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Thread: failing to learn Japanese language last minute

  1. #1
    Nisai
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    Talking failing to learn Japanese language last minute

    Let's face it anyone who is on a trip to Japan will definitely attempt to learn some of their language.
    While at the airport I came across 2 books at the DFS bookstore. One call 'Japanese at a glance' and the other 'Japanese for idiots'. I didn't buy the latter. You know the reason.
    So my 1st attempt to learn Japanese was by reading this book 'Japanese at a glance' in the plane from Singapore to Tokyo. This is not the method recommended by experts. The method recommended by experts is to be born as a Japanese baby and raised by a Japanese family in Japan. And even that it's not easy.
    Learning to speak Japanese isn't so bad but learning to read it is insanely difficult. Start with the fact that for some malevolent reason the Japanese use 4 different systems which are often intermixed in addition to characters sometimes arranged vertically,in which case you read right to left but sometimes arranged horizontally, in which case you read left to right. I might have gotten some of this wrong but trust me there's no way you'd be able to tell. Also sometimes there's a mixture of horizontal and vertical writing, using several different character systems.
    There are also Chinese characters which represent words not sounds. You might think that should make thing a little easier for me since I'm a Chinese. Well you're wrong. See this wouldn't be so bad if the characters looked like what they're supposed to represent. But the Japanese/Chinese characters don't look anything like the concepts they're supposed to represent.....and every one of those marks is important. If you put one teensy little line in there wrong you could change the entire meaning of the character from something like "man holding broom" to "sex with ostriches".
    I'm sure Japanese speak a certain degree of English as well as I overheard a few Japanese in the plane talking and laughing not far away from me saying something that sound like "F##king nai yo".
    Before I fell asleep, I was able to devote nearly an hour to the study of the Japanese language. My ultimate goal was to learn how to say "I do not speak Japanese" in fluent Japanese but I decided to start with "Thank you" which according to 'Japanese at a glance" pronounced as "DOH-MOH-AH-REE-GAH-TOH" and how to order a beer,which I later became really good at,pronounced as "BEE-ROO" unless you want a big beer in which case it is pronounced as "BIG BEE-ROO".
    I tried practising on the cabin crews who continued to come around every few minutes with complimentary items. All seem to work pretty well but I suspect the cabin crews were just being polite. I never know.

    Sayonara
    SF

  2. #2
    Administrator Brian's Avatar
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    Swordfish,

    15 years after I started, I still learn new things about the language pretty often. You're not going to learn it in an hour, but the best way is to practice, practice, practice.

    Learning how to read and write is probably going to take you the better part of 1,600 hours of study, but don't let that put you off!
    Brian Sousa
    Koi-Bito Forum

  3. #3
    Tosai
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    Hi Swordfish,

    Very well expressed. Lovely to read something refreshing. I guess it will be a while before you find out what the Japanese in the plane were referring to.

    Cheeroos and beeroos..

  4. #4
    Jumbo Regenmeneer's Avatar
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    LOL

    A few years ago there was this Japanese lady at the Dutch National Koi Show who, for a small fee, would write down your name in Japanese. When I took it to someone who can read Chinese, because he always said the signs are basicly the same in Japanese and Chinese, he told me that it said "milk cow" in Chinese

    I had my name written down twice more, and it's different every time I guess I could use them as aliasses

    Regenmeneer

  5. #5
    Daihonmei dick benbow's Avatar
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    Over the years, I quess i achieved a kindergarten aged rudimentary basic of the language. Specifically on bonsai and koi, the terms are more grade school. But like most things japanese I learned to look at it from the mentality that it's the journey not the end destination that was more important. In any culture an attempt respectfully to learn a language will get you off on the right foot.The one thing i learned as well is they understand more english in japan then we give them credit. They may be reluctant to express it but it all helps when trying to communicate.

    I remember on my last trip to japan, ordering a beverage on a train while in route to Isawa. The young lady answered in perfect english and asked from where I was from in the states. When I said Seattle, she said the name of a major university here that she had just graduated from. LOL!

  6. #6
    Nisai
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    A chinese that has problem with Japanese? It sounds like Germans or Dutchs' complaining about the difficulty of English! Do you know that, in East Asia, the languages of Korea, Vietnam and Japan were partially derived from Chinese?

    To learn Japanese, the best approach is getting a Japanese girlfriend! The second best is understanding the 3 systems: Katagana, Hirahana and Kanji. Kanji or Chinese characters is the most time consuming to learn. MA Le

  7. #7
    wild horse dinh's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mynamy1
    .... Do you know that, in East Asia, the languages of Korea, Vietnam and Japan were partially derived from Chinese?

    .....
    Language of Vietnam? humm.....

  8. #8
    Nisai
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    Dinh, please read a few below examples and tell me they coming from?

    Chinese: long (dragon)
    Vietnamese: long, ro^`ng
    Japanese: ru (as in kumonru)
    Korean: yu/ju

    Chinese: kinhdai/shiendai
    Vietnamese: hie^n dai
    Japanese: kindai (in kindai showa)
    Korean: huyndai

    Shall I continue? MA le

  9. #9
    Administrator Brian's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mynamy1
    Dinh, please read a few below examples and tell me they coming from?

    Chinese: long (dragon)
    Vietnamese: long, ro^`ng
    Japanese: ru (as in kumonru)
    Korean: yu/ju

    Chinese: kinhdai/shiendai
    Vietnamese: hie^n dai
    Japanese: kindai (in kindai showa)
    Korean: huyndai

    Shall I continue? MA le
    mynamy1,

    I think that you're greatly oversimplifying things here. Applying your same logic, then a native speaker of English should be proficient in Greek, Latin, and French...not to mention German for grammatical rules.

    English word: Ambidextrous - being equally proficient at using both hands for all tasks.

    Root words: Ambi - Latin ambi-, Greek amphO - meaning: both
    Dexter - Latin right hand

    Interestingly enough...the Latin word for left hand, "Sinister" has a very bad meaning in English. The French word for the same, "Gauche" is used in English to describe someone that's awkward or lacking in social graces. (no offense to you lefties out there!)

    This just goes to show you that the similarities in languages don't automatically carry over into the ability to use them as you would your native tongue. Japanese has two systems of pronunciation, one adapted from Chinese (with pronuciations being taken from both North and South China, to further confuse things) and one for native Japanese pronunciations of words that existed before Chinese characters were imported and adopted in Japan. To compound problems, Chinese characters or "Kanji" (Hanzi to you Chinese folks, Hanja to Koreans) most often have multiple pronunciations for the same character depending on usage. Sometime you use the pronunciation adopted from Chinese, and sometimes the native Japanese. Sometimes the pronuciation changes when the word is compounded with another, or there may be multiple (and very different) ways to pronounce the same Kanji in Japanese. In extreme cases, one character can have up to 20 different pronuciations, and the only way to learn that is to study, study, study. Knowing Chinese or having it as a "base" language won't help you in the slightest here, just as being a native speaker of English doesn't qualify me to pore over the original Latin transcriptions of the Roman Senate, nor does it enable me to try and read Plato's "Republic" in the original Greek. Chinese is actually grammatically more similar to English than Japanese, believe it or not.

    Languages are different, and have idiosyncrasies that make them rather "unportable" without undertaking a certain amount of study. While some languages are easier to learn if your base language is the same (i.e. Romance languages: Latin->Italian->Spanish->French->Protuguese) the rules are by and large incompatible, and if they weren't then machine translation would already be a perfected science .

    Not trying to cause a flap here. Just wanted to make sure that SF is getting the credit due for undertaking a difficult course of study. Knowing Chinese isn't much help in learning to speak or read Japanese.
    Last edited by Brian; 12-27-2005 at 10:44 PM.
    Brian Sousa
    Koi-Bito Forum

  10. #10
    Honmei keokoi's Avatar
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    I think in any language you must slow down and study the smaller things liek pronunciation of vowels then work your way up to everyday words then onto small sentences and so forth. I took a few classes and have a few cd's and about 3 books. I try to read and listen to them. At the Hokaido I often eaves drop conversatins so I can here the words.. When I visit Japan I pick up words quickly only to forget them as quick. Now I find my self thinking and making up sentences for fun.

    Start slowly and as B-dawg says it doesn't come overnite.

    Joe
    It's a living creature (chit happens)

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