The Beautiful Pain of Studying Japanese

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The Beautiful Pain of Studying Japanese

Postby ClaecElric4God » Fri May 06, 2016 5:52 am

So I've noticed recently there are a lot of people around here studying Japanese. And considering my own plight, I thought it might be a fun idea to make a thread for those currently studying Japanese to chat about their different experiences. Misery loves company, right?

Anyhoo, maybe this won't get off the ground but I thought I'd give it a try. This is a place for people who are studying Japanese - be it high school, college, online courses or even just plain self-study - to chat, discuss, and generally complain about the beautiful yet frustrating language we've chosen to immerse ourselves in. Stress about tests, offer advice on how to remember kanji (no seriously, I would love to hear this one), share your crazy classmate stories, etc. Whatever comes to mind go ahead and post, I think this could be fun; that is, if we can find time to pull ourselves out of the pages of grammar homework and 話す練習 to post something.

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He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God? -Micah 6:8 KJV
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Re: The Beautiful Pain of Studying Japanese

Postby Rusty Claymore » Fri May 06, 2016 10:09 am

I've found exposure is the best method for effectively remembering kanji, but that's often hard to do in practice unless you are immersed. Other than than, I found learning about and understanding kanji composition helps a lot. The Remembering the Kanji method is good for learning about how kanji are put together and is a great start to becoming familiar with kanji (I'm "familiar" with around 700 from that method) but since you don't learn readings or usages, just abstract meanings/concepts in english, it doesn't really deliver for the serious student aiming for fluency/literacy.

Also what I've seen from Tofugu seems failry legit, but I haven't delved there much.

Btw, how long have you been studying?
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Re: The Beautiful Pain of Studying Japanese

Postby Kaori » Fri May 06, 2016 7:05 pm

Kanji:

For meaning, it's definitely best to use mnemonics, like those suggested by RTK, and it's also definitely best to learn as much about the original meanings of kanji radicals as possible so that you can whenever possible construct stories (mnemonics) that have something to do with the real etymology of the kanji in question. But you do not have to use RTK/Heisig in order to use that method; there are any number of resources out there that talk about the composition of kanji, teach the meanings of radicals, and suggest mnemonics, for example, The Kodansha Kanji Learner's Course or Henshall's A Guide to Rembembering Japanese Characters.

The RTK method, at least what I've encountered online, is a bit of a pet peeve of mine for two reasons, one of which is what Rusty mentioned, it doesn't teach readings at all (i.e. the website doesn't; the book apparently does list them), and the other of which is order. For example, RTK presents very early on this kanji: 凹.  It means convex. Sure, that's easy to remember because it's a picture of the idea it represents, but this kanji is not useful at all to someone just starting to study Japanese. I've been studying off and on for about nine years, I guess, and I believe I have actually only seen this character used in real Japanese one time.

So there are some advantages to the order prescribed by the government, which really does present kanji in an order roughly based on frequency, so when you learn the first 80 kanji for first grade, those are going to be the kanji that are used most frequently (and which make up a disproportionately large amount of all kanji that are used in any given piece of writing). "Convex" and "concave" can wait until later.

Another reason is for tests: if you want to take JLPT or 漢字検定 the kanji will be grouped by grade level.

A third reason is that when you learn kanji in the Japanese (government-prescribed) order, they are grouped by reading. For example:

巧、江、攻、項: These kanji all have an on reading of コウ. Also that they all have 工 as one of the radicals. The kanji 工 can also be read コウ. Whether it was included in those four kanji above for phonetic purposes or not I can't recall, but if you know that 工 is read コウ than you can use that to help you remember those other kanji. And learning kanji in an order that is grouped by pronunciation allows you to see those similarities and notice, "These kanji that all have the same radical in them are all pronounced the same way." That won't apply to all kanji, and it won't teach you every reading for kanji that have multiple readings, but it is still helpful.

That is the main thing I have figured out that is helpful in terms of memorizing kanji readings.

I've also found that it helps me if I not only memorize the kanji itself but at the same time also memorize, in my vocabulary study, some words using that kanji (either the native reading or a compound, for example, for 惨 I already know the word 惨い(むごい) but might add 惨め(みじめ), 惨殺(ざんさつ) and 悲惨(ひさん) for the readings みじめ、サン、 and ザン). It can be hard to remember kanji in isolation if you don't see them in actual words somewhere.

It is also really helpful for reinforcement if the vocabulary words you are studying to go along with the kanji readings are words that you actually see in authentic Japanese materials that you are reading. But this is hard to control unless you are doing things in the opposite order--you see a word that you want to learn in some authentic Japanese that you are reading, you make a vocabulary card for it, and you memorize a kanji that appears in that word because you don't know that kanji yet. But if you do that, then it is going to be going out of order, if you are learning the kanji in any set order. (Confession: my kanji study has been rather haphazard and I have for the most part not been going in any order, but I have actually had quite good results remembering the kanji that I memorized in the aforementioned backwards order of finding an unfamiliar kanji in an authentic Japanese text I was reading, writing down the vocabulary word to study, and then also specifically studying the unfamiliar kanji for the sake of being able to remember it in the vocabulary word. The problem with this method is, obviously, order.)

P.S. Apparently the way Japanese people learn kanji is by writing them 20 times each, which I think would be very valuable if you have the time to do it. I've been meaning for a while to ask one of my language exchange partners if he has any tips for memorizing readings of kanji (readings specifically, not meanings), since that's usually the most difficult part for me and I don't have a lot of good strategies for it, so I'll come back and post again if I remember to ask him that and he has any helpful advice.
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Re: The Beautiful Pain of Studying Japanese

Postby Mullet Death » Fri May 06, 2016 7:24 pm

The thing about Heisig is that it can't be used in isolation (in the sense that it's only a stepping stone and real memorization of the kanji comes through practice and exposure afterwards because our brains need to learn important information in several ways and in several forms) and is only (at least the first book) meant to teach writing, not readings or even meanings for the most part, since half the time Heisig's meanings are BS anyway. You're meant to burn through the first book of RTK in a period of several weeks or a few months. The big problem being ain't nobody got time for dat.

I'll personally be giving RTK another shot this summer, completely dedicating my life to it so I can finally finish it cover to cover and then move on to real kanji study. If I burn through 50 kanji a day and don't worry so much about how much I'm retaining in my RTK Anki deck I can get through it in two months, plenty of time to do some real studying after before my Tokyo departure date. I don't see anything wrong with this strategy. I never finished RTK (only got to like 1000 characters on a certain try-through, I think?) and yet my writing of kanji used to be better than any other 外人 I ever encountered in college because of RTK. It can be useful.
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Re: The Beautiful Pain of Studying Japanese

Postby KazeShiki » Mon May 09, 2016 7:41 pm

Kaori wrote:Kanji: But this is hard to control unless you are doing things in the opposite order--you see a word that you want to learn in some authentic Japanese that you are reading, you make a vocabulary card for it, and you memorize a kanji that appears in that word because you don't know that kanji yet. But if you do that, then it is going to be going out of order, if you are learning the kanji in any set order.

This has been my primary method of learning after I reached a decent level of grammar and a basic level of kanji. I fully admit its flaws and it's hardly the most efficient way to go about it. However, the plus side is I get to read Japanese works that have no English translations which vastly increases my personal motivation to study (aka read). I personally just can't deal with all that rote memorization; my motivation just dies too quickly. Reading actual Japanese text is way harder, pretty inefficient, and is all over the place, but when the text is something you're really interested in reading, it's just so much more fun. I can say with certainty if all the time I spent struggling over Japanese texts was instead spent on memorizing kanji, I would be way more fluent than I am now, but I also know I would never be able to motivate myself to have kept up that pace. It's definitely not a method for everyone, but it may be something to consider if you have motivational problems or are super interested in reading untranslated works like me
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Re: The Beautiful Pain of Studying Japanese

Postby ClaecElric4God » Tue May 10, 2016 4:06 am

Rusty Claymore wrote:Btw, how long have you been studying?

Sorry for the late reply. Well technically I self studied off and on for a couple years. But full time jobs and self study don't mix well and I didn't spend as much time as I would have liked to. But since coming to Japan last September I've been taking an intensive Japanese course. I'm glad I had the basics I had when I got here, but I can safely say I've learned far, far more in the last 8 months than I did in my self study. I'm "supposedly" at an intermediate level now, but I still feel like I'm at the level of a 4 year old most of the time.
He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God? -Micah 6:8 KJV
They have shewed thee, O teen, what is good; and what doth the world require of thee, but to fit in, be wealthy, have good looks, and be rebellious? -Peer Pressure 1:1
"I hate milk; it's like drinking vomit." -Edward Elric and me. :fmed:
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Re: The Beautiful Pain of Studying Japanese

Postby Kaori » Tue May 10, 2016 6:03 pm

So I asked my language exchange partner (the one who is also a professional online Japanese teacher) about what his advice would be for remembering the readings of kanji, and this is what he said:

1. Japanese people don’t really remember the readings of kanji in isolation, just remembering what the sound of that particular kanji is, but they remember on-readings by virtue of the fact that native Japanese speakers have some vocabulary words that they already know that contain that character. So, for example, taking the kanji 溝(コウ・みぞ・どぶ)a Japanese person would already know the word 海溝、which means “undersea trench,” and would remember the on-reading of that kanji by remembering that it is the 溝 (コウ)from 海溝(かいこう). Trying to remember the kanji and its reading in isolation from vocabulary is a bit useless.

2. For some kanji, you can remember the reading of the kanji if you know the reading of one part of it (i.e. if that part is used phonetically). For example, if you don’t know how to read 理 from 料理 but you know that 里 is read リ、then you can guess that 理 is also read リ (and use that as a way to remember the reading of 理). This is basically the same thing as what I was saying in my previous post, with the example of various kanji that all contain 工 and have an on-reading of コウ。

3. It’s good to study kanji with example sentences. The 完全カスター series for JLPT (specifically the kanji books) have some example sentences that can be used when studying kanji (though I’m sure there are others also).
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Re: The Beautiful Pain of Studying Japanese

Postby Sammy Boy » Sun May 15, 2016 6:07 am

The quickest way I found to memorise how to write hiragana and katakana was to write them out every day without referring to any notes (including how many there are and what order they come in for either set).

Then for certain words forms such as 'te', and 'nde' you can try come up with a memory slogan to jog your memory.

For sentence structures I would write out each structure type, then follow them with a couple of examples, as well as any exceptions.

All of these notes would get put into my summary folder and that's what I studied for my high school finals.

Of course ... that was 20 years ago so I've forgotten most of it. But I still have the notes ... somewhere.
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Re: The Beautiful Pain of Studying Japanese

Postby John_Smith » Thu May 19, 2016 3:54 am

ClaecElric4God wrote:So I've noticed recently there are a lot of people around here studying Japanese.


I'll everyone know, I somehow managed to ace the test I was referring to in the other thread. But now the final is already upon me, AND I have to retake a katakana quiz. I'd be fine with it if it weren't for ン, ソ, シ, and ツ. :shake: These were made to make fun of us foreigners. But, eh.

The way how I initially started to learn Japanese isn't very conventional, and has it's problems, but I'll share anyway:

I used quizlet (which is basically a free flash card website.) I would make my own sets, and would listen to J-techno while going through them. Someone with experience might point out, using this method can be problematic because I wasn't actually writing the characters down, which can cause confusion when stroke order is important (like with the katakana above). Nonetheless, this method did result in me memorizing hiragana, most katakana, and a familiarity with a hundred or so kanji. This was a huge advantage when I decided to actually take a Japanese course. In fact, just this week our professor gave us five 'new' kanji on Monday, and then gave us a quiz on those same Kanji only two days later. I knew four of them already because of my self study.

So I guess my main piece of advice would be to know hiragana, katakana, and some kanji before signing up with a class.
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Re: The Beautiful Pain of Studying Japanese

Postby ClaecElric4God » Wed May 25, 2016 4:08 am

Yeah, those four katakana are a pain.

I got a horrible grade because apparently my teacher doesn't understand my way of writing. I think I must just think in English too much. Though I showed it to my roommate before I submitted it and she thought it was fine. Bah, I dunno. がんばる, I guess.
He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God? -Micah 6:8 KJV
They have shewed thee, O teen, what is good; and what doth the world require of thee, but to fit in, be wealthy, have good looks, and be rebellious? -Peer Pressure 1:1
"I hate milk; it's like drinking vomit." -Edward Elric and me. :fmed:
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