Discussion of the Japanese Language



  • A general thread for any discussions relating to the Japanese language. This can range from quick translation requests (please no paragraph long translations, just simple "I'm signing up for a Japanese service, what does 名前 mean?" type requests) to tips on getting started learning the language.

    If anyone has useful resources suggest them and I'll add the to the OP.

    Useful Resources for learning:

    Textbooks/Teaching programs:
    Duolingo A teaching service, Japanese is currently only on IOS and Android.
    Genki (2 books)
    みんなのにほんご (minna no Nihongo) textbook used by Japanese language schools.

    Websites/Apps:
    Anki digital flash card app with tons of pre-built Japanese related decks (on pretty much everything).
    HelloTalk A social media service which asks what your mother tongue is as well as what language you want to learn at the start. It allows you to see the reverse (likely Japanese people learning English in your case) and the goal is to correct any incorrect English and have any incorrect Japanese be corrected. There is also private text voice chat (IOS and Android).
    J-CAT A Japanese proficiency test. Requires a request to join. Approval took me about 3 business days.



  • @pleco_breeder said in Fall 2017 Anime U.S. & Canada Licenses/Streaming Rights:

    Also, most Japanese are impressed when a foreigner makes an effort to speak the language, and are willing to overlook minor grammatical errors.

    What I meant with

    It's actually weird how often a Japanese person will tell me there's nothing wrong with a sentence when I accidentally used は instead of が.

    Is on the service I mentioned above "Hello Talk" where the goal is for us all to correct each other. I frequently start my posts with 「日本語を正してください」 (Please correct my Japanese) and get a few "all good!" type comments before someone comes in and corrects some mistake I made. I wouldn't mind it so much if I was just talking to Japanese people but it's on an app where the point is for them to correct me. To be fair I don't think I've ever had a post go completely uncorrected if there was a mistake so I do catch on eventually.



  • Most of my early experience learning was completely self-taught, but can provide a couple of pointers that are often overlooked/underrated.

    1. Rosetta Stone is useless for learning words or conjugation of verbs, ikeyoushi, or nakeyoushi. However, the grammar is spot on most of the time. It does rush into phrases without really explaining what each part of the phrase means, so you're really just learning travelers phrases. It's also good with regards to getting used to hearing how the words are intended to sound.

    2. Learning from subbed anime is completely useless because of localization. However, I strongly advise it once you've developed a vocabulary because it enforces your brain to begin recognizing words as they are spoken at native speaker speeds. It's important to not pay attention to what is written for subs and focus more on what is happening and the words you hear. Also effective for increasing your vocabulary if you take the time to write down new words and look them up after the show is complete. By enforcing what is happening with the show, it also gives some idea of context for the use of the words.

    3. Learn the alphabet (hiragana and katakana) before getting too far into studying. Words which often sound the same, or only slightly different, to western ears can have completely opposite meanings. かわいい and こわい are commonly mistaken by new learners when speaking. Knowing the proper order the alphabet is written in will make all the difference in the world when you begin trying to learn how to conjugate verbs. By simply switching the lines of specific portions of words, if learned correctly, you can apply things such as tense, reason for an action, potential, or conjunction by changing a syllable. VERY IMPORTANT if you want to become fluent. Sometimes, even the meaning of the verb will change in special cases.

    As for learning materials, most language schools in Japan use みんなのにほんご (Minna no Nihongo). It was used at the school I attended there, and was fairly effective. Don't bother with the English language version. Learn the alphabet, and jump straight to the Japanese text version. There is also a kanji book which can be got, and is also effective, but I'll get to it in a second.

    As for vocab while studying from the above book, there is an unofficial app for Android which lists all the vocab from each chapter. The app itself is pretty useless beyond that, but allows you a list of words to study to keep up with the chapters. The quizlet app will let you make flashcards, or there are several partial sets already floating around. Also use flashcards for your kanji studies.

    As for the kanji, I do recommend learning from a book similar to the one mentioned here. However, I've yet to find a complete reference. The book mentioned teaches onyomi and kunyomi as well as lists 3-4 simple words for each new kanji. A lot of the words are similar/same as the other text, but most are words not used in the textbook. They don't throw you from 白(shiro (white)) straight to 自動預け払い機 (jidouhanbaiki (vending machine)). You'll learn them, but not immediately, and actually know the sounds associated with them if you study them correctly.

    The series of books mentioned actually has beginner, intermediate, and advanced books. Upon completing the advanced, if you've studied, it should be possible to pass N3 very easily, and N2 is possible.

    Get a good Japanese dictionary app. I use takoboto and have had fairly good results with it, but the kanji section is a bit sketchy in that some kanji particles aren't included in the listing. Often with irregular readings it's going to be hit or miss whether a kanji is listed. I know that 大人 (otona (adult)) isn't in there. This is an irregular reading, meaning that it doesn't follow the same rules for onyomi or kunyomi, so it's not too much of a shock.

    As for dictionaries, you can never have too many of them. Often the explanation given in one will only be a partial definition. Going to use kana here to give an example, but there are kanji associated with these words as well. Both おおきい (ookii) and ひろい (hiroi) mean large and most dictionaries will leave it at that, but hiroi refers specifically to a space whereas ookii refers to the size of a physical object. Knowing the difference makes a big change in the way you speak and the reaction you get from native speakers.

    After learning the basics from these, and should be able to communicate very effectively, continue learning new words by studying the dictionaries, communicating, and watching A LOT of raw anime!!! ;-)

    As for book references, I used bothTHIS and THIS till they fell apart when first learning. I would still recommend them for early learners.



  • Duolingo A teaching service, Japanese is currently only on IOS and Android.

    I've been using the app and I understand that it is still a work in progress but I do have a little bit of beef with it.

    Primarily with Hiragana, I feel that being able to read most of the Hiragana before starting Kanji is really needed. The training part is really helpful but it will practice you everything that you have done up to that point, so if you go past Hiragana 4 it'll start giving you the Kanji and Katakana that you've already "learned." I know that it could be solved by just getting another app or whatever.

    I also feel that language learning would be best with a native speaker and/or a friend to learn it with. Like my own personal friend is a dual native speaker of English and Spanish, I know that if I ever need a translator or someone to teach me I can call on him BUT I DON'T WANT TO LEARN SPANISH, so there's that.

    But having someone who already knows the language would be super helpful just because they would be able to correct what you are doing wrong and/or help you with enunciation.

    Motivation would also be super helpful, holy crap is motivation NEEDED. I WANT to learn JP but I am also easily distracted on my phone... and my pc... and on my own. Like if it was my job to learn it, I could do it, because I would be sat down, thrown a book at my face and told "learn it!"

    I guess I should say, don't give me the option but require me to learn it. Because I personally think it'd be cool to instruct people on how English works in another language (I guess you could say i want to be a JP teacher teaching English). Like I personally feel I have a very good understanding of English (except for denotations and connotations slip-ups) and like demonstrating this to people. Oh and the semicolon will die because I taught that it is a 100% useless punctuation mark, just drop a period and end it (pun 100% intended).

    Get me?



  • @Doublethree100 I know I'm breaking a rule by using two separate posts back-to-back, but wanted to have this separate from the general "where do I start" stuff above. With regards to the use of は or が, most of the time they will not conflict if you realize that が is never the primary subject of a sentence. は will always be the primary subject. One other place where I've often seen people try to use は improperly is the introduction of new information.

    For example, gonna do this in kana and futsutai, so I hope that's alright: なにがかいたい? What do you want to buy? くるまがかいたい。 I want to buy a car. The question is asking for the introduction of new information, so has to use the が particle. Likewise, the new information has to be marked with the same particle. It's not the subject. The subject, in this case わたしは, has been dropped from the sentence as it expected to be understood based upon context.



  • @pleco_breeder said in Discussion of the Japanese Language:

    As for the kanji, I do recommend learning from a book similar to the one mentioned here. However, I've yet to find a complete reference. The book mentioned teaches onyomi and kunyomi as well as lists 3-4 simple words for each new kanji. A lot of the words are similar/same as the other text, but most are words not used in the textbook. They don't throw you from 白(shiro (white)) straight to 自動預け払い機 (jidouhanbaiki (vending machine)). You'll learn them, but not immediately, and actually know the sounds associated with them if you study them correctly.

    I've actually found myself focusing more on learning kanji through vocab over learning "火 is 'fire' and can be read as _, _ and _" (although I already knew that) I find learning はなび as 花火 (fireworks) or かざん as 火山 (volcano) is much more helpful. Sure there's some basic ones but say I learn a meaning for 洋 is ocean but I already know 海 as ocean so learning vocab I feel I get a better understanding of when I would use each one.

    @pleco_breeder said in Discussion of the Japanese Language:

    Learn the alphabet (hiragana and katakana) before getting too far into studying.

    This 100%. If you're serious about learning Japanese you'll need them eventually and you might as well just start with them and associate Fireworks as はなび instead of "hanabi" will be much easier.

    @darthrutsula40 said in Discussion of the Japanese Language:

    Motivation would also be super helpful, holy crap is motivation NEEDED. I WANT to learn JP but I am also easily distracted on my phone... and my pc... and on my own. Like if it was my job to learn it, I could do it, because I would be sat down, thrown a book at my face and told "learn it!"

    Yeah that has been my biggest issue when transitioning from classes at college to self study (because I took all the offered courses) . I find doing the day's Anki cards and some work in my Genki textbook each morning shortly after waking up before really starting my day has been useful but I am a morning person so that might not help with you.

    @pleco_breeder said in Discussion of the Japanese Language:

    The subject, in this case わたしは, has been dropped from the sentence as it expected to be understood based upon context.

    This is one of the times I have issues. I drop 私/僕/etc but still think I need は. The other time is when I'm combining two sentences and both had a は but the "secondary" sentence replaces は with が.

    An example of that taken from my textbook (since I don't think I explained it well) is 私一番感動映画「生きる」です。 I've written that with either both being は or reversing them on a number of occasions.



  • @darthrutsula40 Hiragana and katakana are definitely required long before beginning kanji. The easiest way I found, starting with only one of them, was to copy the alphabet. THIS site has a relatively good copy. A key point to realize right off the bat is the first vertical line to the right is the basic vowels: a, i, u, e, o. The order is important. The top horizontal is (reading right to left as is standard in Japanese) a, ka, sa, ta, na, ha, ma, ya, ra, wa. Beyond that, it's applying the sounds just like in a punnet square.

    First thing first, get used to the look of each sound. As soon as you're only slightly skittish with the thought of being able to write half of them, begin doing timed drills writing through the entire alphabet with timed drills. Doing this about an hour a day, and being critical of my mistakes, I was able to learn to read and write both hiragana and katakana in 6 days. I stressed myself to no end doing it, but it's amazing how fast you learn when you're pushing yourself to do it faster. BTW, about 1:45 for all 76 characters seems to be about as fast as my fingers can move.



  • @pleco_breeder said in Discussion of the Japanese Language:

    @darthrutsula40 Hiragana and katakana are definitely required long before beginning kanji. The easiest way I found, starting with only one of them, was to copy the alphabet. THIS site has a relatively good copy. A key point to realize right off the bat is the first vertical line to the right is the basic vowels: a, i, u, e, o. The order is important. The top horizontal is (reading right to left as is standard in Japanese) a, ka, sa, ta, na, ha, ma, ya, ra, wa. Beyond that, it's applying the sounds just like in a punnet square.

    First thing first, get used to the look of each sound. As soon as you're only slightly skittish with the thought of being able to write half of them, begin doing timed drills writing through the entire alphabet with timed drills. Doing this about an hour a day, and being critical of my mistakes, I was able to learn to read and write both hiragana and katakana in 6 days. I stressed myself to no end doing it, but it's amazing how fast you learn when you're pushing yourself to do it faster. BTW, about 1:45 for all 76 characters seems to be about as fast as my fingers can move.

    This probably pertains more to personal preference but I feel that just learning them in list form, as if they are alphabetical, wouldn't be the best method. Its like saying O comes after N, letters =/= numbers. ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ is just as valid as ZYXWVUTSRQPONMLKJIHGFEDCBA. That is what I liked about duolingo, it taught me some hiragana and then gave me some vocab. An issue I forsee with myself being self-taught in JP is that I know I will say/use a word that would be used incorrectly because of some sort of connotation associated with it. Like this one time I decided to be more shakespearean and used "fair" to describe good looks, Took like 5 minutes to make that friend feel better considering in her mind I pretty much said "you look slightly below average" upon first meeting her, we're bffs now. Which is also another wierd one, wouldn't exactly think of a male using the term bff.

    However some of it would be easier for me, because it is really hard to say girl friend in normal conversation without it sounding like girlfriend in English whereas in JP you have one word for girlfriend and another for girl friend. One of those things where its better to have something written in English for better understanding.

    Did any of this make sense? Because I'm pretty sure I'm getting some disjointed thought patterns going on here.



  • @Doublethree100 said in Discussion of the Japanese Language:

    I've actually found myself focusing more on learning kanji through vocab over learning "火 is 'fire' and can be read as _, _ and _" (although I already knew that) I find learning はなび as 花火 (fireworks) or かざん as 火山 (volcano) is much more helpful. Sure there's some basic ones but say I learn a meaning for 洋 is ocean but I already know 海 as ocean so learning vocab I feel I get a better understanding of when I would use each one.

    @pleco_breeder said in Discussion of the Japanese Language:

    The subject, in this case わたしは, has been dropped from the sentence as it expected to be understood based upon context.

    This is one of the times I have issues. I drop 私/僕/etc but still think I need は. The other time is when I'm combining two sentences and both had a は but the "secondary" sentence replaces は with が.

    An example of that taken from my textbook (since I don't think I explained it well) is 私一番感動映画「生きる」です。 I've written that with either both being は or reversing them on a number of occasions.

    First, I'll go over the kanji thing and explain why it's important to learn the base kanji first. Learning your way will take you a good bit of the way through, and is definitely good for learning vocabulary. However, let's look at 終わり or 前. Both are rather basic kanji, owari and mae respectively. But if you look at them there are several parts to each of them. Each of those parts has a meaning. Kanji can use up to 8 separate positions to explain what that word is. For owari, on the left you have 糸 ito (thread) and the right is 冬 fuyu (winter). Therefore, it's literally referring to the end of a connection in a weird sort of way. Even 語 go (language) or kata (speak) has three separate base kanji. 言います iimasu (speak), 五 go or itsu (number 5), and 口 kuchi (mouth). It's literally saying speak with mouth, and pronounce this kanji as go.

    For basic learning, you can get far with your method, but if you'll invest the time in learning the 216 kanji particles and their meanings, you'll actually learn more kanji meanings than most Japanese. Japan only requires to know 1,236 specific kanji in order to graduate high school, but there are over 50,000 in the language. Knowing the parts, and why will take you a lot further, and it's almost a requisite if you intend to take the N1.

    As to the が usage, it's the same problem as I explained with は, but the sentence order has been switched to put the subject in the center as opposed to the beginning. In that sentence, the movie is what you're talking about, so it is the subject. You are just using が to make a connection of watashi and ichiban.



  • @Doublethree100 Had to step away for a quick break, and thought about how to better explain the reason for this particular use of が. It has a conversational feel to the statement now that I've thought about it. For example:

    A-さん:だれが一番好きなアニメはドラゴンボールですか。
    B-さん:私が一番好きなアニメはドラゴンボールです。

    Same format, but simplifies that new information is being introduced with the statement. Could also be used if A said they like something specific, and B liked it or something else as well. Basically stressing the "me" part of the sentence.



  • @pleco_breeder What I mean with kanji is I learn both the kanji and a bunch of vocab. I don't find learning 休 can be read as やす or きゅう (among other things) very helpful as 安 is also やす and 急 九 and probably a dozen other kanji I've learned are きゅう. Knowing 休み is to rest or 休日 is holiday and seeing the kanji is essentially made up of a person laying under a tree seems far more useful to me. I do learn the kunyomi and onyomi though but I find it easier to do so after I learn what it means and basically just learn them from removing 日 from 休日 which I learned as きゅうじつ if that makes sense.



  • @Doublethree100 Makes a bit more sense than my initial understanding. I've known a lot of people that have just crammed words in for the sake of understanding what kanji to associate, and that method only gets so far. If you're accounting for the expansion of the kanji, and realize that they get rather intense eventually (meaning don't get too attached to "it has to mean/say this") you'll be fine.



  • @pleco_breeder said in Discussion of the Japanese Language:

    (meaning don't get too attached to "it has to mean/say this") you'll be fine.

    I'm already at that point. Like I never learned 氏 but what Jisho says it means combined with 糸 (as you said, thread) I don't see how we get 紙 for paper. I just think of 紙 as its own kanji though and ignore the parts of it. Maybe there is a reason for those two bases but I don't want to end up confused.



  • @Doublethree100 There is a reason, but likely goes further than you want to have to think about it. 糸 can be used for thread or fibers, not much of a difference. You're going to run into that kanji A LOT as a portion of others though. Unless you're ready to take a crash course in the thought processes involved in reading kanji (wouldn't recommend unless you know those 216 I mentioned earlier) it's likely best to just know that it means thread and leave it at that for the moment. It gets to be pretty intense when you first start trying to figure out what they mean together and how they interact. Took me a couple of months after being told about it before I could really make the connection efficiently and that was with it being explained after knowing the basic parts.

    Edit: If you want to really think about this, remember that washi was the only paper in Japan for a VERY long time. Might help with the family part of the kanji if you're familiar with how shinto is connected to rice production in early Japan.


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