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Old 2007-09-20, 05:32
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Eden Eden is offline
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Default Learning Japanese - Tips?

Due to the nature of the forum, I'd guess some of the people here have learnt Japanese and I was wondering if they (or anyone else) might have any tips for me, who is starting to do the same? I remember seeing people talk about programs and such to help practice before so any links like that might help too.

I'm already enrolled in a class which I'll be starting soon, an elective module for Basic Japanese in Uni and I have a book on learning Hiragana which at the moment is hard to tell from swiggles for me. Does anyone have any tips for how I can learn the writing systems and remember them?

English is my first language and apart from some forced French classes when I was younger, I've not learnt a language before. I've had a go on Rosetta Stone JP Lvl 1 though and only seem to remember the spoken word though it also gives the hiragana and kanji.
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Old 2007-09-20, 06:03
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Moogy Moogy is offline
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I learned Hiragana with an online flash card thing in a day or two. Not too hard. This page, specifically. (It seems to be down at the moment.)

I learned Katakana by watching videos of Japanese RPGs on Youtube. Yes. The flash card method is probably better.

If you want to learn Kanji then you'll need to become extremely bored for long periods of time. Just do whatever works for you. Pasting eroge scripts into WWWJDIC can be a good idea! I dunno.

For grammar, just check out
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Old 2007-09-20, 06:09
GreatSaintLouis GreatSaintLouis is offline
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When you've got hiragana, katakana, and a fair amount of grammar under your belt and are ready to tackle kanji, I highly recommend both volumes of Basic Kanji Book. As far as just starting out, the Japan Times' Genki: An Integrated Course in Elementary Japanese is what I used in my first year of college Japanese, and it's a wonderful beginning place that will get you through hiragana and katakana as well as leave you with a reasonable start to vocabulary and grammar studies and even ease you into about a hundred kanji.
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Old 2007-09-20, 06:56
AstCd2 AstCd2 is offline
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My two pence:

1. Try reading some fiction in addition to your textbooks. Not only does this add a little bit of much needed fun to what can otherwise be a terribly dull learning process, but you'll get to see the difference between how Japanese works in theory and in practice, which is invaluable.

2. Buy a good grammar book (or take a look at a good grammar website) and learn the ways in which sentences can be constructed. It's definitely tempting to muddle by in a lot of cases by guessing the sentence from the context and the nouns/verbs/adjectives, but there's no substitute for knowing how a sentence is put together if you want to learn how to write, too. To this end, you're better off looking for a relatively slim but readable guide instead of the comprehensive grammar dictionaries.

Two books I found useful are Reader's guide to intermediate Japanese by Watt and Rubinger and Making sense of Japanese grammar by Cipris and Hamano. The latter is a tad dry, but if you can absorb it all, you're pretty much home free.
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Old 2007-09-20, 06:59
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Agilis Agilis is offline
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I have been helping a friend (in advisory capacity) learn Japanese on his own, and he's mostly been using a combination of various textbooks, Rosetta stone, and lots of exposure. It's not nearly as good as having a real teacher of course, but it seems somewhat doable with very strong self discipline.

I asked my previous Japanese teacher about textbooks for this friend, and she recommended the "Adventures in Japanese" series of books out of all the ones she's gone through. They're slightly less 'adult' oriented in that it's less business-like Japanese, and feels geared for a slightly younger audience - late high school early college instead of professionals, lots of hand-drawn pictures for vocab, that sort of thing. But, she recommended them for the good explanations and the cultural information that's contained within.

All in all, the grammar in Japanese is blessedly regular compared to Romance languages, so more exposure to culture and the like would be my take on things.
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Old 2007-09-20, 09:02
zalas zalas is offline
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I've found this site to be very useful, at least for a reference guide:
In particular, I've found to be very useful when trying to find some grammatical construct or particle.
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Old 2007-09-20, 12:41
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Asceai Asceai is offline
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I'm a fan of

Not that my own Japanese 'ability' is anything to envy, mind =p

For actually learning Kanji, well, I just browse the internets with rikaichan turned on and look up everything I don't recognise. Kinda like how I learn new words in English.

Last edited by Asceai; 2007-09-20 at 12:52.
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Old 2007-09-20, 20:51
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Yea, our school works With JSL (Japanese the Spoken Language) and JWL (Japanese the Written Langauge) They're both very good as textbooks, and to help one learn, but I don't think they'd be much help without a classroom setting to practice in. However, if you have experience in Linguistics, JSL is a pretty good series, its just a little old, so you have to be careful since some of the colloquialisms have changed.

As for hiragana, Katakana... I learned those from being bored in Spanish class. <_<;; I would just sit there writing words out in kana on ruffles of notebook paper to pass the time, rather than sleep through class.

But once you get a grasp of Japanese grammar, a good way to learn how to read kanji I've found, Is to buy some manga and read it with a Kanji Dictionary (or WWJDIC) at your side. One of those: Read, guess the meaning of the word you don't know, look it up, write it down, and when you've finished reading for the day, practice going over the words you didn't know when you first sat down. I actually bought a rather difficult manga, Full Metal Alchemist, to start off with, so when I first started reading it, the volumes would take me forever to get through.

The other benefit of that I've found is that while yes, the beginning is rough, once you actually start learning to read the kanji, you'll find that they're usually used fairly often in the manga you're reading. So if you pick a series with a lot of volumes, you can surprise yourself by how much faster you read them with each progressive volume.

Honestly, that's how I've learned a lot of what I can read and remember. The class will teach you a lot and a lot of basic things. But at least in my class, they also teach a lot of practical kanji vocabulary, but thats not very useful if you want to have a discussion with someone beyond the tatemae.

On that note, I would like to add that if you plan to learn how to read kanji from manga, I would recommend buying the manga for an anime that you've already seen, that way some of the words will be familiar to you, and you'll already have an idea of what *Should* be going on in what you're reading.

Last edited by kouryuu; 2007-09-20 at 20:53.
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Old 2007-09-20, 23:16
GreatSaintLouis GreatSaintLouis is offline
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Just a note on WWWJDIC: while an amazing resource for the price you pay ($free dollars!), it suffers from Free Project-Itis; that is, I've occasionally looked up words to have only the first two most common definitions show up, or I've come across words whose definitions are not entirely on the mark. I haven't encountered anything blatantly wrong as of yet, but a few of the iffy definitions were off enough to completely put a sentence's meaning off-kilter. It's a great resource to use, but I would certainly recommend backing it up with a strong print dictionary. While a little small, I find that most of the time Kodansha's Furigana J-E and E-J dictionaries do the trick just fine, especially considering my relative inexperience with the language. For kanji I recommend Kodansha's Essential Kanji Dictionary, but feel free to look around and decide for yourself. Just know that while a strictly romaji dictionary may be appealing for ease of use, it will not help you at all in reading or recognizing kana or kanji.

Also, if you have a Nintendo DS, Kanji Sonomama Rakubiki Jiten is an amazing alternative to an electronic dictionary twice the price of the DS + cartridge. And stylus-based kanji lookup = WHOO!
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Old 2007-09-20, 23:29
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drmchsr0 drmchsr0 is offline
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I dunno about you guys, but a close friend and ace translator I know swears by <a href="">Remembering The Kanji</a>, by J.W. Heisig.
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Old 2007-09-21, 03:57
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> swears by Remembering The Kanji, by J.W. Heisig.

Another vote for this. I have absolutely no problems with remembering kanji these days (after less than 1.5 years of study I can write about ~1500)

Unless you are very strong willed you will not be able to follow exactly what the book preaches though (i.e., learning 2000 kanji before you touch a word of actual Japanese)

Personally I learned 500 in a month or so, and then went onto real Japanese study. Then, whenever I come across a new kanji, I find it in Heisig, and start following the tree of elements using the indexes and such, and memorise. (Though it's been months since I found a kanji I didn't already know all the components of)
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