Nexus

Learning Japanese

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I'm just wondering who here knows Japanese and what it's like to know it. Do you often consume untranslated media? What sort of things you found noteworthy?

I'm just finishing my first year learning it at an university level and am really interested in see what it's like for other people learning it. Personally my favorite part is learning kanji since I find it so interesting and oddly enough don't find it as such a hard thing as people make it out to be. Of course, my ultimate desire is to finish my degree and work in the IT industry in Japan itself.

So what do you say about it?

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I do know a couple of languages other than English, but Japanese isn't one of them, nor am I likely to take a course in it anytime soon.

However, given the amount of Japanese-origin content I've consumed recently, some aspects of their culture and language were bound to seep in. For instance, I looked up Amaterasu translations' guide on honorifics, and from what I can tell, -san is the standard suffix to use while addressing strangers or loose acquaintances, -chan is for people like family and friends, -kun is more male-specific, and conveys intimacy, and -sensei means teacher (the last one I knew for a while, thanks to Power Rangers Ninja Storm and Kim Possible). Also, Daijobou means Okay.

And that's about it for my Japanese knowledge. I don't know if I'll ever try to learn it in full, but it might be necessary in order to read some obscure material I'm after. (Did you know Aya Nishitani's Digital Devil Story novels are the origin of Atlus' Shin Megami Tensei, and by extension, Persona series?)

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I grew up with three languages, thanks. Japanese is not one of them, but I can follow speech patterns of VNs to understand the story. I can't read kanji though. I don't have time to study kanji while being a student.

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34 minutes ago, PulakK said:

I do know a couple of languages other than English, but Japanese isn't one of them, nor am I likely to take a course in it anytime soon.

However, given the amount of Japanese-origin content I've consumed recently, some aspects of their culture and language were bound to seep in. For instance, I looked up Amaterasu translations' guide on honorifics, and from what I can tell, -san is the standard suffix to use while addressing strangers or loose acquaintances, -chan is for people like family and friends, -kun is more male-specific, and conveys intimacy, and -sensei means teacher (the last one I knew for a while, thanks to Power Rangers Ninja Storm and Kim Possible). Also, Daijobou means Okay.

And that's about it for my Japanese knowledge. I don't know if I'll ever try to learn it in full, but it might be necessary in order to read some obscure material I'm after. (Did you know Aya Nishitani's Digital Devil Story novels are the origin of Atlus' Shin Megami Tensei, and by extension, Persona series?)

-san is actually a more of an all purpose one since even friends sometimes still use it when addressing one another and -san is appropriate over 95% of the time (even when you can use another), -chan is for people who you find endearing which is why girls and family members are often used, -kun is basically young boy so any boy you feel like treating as a younger you would use that. Also as a bit of trivia, amaterasu is the sun deity in the shinto religion and is a high level one.

Also if you do want to learn it (even if it's self study) eventually, don't be scared off by people saying it's super hard and not to do it. It really isn't that bad and it's better to do what you want. Oddly enough, the first thing I came across that I couldn't read in english was Princess Lover which then planted a seed of wanting to know Japanese.

28 minutes ago, Orion Black said:

I grew up with three languages, thanks. Japanese is not one of them, but I can follow speech patterns of VNs to understand the story. I can't read kanji though. I don't have time to study kanji while being a student.

Likewise, I learned a lot paying attention to anime voice acting. And since I finished Oblivious Garden recently, that made me more used to Chinese speech as well.

Edited by Nexus

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1 hour ago, Nexus said:

Do you often consume untranslated media?

Learning since one year and a half and I do it everyday, multiple hours a day. So far I consumed:

Manga: Yotsubato, Muv Luv Extra and first chapters of Unlimited*, Shinji Ikari Raising Project, Upotte!!, and I am at the last volumes of Pumpkin Scissors.

* My comprehension was so bad I had to put it on the side until I am good enough.

Visual Novels: Hanahira, 50% of Fureraba routes, Higurashi and I am just done with Higurashi Kai's prologue for the 4th and last arc.

Games: a bit of Touhou, a bit of that Muv-Luv mobage and played a bit of Another Century Episode 2. But that's about it.

I watch TV in japanese whenever I have the time too.

 

1 hour ago, Nexus said:

What sort of things you found noteworthy?

I did this: playing a lot games like Slime Forest Adventure/Kanken DS3 and putting exemple sentences from the Tae Kim grammar guide on Anki. Aside from that? Nothing.

Or rather, the truth is that I read visual novels while being assisted by ITH and Translation aggregator. This is pretty cool to be able to loop sentences when a title is voiced and has a log system (like Muv-Luv). And whenever I do not understand a word I have a look. This is what's called intensive reading.

To never develop the habit of using assistance as a crutch when reading, I do extensive reading with mangas, japanese websites and Twitter: meaning I try to understand as much as I can and never look up words I don't understand unless one comes up really often and this is frustrating me. I feel it helped me a lot to parse sentences that I can understand on my own but didn't realize until then.

Now there are things I am not necessarily happy about my routine. For instance starting from level 6, Kanken DS3 is perhaps a bit too violent on me. So I try to supplement with another DS game while lowering the time I spend on the former.

And this is one advice I want to give, besides being exposed to as much japanese as you can: never be afraid to fine-tune your method on the go. There are multiple times where I felt I was doing too much for too little reward, and I would have burnt out if it weren't for the fact that I adjusted my routine, little by little. Also, I didn't reset for a clean-state whenever I felt my method was a mess, and that's sometimes tempting when you want to do things well. Knowledge you gained is there, however you got it. Continue building on that even if you change your routine from A to Z, or it will never end.

My roadmap from now is to finish reading Higurashi, Fureraba and their fandiscs, then jump on Umineko. And once I am done I'll probably read some easy VNs like Lover Able before I jump on Kimi ga Nozomu Eien. On the manga front, once I finish Pumpkin Scissors I'll read all the Muv-Luv mangas in one go. I try to balance between easy and difficult, and quit my confort zone whenever everything is going too smoothly.

I am starting to have discussions with japanese people on internet too. This is time consuming because I check everything I write thanks to a lack of confidence, but this is pretty cool. I'll have to train my speech at some point too: I downloaded a bunch of karaoke videos subbed in japanese with kanjis, and plan to do shadow voicing with radio/tv chunks of audio until I am confident enough to talk with a japanese over Skype or something.

As for how I feel, understanding japanese: I believe I am more connected emotionally to the characters when they talk. I grew used to watching subbed anime, and since my consumption is heavy on that front I almost forgot how it is when an emotionally charged sentence go straight to your brain. As for the writing, this is a bit like when you are starting to understand the roman alphabet when you are a kid, I guess?

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While I haven't been learning Japanese recently (I did back in university), I am studying Arabic.  The learning process for languages is similar; start small and work your way up, and using all the forms of communication in the language - listening, reading, writing, and speaking.

I started learning Arabic about three and a half months ago, and I am proud to say that I know more of it than when I studied Spanish for three years in High School, or Japanese for a year and a half in university.  Don't get discouraged.

Learn what is right for you, I found that having multiple exposures to a word you are trying to learn helps a lot.  Say, one exposure every hour or so through out the day, and use that word in reading, listening, speaking, and writing.  Also, consume authentic material at your level.  When I was in about week 5, I could maybe read an advertisement in Arabic, now I can (mostly) understand BBC news articles. 

tl;dr

Read, write, listen, and speak to get better.  Expose yourself multiple times to the same word.  Consume authentic material.

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@frogtaku @skamazing  Thanks for your input about it all. Since I'm pretty passionate about learning Japanese, I enjoy hearing about people who have done it too.

]I have change how I learn many times how I was learning and it's allowed me to retain words more. I also try and read anything I see even if it's well above my lvl to get a better understanding, usually doujinshi and some games like Pokemon. Learning at a university meant sometimes a bit rush so I haven't been able to practice but I hope to do what you recommended during the break and just use it a lot.

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I can read and understand Japanese, as long as the words are not too technical. My biggest difficulty is acquiring and remembering new words. The Japanese language is rich in synonyms.

But I remember the first time I was able to watch an anime without the subtitles, and got 95% of it. All right, I had already watched it and knew the story, but understanding the spoken words without any interference (ie. subs) feels the best.

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3 hours ago, Nexus said:

@frogtaku @skamazing  Thanks for your input about it all. Since I'm pretty passionate about learning Japanese, I enjoy hearing about people who have done it too.

]I have change how I learn many times how I was learning and it's allowed me to retain words more. I also try and read anything I see even if it's well above my lvl to get a better understanding, usually doujinshi and some games like Pokemon. Learning at a university meant sometimes a bit rush so I haven't been able to practice but I hope to do what you recommended during the break and just use it a lot.

If you want, I have a vocabulary worksheet that you can use.  I can message it to you after I scan it.

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I'm for the most parts self-taught in Japanese. Never learned it in a language school (mainly because there are next to none around here for Nihongo). Like many others I started with things like anime, movies, visual novels and other media. Years have passed since then and now I'm working for a Japanese company in Germany. Heh.. looking back, it's interesting how a hobby can get you a job.

On a side note, there are still some dialects that I simply can't get used to. Especially when a colleague of mine speaks that notorious Akita-ben. Now that's nothing like "standard" Japanese... O_o

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I already finished all the advanced class of Japanese with some Kanjis and vocabulary, which is 3 years ago. the biggest problem is that I don't have anyone to talk to in Japanese, therefore my Japanese skill is slowly degrading over time. the only reason my Japanese skill is still intact is because I watched anime and play Japanese video games and go to Japanese websites where I can read some kanjis that I'm familiar of.  someday I want to be a TRANSLATOR so that I can be good at speaking Japanese better and have some Japanese friends in the future.

4 hours ago, cabfe said:

I can read and understand Japanese, as long as the words are not too technical. My biggest difficulty is acquiring and remembering new words. The Japanese language is rich in synonyms.

But I remember the first time I was able to watch an anime without the subtitles, and got 95% of it. All right, I had already watched it and knew the story, but understanding the spoken words without any interference (ie. subs) feels the best.

yeah acquiring new words and remembering is the biggest obstacle because you have to say it over 100 times to get it naturally and hope that you wont forget those words in the future. 

Edited by Otoshigami

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Self taught, been learning for the past 15 years. 

Besides listening/reading anime and VN I read a lot of Japanese blogs, and hobby related sites as well as following artists / companies on twitter.

Before reading this post I was reading Japanese news about the success of this KS and their reaction. Most of them only mention the first 3 goals, so most of the comments are about how much it raised just to cover those 3 goals, never saw a mention to the photons or the physical codex. 

Once you get to know about 2000~2500 kanji all becomes much easier and browser plugins like "rikaikun" or taking a photo with google translator make it easier to deal with the odd unusual word/kanji.

Personal blogs are very good sources since everyone has a different writing style, some more casual others more formal... and others barely readable with all the slang. Twitter is also very nice since the messages are short.

Once you feel comfortable I recommend changing the language setting on every program / OS you use to Japanese, its very helpful not only to get exposure to new vocabulary and grammar as well as preventing memory degradation. Not to mention you will get some incredible reactions at work/university once people realize you are using Japanese on daily basis.

The only recommended exception is the GPS map app...... do not attempt to drive in unfamiliar roads at night using a Japanese voice trying to pronounce road names that were never meant to be spoken in Japanese, it will get you very very lost......

Edited by nerv_04
the inevitable typos

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I have never really put any effort into learning Japanese. I once tried tried learning hiragana and a bit of kanji, but that only lasted a week. Languages have always caused me trouble:

  • I went to some sort of speech school in kindergarten.
  • I needed almost a year extra to learn to read. (I had the headmaster as my private tutor : P)
  • I can only understand Polish, not speak it even though technically it is a first language for me. (My mother couldn't speak Danish when I was little.) My sister can speak in Polish just fine.
  • I failed both English and German in 9th grade. (English education started in 6th grade, German in 7th.) I don't know why I failed English though.

So my motivation have never been high for trying to learn a 5th language, as I was already messed up enough.

500 anime series later, I am starting to understand a bit of Japanese though. I first realized it when I was watching a clip from an anime on YouTube and first halfway into it noticing that there were no subtitles. If it is a very casual anime like comedy or slice-of-life I can mostly understand the meaning. I rarely do that though as most anime get translated so there is no point in doing so, but I'm noticing more and more the differences between the spoken lines and the translation.

I find that most of the untranslated media I'm interested in sadly are written works. If most VNs actually voiced the MC I would probably have tried a few and attempt to deal with the remaining unvoiced parts, but it is just too much when it is every other line...

 

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@skamazing  If it's not any trouble, maybe I can get some ideas from it. I'll also use the rikai plugins (its better than inputting them into jisho).

I think my weakest point of my study is the speaking/listening part, I think I'll have to find ways to include it in my study more. Anki is very helpful in making me not forget any words, maybe I can find audios for all the words I add so I can practice speech while remembering the words.

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I took a year of it in highschool and have been trying to self teach myself for years. Problem is that I've done it on an off with huge gaps between studying and I'm not drilling vocab into my head and practicing writing or speaking. I can understand basic sentences (after I look up any words I don't know) and other things I've picked up from hearing or seeing over and over again in anime and games. I know a very tiny and random assortment of kanji. I need more free time and self motivation. Soon as I get home from work, I want to do nothing but relax and mindlessly play games for a few hours then sleep and go to work again. I'll have to try your guy's recommendations

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I've studied Japanese for a year during my bachelor studies, forgotten most of it, sadly. I am planning to continue my learning after I graduate and find a job, this language is different enough that I feel getting a teacher is a good idea.

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I leaned the kana and some kanji on my own (with help from Slime Forest) and took a year of Japanese in college. I have a terrible memory so I've forgotten most of it except for the parts that you see all the time in anime and stuff, but there's a couple things that I sort of had an epiphany about, especially for when you are first starting out. 

This one's pretty obvious, but learn to read. Even if you don't know what it means in japanese, sit there with a chart and look it up if you have to, but you can't go anywhere if you have English pronunciations above it, no matter what Rosetta Stone or whatever says. Eventually it will be faster/easier to read it that way.

Don't run away from kanji. At first it seems like an unnecessary complication, but at some point you realize that having one character instead of three or four makes things flow smoother, especially when the one says exactly what it means and the three or four could have a dozen meanings. You reach a point where you get frustrated because there aren't Kanji, and get confused for a second. 

Get a dictionary that makes you look up the japanese side in actual japanese (so you'd be looking up きょうかしょう instead of kyoukashou or kyōkashou or whatever arbitrary combination of things that mean the same thing they decide on for that word but not other words. This will help your reading skills and your understanding of Japanese word structure. I got The Oxford Beginner's Japanese Dictionary. Getting a good kanji Dictionary will help with the same things, and will help you understand the way kanji is structured and instead of seeing it as a mess of lines you will see 猪 as a combination of犭, 土, ノ, and 日 and you can understand both the meaning and make memorization easier. Make sure you get one that has radical or skip lookup. I have The Kodansha Kanji Learner's Dictionary.

I got this tip from Ixrec's guide that was mentioned above: Get some dumb slice-of-life comedy manga that has no plot or is simple enough that there is no foreshadowing, vagueness, weird made-up names, etc. Shonen or Shoujo with furigana (the little kana above the kanji that tells you what it means). Most of those are simple enough to follow even with a limited vocab and simple understanding of grammar. You might miss out on cultural references and things, but for the most part, they're designed to be timeless and universally understood. The best way is to just jump right in.

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@Anix

Glad I was on a good track with learning the characters even though my knowledge of the language itself is very sparse. At the very least I can read and remember most Hirigana, but Katakana and Kanji have yet to go anywhere... ^^;
...partly for being in a similar boat to Reizei; after a 9+ hour work day on Mon-Thu or a long train journey on Friday, last thing I want to think about is learning a language. Sure I've got the train to do things with, but my current physical learning materials is a book mostly aimed at tourists; it has it's uses, but actual characters or explanation as to why some things are what they are is virtually non-existent. Well it's a start anyway.

...re-reading that sounds like I'm making a lot of excuses. Well probably can't deny that the thought has crossed my mind already.

Oh... what do you all make of one method I came across a while back: watch an anime episode, then rewatch it without the subs (or they even mentioned just listening to the episode over and over).

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27 minutes ago, Ranmaru said:

Oh... what do you all make of one method I came across a while back: watch an anime episode, then rewatch it without the subs (or they even mentioned just listening to the episode over and over).

Reading is a better idea, especially at a beginner level since you can control your pace. With anime it can get pretty fast and kind of blur together. Listening comprehension is a skill, even if you know what the words mean. Anime especially has super high-pitched girls and guys that can roll their words together. It can get pretty hard to understand. Also from a cultural standpoint, anime does some weird things sometimes like having girls using male pronouns or end their sentences with ugu~ because that's literally their entire character. So if you're trying to learn conversational Japanese and not just trying to watch your animus, definitely don't do it.

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1 minute ago, Anix said:

Reading is a better idea, especially at a beginner level since you can control your pace. With anime it can get pretty fast and kind of blur together. Listening comprehension is a skill, even if you know what the words mean. Anime especially has super high-pitched girls and guys that can roll their words together. It can get pretty hard to understand. Also from a cultural standpoint, anime does some weird things sometimes like having girls using male pronouns or end their sentences with ugu~ because that's literally their entire character. So if you're trying to learn conversational Japanese and not just trying to watch your animus, definitely don't do it.

Well I guessed it would have it's problems given the normal gender ratio of anime I've seen anyway but never thought it'd be quite that much of a minefield. Plus when your only knowledge of male/female word usage differences doesn't extend far beyond boku/atashi things would get... interesting.

And yeah, 'verbal ticks' in anime can get ludicrous when you consider they must have made a concious effort to do it at some point.

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Pronunciation shouldn't be that difficult. Make sure your pronunciation is good at an early stage if you don't want to sound like a gaijin. Every kana generally has only one sound (some exceptions like は), so you don't have to deal with as many rules and exceptions about pronunciation that English has. Once you learn あいうえお, you know exactly how every other kana should end. (For example, "karaoke/カラオケ" is not pronounced "carry-okie") Personally, I find bad pronunciation more annoying than a limited vocabulary, since it's easier to teach someone a new word than it is to fix pronunciation. Of course, the limited amount of sounds in Japanese tends to lead to Engrish, but going the other way shouldn't be as bad. Japanese also isn't really tonal like Chinese, so that's another issue not to worry about. 

As Anix said, definitely don't use only anime/manga if you want to learn conversational Japanese, as you'll probably get confused looks if you pick up a strange tic that way. Speech patterns common in anime aren't necessarily common outside of it, and they might be inappropriate, depending on who you and your conversation partner are. A lot of shows have high-schoolers talking to each other, which isn't exactly a formal setting. You could try listening to some radio programs on NND for your favorite anime, since the seiyuu generally aren't in character the entire time. The ones I've listened to are more or less regular conversational Japanese. To be safe, learning textbook Japanese is fine, though if you've ever gone through a textbook for any language, you know that few people in real life actually speak like the examples in the book. 

I wouldn't bother with Keigo unless you need it for some reason, or you've gotten pretty comfortable with everyday Japanese and are looking for another step. 

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I started with the Assimil method as it works for me. After a year, I was able to hold a (quite) basic conversation.

But for some people, this method doesn't work. If you're completely new to the language, find first the best method for you. If it seems to work against your way, try another.

There are plenty of books and anything for beginners. It's when you get to advanced level that it becomes harder to find learning books. I guess it's because it's time to read the "real stuff"!

As oobie said, pronunciation is very important, and not that difficult in Japanese. It's not a tonal language like Mandarin, for example. I know that many English speaker have difficulties because their sounds are somewhat different than the Japanese ones, but many words in Japanese are borrowed from English, so that gives them "free words" in their vocabulary. French has many similarities in sound and German has a roughly similar grammar pattern.

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Phonetically, it's the most similar to Spanish. It's almost identical except for js not having the h sound like in Spanish or rolling rs (though sometimes the r/l blurring actually sounds a bit like that). 

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English words used in Japanese is actually harder than Japanese words since not only do you need to learn the word but you also need to overcome the urge to say it in an English like way. I do agree with reading alot being a good way since it's easy to make mistakes when listening to speech. However once you know the words its good to hear them being spoken just to get used to listening in Japanese.

Since I've been learning for quite some time now, I already have a good grasp of hiragana, katakana and pronunciation since I focused on that at the start and skipped romaji. Now i know over 130 kanji and can make basic though still limited expression conversations. I also recommend trying an informal way of learning if you feel you don't have a lot of time since you don't need to set aside time frames for it then. Run though your anki cards while watching tv, make status updates in japanese, learn from a website like textfugu (which i started with) on the go instead of using a thick book, use a kanji learning app on your tablet and so on.

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