I signed up for Japanese lessons!

In this thread, I described taking a trial lesson of a full-immersion Japanese class. That was three years ago. Tonight, I put my debit card on the line and signed up for the beginner’s class. :slight_smile:

Class starts in September. I have homework: I have to learn the first forty or however many there are of hiragana.

For thirty years I’ve wanted to do this…

I’ve taken Japanese for 2 semesters so far at university. I was never a huge anime or manga fan; I guess food was the biggest draw (see username.) Also, I’ve lived in London and quite frequently travel to Europe, so, being a lot more familiar with European culture, history, and society, it was something a little different. Plus, it would be cool to live there for a year or two, I think.

I made flashcards for kana and it took a few weeks to learn, but a few months to get down to instant recognition. I would recommend doing katakana now also, because the faster you start the sooner you won’t have to worry about it. A good site for kana, and for kanji when you get to it, is http://www.kanjisite.com/html/start/

The grammar can be quite confusing at first, because the sentence structure is so different from English, but as you get used to it, things start to make sense. One big challenge is kanji. At first I was resigned to never really knowing them. I would just memorize “this one has something that looks like a ‘b’ on the left and lots of vertical lines on the right” and get through a quiz. I realized it would be stupid to be spend so much time but be pretty much illiterate, so I started putting a lot of time into it. One thing that helps is learning the radicals. A book that uses “stories” to connect the radicals in a character to its meaning is Remembering the Kanji. The first 200 or so pages in a pdf is here. I personally didn’t use this book, but I’ve heard good things.

A fairly useful free dictionary app is kanji go. It has a few issues (I don’t see a way to copy and paste search results) but is useful if you don’t have internet access. A good online dictionary is here. You can also look up unfamiliar kanji through its radicals on this site (the kanji look-up tab, radical selection method field).

Basically the more you put in, the more you get out. I’m not at the point where I can follow much more than simple phrases in a movie or video, but I think that may be due more to a dearth of vocab than anything else. The first few months will be a little tricky, but it becomes addictive as you keep learning more.

Good luck with it.

The hardest part with Kanji (Hanzi) is that unless you use them, you tend to forget them. Watshiwa nihon go ga wakarimasen - I do not understand Japanese, but I am a student of Chinese and characters. Once you know the root characters, you can remember how to write them and divine something of the meaning. The modern Chinese (zhenti zi) are nice as they frequently will have a phonetic part and then a meaning part.

In short, the more you know, the easier it becomes, however, you must use them regularly to retain them.

This times a billion. Japanese was my foreign language in college, but I haven’t been working on it since I got back from my semester in Tokyo junior year, so a lot of it (especially written Japanese) has gone out the window. I probably had about 1,000 kanji at one point; now I’d be lucky if I could write a tenth of that.

Thanks so much for your comments and suggestions. I’ll check the links out. Right now, though, it’s hiragana city for me. :slight_smile:

Aaand, I just finished my first lesson!

It was like the trial lesson, but larger. :). There are 12 people in the class. Most of them seemed to be of Asian descent; I found myself sitting between the two who weren’t. I’d gotten there a little early. I was a little nervous.

The teacher was very enthusiastic and quickly got us all involved. Through a combination of body language and scripted interactions, she introduced us to a set of questions and answers. We went back and forth, back and forth, taking different parts. Through these interactions, she demonstrated the way that some hiragana take ‘accent marks’ to change them into others. All in Japanese!

I have homework. To be written in ひらがな (hiragana)–no roman letters allowed! :slight_smile:

Good luck, **Sunspace. **I’m currently preparing for the JLPT level four being held in December. I’m jealous you’re able to take classes with others. I’m being tutored, one on one, but prefer a classroom setting with other students. I think I would have gotten more out of it at the beginning of my language training had I peers to bounce things off of, and study with.

I think you’ll find hiragana to be very easy after very few lessons. Even remembering the conversion of the character sounds from K to G (or Z), T to D, or H to B (or P) are quick to grasp, believe it or not, as the " and [SIZE=2]° symbols are there to guide you.

Everyone learns differently but, for me, I think my learning would have been more difficult had I not gotten katakana out of the way at the same time I was learning hiragana. I was told that i could wait on katakana as it’s not used nearly as much as hiragana. I found this to be completely false. I rarely read anything in Japanese (with the exception of novels and old literature) where there isn’t some katakana evident, and (I find) the more contemporary the content, the more katakana there is, especially on signs, product displays, even cereal boxes and toy packaging. Also, bear in mind that there’s an ever increasing number of loan words being incorporated into the Japanese language, all being written with katakana.

[/SIZE]My challenge right now is Kanji, of which I need to know 103 for the exam. I’m about half way there today, with my clock ticking.

Good luck again.

I was supposed to have started a beginner level in Japanese this September also, but alas, it got postponed until this coming January*. Oh well. Still, i’d be interested in continuing updates, Sunspace, as another person starting out.

*On the plus side, i’ve also signed up for BSL, which has started already, so at least i’m not starting with two languages at the same time.

Glad to update. This is cool. I kept breaking into a grin all through the class.

What’s BSL? Brazilian as a Second Language? Barbadian Sign Language? Big Squishy Language? :slight_smile:

British Sign Language. I keep forgetting I don’t have a location field anymore!


Bruising Sign Language - You’re slapped multiple times and have to figure out the meaning by examining the welt patterns on your face.

Brooding Slacker Language - You will learn to translate the myriad shades of lack-of-ambition and abject cynicism into common spoken English, while becoming proficient at not giving a damn.

Barely Sane Language (often confused with Benign Schizophrenic Language) - This exciting course will teach you to communicate in surprising clarity with the frenetic, one-socked, shopping cart toting, inexplicably paint-splattered, complexly aromaed denizens of the streets. Learn to recognise the 34 distinct meanings of “she aint here” by intonation alone, and why blue isn’t really a color.

Benign Schizophrenic Language - Learn to communicate on a higher level…with those who aren’t even there, while maintaining an active and engaging social life with those who are.

Blank Stare language - Learn to transmit complex messages solely by increasing and decreasing the degree of your pupil dilation. Those who can control their blink and tear reflexes make great candidates as translators between parents and their teenaged children.

Eh…I gave it a shot. :stuck_out_tongue:

Yay for the first lesson! Don’t panic about the accent marks–they actually make things easier for you. I find it helps to think of the marks as changing the mora from unvoiced to voiced: t --> d, s --> z, k --> g, and so on. Personally, I find it much easier to have one kana that is た *ta *and use the marks to make it だ da, rather than memorize two totally different kana.

Agreed. Katakana are absolutely necessary, and while you’ll run into a lot of things like particles and verb endings that use hiragana, you’ll probably see more full words written in katakana. Personally, I found it more helpful to learn katakana immediately after I learned hirigana rather than at the same time, because there are many that are similar, but others that seem completely different.

Update… I’ve had the second lesson. It was a lot of stuff–all about ‘here, there, and over yonder’ for places, things, and people. There was also some material related to groups, both of similar and dissimilar objects. The teacher said that it was a lot, and we’d be going over it in the next lesson or two. I haven’t mentally worked at such an intensity since I took a legal course.

I found that by reading the Japanese part of the dictionary (Oxford Beginners Japanese/English) and sounding out the hiragana, while not particularly caring about the meanings as yet, I’m getting more used to them. My dictionary does not use romaji: Japanese words are in kana and kanji only.

I can hardly wait for the next lesson. Since next Saturday is Thanksgiving weekend, I have to wait an additional week. :: sob ::

Your enthusiasm is great, Sunspace!

I just had a test graded and barely passed <groan>. I got 100% on the vocabulary (easy-peasey), 70% translating phrases from English to Japanese, 40% translating phrases from Japanese to English (Curse you Kanji. Curse Yoouuuuu!!!), and 60% Particle fill in the multiple blanks.

I’m still not ready for the JLPT, but I’m still pushing. Just two months to go.

I wish everything were as easy as: kore, sore, are, dore. :slight_smile:

Be thankful your dictionary doesn’t have romaji. It’s a too-convenient crutch that causes learning Japanese to take longer than otherwise.

Good luck! Make sure to keep up with the homework so that the classes are more meaningful.

Well, I came back from my fourth lesson. We were introduced to some verbs today! I have homework, and starting now I have to write a diary! After only four lessons! I can now say, わたしはすしをれすとらんでたべています。 (Watashi wa sushi o resutoran de tabeteimasu.) Which means, “I am eating sushi in the restaurant.” :slight_smile:

For the first couple of lessons, it might have been possible to slide by, skimping on the homework, but no more. I have stuff to do every night, pretty much. But that’s okay.

One thing we spent a lot of time on was pronunciation drills. Long vowels vs short vowels, and making sure it’s the right vowel. Japanese has many fewer phonemes than English, the practical effect of which is, when you mispronounce something you are much more likely to be saying another completely valid, and completely nonsensical in that context, word. Many was the time we mixed up shinju and shinjuu, or shujin and shuujin. (pearl/double love suicide/husband/prisoner) Our poor teacher had to explain embarrassing new vocabulary quite a few times when we mistakenly said something that wasn’t quite what we had probably intended to say.

So it’s not just my imagination that there are a lot of very similar words…

No, it’s not just your imagination. Many that are similar, and many homonyms as well. As in, phonetically they are written exactly the same, though the kanji are different.

Off the top of my head:

sake–rice wine, salmon
kami–hair, god, paper
hashi–bridge, chopsticks
hana–nose, flower blossom
matsu–pine tree, to wait
kaeru–frog, to return home

Quite a bit of the traditional poetry uses word play based on homonyms. Along the lines of “Like the pine trees of Izu, I wait for my beloved”.

In everyday usage you can generally tell what is intended by context.