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Thread: Another one "how to begin" question

  1. #1
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    Default Another one "how to begin" question

    Hi.
    I know, there ase some other threads with the "beginner question" thema, but I havent find exactly what I'm looking for there...
    Two months ago I started to learn japanese for several reasons (such as: "I like anime and manga", not the last of them being "I'm writing my master thesis and learning japanese is better-than-others-excuse, if I'm too lazy for it"
    I learned the kana and started with this Genki textbook and workbook which many people here recommended. My problem wit this highschool textbook is, that it is not systematic enough for me. (It exasperate me, if there are those vocabulary parts with some kanji and then there are some different kanji in the appropriate lesson, but ok, I can deal with that...)
    What is worse (and I see the reason: the kanji are meant to be recognized only) is, that the kanji used have no "kanji learning order". They are just there - (i hope that they are) the usful words, no matter what radicals are in them + some of them are compounds (like 全然).
    The other textbook I have - for kanji this time, is "Lets learn Kanji". It seems good to me, because it has exactly the systematic approach I like (but no grammar). But generally I want to use Genki and after that I will see. It means I learn the vocabulary, which they say (and I have to believe them, that it is good choice of words...) If there is any kanji in Genki, I try to learn it actively, ie. including writing.
    My question is: How much should I - in this utter beginning - go "into" the signs, above the genki-required vocabulary. I mean: If there is that 全然 - "not at all" shoul I also immediatelly learn parts 全 - "whole" and 然 - "yes, but, however", or just wait until they came "naturally". Should I do this "brakedown" with any word they give me? (I know, that I will learn them in time anyway, but is it better to wait or to go ahead and analyze them all?) And also how deep should i go with each sign. If I have this 然 should I also immediatelly and separately learn the parts 犬 and four-short-strokes-radical-which-I-don't-know-what's-it's-name-and-function and the last one which looks-like-タ-with-one-more-leg)?
    You see, what I mean, nay? I could start with "lets learn Kanji", but it isn't much fun, to learn just table of signs and their place in system. Also there is no hint how they are used in actual words (it will be somewhere later, but to memorize "seven tipes of traditional radicals" is not exactly beginning (they teach them as radicals, not separate kanji, so you have only "deformed version, kun pronounciation like "kuruma-hen" or so and no context at all). Also if I analyze the words they so casually give me, there is all of a sudden three times more words, isn't there. And then the grammar goes too slowly for so many words, so again its no fun (I actually like grammar and things like "silly conjugations stuff", how someone here called it. My major is latin and I like it exactly because it is so nicely organized and systematic. Japanese fascinates me, because it is so completely different .
    Another factor is my goal in studying japanese. It probably will never have enough money to go to Japanese, so I don't actually need to speak, but I would like to read (not just manga, but also some books maybe and understand anime (I learn to write basically because its easier for me to remember the kanji if i write it down...) (And i believe that if I will learn how to write and understand and than I find myself in Japan, I will catch up quickly with speaking if necessary...).
    So the overall question is: In what order to begin, how deep to go and what can wait?
    Thanks for suggestions

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Another one "how to begin" question

    It's best to do both in parallel.
    Learn the grammar and vocabulary from Genki, which will keep you interested in creative ways of using Japanese. Simultaneously learn the kanji from a kanji textbook.
    Don't worry about learning to write the more difficult kanji you are exposed to in Genki, just learn to recognise the words they are in. So don't bother trying to break down kanji compunds into individual kanji yet. When you get to the appropriate kanji in your kanji study, you will be able to say "Oh, I know where to use this one!"
    Do, however, try to work out how to use the characters and vocab from your kanji textbook in the kinds of sentences you are learning from Genki.
    Don't worry about trying to learn radicals for kanji. They are useful for remembering how to write kanji, and for dictionary lookup, but for meanings they are often redundant.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Another one "how to begin" question

    Genki teaches you the grammar, kanji and vocab required to pass the level 3 JLPT exam. If things seem a bit weird it's probably because of that.
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    There are many systematic approaches to learning Kanji, Grammar and Vocabulary. Genki teaches all three in a progressive manner which is very appealing to many. Course that also means its slow with any one part.

    For your question, well, I have electronic flashcard sets for Kanji, then for Grammar sentences then for Vocabulary. If a new vocabulary word gets added that has a new Kanji, I'll activate that in my kanji deck. If new words are in grammar sentences, I'll add those to my vocabulary deck also.

    Of course, that's now. When I started, I learned Kanji on their own systematically, followed by grammar sentences then vocabulary sentences. These were at the JLPT 3 level for the most part so can be considered basic. Now it's adding to them as I come across new items like I said in the previous paragraph.

    Since you seem to like the systematic approach, perhaps you will appreciate this better. Be systematic with the basics, then fluidly add with things after that.

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    Ok, thanks you all.
    I think, I will proceed with Genki and add some more system to it from another sources in order to create solid basis for later progress. I hope my inklination to analyze evey small part won't be overkill But it never is with language, unless it completely discourages you, is it...

  6. #6

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    I'm just going to ask in this thread since my question is pretty much similar to Jaga's.

    So just to confirm, we should use both a book(I'm using genki) and some other kanji system? And with each new vocabulary word, we should learn how to read and write it in kanji but not nitpick at what makes it up?

    Man... haha lots of notecards ^^. Oh well, i'm only in chapter 3 xD.

    Thanks

    [edit] oh yeah, just been wondering about this. In genki I, chapter 3, it says the kanji for breakfast is 朝御飯, although the computer seems to use 朝ご飯. Typing asagohan in the computer and pressing spacebar automatically jumps to 朝ご飯, which seems to translate correctly to breakfast in google (<_<... although google doesn't really do great translations haha). Anyway, so 朝 is morning and 飯 is meal, but 御 is honorable or something. Is that the right way to write breakfast? Graah, this is confusing... plus i gotta learn more kanji on top of this (i'm just using the back of genki I for now, I'll start using heisig when i get the money to buy it or something).
    Last edited by lightknight0; July 21st, 2009 at 14:40. Reason: More detail

  7. #7

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    Lightknight,

    For the moment, only use the kanji the sources show. Don't trust what your IME shows as it'll be the: Both are correct, depending on the situation. You have not experienced enough Japanese to know the correct situation. Don't trust any "rule" on when to use kanji versus kana as being definite either. Reason being, most "rules" have too many exceptions to count as a rule anyway.

    Just realize there are times to use kanji and times to use kana, and there's no real rule to know which is which most of the time other than experience. Don't consider yourself wrong if you get them mixed up so long as both are correct. Since you're using a source made by a Native Japanese (tm) just trust what they're giving you is correct and use that.

    For flashcards, I like going the electronic route like Anki. Reason being, I'm up to 6500 flashcards. Can you imagine having to make and handle all those as paper?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Nukemarine View Post
    For flashcards, I like going the electronic route like Anki. Reason being, I'm up to 6500 flashcards. Can you imagine having to make and handle all those as paper?
    I'm using Anki too -It's the great thing, because I actually can imagine that 6500-situation. When I learned my latin vocabulary, I used paper flashcards (not knowing programs like anki in that time) - I had indeed some few thousands of them and it wasn't allways funny if the package of 100 cards 3*2cm dropped out of my hand somewhere outside, in school, in tram and so on

    I also started to learn more words than there is in Genki (but I'm going pretty slowly, because Japanese is just diversion from my work in this time) - I have this "A Guide to Reading and Writing Japanese" book, so my system is now: whenever there is new kanji in Genki, I learn it and then I learn all the composits of that particular kanji and of those I already know, which are presented in "A Guide to Reading and Writing Japanese". I'm a little bit afraid, that those words are not those most usefull ones, but it helps me to memorize several different readings to every kanji.
    Also I separately learn parts of the compose words, which are in Genki just in form of composits.
    The only probleme with this method is: I don't know what exactly to do with things like 抵. In Genki there is 大抵 "usually". 大 is ok -its just adjective, but for the 抵 no its own I found just "to resist, to reach, to touch" - and only reading "tei" - so it's the verb but it hasn't the form of verb (does not ends in -u) - things like this are confusing...

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    Default Re: Another one "how to begin" question

    I don't want to start a Heisig argument, but I would really recommend it in this situation. As you might know, Heisig is a system that uses mnemonics to learn how to recognise, write, and understand the meaning of about 2000 kanji. What it doesn't do is teach you the onyomi or kunyomi readings. The way you learn those is simply by reading Japanese sentences and/or sticking them into Anki. So, for example, in the case of 全然, you just learn to recognise those two characters as a word that is pronounced 'zenzen' that means 'not at all'.

    You're supposed to use the Heisig system before you know any Japanese, and it feels a little bit counterintuitive to try to use it alongside your regular Japanese studies because while you're learning all of the kanji it feels like you're devoting a lot of energy to something that isn't really learning Japanese. It's not really until you've learnt all 2000 or so kanji and you start just reading real Japanese that you realise how much it accelerates your learning - because all of a sudden you can start engaging with actual Japanese and the range of sources that you can use to learn stuff expands exponentially.

    So I would suggest forgetting about the kanji in your Genki textbook for a while and giving Heisig a go alongside your other studies. Depending on how quickly you study, you could learn all of them in a month, or three months, or six months. If you were really diligent you could learn 50 a day, and get through the whole thing in 40 days or so. If you were more laidback you could learn 20 a day and finish up in 100 days or so. I was somewhere between the two, but now it has made a significant difference to my Japanese studies.

    Oh, and if you do want to try Heisig, there is a website here, which combines flashcards with a community of people who can help you come up with little stories with which to learn all of the kanji (for example, when I think of 急, I think of a witch whose in such a rush that she binds up a load of broomsticks - but her super-powered broomstick is so powerful that her heart nearly gives out).

    Anyway, like I say, I don't want to start an argument: not everybody approves of Heisig. But I found it really useful and you might too.

  10. #10

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    Aha... I've been quite busy lately, but i've kinda been stuck in chapter 3 for the last day or two learning all the kanji for the vocabulary in there plus the kanji lessons in the back of the book. I guess if I forgot all the kanji vocabulary, I would go though the chapters faster. I kinda wanted to learn the kanji for the vocabulary since the book totally switches to kanji right now (although it does have the small hiragana under it each kanji character).

    I guess i'll go read up about heisig and other kanji books, preferably ones I can buy at the bookstore and then learn kanji from it. I was planning to just use the back of the genki book and learn all the 140 something kanji and then move onto another source xD.

    Thanks for the replies guys. Time to get reading (i've heard about heisig and its stories, so I'll check it out some more). I am determined to learn, so I'll get crack'in ^^ (besides, it'll fill in the gap before school starts).

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    Okay I have a few suggestions.

    First off you guys using genki shouldn't be sweating yourself trying to memorize the kanji for every vocabulary entry in the book. Concentrate your studies on learning the 300 or so basic kanji listed with the reading sections.

    When using anki make two types of flashcards.

    1. Core kanji vocabulary. The kanji and vocabulary that are highlighted in the reading sections. Make a card with the kanji based vocabulary on the front and the hiragana and English meaning on the back.

    2. Supplemental vocabulary. The kind of vocabulary used in genki that have kanji that are too complicated for beginner learners. Make this kind of flashcard with the kanji and hiragana reading on the front and the English meaning on the back. Over time you can edit the card to the first style as you learn additional kanji.

    I also recommend the book "Kanji in Context" for learning kanji. But at this point I think beginners should concentrate solely on limited content such as the genki books.
    Last edited by UPGRAYEDD; July 23rd, 2009 at 18:01.
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    Quote Originally Posted by UPGRAYEDD View Post
    Okay I have a few suggestions.

    First off you guys using genki shouldn't be sweating yourself trying to memorize the kanji for every vocabulary entry in the book. Concentrate your studies on learning the 300 or so basic kanji listed with the reading sections.
    Well, but the Genki uses them - so I have to recognize them and it means remember them anyway - there is almost no difference if I learn how to write them too (it actually helps to recognize them).
    Another matter are the different pronounciations (which are the reason I learn the composits, which are not in Genki), it's true, that it makes it more difficult and adds amount of new words, but isn't it the investment in the future? Will it be lost?
    I think it's similar as in learning latin: wheather you learn the whole verbal string (I don't really know how is it called in english, but it's the same thing as go-went-gone series - in latin every verb is in this way "irregular") from the beginning or just the praesent stem and infinitive first, and then - at some time - you add the perfect active and passive stem.
    I learnd it the way praesens first perfect otherwhiles, but now I thing that back, when I started my latin, I should do it the first way and that's the reason, why I try to learn even readings and parts of the composits in Genki as a new vocabulary...
    Furthermore some of the composits are so easy to learn (like the series 川口 川下 川上) not terribly usefull, but why not to learn them if you already should know the parts and it prowides you with new reading of the "up" and "down" kanji... And it would be unsystematic to do it with some of kanji and don't do it with the others - it's awful to be unsystematic ;D

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jaga View Post
    I learnd it the way praesens first perfect otherwhiles, but now I thing that back, when I started my latin, I should do it the first way and that's the reason, why I try to learn even readings and parts of the composits in Genki as a new vocabulary...
    Furthermore some of the composits are so easy to learn (like the series 川口 川下 川上) not terribly usefull, but why not to learn them if you already should know the parts and it prowides you with new reading of the "up" and "down" kanji... And it would be unsystematic to do it with some of kanji and don't do it with the others - it's awful to be unsystematic ;D
    I wouldn't try to learn every on-yomi or kun-yomi of all those kanji - 300 kanji you're probably looking at about 900 readings. Master the common parts first, otherwise you'll just ending up going 'fuck it, this is too hard!' or something.
    And if you are trying to learn the readings, sometimes it can be easier to learn them as a word rather then learning them individually. E.g. 時計/時間/時々 tokei/jikan/tokidoki-clock/time/sometimes.
    Unsystematic sometimes works though, I learnt a lot of kanji just for stupid reasons, so that's why 俺の感じ(かんじ)はいい well I wish anyway...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Absolute View Post
    And if you are trying to learn the readings, sometimes it can be easier to learn them as a word rather then learning them individually. E.g. 時計/時間/時々 tokei/jikan/tokidoki-clock/time/sometimes.
    Yeah, that's exactly what I'm doing. I don't learn separate readings, but those in compound words and I just try to see, which part of the word coresponds with which kanji in it... So in fact I learn a lot more words, than there are in Genki (as you said there are 300 kanji - (in fact there are few times more of them, which are not required activelly, just to recognize) and I learn some three four times more words, which contain them, and alongside I learn those different pronounciations...)...

    The truth is, the amount of vocabulary slows down my progress in grammar, so maybe I'm going to change the way I'm doing it - for example I could learn the Genki-required vocabulary first and the compounds-for-pronounciation afterwards (which means I have to create some good-working tag system in my Anki - it's such a pain: I don't know how to do it (efficiently anyway) If I do it, it will allow me to go faster through Genki lessons...

    But I thank you all for your opinions and advices. I really apriciate them and think about them. Thank you.

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