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PostRe: Learning Japanese/Chinese (The Language Thread)
by Igor » Sun Aug 22, 2010 8:05 pm

Can we talk about more than just Japanese in here? I'm looking at learning Russian at least to a decent conversational level and massively improving my French. I'll be in Russia for a couple of months next summer, and hopefully I'll be spending a year in France in the next few years. My French used to be at a high A Level standard but has waned recently, and I know absolutely no Russian.

Thoughts? I should begin with Russian, right? I can see similar problems that Parksey is having with the written language - anyone know how difficult is Cyrillic to get to grips with?

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PostRe: Learning Japanese/Chinese (The Language Thread)
by Parksey » Mon Aug 23, 2010 8:50 pm

Yeah, you can talk about whatever languages interest you. It just so happens that this thread has so far just been me asking questions about Japanese. Which I will now continue...

I've managed to learn Hiragana now, and I've started to begin to be able to "read" it. At the moment, I still have to interpret each symbol and then piece the word together (or with longer sentences, right the romanji down after deciphering the hiragana). How long does it take, approximately, to be able to read it just off the bat?

Also, how do you know where the words end with some sentences? Sometimes there is a full stop or gap, other times there isn't.

And once I learn Katakana, where next? Do you go straight onto some simple, common kanji, so you know the popular nouns, verbs and adjectives, or do you get the grammar stuff sorted, using kana, then move onto learning what to put in sentences?

I'm also looking at getting some more books - I may get Busy People in kana, as I think the romanised version may sooner hinder me once I can read the symbols and I was thinking of the Talk Active BBC guide which, while brief and basic, may cover some stuff not in Busy People (which has a lot of business-related vocab).

I could also do with a grammar book perhaps, as I suspect beginner's books will be light on this subject. I was thinking of this:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/All-About-Parti ... =1-1-spell

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Basic-Connectio ... pd_sim_b_3

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Making-Sense-Ja ... pd_sim_b_4

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Dictionary-Japa ... pd_sim_b_2



I was also thinking of getting Heisig's "Remembering the Kanji Vol.1 ". I know that this is only a memory technique and that actually reading the meanings behind the kanji follows in his second and third volumes, but people seem to be saying that it is a very reliable method for remembering the 2000 kanji promoted by the Japanese government.

I have quite a good memory, so I think this book may be a useful way to commit kanji to my bbbbbrrraaain. Problem is, he uses an unorthdox order, so I'd have to stick with it. I'd also have to read the other two volumes in all likelihood.

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PostRe: Learning Japanese/Chinese (The Language Thread)
by Qikz » Mon Aug 23, 2010 10:52 pm

I would personally say once you know Katakana, stick to those two first and learn grammar, grammar is alot more important to need to understand before you start worrying about Kanji. Just about to write my fourth blog post. :wub:

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PostRe: Learning Japanese/Chinese (The Language Thread)
by Parksey » Mon Aug 23, 2010 11:06 pm

StayDead wrote:I would personally say once you know Katakana, stick to those two first and learn grammar, grammar is alot more important to need to understand before you start worrying about Kanji. Just about to write my fourth blog post. :wub:


I stopped reading after "こんばんは" on your last one.

I presume that's "konbanwa" which means "Good evening"?

I might buy a few of those grammar books then - does anyone have any recommendations? It's always the grammar trips me up, as I'm an English Literature guy not a Language guy. I always get bogged down in rules and definitions (I have a degree in English and don't know what a post-position is...).

Are you able to read hiragana "properly" without having to romanise it in your head (or on a piece of paper) and then translating that, StayDead? I'm on that level at the moment, but my basic vocabulary means I only know a few words.

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PostRe: Learning Japanese/Chinese (The Language Thread)
by Qikz » Mon Aug 23, 2010 11:15 pm

Parksey wrote:
StayDead wrote:I would personally say once you know Katakana, stick to those two first and learn grammar, grammar is alot more important to need to understand before you start worrying about Kanji. Just about to write my fourth blog post. :wub:


I stopped reading after "こんばんは" on your last one.

I presume that's "konbanwa" which means "Good evening"?

I might buy a few of those grammar books then - does anyone have any recommendations? It's always the grammar trips me up, as I'm an English Literature guy not a Language guy. I always get bogged down in rules and definitions (I have a degree in English and don't know what a post-position is...).

Are you able to read hiragana "properly" without having to romanise it in your head (or on a piece of paper) and then translating that, StayDead? I'm on that level at the moment, but my basic vocabulary means I only know a few words.


I'm very slowly working my way towards doing that with more Kanji now, I can do it with quite a few Kanji words, but obviously not all as there's still a heck of a lot of Kanji I'm yet to understand. You'll be able to do that with Hiragana pretty quickly as your vocabulary improves and you use it enough. It mainly just comes down to practice, practice and more practice.

I personally started out by drilling Hiragana into my head, then trying to drill alot of grammar into my head which was way past my level as I found it really hard worrying about the little things like remembering words, if I got stuck I moved further on and just went back later, which generally meant I had a better understanding of it by this point. My advice to you, is to worry about grammar first, then worry about vocab. If you don't know the grammar, your vocab isn't really going to help. :P

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PostRe: Learning Japanese/Chinese (The Language Thread)
by Chris » Mon Aug 23, 2010 11:22 pm

I've managed to learn Hiragana now, and I've started to begin to be able to "read" it. At the moment, I still have to interpret each symbol and then piece the word together (or with longer sentences, right the romanji down after deciphering the hiragana). How long does it take, approximately, to be able to read it just off the bat?


That depends. The speed at which you can read hiragana will increase at the fastest rate, because you obviously see it more often than katakana. Again it's all about how much you practise.

Also, how do you know where the words end with some sentences? Sometimes there is a full stop or gap, other times there isn't.


Yeah, Japanese doesn't really use spaces and you tend to have to use the changes in the ways words are written (hiragana, katakana, kanji) to figure out the differences between the words. Again, you just become accustomed to it. For example there are no breaks in the following sentence (I was told off by Takahashi sensei), but it should be pretty obvious where the breaks in the word are:

俺は高橋先生に叱られました。

The first kanji is おれ (a way of saying 'I' used exclusively by males), the next hiragana is your particle は, the next two kanji are a name たかはし, and the two immediately following that mean せんせい (teacher.) The next hiragana is another particle に, and the final kanji signals the start of the verb 'to scold' しかる, in this case conjugated into the past/passive form. There's really no hard and fast rule, and you can get a long run of kana/kanji without any change to indicate a change in the word (東京国際会社), so again it is just a case of getting used to reading the language.

And once I learn Katakana, where next? Do you go straight onto some simple, common kanji, so you know the popular nouns, verbs and adjectives, or do you get the grammar stuff sorted, using kana, then move onto learning what to put in sentences?


Yeah, best thing to do is to get yourself a textbook which uses kanji (it will put the reading in furigana above the word), and start to expose yourself to kanji in that way. That will also help you read the language as it is usually written, which comes back to your second point, above.

I was also thinking of getting Heisig's "Remembering the Kanji Vol.1 ". I know that this is only a memory technique and that actually reading the meanings behind the kanji follows in his second and third volumes, but people seem to be saying that it is a very reliable method for remembering the 2000 kanji promoted by the Japanese government.

I have quite a good memory, so I think this book may be a useful way to commit kanji to my bbbbbrrraaain. Problem is, he uses an unorthdox order, so I'd have to stick with it. I'd also have to read the other two volumes in all likelihood.


I have no experience of the other textbooks which you posted, but I do have a copy of Heisig's book. You might be different, but I have never really used it. Far too waffly and pretentious. I have just had a look through to try and give you an example of the ways in which he tries to teach you the kanji, but it really is a load of rubbish. You can probably find extracts online if you want to have a look. He tries to give each kanji a story to help you remember the stroke order. Needless to say, I only have the first volume.

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PostRe: Learning Japanese/Chinese
by That's not a growth » Tue Aug 24, 2010 1:53 pm

Kinetic wrote:TNAG, have you been drinking (I have)?

I miss ya buddy.


gooseberry fool, just noticed this.

And yes, yes I have. Miss you too. Your name seems silly now Microsoft are releasing that flappy arm loving camera this autumn, though. My regards.

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PostRe: Learning Japanese/Chinese (The Language Thread)
by Qikz » Tue Aug 24, 2010 10:05 pm

My new Japanese friend Kaz just said he thought my progression was really good for someone who's only been learning 6 months. Confidence boost get! :wub: Now to do my studying for the evening.

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PostRe: Learning Japanese/Chinese (The Language Thread)
by Parksey » Tue Aug 24, 2010 10:16 pm

Well, to me it looks like you're waaaay ahead of me and I was surprised when you said you'd only been at it a matter of months.

Saying that, this may be because a block of three or four Japanese sentences just looks intimidatingly advanced at the moment. I suppose if someone just wrote four French sentences you wouldn't be as impressed!

I'm just trying to sort out which books to buy from Amazon. My shopping basket currently totals £80!

I don't know whether I am getting too far of myself by buying books on grammar and particles? I just thought it would be useful to get this stuff learnt now.

I'm going to get the Kana Busy People book as well as the Kana workbook to help make them concrete and unforgettable.

I currently have:

Japanese for Busy People: Kana Workbook
Basic Japanese (Grammar Workbooks)
Japanese Verbs at a Glance
Easy Peasy Chinese: Mandarin Chinese for Beginners
Japanese for Busy People: Kana Version Bk. 1
Basic Connections: Making Your Japanese Flow
All About Particles: A Handbook of Japanese Function Words
The Handbook of Japanese Verbs
A Dictionary of Basic Japanese Sentence Patterns All About Particles: A Handbook of Japanese Function Words
Making Sense of Japanese

Most of them are only about £7, apart from the Busy People Kana book which is £10 and the grammar workbook, which is £18.

Problem is, the grammar workbook looks quite good for a complete beginner. I probably don't need both Japanese Verbs at a Glance and The Handbook of Japanese Verbs.

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PostRe: Learning Japanese/Chinese (The Language Thread)
by Qikz » Tue Aug 24, 2010 10:19 pm

If you can handle learning online. YesJapan is really good. I learnt and still learn there. www.YesJapan.com There's a small subscription fee, but the guy who runs it is a really nice guy who helps everyone alot if you need to ask him anything.

Basically it's his website version of the textbooks he wrote, but they're very informative and teach you things step by step up to about an intermediate level, I finished all the courses but still don't understand all the grammar yet, but it slowly introduces you to vocab, verbs, katakana and starts introducing Kanji at the beginning of Course 3, it also has all the correct stroke order for the Kanji with various example sentances and words that you can remember to help you remember the readings.

It'll save you a lot of money on all those textbooks for now atleast!

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PostRe: Learning Japanese/Chinese (The Language Thread)
by Parksey » Tue Aug 24, 2010 10:29 pm

How much is the subscription fee? I'll have a look around that site - it definitely looks like something you'd like!

I must say, I'm a bit old-fashioned and don't mind reading big textbooks. I'm kind of a stodgy, self-teacher.

Could I just get by with the romanised version of Busy People 1? That would save me £10, though I don't want it to affect my progress later on when it comes to reading kana. I could still get the Kana workbook for £6, though I do worry this is simply aimed at memorising and writing it, which I've been doing using that flash site anyway.

As for cutting down costs on my shopping list, the Japanese Grammar workbook is £20, but I have a feeling it may be useful in nailing the grammar (and it has exercises which really help me learn). There are no customer reviews or a look inside the book, mind, so I don't know what it's like.

And could I cut out the "Dictionary of Basic Sentence Patterns" which is £11? It has decent customer reviews though and the one thing Busy People lacks is a breakdown of the different sentence patterns and structures and why and how they are used.

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PostRe: Learning Japanese/Chinese (The Language Thread)
by Igor » Tue Aug 24, 2010 11:04 pm

Parksey wrote:Yeah, you can talk about whatever languages interest you. It just so happens that this thread has so far just been me asking questions about Japanese. Which I will now continue...


Sorry man, didn't mean to sound so obnoxious when I asked that.

I think I'll take a long lunch tomorrow and head to Waterstones and see what they have on Russian. All of my language learning has been via a tutor - in a class, for example. How are you home learners structuring your lessons? Do you have books with separate lessons that you work through linearly, or do you have grammar books and vocal books? Is it advisable to learn Cryllic first, and undertake all lessons using that from the off, or is it okay to work with romanised pronunciation? That question doesn't sound right, but I think you'll get me..

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PostRe: Learning Japanese/Chinese (The Language Thread)
by Lionsheart » Tue Aug 24, 2010 11:11 pm

The language school that I went to in Japan used Minna no Nihongo. There's an exercise book and also a grammar book. There are too volumes so in total it is four books. I'm still using it at the moment. My main focus now is just to increase my kanji which is limited to about 100 at the moment. I've been writing to friends in Japanese but am tempted to set up a blog like StayDead to keep it going and to start using new grammar points.

Unfortunately at Uni I'm going to have to learn latin as part of my degree but I can only take it the first year if I want. Learning two languages will be a bitch (experienced it before with french and spanish). Fortunately they are alot more different than those two so less likely to get confused. They also do a Japanese course that I will definitely do.

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PostRe: Learning Japanese/Chinese (The Language Thread)
by Parksey » Tue Aug 24, 2010 11:12 pm

Igor wrote:
Parksey wrote:Yeah, you can talk about whatever languages interest you. It just so happens that this thread has so far just been me asking questions about Japanese. Which I will now continue...


Sorry man, didn't mean to sound so obnoxious when I asked that.

I think I'll take a long lunch tomorrow and head to Waterstones and see what they have on Russian. All of my language learning has been via a tutor - in a class, for example. How are you home learners structuring your lessons? Do you have books with separate lessons that you work through linearly, or do you have grammar books and vocal books? Is it advisable to learn Cryllic first, and undertake all lessons using that from the off, or is it okay to work with romanised pronunciation? That question doesn't sound right, but I think you'll get me..


A word of advice for buying books from Waterstones - they'll probably be selling them at RRP and the Internet is way cheaper. I made the mistake last week of buying some books from there when I could have saved about £15 getting them from Amazon.

It is nice to be able to look through the books first, mind, so the trip will still be useful. If you've got a decent internet phone you can probably compare the prices on the go, which I couldn't.

As for structuring my "lessons", it's a bit hodge-podge at the moment. I tend to do it for a few hours a day after work, or when I get some spare time on the laptop while browsing here (StayDead gave me an excellent flash website which tests my Japanese kana).

I would say try and make it as structured as possible, as this will help you when you lose a bit of motivation or hit a tough patch.

I'm trying to do one day with a unit in my Japanese for Busy People every other day. The days in between, I am going to focus on learning "technical" aspects such as grammar. If I get some spare time when I'm bored, I'll practice my kana script.

It's all very loose at the moment, as I try and get into it. I'm ordering some more books tonight so I can get into some of the trickier aspects of grammar. I think it's important to try such things rather than just learning random bits of vocab.

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PostRe: Learning Japanese/Chinese (The Language Thread)
by Qikz » Tue Aug 24, 2010 11:28 pm

Parksey wrote:How much is the subscription fee? I'll have a look around that site - it definitely looks like something you'd like!



It's $9.95 for everything minus the videos which you need to purchase seperately, or $19.95 per month which includes everything. I found it nice to learn from as it's nice and structured and it really does ease you into things. Aswell as the free videos you also get 10 credits, which you used to use to purchase videos, well you still do on Basic, but you can send them over to their other company JapanFiles which sells music. I've been buying an album a month from there worth like $10 with my 10 credits each month.

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PostRe: Learning Japanese/Chinese (The Language Thread)
by Oblomov Boblomov » Tue Aug 24, 2010 11:30 pm

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PostRe: Learning Japanese/Chinese (The Language Thread)
by Igor » Tue Aug 24, 2010 11:36 pm

Cheers Parksey. I'm fairly disorganized at the best of times, so i think I'll have to structure it as if it were a lesson at school. Set time, each day.

StayDead/Chris, have you found it necessary to learn Japanese script first, as an aid to learning the spoken language? You could learn to speak Japanese at near native fluency without understanding a lick of the written language, but have/were your lessons in Japanese script? Obviously, written Japanese is a lot more complicated than written Russian, I'm just slightly worried about learning another alphabet...

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PostRe: Learning Japanese/Chinese (The Language Thread)
by Parksey » Tue Aug 24, 2010 11:36 pm

StayDead wrote:
Parksey wrote:How much is the subscription fee? I'll have a look around that site - it definitely looks like something you'd like!



It's $9.95 for everything minus the videos which you need to purchase seperately, or $19.95 per month which includes everything. I found it nice to learn from as it's nice and structured and it really does ease you into things. Aswell as the free videos you also get 10 credits, which you used to use to purchase videos, well you still do on Basic, but you can send them over to their other company JapanFiles which sells music. I've been buying an album a month from there worth like $10 with my 10 credits each month.


Is the $9.95 just a one off fee and not a monthly one?

$20 per month seems a bit step, even if videos are included (which will probably be helpful). A textbook doesn't charge me for using it constantly...

It does look nice and structured, mind, and the forum will undoubtedly become useful.

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PostRe: Learning Japanese/Chinese (The Language Thread)
by Lionsheart » Tue Aug 24, 2010 11:43 pm

Just set up a really shitty blog to practice my japanese: http://johnsjapanesepractice.blogspot.com/2010/08/blog-post.html if you are interested. No way as good as StayDead :(.

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PostRe: Learning Japanese/Chinese (The Language Thread)
by Chris » Tue Aug 24, 2010 11:46 pm

Igor wrote:Cheers Parksey. I'm fairly disorganized at the best of times, so i think I'll have to structure it as if it were a lesson at school. Set time, each day.

StayDead/Chris, have you found it necessary to learn Japanese script first, as an aid to learning the spoken language? You could learn to speak Japanese at near native fluency without understanding a lick of the written language, but have/were your lessons in Japanese script? Obviously, written Japanese is a lot more complicated than written Russian, I'm just slightly worried about learning another alphabet...


Yep, my lessons have always used Japanese script, and been taught my native speakers. There is no English at all in my current textbooks.

I have no idea about the nature of the Russian alphabet, but I would imagine that the principle is the same, in that you will pick things up better if you throw yourself in at the deep end from the off. It gets less 'daunting' eventually, if that's the right word.

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