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Thread: what is a reasonable amount of time to learn hira and kana?

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    Default what is a reasonable amount of time to learn hira and kana?

    hiragana and katakana i mean.

    started with 0 knowledge of it to being able to read and write these two character systems.

    should i buy a book (Let's learn hiragana/katakana) or are the websites (with the pronounciation) sufficient?

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    Senior Member psychohistoric's Avatar
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    If you put 20 to 30 minutes into it everyday you shouldn't have any trouble remembering them after a week. Then, just buy a few children's books to read occasionally to remember them.

    P.S.
    Websites should be fine.

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    PS - If you're already in Japan, start with katakana and then move on to hiragana. If you're not in Japan yet, start with hiragana. In Japan, things written in katakana are foreign loan words 99% of the time, and 90% of those will be english. Knowing katakana will help you read lots of menus in restaurants, for example, or drink lists in bars.

    Hiragana, on the other hand, is the basis of japanese grammar, so it's basically the gateway to study of the language. If you're formally studying the language (ie, not presently immersed in it), you're better off learning hiragana first.

    Either way, I find it helps to tackle one at a time; trying both at once can be bit overwhelming.

    Good luck!

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    Quote Originally Posted by psychohistoric
    If you put 20 to 30 minutes into it everyday you shouldn't have any trouble remembering them after a week.
    Yeah, that's what I found. 20-30 minutes every night and I knew all the hiragana for my second lesson. Didn't set out to be johnny swat, it just happened.

    Katakana were about the same, but I didn't attempt them the very next week. You might want to leave a gap while you study grammar or whatever.

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    Daimyo ***** dombay's Avatar
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    Depends what you mean by learn or know.

    Some people will tell you that they know them but take three or four seconds to tell you what the sound is. Or they cannot write them.

    You can probably learn to recognise them somewhat within a week but don't worry if it takes longer - it deosn't matter.

    Until you read, write and recall the sound of them in less than a second - that is you're reading a book in Japanese or the paper or something, you could always improve.
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    when I took Japanese in college we were expected to know hiragana within two weeks. It shouldn't be too hard to do that. You don't need a book or anything like that. For reading these alone are all you need [edit: also you will want to find a guide on how to write them. Stroke order here isn't all that important, but it's like English, there are certain ways you just don't write letters. Practice writing them along with reading them. Don't worry, your handwriting will get better.]


    If you want to get the pronunciation, I'd imagine you can find plenty of websites with a sound file. Just sit down and drill yourself on it. I agree completely with enrique_suave. If you're in Japan and want results fast, katakana is the way to go. You pick up hiragana later when you actually are learning the language.

    As a side note, don't waste time learning written Japanese if you haven't memorized hiragana and katakana first. Esp. don't waste time or money on a book that is still using romaji after the first few chapters. A lot of authors think it's okay to put off learning kana, but they're just wrong. If you learn in romaji you'll end up thinking in romaji, and that's just not the way the language works.

    good luck!

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    I whole heartedly recommend the "Let's Learn Hiragana" and "Let's Learn Katakana" books. They cover writing and reading exercises. Recognising them while thinking about it is one thing - I had that down in under a week. Being able to write fluently in order without pause took about 6 months, 10-20 minutes spent writing them over and over. Writing normally without pause, about a year. Being able to read them with the same fluency as the alphabet, well, I'm still not quite there, but I'm not far off. I also advocate katakana first if in Japan, hiragana if not.

    I blew my elem kids minds at lunch today by writing out the hiragana table on the board in under 25 seconds. They were timing me. I upped the ante with the number kanji. Then I made their head literally explode by writing the only sentence I could think of on the spot - 私は小学生が大好きです。 The homeroom teacher thought it was hilarious and joined in by "marking" my work. If for nothing else, it was worth learning the kana just to be able to do that.
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    I learned hiragana and katakana in under a week. Memorizing 100 fairly easy characters isn't hard. You just have to make sure that you are going to retain it...i.e. practice every every every day. Quite easy when you're in japan, they are all around you.

    It probably goes without saying, but don't bother learning hiragana if you aren't gonna keep up with grammar study. If you don't want to spend your time learning japanese (which is actually perfectly fine, if you're only here for a year and feel like you have better things to spend your time on) being able to read hiragana isn't all that important a skill. Knowing katakana, though, makes life a whole hell of a lot easier.

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    You can learn to read and write the basic characters for both in under a week, but it takes longer to learn the combination sounds, the rules for small tsu, the maru and ten-ten; and the rules for changing English into katakana (yeah, there's rules for that, too.) Allow at least a month to get it all down pat.
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    Quote Originally Posted by wicket
    it takes longer to learn the combination sounds, the rules for small tsu, the maru and ten-ten
    *blink*

    I'd plain forgotten about learning them. I've got to the point where they just are.

    After thinking about it, the thing I had the most difficulty learning was the katakana which look almost identical apart from stroke order and direction, like シ(shi) and ツ(tsu), and ソ(so), ン(n) and ノ(no). They still trip me up, particularly ソ and ン
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    Daimyo ***** dombay's Avatar
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    The mistake I made was believing all the crap you read around including here about how fast you can learn this or that in Japanese.

    It's all lies.

    Do it your way.

    Back when I started Japanese people said the same things about kana. Took me significantly longer than what is suggested in this thread to feel like I had 'learned it' though I studied my arse off to do so.

    18 months later I read novels in Japanese and most of my conversations at work, home, with friends, etc are in Japanese.

    Felt like I was doing something wrong back then but now I'm pretty sure I wasn't.

    The point I'm making is do it your way and sod off anyone who tells you that they can do it better and here's how.




    PS: That Japanese textbook they send you when you get accepted on JET ... bin it straight away. Go and get a copy of Genki instead. Much much better. I did the JET textbook and then did Genki as well to make it all make sense.
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    Someone asked how long it would take, so people gave estimations from their own experience. It wasn't "well, if you can't do it in a week, you're thick." If you can't remember them in a week, just keep trying. Obviously.

    I occasionally forget one of the katakana characters, because I never use them, unless I put in a katakana word into a homework or something. I tend not to do that because those words usually come from English anyway, so I don't feel like I'm doing my vocab any good. When I can't remember a character, I go back to chart and do some more work on it. It's not like you have to put your books away forever.

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    I would say the best thing to do is to put them into practice. I was learning really slowly till I came to Japan. Even if you don't understand what you are reading, just read and read till you are reading all the characters. Writing takes slightly longer, so try writing the alphabet from memory.
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    Quote Originally Posted by dombay

    18 months later I read novels in Japanese
    We calling "Pikachu Vs Mew 2" a novel now are we?

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    Daimyo ***** dombay's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Machiavelli
    Quote Originally Posted by dombay

    18 months later I read novels in Japanese
    We calling "Pikachu Vs Mew 2" a novel now are we?
    Fuck where do I get a copy?!
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    You can have mine, some of the pages are stuck together though.

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    I found James Heisig's "Remembering the Kana" to be a really good way of learning hiragana and katakana. As the book promised, I learned the reading and writing of both systems in under 6 hours. I am still working on fluency several months later, but I did not have to do flashcards or write them over and over again to learn them. Plus, I never got シ and ツ confused (ソ and ン get me sometimes though).

    That being said, you could probably learn the kana on your own in the time that it would take for the book to arrive from Amazon but his method is much less painful.

    Everyone said that you should learn katakana first if you are in Japan. I don't think that this is a good idea unless you are in some kind of desperate situation where the ability to read words like "pizza" and "chocolate" cannot wait for a week. Katakana is much easier to learn if you know hiragana first. It's not like it takes ages to be able to read the kana (albeit slowly) so doing them in the order that makes sense is worth delaying your coffee shop proficiency a little bit longer, in my opinion.

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    Learning to read kana isn't so much my problem as learning to write in it... Although, considering that I've been using the Roman alphabet for over 2 decades and my handwriting is still pretty bad, I shouldn't be surprised.

    So, anyone know any nifty tips or tricks for learning to write?

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    Get someone who's already in Japan to go to a bookstore and buy you the little books kids use when they're learning to write - same as when you learned to write English. They have the kana in pale grey, you go over it with a pencil (it shows stroke order, too), then there are several boxes to practice in.
    For stroke order, the general rule is top to bottom, left to right.
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    I learned Hiragana the "japanese" way. It involved writing the characters over and over and over again, while saying them out loud.

    I learned Katakana the "quick" way, involving memory tricks and sound associations (like Heisig recommends)

    I picked up Katakana MUCH faster. However, the Hiragana I really LEARNED, so seeing the character brought instant recognition. With the Katakana, it took several mental steps as I remember all the various tricks and phrases that linked the shape to the sound. It was much much slower to read and write, and it took me a very long time to unlearn it and train myself to read and write Katakana directly.

    If you're serious about studying Japanese, I'd do it the hard way, and reap the benefits later on. If you just want "survival" Japanese then the quick way might be for you.

    Although, to be fair, even the hard way doesn't take all that long if you knuckle down to it (and keep practicing every day until its embedded properly in your long term memory)
    Mabushiii!!!

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