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Cunning linguists

Any Japanese speakers?

12 replies

Eolian · 29/06/2017 17:20

I'm teaching myself Japanese (for fun Grin). I've always wanted to learn a language with a different alphabet. I'm an MFL teacher and already speak French, German and some Spanish so I'm pretty quick at picking them up, but am certainly finding Japanese a challenge!

Unfortunately there aren't any classes locally that suit me but I have a fantastic app. Does anyone have any useful hints or tips, websites, books etc that they'd recommend? Also, if you're not a native speaker, how soon did you try and get your head around any Kanji? They are a bit daunting! (I'm pretty much sorted with Hiragana and Katakana).


OP posts:
Ontopofthesunset · 01/07/2017 23:56

Are you using WaniKani for kanji and vocabulary? The first three levels are free. Duolingo has just released a Japanese app but it goes into vocabulary too quickly. I am only just starting and have used Tofugu for hiragana and am just starting katakana.

Eolian · 02/07/2017 17:51

Ooh a reply! I am using an app called Human Japanese. I really really like it. I don't think it starts any Kanji until the intermediate level. I got the hang of Hiragana really quickly but the Katakana took me much longer - I felt like my head was already full of the Hiragana characters. Lord knows how I'll manage the Kanji!

OP posts:
FernetBranca · 02/07/2017 17:57

I'm a Japanese speaker 😊

I'm quite rusty and so had been using the Memrise app- it's pretty good. It intersperses kanji.

As a linguist, how are you finding Japanese? I found it took a bit of getting my head around learning a language which isn't Latin/romance based, but actually once you absorb that I think it's .... whispers... actually a really easy language to learn.

TalkingOwl · 02/07/2017 18:11

I'm watching this thread(?) with interest. I learnt Japanese in high school and would love to brush up. I do think once you get used to the different sentence structure it is pretty straight forward to learn. There's not as many exceptions to the rules like in English and hiragana/katakana characters don't change how they're pronounced. If you're in London the Japan Centre have textbooks and flash cards for kanji.

Ontopofthesunset · 02/07/2017 18:36

The thing that's really challenging for me is the writing system. It just seems bizarre not to know how to pronounce something. The whole idea of learning exactly the same sounds in katakana as you've just learned in hiragana is odd too. You can't reinforce your language learning in the way you do with an alphabetic language. I just started out of curiosity as I'm going there on holiday in a few months and thought (as a linguist who finds the early stages of most languages pretty easy) I could learn to read, but I see it's a monumental undertaking. I'll look at Human Japanese too though it might get confusing!

toriap2 · 02/07/2017 18:42

DD uses the zero to Japanese books and she is finding them really helpful. She also uses memrise and duolingo.

AbbeyRoadCrossing · 02/07/2017 18:48

I'm rather rusty now but found a tutor off Gumtree. Cheaper and better than a course for me as more flexible plus we could keep going through the bits I didn't understand.
Second the Japan centre for books and I think they are online too.
I liked Minna No Nihon go as a textbook. And I liked these kanji books as I'm quite a pictorial learner <a class="break-all" href="//" rel="nofollow noindex" target="_blank">//

Eolian · 02/07/2017 19:00

Oh yeah - the Katakana being a duplicate syllabary with the same sounds seems a bit bonkers to me, but hey ho!

FernetBranca - I'm always very much of the opinion that it's swings and roundabouts with languages. Most seem to have their tricky bits and their compensations. There are some aspects to the grammar of Japanese (as far as I can say so far) which are breathtakingly simple compared with Romance languages. I'm a real grammar enthusiast and obviously, being a linguist, I was never going to be satisfied with phrasebook-style learning Grin.

I think what I'm going to find really hard (apart from the Kanji) is simply memorising the vocab. I like to think I have a pretty awesome memory for words (although less so now at my advanced age!) but I'm used to learning languages which have at least some similarity to either English or each other. With Japanese there is little already in my head to 'link' with new words iyswim.

Ontopofthesunset - I know what ypu mean about the writing system. It requires so much concentration just to read the pronunciation of a word. On the other hand, spelling is incredibly easy - think of a common Japanese word or place name and you can write it with no problem. None of this nonsense where letters can make all sorts of different sounds in different combinations like we have in English!

Anyway, thank you all for replying. I wasn't sure anyone would! I'll check out some if thd books and apps you've mentioned.

OP posts:
Eolian · 02/07/2017 19:01

Should havd said doumo arigatou gozaimasu !

OP posts:
AbbeyRoadCrossing · 02/07/2017 20:34

You might find the kanji fine to learn. I'm probably a minority but that's my favourite bit, the way the pictures and the meanings go together and the different elements - so for example you could know a kanji is water related even if I can't read it I can guess.

With the katakana it kind of makes sense to me. It's mainly used for foreign words and sounds so after a while it all fits together. When I was in Japan and saw a word in katakana I'd know I should be able to guess it as it's often from English e.g. fast food menus!

AppleAndElderflower · 18/02/2018 03:16

Hi op,

Japanese From Zero books are good if you're starting from scratch. They also have a website where you can practise vocabs & ask questions on the forum directly to the authors.

Minna no Nihongo is much easier to tackle if you have a teacher. UK universities with a good Japanese language department usually use these books. They're the equivalent of Themen Neue books for German learners.

If you're a serious learner, Genki books are the best to learn from.

Human Japanese is a good app too. I like their approach in covering the alphabets.

I was just like you, I mastered Hiragana first but took ages to get to grips with Katakana. Kanji I find easier to be honest. Try to think of it as blocks of symbols. 1 symbol plus another symbol will make a new word. Forget the pronunciation for now. Focus on what each symbol mean. Then you'll find you'll be able to understand what the kanji means even if you don't know how to read it out loud!

I use a kanji pictogram book that helps draw each kanji in comparison to what it means.

The beauty of kanji is that, if you understand what they mean, you can understand Chinese characters too as most of them mean the same.

It really is not worth stressing about kanji. The not so common ones will have furigana (small Hiragana) written on top of them to help you read them.

There are so many Japanese people who don't even know all the kanji there are in their own language!

Good luck op 😊

Byebyebicycle · 18/02/2018 03:21

If you ever start a Japanese conversation thread like the French and German one, please let me know on here would love to top up my conversational skills

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