make the mistake of relying on an English-Japanese dictionary for anything other than simple object nouns. Even after more than a decade, I still run into words whose meaning is subtly different from what the dictionary says in an important way. One of the reasons VNs are a good way to learn - once you've gone beyond a certain level - is that the combination between the spoken and written language helps you grasp these subtleties better....

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I've tried a lot of methods for learning Japanese, I'll see what I can contribute。

Learn your kana. Hiragana and Katakana will form a base for you to work on. Try not to use romaji, it's not that helpful. If you are a reading type of person, I would say read [email protected] (based off the [email protected]), since it's mostly kana, and reading it will help you stay sharp.

For the Basics, I'd also recommend Genki, it's good for learning the basics of Japanese, and you will also learn common words, and have a good frame to build up on.

Immersion (as states somewhere above) is very helpful, if you do it right. I've been watching anime for quite a while, but during that entire time, I was only reading the subtitles. If you wan't to watch anime/read VN's, and improve/learn Japanese, you need to pay attention, correlate the words to the text. You would be surprised what words you can learn by doing this

Reading - After you have the basics, read, but start at a level appropriate to you. If you are starting, then you want to read books/manga with furigana (ruby text) that will tell you the pronunciation. Though furigana usually signifies easier text, that isn't always the case, both アカメが斬る! (Akame ga kiru!) and めだかボックス (Medaka box) both have furigana, but one of them is clearly more advanced then the other. Try not to use furigana too much, or you will become dependent on it.

Listening - Watch subbed anime/read translated VN's, and during so, try to correlate what they are saying to the subtitles. This also helps you learn where the word breaks are. Eventually you will be able to listen and understand at this speed:

Word breaks - Also know as the reason why I prefer Kanji. Learn where the breaks are.

Take the sentence: I am living in Kyoto

When you are learning, it would be written as きょうと に すんでいます or 京都 に 住んでいます (I know there are problems with my Japanese, just bear with me). Take note of the spaces. But if you were actually in a real life environment, there would be no spaces, so you would see 京都に住んでいます, the only way to know how the sentence is properly broken up is to learn (it's annoying, i know)

Particles - Learn them, learn them early, or it will come back to haunt you later (trust me)

Kanji - Learn them as you go, or learn them later, the choice is really up to you, I can't say much on the topic as I focus more on listening/speaking rather then reading/writing

The most important thing, あきらめない。 Don't give up, learning a language is hard, and it takes a lot of time, persist, and you will succeed.

I hope that this will be of some help.

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