So today I’m going to talk a little bit of WHEN I started learning Japanese, WHY I’m learning Japanese, HOW I started learning Japanese, and give my opinions on some of the resources that I use. And maybe if I get time the difference between Chinese and Japanese, and some other asian languages. This is going to be a VERY long post… maybe I should split it up, questions and answers first, then another post dedicated to resources.
So let’s start from the beginning shall we? I’ll just throw some questions out there for clarification. Also for organizational purposes I’m leaving the emotes out of this post, and likely the next one too.
Q: So… when did you get interested in Japanese and Japanese culture?
A: Actually it started with Chinese. I was interested in Chinese culture farther back than I can remember. I’m not even sure what kicked the whole thing off. There wasn’t “one event” that just made me obsessed with the whole thing. I had a friend in middle school who was of Chinese decent and I would attend with her to Chinese events around town, and I thought it was the coolest thing ever. But I seem to remember being into it before that. My bedroom was covered in various little Chinese/asian style decorations and ornaments. I had fans hanging on my walls, little bamboo plants, little cups and dishes with a strong asian flare, or even with Kanji printed on them. I don’t even remember when I learned how to use chopsticks, it seems like a skill I’ve just had forever.
Really I didn’t start to get into Japanese until college (round two of college that is). A friend of mine was obsessed with Japan, so I started looking into it. I was hooked, line, and sinker after that. I would read articles about culture, some history, and raided my local Barnes & Nobles language section for anything Japanese I could get my little hands on. I have an ENTIRE shelf in my bookcase dedicated just for Japanese related books and materials. Extreme you say? No way… I can always use more. I love books so much. ❤
Q: When did you start learning Japanes? How long has it been up until now?
A: I started learning in the spring of 2009. It was really light learning (as in, taking my sweet time) until my sister bought tickets for my husband and I to go to Japan for our honeymoon in fall of 2009. So I turned up the heat a bit so I wouldn’t be completely out of my element when we went over. So I guess that would make it almost 3 years. When we went to Japan I was scared out of my wits to use anything I had learned. I didn’t know near as much as I do now, but even the little I did know back then I could have used it more. I was more afraid to offend someone than anything else.
Q: So you’re learning Japanese just because you like the culture?
A: Yes and no… I don’t know really how to explain it. I LOVE Japan, everything about it. I don’t think anyone should learn a language without learning about the culture of that country. I have known a few people in my life that learned some Japanese JUST so they can watch anime and understand what they are saying, and for no other reason. These people I have known, which was really many years ago, didn’t get very far. They didn’t have the passion for it. I like to think I live in my own little corner of Japan here at my house. We do a few things at home that are Japanese in nature. For example: We have a low dining room table, and sit on zabuton cushions; we take off our shoes at the entrance; we say 「いただきます」before a meal; three out of 6 of us have お弁当 boxes but I haven’t made a box lunch in a long time. I want to, but there are lots of roadblocks before I can do that again. I totally believe I’m a reincarnated Japanese, everything about it comes so easily to me, and it just feels so much more “right” than anything else. I know what you’re probably thinking, “WTF ever… you’re nuts…/leaves blog now shaking head”. Think what you want, I’m simply putting into writing what my heart tells me.
Q: Okay so then, how did you start? Japanese is so intimidating and difficult!
A: I started from the bottom. No one can really expect to just dive right in somewhere in the middle because they watch a ton of anime and read a lot of manga and expect to know anything about structure, grammar, or really anything else about the real language.
**Please don’t learn Japanese just from Anime… it REALLY won’t help you as much as it will hinder you** I figured I needed to know the sounds, and the “alphabets” (which will here-after be referred to as syllabaries, since that’s really what they are). I learned hiragana first 「ひらがな」. It’s the curvy flow-y looking one. I didn’t give myself a ton of time to take learning it either, two weeks I think? After all I was on a time schedule. After tackling hiragana I took on katakana 「カタカナ」. This is the one that westerners usually learn easier, and write easier, because writing it is more like writing the roman alphabet (here-after called romaji). It has the exact same sounds as the hiragana syllabary, just different characters. But a lot of them look very similar, so it’s not as difficult as it seems. Personally I find katakana more difficult than hiragana. I know them both, but just looking at it I can recite hiragana more quickly than katakana. Maybe I’m just backwards? Haha. Now I did take 4 years of high school Chinese. So, I had a bit of a head start on Kanji (looks like this–> 「漢字」) . I knew a bunch, the sounds aren’t the same, but as long as stroke order, making a habit of stroke order, and knowing some basic meanings I already had that knowledge. It made re-learning Kanji MUCH less intimidating.
Over all Japanese is NOT difficult, at all. At least not in my opinion. I think westerners are often afraid because it’s so different from any European or Romantic language (i.e. Spanish, French, Italian… etc., etc,). Parts of a sentence are even labeled with particles so you know what the topic is, the object, and the rule is all verbs MUST go at the end. But really it’s not as scary as it seems. Promise.
So there you have it. Any other questions you may have (like I said in my last post, no one reads my blog anyways, haha so I don’t exactly expect any response but just in case I’ll throw this out there regardless) shoot me an email “firstname.lastname@example.org”, or leave a comment, or… something.
See you next time! じゃね〜