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Learning Asian Languages

Posted: Wed Nov 14, 2007 11:21 pm
by Just Like Honey...
I was looking for a thread about learning Japanese/Korean/any other eastern language here today and couldn't find one. I did manage to find that wonderful thread posted by Ben-B with the learning Japanese videos.

Have you ever tried to learn an eastern language, or any second language? I learned French throughout my K-12 education, but most of the finer points of it have more or less faded now, and, although I can still speak the language coherently, it doesn't sound very 'cool'. I mention Japanese not just because of LiT, but because I have quite a few anime friends who are taking introductory Japanese as part of their university curriculum. Most of them can't really speak any Japanese, whereas I find after just the first one or two of those instructional videos, anyone should be able to form a basic sentence.

Is learning this way destructive? Every lesson in Hiragana I have ever seen has strongly suggested using mnemonics to learn them more effectively. I did not, and was still able to learn them all with reasonable recall speed in just a few weeks. What has your experience been like?

Posted: Fri Nov 16, 2007 7:05 pm
by preciouswhile
I took Japanese for two quarters in college, but when I switched to a science degree a language was no longer required and I stopped. I really wish I had stuck with it now.

There was no "romanji" (japanese written with english characters) in my instruction or textbooks; we dove straight into Hiragana, Katakana, and even Kanji. There were no mnemoincs that I recall, just a table that we were to memorize and lots of exercises. I think that was better in the long run, but certainly makes it more difficult to pick up right away. I know most business Japanese courses don't bother with the alphabets at all and focus only on the spoken word.

The thing about Japanese is that it's a very simple language. Words can only be pronounced one way. There is a small number of possible syllables that follow a strict pattern. There are no plurals, no genders. Verbs don't change based on the subject. It's very easy to learn the syntax.

But coming from a language like English, or any romance language, it can be difficult to change your mindset. Understanding Japanese requires a large amount of context. Never mind all the social nuances to the language (formal and informal forms) that you really can only get by immersing yourself in their culture.

Posted: Sat Nov 17, 2007 10:43 am
by Tombo
Don't ask me.

I'm having enough trouble learning Spanish. :cry:

Posted: Thu Nov 22, 2007 6:19 am
by Just Like Honey...
I learned most of the Hiragana letters right away before I started learning even common phrases. I found it would force me to practice them instead of just defaulting to romaji. Anyway, when some words are written in romaji, they take on a more direct and less implied pronunciation than the Hiragana, which means you probably would never recognize that word in print even if you knew the romaji inside out.

I'm finding words like 'no' and 'wa' difficult to place in the sentence, mostly because of the subject-object-verb order instead of subject-verb-object.

I haven't been brave enough to go after any Kanjii until I learn the Katakana, because there appears to be no rhyme or reason to them at all, which I find really intimidating. Wish me luck.
Verbs don't change based on the subject.
"imasu" and "imasen" are still giving me hella trouble. I understand their part in the sentence, but not their direct meanings, so it's difficult to form new sentences with them rather than just recalling ones I already know. Although the pronunciation is simple, I find it anything but easy when too many vowel and "G" (NG) sounds are mixed together.