Intimidating Languages

So, for me, I started to look into Japanese a little and got a little intimidated by the script. Not going to lie, really debating if it’s something I want to get into right now. I would love to know what you guys think, and if you have any advice on how to start learning Japanese from the very beginning!

I recommended LingQ to a friend precisely to learn Japanese, and he walked away within a day. He said that “much of the kanji was too advanced, because in school, you’d need to be level 3 or 4 to know it” or something to that effect. In essence, because LingQ didn’t follow the rules he had picked up from school. I was disappointed, because he missed the whole point of LingQ.

I started up with Polish, which isn’t as tricky as Japanese, but it does use an alphabet variant, and is full of strange concepts like weird cases and noun-genders (and adjective genders!) that I still don’t understand after a month of studying. It took me several days to even get the first 5 words down and go from absolute beginner to beginner 1 and I felt like I was crawling for the first month or so… now, though, I’ve hit a critical mass and I seem to get the flow of the language much better, and my pace has picked up considerably!

I’m also interested in learning Japanese (and Chinese!), though I haven’t looked at it much (though I have taken some Japanese classes in the past). Just flipping through the Who Is She beginner 1 lesson (which is useful as I already roughly know what it’s about), I can see that you’d have to go through it word by word, listen to it again and again, and it’d be slow going to get a handle on things, but I expect your journey would parallel my journey with Polish: Rough going at first, because it absolutely does not follow a Western European logic at all, but once you start to understand the patterns and have a few words under your belt, it’ll go easier.

Have faith! Stick with it, make links, and study up on them. Revisit, revisit, revisit until you can make heads or tails of it, and then expand.

Intimidating motivates me. There are a lot of good things about studying a difficult language. For example, if you have any success at all it will be considered a big accomplishment. Chances are, you won’t have lots of your countrymen who understand enough to bug you about your level. You will finally know what really works for you in learning a language, because you’ll probably try just about everything and notice a significant difference in efficiency. You’ll be that guy who can speak Japanese, you know, the only one on your block. Etc.

Japanese is extremely difficult, and will take many years to reach a decent level in. But it starts out easy because it has very straightforward pronunciation and phonetic alphabet. As long as you are motivated, and realize it will take a long time, you won’t be disappointed.

Learn the first 500 words using kana (no kanji), at lingq, with beginner lessons.
In the meantime, start right now studying kanji (‘Remembering the kanji’). Don’t waste time trying to memorize too much, except easy kanji, throught stories (mnemonics).
When you’re up to 500 words, you should already know a 100, 200, 300 kanji, a small base. Start reading stuff with kanji in it. Install rikaikun for Chrome. I could’nt live without it.
Continue studying kanji in the meantime, with ‘remembering the kanji’. But don’t waste your time with difficult kanji, or too complicated stories to remember kanji better. Juste pass throught all the 2000 kanji one by one. Your brain will assimilate them though exposure. I personnally created a mnemonic for each kanji while reading them. I read them all 7 times during 3 months. I never reviewed them really, just pass throught fast (though I spent dozens of hours creating my stories). Some sticked; some didn’t. I realized that the best trick is to expose yourself as much as possible throught input: reading, listening, anecdotes, stories. And the most important advice: never try to memorize words, kanji, or whatever. The only thing I consciously tried and remembered were the kanas (katakana and hiragana), for 2 reasons: 1) it’s the absolute base 2) it’s a very finite project: you can do it in 3 days. I absolutely reject the idea of putting myself into the task of remembering things that are not finite, like for instance, the words of a specific language. I keep that for the long run. But kanas are limited. 46. You can do it, so do it as fast as possible.

After 3 to 4 months, I was into real content: wikis, movie reviews, etc. Right now I’m reading short novels. I’m still decoding of course. But one thing for sure, the writing system is not something that bothers much anymore. I had to work hard at first, but now I feel really at ease with it. I would even dare say that I find it easier to read content with kanji than the contrary; I can guess the meaning of a whole lot of content just by their kanji. I feel my reading is like a year ahead of my listening, just for that reason.

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This is only my way, and I’ve come across many people who disagree with it…

I plan on learning Japanese the same way as a european language by using a website to convert the symbols into roman alphabet. I’m not sure what it’s called in japanese, but in chinese the romanised version is called pinyin and can be used to input the symbols on a computer. there’s even a small controversy in china now, with more people not learning to write the symbols as they once did.

What I’m hoping to avoid is having to learn the word & symbol at the same time, which I feel would be too much for me.

Japanese text written in Latin alphabet is called," Romanji". I learn a little Japanese. I got through the Hirigana and the Katanana.

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Ozzy - its “romaji” (no n)
Most people recommend starting with the kana, and skipping romaji. There are advantages and disadvantages of course.

LingQ has several major problems with how it handles Japanese, but kanji difficulty isn’t one of them. It sounds like he chose some material that was over his head. It can’t all be over his head, because there is quite a bit of basic stuff here. Also, he can paste in material from wherever he wants. Finally, if he doesn’t know the kanji reading, he should be able to hover over it to seamlessly see what it is - that’s the big advantage of using LingQ.

Imo, LingQ’s shortcomings specific to Japanese are the following:

  1. Very poor parsing. In other words, it will break apart characters that belong together and join characters that belong apart, and in these cases it will usually prevent you from highlighting the correct combination to get the reading/definition
  2. Word and character spacing that are way too large. Japanese is supposed to have no spacing between characters. LingQ Japanese has a large spacing between characters, and a very large spacing between what it thinks are words. There is an option to “hide spacing”, but all that does is to reduce it a tiny bit.
  3. There is a lack of intermediate material. This is the case with many languages here, so really no surprises.

LingQ has made it clear that they aren’t going to fix any of these problems, ever. So Japanese learners will need to be willing to compromise.

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