A while back, I wrote a pretty blunt post about Motivation and what it means when you’re tackling a monster like Japanese.
When people say they’re going to learn Japanese, it’s usually due to anime.
I was lucky enough to befriend several Japanese exchange students for a few weeks in middle school. From there, I had no idea how to continue learning this beast.
Fear not, there is a way. And I hope that my learning can benefit you.
This series of Learning Japanese won’t end with this post. This is going to be a journey for me and all of you. After all, you can’t learn a language in a fortnight, no matter how many ads tell you.
You should congratulate yourself if you decide, “You know what, I guess I will learn Japanese!”
Learning any language is going to take considerable time and effort. It doesn’t matter how many people proclaim the difficulty of Japanese or Chinese. In the end, you’re learning a new language. Of course that’s going to be hard.
You just have to have the motivation and passion to keep going.
Look at your motivation(s) before we proceed. I’ll share some of mine:
Now that you’ve gotten some things to keep you going, get yourself a notebook.
There are 3 “alphabets” in Japanese. Japan adapted the Chinese writing system (called kanji) to fit their own needs, and while it looks the same, it’s not.
There are 2 kana.
The first is hiragana:
These tell you how to pronounce kanji but serves other purposes. Learning how to read hiragana will enable you to read books, ads, pretty much anything straight away.
The other is katakana:
Katakana is used for foreign and loan words, emphasis (kind of like italics), sound effects, and more.
Kanji is the final and main writing system. And is the reason why Japanese gets it’s reputation for being one of the most difficult languages to learn.
As complex as these babies look, they’re easier to read than long strings of hiragana. At the moment, that sounds absurd, but let me explain.
Kanji represent an idea. Kind of like a stop sign. This kanji
means “dream”, though there are several other meanings. Unlike hiragana, kanji explicitly tell you what is trying to be conveyed.
For instance, if you’ve tried to play the Pokemon games in Japanese, you’ll reach a point where you don’t know which word they’re going for. I came across this very issue.
While this isn’t an example from what I was playing, this still illustrates the point.
Japanese has a ton of homographs-meaning they’re spelled the same but mean many different things.
Yes, you may be able to do fine with just kana. But you’re going to hit a wall. Hard.
Kanji remedy this problem by going, “Ok this is what you want!” and then you catch some shiny Pokemon.
Don’t worry about kanji just yet. Right now, you want to focus on learning the kana.
They’re easy to learn and you MUST learn their stroke order. Japanese isn’t like English where you can write however you like.
It might seem like there are a lot of kana but compared to kanji, this is nothing.
Here’s a look at my little journal when I started learning them:
I went overboard, so don’t freak out lol. Writing just two lines of each kana should suffice. However, you don’t want to do all of them in one sitting.
You need to space it out-SRS anyone? 😉
For now, before we proceed in the next part of learning this language, there are two things you need to do.
To make this process go smoothly, look up hiragana and katakana charts with stroke orders.
Do each row a day and review throughout. For example, I learned a, i, u, e, and o on day 1. Then I did ka, ki, ku, ke, and ko the next day. And etc.
Doing this allow you to soak in this new writing system and not overwhelm you. If you feel that you’d do fine doing more than one row at a time, go ahead. Just find a system that works for you.
You’re going to want to buy the texts. They come with CDs and honestly, if you’re like me, you’re a procrastinator. You’ll get all ready to learn and then after a few days….you say,”Nah, I’ll practice tomorrow.” -_-
Get that book. Put it on your shelf. Look at it and know you got this for a reason. You’re committed. You spent money!
But, Leaf, what if I just want to learn how to speak Japanese?
Well, my dear friend….
You’re going to still have to learn this.
The reason is simply that you can’t rely on romaji all the time. Your pronunciation will suffer, you’re going to be like a lost kid if you wish to go to Japan when you can’t read anything. Not even hiragana.
“But the Olympics are making them put English everywhere!”
Eventually your going to get to the point where you simply can’t continue like this because you’re going to feel stupid not knowing how to read the world around you. You’re going to be stuck in this weird phase of somewhat-fluent and not-fluent. And to make matters worse, there will be situations where you’ll have to read the language.
Honestly, it’s easier to just get down hiragana if you only want to learn how to speak Japanese.
So, if you’re sure you’re ready, go do your homework. Get those kana down, buy those texts, and look forward to the next post.
In this future post, you should already know how to read the kana, but it’s fine if you’re not perfect with them. It takes a while.
Are you learning a language? Are you learning Japanese? Have any questions?
If you like what you see please follow or share. Thank you!