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    Default Learning Japanese

    I've been looking into learning Japanese, and I was wondering if anyone had any advice for me. I figure the best starting place would be taking Japanese at my college, but I was hoping people would have other suggestions for resources/learning tools, and maybe just some advice on the language itself.

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    Senior Member Virus FM's Avatar
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    Default Re: Learning Japanese

    The more I learn Japanese, the more difficult it gets. Every time you come to terms with how difficult a particular aspect of the language is, and you raise yourself to a new plateu, you are faced with new, unspeakable horrors. And it seems to never stop. I've been studying for 5 years now and am about to take (and fail) the 2nd level of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test.

    My advice is, unless you are truly passionate about it, there are many other things/skills you could spend the time on and get much better at and be more marketable with. And even if you are passionate, if you are serious about mastering it, you will have to spend a significant amount of your life in Japan immersed in it, which of course isn't terrible if you're interested in Japan in the first place, but you sacrifice a lot of things by coming here.

    For more practical advice, take the sequence of courses they offer at your college. If you don't run screaming after the second year, it's a good sign.
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    Senior Member kamukamuume's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by HoboMaster View Post
    I've been looking into learning Japanese, and I was wondering if anyone had any advice for me. I figure the best starting place would be taking Japanese at my college, but I was hoping people would have other suggestions for resources/learning tools, and maybe just some advice on the language itself.
    are you looking to learn it for a certain purpose or just as a hobby? I love language myself, so it's always been something of a hobby, even while I took classes. you can get lots out of it, even if it's not for something specific. and if it is, all the better.

    personally, I'd start by getting a textbook called Genki I. it's pretty fantastic and presents things logically and in an organized way. there're plenty of online resources around to offer vocab, grammar, and dialogue at every difficulty level, so just start with the very basics (with a textbook and/or a site like Grammar Guide | Tae Kim's Guide to Learning Japanese) and work your way up. it might help to familiarize yourself with the sounds japanese uses early on, too.

    anyway, japanese is a hard language, but in the end, it's not impossible. like any language, it's nothing more than a system used for effective communication that was brought about by people communicating. just remind yourself of that if it seems like weird alien script/noises at first.

    do your best! let us know if you have more questions.
    Last edited by kamukamuume; December 1st, 2009 at 23:50.

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    Senior Member cielya's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kingmongkut View Post
    personally, I'd start by getting a textbook called Genki I. it's pretty fantastic and presents things logically and in an organized way. there're plenty of online resources around to offer vocab, grammar, and dialogue at every difficulty level, so just start with the very basics (with a textbook and/or a site like Grammar Guide | Tae Kim's Guide to Learning Japanese) and work your way up. it might help to familiarize yourself with the sounds japanese uses early on, too.
    Genki is good, but I wondered about the logic behind when they taught things. Maybe once you've got a good grasp on the first couple chapters, pick up a grammar dictionary. I have this one.

    It helps because sometimes Genki just skips things or leaves things out until later, things that, when I got to Japan, I was like "man, I wish I had known this!"

    Also the vocab lists are just insane! There's little rhyme or reason to them except for the fact that they are words in the dialogue. For me, learning vocab in sets (like, "animals," "foods," etc) works a little better for me. But hey, always funny to learn violin and elephant in the same week.

    For vocab, smart.fm has been helping me a lot. (For kanji, too!)

    I do like Genki, though, and I wish I still had them (sold them for the cash this past summer) if only because I knew where to find the grammar point I was looking for!
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    Quote Originally Posted by HoboMaster View Post
    I've been looking into learning Japanese, and I was wondering if anyone had any advice for me. I figure the best starting place would be taking Japanese at my college, but I was hoping people would have other suggestions for resources/learning tools, and maybe just some advice on the language itself.
    If you will be taking a class I would suggest that you simply concentrate on the materials from the class full time and suppliment your college course with some of the beginner lessons from japanesepod101.

    When you are first starting out I don't think it's necessary to swamp yourself with complicated grammar and kanji dictionaries. This of course depends on how motivated you are and what kind of background you have in learning languages in general.

    Also use any kind of tutoring available on your campus as much as possible. Face to face contact with a native speaker when you are building your foundations is important.
    Last edited by UPGRAYEDD; December 4th, 2009 at 10:41.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Virus FM View Post
    My advice is, unless you are truly passionate about it, there are many other things/skills you could spend the time on and get much better at and be more marketable with. And even if you are passionate, if you are serious about mastering it, you will have to spend a significant amount of your life in Japan immersed in it, which of course isn't terrible if you're interested in Japan in the first place, but you sacrifice a lot of things by coming here.
    Not sure if it was your intent, (sorry if it wasn't) but this comes across as a little discouraging. It's true that it's not the most marketable language to know, but the OP didn't mention anything about wanting to find guaranteed work. It's true that it's very difficult to learn, but I think the same could be said of any foreign language - you have to be passionate and spend some time abroad.

    To the OP: Go with everyone's suggestion of picking up Genki 1. I'd be a little surprised if the Japanese class you're going to take doesn't use it already.

    Like UPGRAYEDD said, find a tutor on campus, and try to speak with native speakers as much as you can. (Most of them will be more than happy to help you too).

    See how well you enjoy it after taking the class. If you find you like it, then you should start picking up more materials. Continue to take classes if your college offers any more. If you find you really love it and want to become good at it, then you should eventually make plans to study abroad.
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    Senior Member cielya's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by stufflikethat View Post
    Not sure if it was your intent, (sorry if it wasn't) but this comes across as a little discouraging. It's true that it's not the most marketable language to know, but the OP didn't mention anything about wanting to find guaranteed work. It's true that it's very difficult to learn, but I think the same could be said of any foreign language - you have to be passionate and spend some time abroad.
    Agreed.

    I took Japanese because I wanted to. Then I later studied abroad in Japan. And now, in a terrible recession, I have a job ONLY because I know Japanese. If you want to learn Japanese, go for it! There's a market for everything. I mean, I have a friend who speaks Thai of all things and is learning to apply that in her job!

    Enjoy learning and good luck!
    Last edited by cielya; December 10th, 2009 at 03:18.
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    Default Re: Learning Japanese

    I'll say if you really want to learn Japanese go for it. If you don't REALLY want to, I guess it still won't hurt to try. But don't expect to pick it up fast and if you want to get good expect a lot of work.

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    Senior Member Virus FM's Avatar
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    Default Re: Learning Japanese

    I'm sorry if I came off negatively. I just mean to say that it takes perseverance to an extreme degree. Japanese gets a reputation for being the hardest language for English speakers to learn, and I think people mistake that as Japanese has the hardest linguistic concepts to learn. That's not exactly the case. It's hard to learn because there's just so much stuff you have to learn, that you can't take for granted.

    Like in the relationship between English and German, you can learn vocabulary and then recreate phrases with similar effect in each language. For instance, something like "Turn the light off." in English becomes "Cut the light." in Japanese (and I think it's "Place the light off." in German, which acts against my example...). But the thing is that English correlates higher with European languages in this respect, in these phrases... I don't even know how to refer to them... basically phrases that we take for granted. Turning a light instead of cutting it. Starting a meeting instead of opening it. So you can learn all of the vocab in the Japanese language backwards and forwards, and still not feel confident in speaking it. This is one of the things that requires serious patience and perseverance. And it's just a very small point on a huge list of things that make Japanese a hard language. It's the sheer volume of things you have to learn.
    Last edited by Virus FM; December 10th, 2009 at 09:11.
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    Default Re: Learning Japanese

    It takes three times as long for English speakers to become proficient in Japanese than in Spanish, French, or German.

    According to the CIA.
    You see, gentlemen, a pimp's love is very different from a square's...
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    Senior Member Virus FM's Avatar
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    Default Re: Learning Japanese

    Yeah, have you seen the FBI page looking for interpreters and translators that shows how difficult they consider each language to be?

    It's split up in to 3 sections, the hardest section has Chinese, Japanese, and some other stuff, and Japanese has an asterisk next to it and when you read the note for it it says that languages with an asterisk are considered to be significantly more difficult that other languages in their group.

    Japanese is the only one with it.
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    Senior Member kamukamuume's Avatar
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    I think English is probably harder than Japanese, all things considered. Japanese has relatively consistent grammar, a very compact range of sounds, and a much, much easier way of using conditionals/hypotheticals.

    I mean granted I've been studying Japanese off and on for about 6-7 years, but other than keigo that twists with your mind for a while (processing something like "chotto yomasete itadakenai deshou ka" and figuring out who will be reading, all on the fly) and a limitless amount of kanji to learn, it doesn't seem too terrible.

    I've never studied another language, so take that for what it's worth. but while Japanese may be the hardest language to learn, compare studying Japanese to studying chemical engineering or neuroscience. japanese is just a system of communication that people use because it works. if you keep reminding yourself of that, it's not that hard.

    but yes, I do agree with most of your points, mr. virus. you have to pretty much redevelop your sense of linguistic intuition for Japanese because English developed out of a completely different language family.

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    Default Re: Learning Japanese

    I think Japanese is harder. For example in English if you want to put smiling and face together you say smiling face. In Japanese the equivalent of putting (笑う)Warau and (顔)kao together gives you (笑顔)Egao. I think this is what kills me is that when you compound words you always change to different Chinese readings.

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    Senior Member kamukamuume's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by enigmaneo View Post
    I think Japanese is harder. For example in English if you want to put smiling and face together you say smiling face. In Japanese the equivalent of putting (笑う)Warau and (顔)kao together gives you (笑顔)Egao. I think this is what kills me is that when you compound words you always change to different Chinese readings.
    you can say 笑っている顔 too, I'd imagine. just like you can say "grin," which is closer to 笑顔.

    yeah, there is a lot of vocabulary to learn, and aside from english loanwords (which don't help as much as they would with a romance language), virtually everything is a matter of memorization. I don't think it's hard to memorize things, though, just time-consuming.

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    Senior Member Virus FM's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kingmongkut View Post
    I think English is probably harder than Japanese, all things considered. Japanese has relatively consistent grammar, a very compact range of sounds, and a much, much easier way of using conditionals/hypotheticals.

    I mean granted I've been studying Japanese off and on for about 6-7 years, but other than keigo that twists with your mind for a while (processing something like "chotto yomasete itadakenai deshou ka" and figuring out who will be reading, all on the fly) and a limitless amount of kanji to learn, it doesn't seem too terrible.

    I've never studied another language, so take that for what it's worth. but while Japanese may be the hardest language to learn, compare studying Japanese to studying chemical engineering or neuroscience. japanese is just a system of communication that people use because it works. if you keep reminding yourself of that, it's not that hard.

    but yes, I do agree with most of your points, mr. virus. you have to pretty much redevelop your sense of linguistic intuition for Japanese because English developed out of a completely different language family.
    It's probably harder for Japanese people to learn English than for English speakers to learn Japanese. I know a guy from Norway who speaks Norwegian, English, and Japanese fluently, and French and German functionally, and he said that the reason English is considered hard has to do with how it's a language that is a collection of exceptions. There's something like 15,000 exceptions in daily English. I of course have no links or references to the conversation we had, but if he's right, that's crazy.

    And as for readings, it's a bitch to learn them all, but like kingmongkut said, it's just a matter of memorization. You can argue that English exceptions are just a matter of memorization I guess, but knowing when to apply an exception in English is something of a minefield.
    Last edited by Virus FM; December 10th, 2009 at 14:34.
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    Senior Member Yeti99's Avatar
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    Default Re: Learning Japanese

    One of the more interesting pieces of advice I got for learning Japanese was from the principal of one of my visiting schools. He could speak English and Russian quite well. He told me that in his view, Japanese is a visually-tilted language, while English is a verbally/aurally tilted language, and I think he is on to something. All languages have homophones, but the sheer number in Japanese can be overwhelming. The kanji helps link you to the meaning for the sounds. And yes, even though the readings of kanji can changesfor each concept, there are very few exceptions where the actually sounds are different from the basic sounds that each alphabet uses (the only ones I can think of off the top of my head are when は and へ are used as particles). Compare this to the all craziness of English sounds (car vs cat, brow vs blow, etc).

    So, really, what language is the hardest to learn? The answer is anything that isn't your 1st language.
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    I'm sure everybody has said what I'm going to say...

    Japanese is a hard language but I find that if you're interested enough and have enough skill in learning languages you can become functional in it.

    Personally, I view Japanese a "serious" hobby. That is, it is for my own personal enjoyment, but it isn't the make all be all to marketing myself for a job (short of becoming an interpreter or translator).

    I also find keigo to be enjoyable and not that difficult. What gets me is the kanji due to the vast amount you have to learn plus all the combinations that make up different meanings.

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    Default Re: Learning Japanese

    renshuu.org - personalized studying for Japanese vocabulary, kanji, grammar, and more!

    I like this website for me. I'm not much past beginner level, but the great feature (imo) is that it has a built-in kanji lookup feature & dictionary (although the dictionary won't pickup the katakana/hiragana words automatically like the kanji lookup does). It also has flashcards/mock tests that allow you to set a number of key features, namely you can choose to take the test displaying hiragana, kanji, or kanji + hiragana. You can also set it to display some kanji/words one way and others another way depending on which you've already studied and which you haven't.

    And, for each grammar point they let you post your attempts, request a double-check, and also see what others have posted. The only down-side is that after a few questions you have to earn more 'question points' by answering questions, which is probably very difficult for a new learner, or at the very least something of a bother.

    It's not the best website, but it does have a lot more built-in features than many of the others I have visited. I'm hoping they will clean up the layout and get a larger following which should lead to both more people checking your sentences and more chances to correct others.

    Anyway, thought I'd throw it out there.
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    Default Re: Learning Japanese

    Well, this is a hard question. There are no Japanese classes around here, so I've taught myself all of the Hiragana and Katakana and am now studying the Kanji. I have most of the 1st grade level Kanji down (Kinda pathetic but meh..) I bought a study book just for the kanji. I try to associate the way the kanji looks/sounds with something else I already know and that makes it easier! And of course, I practice writing the stuff constantly. So just practice, practice, and more practice!!!

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    Default Re: Learning Japanese

    My kanji reading and writing got better when I started texting people.

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