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What It Has Been Like to Study Japanese

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What It Has Been Like to Study Japanese

Post by RabidFox » Sat Jan 24, 2015 3:25 pm

[IMAGE REMOVED]

When I first started studying Japanese, it was August of 2013. I bought the Japanese version of Mother 3, because I had always wanted to play it, and I bought an orange Japanese GameBoy Advance. I played the entire game, mostly ignoring the text because it was too hard to read and, by the time I finished, I had been staring at countless scripts of Hiragana for hours upon hours.

:?:

I went to the local book store and bought a few books and a box of Hiragana and Katakana flash cards. The first books I read were Japanese for Dummies and Japanese Step by Step. I found Japanese Step by Step mostly incomprehensible, as I had just started, but Japanese for Dummies made far more sense. As time went on, I bought more and more books online.

:idea:

Out of the 47 books shown in the above photograph, I have completed 30. And that is not even all of my study books. I have a lot more. Of any book that I have finished, I have carefully read each and every page, gone over everything from cover to back, and absorbed as much as I could.

There are only 17 books on this shelf that I have not completed and I am in the middle of 4 of them. That leaves only 13 of these particular books untouched.

Some of the books focus on vocabulary, some of them grammar, some of them Kanji, and so on and so forth. Some of them are work books, most of them are for reading, and some of them are little more than lists of Kanji. It has been very fun for me to study Japanese and every time that I complete another book, I feel closer and closer to my goal of fluency.

And if you think I have a lot of study books, wait until you see my collection of Japanese novels, comics, magazines, movies, TV series, and video games. I have hundreds upon hundreds of items that are in Japanese.

Recently, I have been playing Earthbound in Japanese, otherwise known as Mother 2 in Japan. I have both Mother 2 in SNES and GameBoy Advance. I have been playing the GameBoy Advance version and have finally started moving into reading Hiragana. I opted for studying as much as possible and focusing on reading and memorizing Kanji before advancing to actually reading Hiragana rather than just learning about it. Now I can fluently read Hiragana and any text window that comes up in the game is easy for me to understand - At least, from a phonics point of view anyway. I do not know what all of the words mean, but what is important is that I can sound them out without looking at a list of the alphabet.

It has been quite a journey for me and I know that I have come a long way. Each time that I finish a task in my studying, I feel ever nearer to the end of my learning. Considering how short a time I have actually had to study, I have definitely more than made the most of my time, spending as many days as I can deep in thought on the subject.

While I have taken long breaks here and there, I otherwise study Japanese every day and try not to miss even one. I do not focus on my mistakes and I push forward, refusing to quit no matter how confused that I might get. What I have learned from all of this is that you can do anything if you just keep working at it.

One project that I have been very proud of is the writing tasks that I have set for myself. If you look at the following thread, you can see that I have been writing chapters upon chapters of English text that utilizes Japanese Kanji lists. It has helped me a great deal in my study and memorization of the roughly 2,000 Kanji that I must learn.

Check it out: http://www.feila.org/viewtopic.php?f=17&t=6815

As of January 24, 2015, there are 142 posts and 10 pages all made by me. I am very proud to say that I have written the entire thread! :D

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Re: What It Has Been Like to Study Japanese

Post by Styx » Sun Jan 25, 2015 2:10 am

Awesome job! Really, it seems like you've put a lot of dedication and time into learning Japanese! What are you looking to do with your learning? Have you considered majoring in Japanese in college? Would you like to live in Japan at some point?

My wife and I took a first-year college Japanese course and passed with an A ^_^ it was really fun learning Hiragana and Katakana, which are really the basics of the language. Hiragana is simpler to understand, while Katakana is used for foreign words and formal language. But unfortunately, Kanji's used everywhere, and there's so many! Luckily, we only had to memorize about 50 by the end. But our friend who went to complete a minor had to memorize thousands. Our teacher said there's over 40,000, but only around 5,000 are mostly used.

It was nice being able to read by the end of it, and be able to formulate sentences. The teacher was also very good with speaking and repeating things so we got used to hearing it. In fact, she mostly only ever spoke in Japanese. But speaking was still difficult, and part of the final!

Learning Japanese was definitely a lot of fun, but also a lot of work, and daunting considering the amount of Kanji to learn. While I like watching anime, I think one semester was enough for me (and my degree) ^^; But it's neat seeing that you want to go further with it!

I wish Moekana was available when I took it, since it's pretty nice to have: http://moekana.com. Danny Choo also has Moekanji, which also looks useful for starting out: http://moekanji.com

Edited to re-characterize kana

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Re: What It Has Been Like to Study Japanese

Post by RabidFox » Mon Jan 26, 2015 11:03 am

To answer your questions, Styx...

I have looked into university options, however, the local university only has a basic Japanese class. From a staff member's point of view, it is not very advanced. I'm not sure just how much it would teach me. However, I do know that the school uses the Genki series and I have bought the first Genki books. I don't know if the class requires any more books than that, but I do have the dictionary they use just in case.

What would you suggest? Should I take the basic class? Or would it be too basic for me at this point?

I have considered it many times, but I just don't know if it is a wise idea. Now if they had a major, I can see possibly doing that, but they don't have anything very serious in Japanese.

As far as living in Japan is concerned, I would love to, but I don't think that would ever be a real possibility.


[IMAGE REMOVED]

Here is my collection of Japanese video games. As you can see, I have tons of Super Famicom games, even some with boxes. I have all of the PokeMon video games for GameBoy, except for the odd ones like Pinball and such. And I have a ton of Japanese learning games for the DS. Yes, those are in Japanese for Japanese. In my English collection, I even have My Japanese Coach, which I have finished other than the one thousand extra lessons.

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Re: What It Has Been Like to Study Japanese

Post by Styx » Tue Jan 27, 2015 1:47 am

Hm, may not be worthwhile to take that class if they don't have anything further. Unfortunate that they don't! But if you find another college or university that does offer further advancement, and if it's something you find fun and interesting to study, then doing classes would be worth it. At another university that offers more, you may be able to take a language proficiency/placement exam to see what class you would start taking. If you place better than Japanese 101 for example (being possibly too basic for you by now), you could place into 102.

Nice collection of games! Are you able to play them and follow along pretty well by now? One of my friends had a Japanese Hello Kitty DS game that was nice for all the Hiragana it used, and it went at a slower pace (being aimed at kids). Do games like Kingdom Hearts have much kanji, or do they stick with kana?

As for living in Japan, my wife mentioned that there's actually a good amount of jobs for people to teach English in Japan. Getting an English degree could make going to Japan to work for a company, organization, or educational institution a viable option. There's been people who know very little Japanese who get jobs teaching English there and learn along the way. That could be an avenue for you to explore.

PS, my wife corrected me, Hiragana is commonly used for personal and informal usage, or when a person doesn't know the Kanji, or if there is no Kanji to say something. Katakana is used for foreign words, for describing scientific or formal things, or to add emphasis. So Hiragana isn't just for children, but it's simpler to understand.

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Re: What It Has Been Like to Study Japanese

Post by RabidFox » Tue Jan 27, 2015 4:48 pm

I am still sinking into the video game scripts. I have been studying and memorizing roughly 1,000 Kanji, but the video game scripts themselves I am just now really getting used to. I mean, I have played a lot of Japanese video games and finished quite a few as well. But, until a couple of months ago, I had been trying not to over focus on the text. I was going for a gradual, slow working into it kind of thing.

While I have studied the other 1,000 Kanji to some extent, I have not repeatedly used them in writing. I wanted to absorb the first 1,000 before really tackling the second. Therefore, I have been hammering them over and over again.

From my experience, Hiragana is used all over the place. So is Katakana. Kanji really does make up a huge massive amount of Japanese vocabulary, especially once you combine them, but Hiragana and Katakana are still commonly used throughout Japanese texts. Therefore, when it comes to video games, you'll see a combination of all three alphabets. As long as it's not a game aimed at children, anyway.

I understand why Hiragana makes you think of children, because Hiragana and Katakana are used without Kanji in children's games. Games for kids can't use Kanji, because it takes many years of going to school for children to even learn them. A child must be pretty old before they have grasped all 2,000 Kanji. Until then, kids can use Furigana to interpret Kanji, which are little characters that go above Kanji. You can find Furigana in children's manga, like the Legend of Zelda, but I have never heard of it being used in video games.

Speaking of which, I'm pretty sure that Kingdom Hearts uses Kanji, but it's been a while since I have played Kingdom Hearts in Japanese. I know that the PokeMon series only uses Hiragana and Katakana, as well as the Mother series, which I find a bit strange. I would think that the Mother series would be better suited in Kanji, as the humor is very mature and I don't think that young children would really appreciate it.

In comparison to the American video game market, however, there is a huge difference in what Japanese people consider a child's game to a teenager's or adult's game. For example, Secret of Mana and Illusion of Gaia are in Kanji, but, back in the days of Super Nintendo, America tended to market most games as an option for children. It's weird really when you think about it. Illusion of Gaia is extremely morbid and sickeningly violent in a very insane kind of way rather than just plain violent. From my point of view, Japan made a lot of sense when they wrote the script for it in Kanji, but America was kinda strange to think that children should be able to play something like that. But then that was before America had any kind of way to restrict children from playing certain games. America fixed its trend when it gave games like Chrono Cross a teen rating.

Anyway, while I know that there are tens of thousands of Kanji, most of them are no longer in use. According to Japan's national school system, these days only roughly 2,000 Kanji are considered official "school" Kanji called Jouyou Kanji. You really don't have to learn the other Kanji. The Jouyou Kanji are what are used in newspapers and other common media. Plus, Kanji after grade 8 are just Kanji used for names, so I wouldn't expect that you really need to study those until you really want to. I've skipped the name Kanji for now, since they're not necessary for reading.

I really am very interested in joining some kind of Japanese learning program even if it isn't at a structured university. What about online options? How do you feel about those? Have you tried any? I know that there are online degree programs, but I have never understood them very well - For any subject really. I don't understand how online schooling works and if it is really a wise idea at all.

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Re: What It Has Been Like to Study Japanese

Post by Styx » Tue Jan 27, 2015 11:40 pm

I see, good to note about the 2k used in the school system. That gives a good boundary for study. Coming to terms with the three systems, how well can you put together sentences and paragraphs? Learning how the grammar worked differently could sometimes be confusing, since a lot of times it seemed to be much more straight-forward and literal than what I'm used to with English. And how well is your handwriting? Handwriting in our class was very important. The characters have to be carefully crafted with certain curves and flicks, which becomes a lot more important with Kanji.

Aside from reading/writing, have you been able to practice listening and speaking? That for me was the hardest part, as the language can be very subtle, and saying a word slightly different than how it's supposed to sound can end up changing it into something completely different. (And of course, the ru, ri sound was something I couldn't get my tongue to properly pronounce. Differentiating L and R for them is difficult for them in turn.)

Interesting to see the differences in those games. I guess language selection can definitely show the intended audience's age range. Makes me interested in seeing how modern American games get translated to Japanese based on the target audience.

I don't really know about online options for Japanese or how good they would be since I never tried any. But my wife tried Livemocha and really liked it. Apparently, you start off basic and can earn more lessons (or purchase more outright). The thing that separates this site from other sites or programs is that as you learn the language, it asks for you to write in sentences or paragraphs and then will ask users who speak that language to correct your work. If you select that English is your native language, it will ask you to help correct the work of those trying to learn English for points towards purchasing things. There is also a way to communicate with native speakers in a conversation and have them help you as you go along.

I can't say how well earning a language degree online would work, but I've taken a good amount of college courses online (no language ones though) and various teachers have various methods. Some would give all the homework and exams up-front, letting you work through everything at your own pace and just make everything due by the last official day of class. Others would open up assignments at the start of each week and give you a week to complete them before closing submissions. Some had discussion boards where you'd have to make a post based on a prompt (some required just a paragraph, others required a short essay response), and then read and respond to another person's post. Most of my online tests were done with a timed multiple-choice system. But one of my friends, who took classes from another state, had proctored exams where they'd have you install a program to lock down your computer and monitor via webcam. I'm about to enroll with another state university in a different city, for which the courses will be all online, so I'm looking forward to that. Since I work full-time, online courses have been pretty convenient for me, rather than having to go places at night or try to make my work schedule fit around class times. But seeing how things differed from teacher to teacher from my experience, that could be how other colleges/universities are, I'm not sure. But a web-based course framework was commonly used to deliver assignments, tests, facilitate discussions and email services, serve course information, media, presentations, etc. (Systems used included Desire2Learn, Blackboard, Sakai, and others.)

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Re: What It Has Been Like to Study Japanese

Post by RabidFox » Wed Jan 28, 2015 10:07 am

I am still struggling with grammar. I understand what a lot of words mean when I see them put together, but if I were to try to construct a sentence on my own, I would have trouble understanding where everything went and remembering all of the words. Recognition is my strong point. I do very well in that regard and I can very quickly learn something just by looking at it.

As far as handwriting goes, I have been practicing my handwriting by tracing and free writing Kanji in my work books. I have two work books in particular that have one hundred Kanji practice sheets per book. I completed one of the books in the very beginning of my studies. In fact, it was one of the first books I ever finished. The second one I have been drawing out over time.

I have also practiced writing Kanji in My Japanese Coach using the stylus on my Nintendo 3DS. I actually have a lot of Kanji writing games for the DS, but I haven't really used them yet.

On listening and speaking, I have had access to audio since the very beginning. One of the first ways I studied Japanese was through the PC learning programs called Byki and Transparent Language, which have complete audio accompaniments. Transparent Language has an interactive learning interface that lets users click the words on the screen to get translations and audio playback. Plus I have movies and TV series in Japanese, including a lot of anime.

I am very interested to hear about your experiences in online learning. I will definitely be looking into that option. I also tried out Live Mocha. I like it!

To respond to an earlier statement, I have both Moekana and Moekanji. I have used them over and over again. They are very good flashcards. I also have all 2,000 Kanji in flashcards from Tuttle.

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Re: What It Has Been Like to Study Japanese

Post by Styx » Tue Feb 17, 2015 3:46 am

I see, perhaps grammar is where a class would help form understanding of how things fit together structurally.

Those work books sound pretty good. We used Nakama 1, along with the [url=http://www.amazon.com/Student-Activity-Manual-Hatasa-Makinos/dp/0495798282/ref=pd_sim_b_2?ie=UTF8&refRID=15CB8TTXC7EJ6NCG86C3]Nakama 1 Student Activity Manual for our class, and it was pretty good (not that I've used any others to compare).

It's awesome you've been practicing in My Japanese Coach! We have it as well, but haven't gotten through it.

Have those programs been pretty useful? I've been interested in how other programs perform compared to the typical Rosetta Stone that I hear about. Speaking and listening (especially when people speak fast to me, normal to them) was the most difficult thing for me to process.

I wish I had some experience with learning languages online, but that's been my wife's experience. My online classes have mostly been some sort of programming work. But I did take accounting, theatre appreciation, and some others online :P

So great to hear you got both Moekana and Moekanji! Being created by Danny Choo, we were pretty excited to see him when he was a host at Anime Expo some years back, and announced his cards there. His vendor booth sold out of Moekana in a flash! ;) so we had to order them online.

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Re: What It Has Been Like to Study Japanese

Post by RabidFox » Thu Mar 05, 2015 1:44 pm

The Transparent Language program is very fun with Irish, but I found it very difficult with Japanese. Byki was also a lot more entertaining with Irish. The problem is that Transparent Language and Byki uses Kanji for everything. When studying Irish, there were no additional alphabets to learn, so I could hammer and hammer at Irish and be just fine. Yet with Japanese it was the opposite. You could climb right into Irish, but the Kanji was overwhelming because I could not type any Kanji what-so-ever. I would have to know the Hiragana for each Kanji.

I really like Moekana and Moekanji. They are very colourful and have cute little pictures on them. I think that the artwork looks like candy wrappers or trading cards that come with bubble gum. There also appears to be some kind of TCG based on the characters, as I have a few cards that look like that. I think I got them from Moekana rather than Moekanji. But I don't remember for some reason.

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