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General Discussion Theres a Clannad of AIR-headed Kanon fodder being shot by the Little Busters After Tomoyo on a Planet-arian.

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  #1  
Old 2008-01-19, 06:38
eternal
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Default So how do you guys learn Japanese?

Without going to classes, that is >_>

lol, at the moment, I'm still in high school so there aren't any Japanese courses available, and I really don't want to be spending my saturdays in class to learn something that would only really be useful if I have spare time to actually PLAY the visual novels. I know about AGTH and Atlas (which I have attached to Kanon right now), and I have a kanji-romaji conversion site, but I just wanted to make sure I'm going about this the right way. Basically, I figured I should start by learning romaji and hiragana, and then maybe I'll pick up enough to understand more than the engrish from Atlas. However, are there any ways to translate a sentence from romaji to english with a definition for each word, or is there anything in particular I'm missing? I know this will take a lot of work, but I'm hoping to at least get a start now so it can start paying off in my adulthood (I don't exactly want to learn Japanese by the time I graduate university and lose interest in anime a couple years later).
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  #2  
Old 2008-01-19, 07:21
kouryuu
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Honestly classes are the best bet. Even if you don't take classes, you're going to need a textbook. Unlike Spanish or French, the grammar in Japanese is very very different from English, enough that "translation" more often becomes "interpretation" whether we like it or not. Of course learning Kanji isn't easy either, but Kanji, like vocabulary can be learned through lots of reading, listening, and playing games in the native language. but the grammar is quite different, and also where machine translators like AGTH and Atlas tend to slip up most often, although Atlas I believe does a better job of it.

But sure, for a starting point, work with the katakana and hiragana and start looking for a decent textbook to teach you the grammar.
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  #3  
Old 2008-01-19, 07:36
Chronoscout Chronoscout is offline
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He's a few links that have helped me over the years

http://www.animelab.com/anime.manga/kanji

http://www.freejapaneselessons.com/

http://www.byki.com/download_FLS.pl?cod=GsQcq1

http://www.omniglot.com/writing/japanese_links.htm

http://learnjapanese.elanguageschool.net/


good luck with your studies, gambaru
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  #4  
Old 2008-01-19, 11:21
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This is a bit silly, but if u dont have japanese classes the best way i learned my alphabets were using the hiragana and katakana charts for my desktop wallpaper. After a few days i learned the whole thing without even really trying. Learning the Kanji and the grammar...... ehhhh good luck!
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  #5  
Old 2008-01-19, 12:53
boggart boggart is offline
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I'd also recommend classes. Like the others said, starting off with the kana is easy - and at least you'll be able to read basic things (not that you'd understand it) - but to learn how it all fits together and to build your vocabulary it requires years of dedication and hours of application.

Like Bruce Lee once said, "Knowledge is not enough, you must apply. Willing is not enough, you must do."

Good luck.
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  #6  
Old 2008-01-19, 12:58
Seigi Seigi is offline
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Well, I don't think that learning Japanese grammar is so tough... Well, of course it's different from French and English one, but it makes sense quite quickly.
However, learning vocabulary and kanji is way more difficult.

The best way to learn Japanese, if you can't go to classes, is to go through many textbooks until you know the basics (including hiragana, katakana and a few kanji). Then, if you study almost everyday, after 1 year you could start to study through anime/manga/video games. All you'll have to do will be to get used to dictionnary and to make a break everytime you don't understand a word in order to find it on your dictionnary.
That way, you'll memorize a lot of words.
However, knowing that you need at least the second lvl of the JLPT (2 kyuu) to understand perfectly a visual-novel, it'll take time. 6000 words and 1000 kanji.

Studying kanji isn't so difficult. You just have to write them as many time as possible. Words, however, can't be memorized so easily since there are so many of them. I'm still looking for the best way to study vocabulary ^_^.

Oh, yeah, and just a last thing : Don't expect to learn Japanese if you do it only to understand visual-novels. If you don't want to learn Japanese because it IS japanese, and because you love Japan, then just give up.
The key in those studies is motivation. If you're motivated, then you can get great skills real quickly. And I doubt you'll get enough motivation if your only aim is to understand visual-novels ^^.
But if you put all your strenght into it, I'm sure you'll succeed in playing a visual novel in Japanese (by using a dictionnary from time to time) in 2 years.

And by the way, just out of curiousity. What's the point in attaching AGTH and Atlas to a game? I mean, I'm not used to that kind of things, so what is it for? Translating some words you don't understand? Getting the pronounciation of a kanji?

PS: Sorry for the mistakes, I'm far of being fluent in English ^_^.


EDIT : Just a last thing. If you're used to studying by yourself, classes aren't necessary. People tend to think that teachers make studies much more easier. I don't agree with that, because you know yourself better than they do. Of course, it helps a lot, especially when it comes to speaking, but you can do without it if you're motivated and if you really know how to study alone efficiently. I guess it depends on everyone, since some people can't study alone.

Last edited by Seigi; 2008-01-19 at 13:06.
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  #7  
Old 2008-01-19, 13:27
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I would use this site.

http://www.guidetojapanese.org/index.html#contents

It just doesn't tell you what things are, it actually explains why things are that way, in a way that's easy to understand for westerners. There's also a large forum if you're stuck on something.
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  #8  
Old 2008-01-19, 17:36
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Unregistered View Post
I would use this site.

http://www.guidetojapanese.org/index.html#contents

It just doesn't tell you what things are, it actually explains why things are that way, in a way that's easy to understand for westerners. There's also a large forum if you're stuck on something.
This link is quite interesting, though I wish it was couched more in linguistic terms. But in general it gives a fair sense of how the language actually hangs together under the hood, which you have to piece together from textbooks on your own or study the language analytically to get.

Some of the advanced stuff towards the end covers some relatively obscure stuff.

Still, if you're going to learn, nothing beats having access to native speakers, especially ones that studied the language. My old Japanese instructor occasionally points out errors in textbooks, so you have to remember that even textbook authors make occasional mistakes.
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  #9  
Old 2008-01-20, 18:58
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Asceai Asceai is offline
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I also vouch for Tae Kim's guide. I use it for learning and as reference where necessary.

For learning kana, to be honest I learned those too many years ago to really remember how to do that effectively. Can't really give advice for any systematic way for learning Kanji other than to look up every kanji you see that you don't know, and preferably draw it as well. It can also be well worth examining how each kanji is composed of radicals, which can help you look them up by something other than stroke count.

In addition, online translation engines can be helpful if you just give them small amounts of text, because they often have more ability to understand pure hiragana and other weird things than stuff like wwwjdict. If everyone used the kanji for everything and only used hiragana in places where there is no alternative it would probably be a bit easier, but sadly that's often not the case =p

There's a firefox plugin called rikaichan, which provides a mouseover glossary for kanji and some clumps of hiragana, with varying usefulness. Check it out.

As far as online translation engines go, nifty's globalgate is excellent, and basically renders engines like babelfish obsolete, Google Translate operates on a totally different concept and will produce very different results to other translation engines. Sometimes it can be miraculously effective, otherwise almost ridiculously off-base. Again, using it to translate tiny amounts of Japanese will often produce the most useful results.

Next, AGTH. It's a fantastic tool when you're starting out learning. My advice is not to necessarily pair it with an automatic translation engine... you'll probably find yourself relying on it too much. Instead, use it to copypaste kanji you don't recognise, and try your best to understand the text yourself.

Last but definitely not least KNOW JAPANESE PEOPLE. There are plenty to be found on the interwebs.

DISCLAIMER: My Japanese is so ridiculously poor that it's not something anyone would want, so take my advice with a truckful of salt =p

Last edited by Asceai; 2008-01-20 at 19:15.
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  #10  
Old 2008-01-21, 02:06
GreatSaintLouis GreatSaintLouis is offline
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There's two things that you should understand right off the bat: a dictionary alone will not help you, and electronic translators such as Atlas are worthless for what you want.
Dictionaries are great for understanding word roots, but will tell you nothing about the meaning behind a word's conjugation; depending on the dictionary it might even leave out particles and other grammatical constructs. A good dictionary is an invaluable reference tool, but you won't learn the entire language from it. WWWJDIC and Rikaichan, while helpful for looking things up, are also simply dictionaries based off the free (and occasionally slightly incorrect or inaccurate) EDICT dictionary file; again, they won't help you learn grammar.

Also, while we're on the subject of dictionaries: avoid dictionaries that are all in romaji as though they were the plague. It might be tempting as they'll seem easier, but you'll only learn the phoenetics, not how to actually read the language. The best bet is to get a dictionary that displays the furigana (hiragana pronunciation of kanji) instead of romaji. This dictionary is most excellent.

Programs like Atlas, BabelFish, etc. were designed for business and technical document translation, and as such they'll translate literal text just fine, but they simply can't handle the type of often unorthodox grammar found in fiction; you're only going to end up with about half the
meaning.

As many people above have said, the very best way is to take a class--be it a paid class or informal tutoring--from a native Japanese speaker who's reasonably fluent in English and can communicate basic grammatical concepts easily. You can begin learning on your own by memorizing hiragana and katakana and then moving on to some of the easier kanji, but having a native speaker to explain grammar and correct your mistakes is invaluable.

Also, don't put too much effort into romaji as frankly, it's worthless. Again, you'll memorize spoken syllables (which aren't too hard), but your mind won't associate the syllables with written Japanese as easily as if you begin starting hiragana study right off the bat. Rely on romaji as little as possible, because in the long run it doesn't help you.

Finally, when you begin studying the writing system, I suggest memorizing all the hiragana first before moving on to katakana. As many of the katakana are derived from hiragana, I found I had an easier time memorizing them when I already had the hiragana down well. This might not work for everyone; you might have better luck memorizing them both at the same time, but I suggest at least trying it in this way.
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  #11  
Old 2008-01-21, 02:54
kouryuu
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GreatSaintLouis View Post
Finally, when you begin studying the writing system, I suggest memorizing all the hiragana first before moving on to katakana. As many of the katakana are derived from hiragana, I found I had an easier time memorizing them when I already had the hiragana down well. This might not work for everyone; you might have better luck memorizing them both at the same time, but I suggest at least trying it in this way.
Um, just to nitpick, I've taken classes on Japanese linguistics and Katakana and Hiragana are actually both derived from the Classical Japanese writing system which was entirely kanji adopted from china. So both forms were actually developed from Kanji. Hirgana having been developed by women more from whole kanji, while Katana was developed primarily from Kanji pieces, and also the little marks used in writing to denotate who a passage of kanji should be read (For its on or kun reading for example). And so Technically Katakana were delevoped first as they were the written style of men, however once women started writing, entirely in their hiragana since they were not allowed to use kanji, Hiragana became the more prolific style of writing after Kanji. So while Katakana was first, I will agree that one's studies should start with Hirgana, not Katakana.
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  #12  
Old 2008-01-21, 04:03
GreatSaintLouis GreatSaintLouis is offline
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Though I have obviously been bested in fact-checking, the initial point I was attempting to make remains the same: many katakana quite resemble their hiragana counterparts and therefore will be easier to remember with a solid hiragana background.
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  #13  
Old 2008-01-21, 04:16
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Eh.... i'll better keep my mouth in a closed state (don't ask). T____T
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  #14  
Old 2008-01-21, 10:53
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GreatSaintLouis View Post
Though I have obviously been bested in fact-checking, the initial point I was attempting to make remains the same: many katakana quite resemble their hiragana counterparts and therefore will be easier to remember with a solid hiragana background.
Plus I think the individual hiragana are slightly easier to tell apart than the katakana, personally.

Quote:
Originally Posted by GreatSaintLouis View Post
Programs like Atlas, BabelFish, etc. were designed for business and technical document translation, and as such they'll translate literal text just fine, but they simply can't handle the type of often unorthodox grammar found in fiction; you're only going to end up with about half the meaning.
Typically, you're a bit safer with much shorter sentence fragments. It's more for understanding the common meaning of certain sentence fragments that don't comprise a single kanji or recognised group. To use a recently-relevant example, '恋人どうしで'! Yes, anyone having played a couple of visual novels would know what that means, but I don't think people having pursued a classic Japanese education would necessarily (in my personal experience).

Now, a dictionary probably wouldn't be able to help you with どうしで in this particular situation unless you already knew what to look for, but paste the whole thing into nifty? Viola.

Some online translation engines are also pretty good at handling streams of pure hiragana, which I'm generally pretty slow with. So yeah, while I agree that they aren't generally something you want to rely on, I think online translation engines still have their use.

Last edited by Asceai; 2008-01-21 at 11:08.
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  #15  
Old 2008-01-21, 18:47
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Squirrellord Squirrellord is offline
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Tae Kim's Guide is pretty nice, and rather easy to use, though sometimes I wish it'd give more examples.
Definitely learn Hiragana/Katakana first though. It shouldn't take more than a week to learn one or the other, even if you only do it half-assed. It might be easiest to learn Katakana first though, since you can read English based words, and get a little good practice with them.
Also, set it up so you can type in Japanese. It'll give you at least a little practice with it, and is also good for looking up words in the dictionaries.
Once you have a basic idea of grammar, try to translate old chapters of Naruto, One Piece, etc, and compare them with other translations on the net (just check around for scanlations).
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