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Advice on Learning Japanese?

Cliff posted more than 8 years ago | from the ohayo-gozaimasu dept.

285

Piroca asks: "During the last years, a huge amount of (modern) Japanese culture has invaded the Occident, mostly in the form of anime, video games and TV shows. Part of that content can't be understood completely due to the complexity and subtleties of the Japanese language. Due to that, it seems the interest on learning Japanese is steadily growing, specially for anime addicts. Much of the problem stems from the fact that Japanese is not an easy language, being classified as very difficult by most standards (of course, this depends on one's native language). I'm searching for courses and material that can help me to learn Japanese without attending to classes or hiring people to teach me. I've found things like Pimsleur and japanesepod101 but I wonder if other people in the Slashdot crowd have not passed through this process before and have useful hints to share."

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typing (1, Interesting)

amazon10x (737466) | more than 8 years ago | (#15073125)

How do people type on a computer with Japanese? The language has 7000+ characters... that has to be one large keyboard

Re:typing (1)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 8 years ago | (#15073158)

"How do people type on a computer with Japanese?"

As I understand it, they have several keys that contain elements of symbols. Enter a few keystrokes and you've got a complete symbol. Conceptually speaking, it's not all that different from how we assemble letters to make words.

What I'd like to know is how bad can a japanese typo get?

Re:typing (1)

BJH (11355) | more than 8 years ago | (#15073394)

You're most likely describing Korean input, as Hangul characters are assembled from a limited set of components.

Japanese input is nothing like that, unless you like pain and choose to enter Kanji via the "bushu" method (which nobody does unless they're looking for a Kanji that they don't know how to read).

Re:typing (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15073721)

You mean to tell me that they don't use keyboards like this [bartcity.de] then?

Re:typing (1)

patrusk (955763) | more than 8 years ago | (#15073168)

You combine syllables into the appropriate character for the word your looking for. If you have a homonym (word that sounds the same, but means something different), you usually get a little popup window that gives you a list to choose the character you're looking for.

Re:typing (4, Informative)

Dwedit (232252) | more than 8 years ago | (#15073187)

You type using Windows's Input Method Editor. You just type in romaji. Like you'd type in "watashi", then hit the space bar. As you're typing, it shows up as hiragana (), then after hitting space, it becomes Kanji ().

And no, I can't read Japanese or understand at all, but it's still fun to play with the Japanese IME tool.

Re:typing (1)

Dwedit (232252) | more than 8 years ago | (#15073204)

And Slashdot destroyed the unicode contained within the post... Damn.

Re:typing (1)

wakingrufus (904726) | more than 8 years ago | (#15073854)

indeed. however i would prefer a kana keyboard. maybe when the Optimus keyboard [artlebedev.com] comes out i can switch back and forth between kana and english! :D

Re:typing (2, Informative)

kinghajj (941068) | more than 8 years ago | (#15073196)

There are several different ways, actually. To understand how it works, you need to know a bit about Japanese orthography. Japanese is traditionally written with a combination of borrowed chinese characters, (called kanji) and two syllabic character sets called hiragana and katakana. However, it is possible to write Japanese without any kanji at all. (Although without the kanji it can actually be *harder* to read.) So keyboards in Japan, as far as I know, have keys for the syllabic sets, which only have about 50 or so different characters. Japanese computer programs take the syllabic characters and from them can detect where kanji characters should be. For example, if I typed "watashi" in hiragana, three characters would be displayed on the screen (WA - TA - SHI.) If I press the Space key, I will get a list of kanji that match those characters, and I pick the appropriate one.

Re:typing (1)

kizzbizz (870017) | more than 8 years ago | (#15073200)

I am currently learning Chinese, and the way that we type in the computer is called (In windows) an IME. Basically, I hit Shift+Alt, and enter the romantisization of the Chinese words (Commonly called PinYin), as well as a number for the paticular tonal mark of the sylable. I am them presented with a little bar that attempts to guess what character I am trying to type (As the same sounding word can have many different character representations, all meaning different things). I pick it by hitting 1, 2, 3, etc, press space and continue on. Sure, its definatley time consuming and there may be other ways to do it. I know that my Chinese professor has a Wacom tablet and a program that transforms what she writes on the tablet into the paticular character. That way, she is essentially writing the characters as normal.

Re:typing (1)

ZekeSulastin (965715) | more than 8 years ago | (#15073424)

Same here; we don't use the Windows IME much; instead, we use a program called Key. It's like a self-contained word procesor. You type the pinyin (sans tone, unless you really want to), then at either word break or sentence break depending on your settings, it converts everything to characters, based on a database of most common usage. If the wrong character is added, you just select it and open the homonym finder, then select the proper character. It also includes a searchable dictionary, recordings of all the syllables that play with the tool-tip definition and pinyin you get when hovering over a character, and a radical finder, where you construct a character by the radicals you remember (if you don't remember the pinyin, for instance). I also believe it has plugins for Korean and Japanese ...

Re:typing (1)

jack_csk (644290) | more than 8 years ago | (#15073491)

I know that's a bit off-topic regarding to "Learning Japanese".

I just want to say, there are more CJK input methods than pinyin/romanization and hand-writing. For the Chinese, there is CangJie and Dayi, which makes Chinese-typing faster than pinyin.

Re:typing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15073215)

How do people type on a computer with Japanese? The language has 7000+ characters... that has to be one large keyboard

Because it would be impossible to create a keyboard with all those characters, it's a bit like a courtroom typewriter with only the common and necessary words, such as "kiki" and "^^".

Re:typing (1)

dido (9125) | more than 8 years ago | (#15073223)

The total number of Kanji in wide use for Japanese is something closer to 2500 rather than 7000 (even Chinese only regularly uses some 3000 or so), and it appears to be necessary to know something like 1800 to 2000 characters to be able to read a typical Japanese newspaper like the Nihon Keizai Shimbun [nikkei.net] . The Japanese also make use of syllabaries known as kana, of which there are only some 40 characters, which easily fit on a normal keyboard. The way most Japanese keyboards work is they type a word in kana, which they then use an extra key to select among the possible kanji that may represent the kana. It is also possible to type Japanese text using a normal US keyboard, using what are known as input methods. I use anthy [sourceforge.jp] to do this, and basically you type a romanized version of the word you want, which comes out as kana, and you can then use the spacebar to select among the possible kanji.

Characers (4, Informative)

JanneM (7445) | more than 8 years ago | (#15073699)

Technically, any character that is valid Hanzi (Chinese character) is valid Japanese too. Old "comprehensive" multi-volume dictionaries used to list around 50000 characters; of course when it came to usage statistics, the majority of characters was only ever used in the dictionaries themselves, and never anywhere else.

So there is a standard set of characters defined today - about 2200 general Kanji and another 2-300 that are used only in names. These are the ones learned in school, and I believe that "state-supported" texts, like official documents, signs, textbooks and so on (and perhaps newspapers too?) are limited to this set only.

But then there are a lot of subject-specific characters in use, especially in academia. Someone said that the typical well-educated Japanese will know around 3-5000 characters total. On the other hand, about 800 characters are considered the minimum for literacy, and with the first 1100 - learned by sixth grade - you're going to be able to parse most general texts (you may not recognize everything, but you'll have enough context to figure out the meaning).

ummm.... (4, Funny)

Lxy (80823) | more than 8 years ago | (#15073134)

Advices on Learning Japanese?

How's abouts ya learn English first?

Re:ummm.... (1)

gameforge (965493) | more than 8 years ago | (#15073142)

Due to that, it seems the interest on learning Japanese is steadily growing, specially for anime addicts.

No kidding...

Re:ummm.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15073170)

shouldn't the editor correct the errors there? what about you giving useful information as opposed to be a troll?

Re:ummm.... (2, Funny)

CurbyKirby (306431) | more than 8 years ago | (#15073336)

<FreshBrew> IM DONT MATH FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE
<FreshBrew> HELL FUCKING YES
<kolby> you still in english?

( http://www.bash.org/?4602 [bash.org] )

Re:ummm.... (1, Funny)

Guppy06 (410832) | more than 8 years ago | (#15073627)

Actually, considering how much the Japanese mangle English (I thought that was our job!), I'd say it's a good thing that more poor speakers are learning Japanese so that we can have our just revenge. :)

Advice on Learning English (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15073145)

Usually, the word "advice" is not used in plural when it is used to mean "counsel", "a proposal for a course of action", or "an opinion on what should be done".

Don't worry... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15073165)

I can't understand a Japanese Professor where I work either - and he asks questions about his mac. Ek.

So you want to lean Japanese? (5, Funny)

Hikaru79 (832891) | more than 8 years ago | (#15073173)

This is definitely my reccomended first reading [idge.net] . Beware ;-)

Re:So you want to lean Japanese? (1)

wbren (682133) | more than 8 years ago | (#15073249)

I also recommend reading this [google.com] . Google's translation feature provides and accurate, easy-to-read translation of Japanese texts.

Re:So you want to lean Japanese? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15073813)

The Genki book series is really nice for learning the language. It's better in classes obviously, but there are audio CDs that go along with the book as well.

Watching anime can help with pronunciation, but be careful with repeating what you hear. You can get a lot of general vocabulary out of it, but always ask a Japanese speaker or check online when repeating grammar forms so you aren't being rude or speaking like a girl, etc.

Turning japanese? (5, Funny)

secolactico (519805) | more than 8 years ago | (#15073175)

In the inmortal words of Dave Barry, the best way to learn japanese is to be born japanese and raised by japanese parents in Japan.

Do not... (5, Informative)

Microlith (54737) | more than 8 years ago | (#15073185)

Do not try to learn anything from games or anime. You -will- pick up bad habits if you try and learn that way that will be both hard to drop and impede your progress.

The best way to learn is to take formal classes, preferrably as intense as possible. It helps if you can memorize the two basic character sets first, as any good class will start with rote memorization of those and drop romaji as quickly as possible. Beware the teacher that doesn't push or task you, as you can spend years in classes and learn nothing. Also, SPEAK. Speaking helps master the language faster than anything else and if you don't, oddly enough, even if you go to Japan no one will push you to speak. I learned first hand that they don't expect you to speak, and as such there's no push (or need) to do so unless you force yourself.

As for your interest I share many myself, however:

Anime - good for practicing listening, although technical/fantasy jargon will interfere. Live action shows are better, since they speak more naturally in those and are more difficult to understand, speech wise. Beware slang. Also, most shows drop keigo (polite speech,) which is ESSENTIAL to learn.

Games - good for reading, but suffers from the same problems as above.

Novels are better since you're forced to memorize kanji to move faster. Focus on things with furigana so you can get a handle on the readings of kanji and words, as they'll show them once for a kanji/word every few pages, which lets you pick it up faster. Also, consider browsing Amazon Japan for books on verbs and particles, since those will be the first problematic things you encounter, among amassing a vocabulary and kanji literacy.

And to promote a site that is -not- mine but is nonetheless excellent, http://www.nihongoresources.com/ [nihongoresources.com] -- be gentle on the site, but it's a great help.

Re:Do not... (4, Insightful)

ceeam (39911) | more than 8 years ago | (#15073675)

Do not try to learn anything from games or anime.

What if your primary reason to learn it _is_ games and anime?

Also - I find it is quite probably a good idea to pump tons of conversations (by native speakers of course) through your brain _before_ you start learning any foreign language. Reasoning - you will have quite certain idea how that language _should_ sound and in case of Japanese things like tonal stress will come very naturally. Otherwise you will obtain your own very wrong ideas about rhythms and sounds (probably through transliterating the words to your native tongue). Then you will need to relearn everything not even from zero level but from negative or otherwise your language "knowledge" will be wasted. And relearning is hard. I speak from my experience with English (not my native language). So in short - I think "parroting" the sound of Japanese is a good idea (even from anime as it is the most available source of Japanese).

Re:Do not... (1)

Microlith (54737) | more than 8 years ago | (#15073786)

Except that what you hear in games and anime, quite honestly, sounds nothing like a normal conversation. At all. The closest you can get with passive viewing material is live action tv shows, as those don't always feature trained voice actors speaking clearly and directly.

Re:Do not... (1)

ceeam (39911) | more than 8 years ago | (#15073901)

Depends on anime. And again - if you want to learn Japanese to watch anime (and "consume" other media-production) and - as you claim - it all "sounds nothing like a normal conversation", then what's the point to learn "normal conversation" style?

The Rosetta Stone (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15073186)

The Rosetta Stone. Language learning software that is based on the way you learn a language naturally. I've used it for a couple of months to teach myself German,
it's fantastic.

Pimsleur and other courses of the like teach you through memorization; TRS uses photographs and the language, without ever translating anything. You have to match up each photo with the words given to you, and the connection is something you actually learn, not just memorize. verstehen Sie?

Re:The Rosetta Stone (1)

flewp (458359) | more than 8 years ago | (#15073632)

Wow, awesome, thanks for the tip. I've decided I want to study another language (I know a little German, but it's old and rusty), and being very visually orientated, I think this sounds like the perfect solution for me.

Re:The Rosetta Stone (1)

Guppy06 (410832) | more than 8 years ago | (#15073756)

"I've used it for a couple of months to teach myself German, it's fantastic."

Keep in mind you're using your experience learning a language from which English is derived and assuming it works equally well wtih a language that has nothing to do with English.

"verstehen Sie?"

I may not remember much from high school, but you have more than one reader: versteh ihr. Wakarimasu-ka?

Re:The Rosetta Stone (1)

Krach42 (227798) | more than 8 years ago | (#15073875)

I may not remember much from high school, but you have more than one reader: versteh ihr. Wakarimasu-ka?

Actually, you've remembered something good, that there's a second person plural in German. But you failed to realize that the formal personal pronoun is used for both single and plural forms.

Also, the correct congution of "verstehen" for "ihr" is "versteht" so "Versteht ihr?". It's argued whether one should be formal or not with people you meet over the internet, the tendency is to be quite informal over the internet, where as you would be more formal in person.

Regardless, I feel that his rendition actually fits better into this medium, and conversation. Regardless, and unfortunately your grammatical error means yours would not be correct anyway.

"wakatta-ka?"

Japanese is not difficult! (4, Informative)

KNicolson (147698) | more than 8 years ago | (#15073189)

At least from a speaking and listening point of view, which is what you want if you are going to just watch anime. Most of the verbs and nouns are regular, the grammar is not often too complex, pronounciation is straightforward on the whole, etc. It only gets hard when you need to master reading and writing, or when you need to understand the cultural issues behind the language, which is not a thing a course is going to teach you very well.

I'm sure this thread will get lots of references to things like Tae Kim's grammar guide or Heisig's book, both of which have as many rabid fans as an average Linux distribution, although I personally don't rate either very highly.

My chosen route to polish my Japanese skills is my blog, which in fact has a related entry about why people learn Japanese [whatjapanthinks.com] , although "To understand comics and cartoons" was not one of the reasons given.

Agree (1)

JanneM (7445) | more than 8 years ago | (#15073666)

Japanese, the language, is not difficult at all. The grammar is very regular, and spelling problems are nonexistent. I've found it substantially easier than either English or German in this regard.

There are, however, three pitfalls:

1. Kanji. Yes, you do need to learn them. It's time-consuming, but necessary. One hurdle with learning Japanese is that you can't really practice your language through reading like with many other languages since you need the kanji to do so. SO picking them up will enable you to practice a lot more. On the upside, learning kanji makes for a nice shortcut to pick up new vocabulary.

2. Politeness. By convention or habit, all textbooks and courses tend to focus on polite language, only covering the familiar language to the extent you need it for grammatical correctness. That's often not how Japanese speak, however.

Your early contacts with Japanese in the real world will tend to be shopkeepers, waiters and so on, and they will not use the polite language to you; they'll use honirific language - which often isn't covered until fairly late in any introductory course. So you'll have no idea what they're saying, which makes them nervous so they start using even more polite language, which just makes it worse.

And once you start to know people, they'll drop the politeness (just like you do in any other language) and speak more familiar language - but since you haven't practiced it in class, you're lost again.

In television or radio, you'll often have either familiar language (dramas, comedies, game shows or anything with shouting, laughing and so on) or honorific language (news, debates or other 'serious' matters), again neither of which you've actually studied or practiced.

The politeness thing isn't difficult, really, but you do need to get an ear for those ways of speaking or writing as well, not just the safe-but-boring middle level. I'd wish that was covered much earlier.

3. Dialects. Japan is not a small country, and it has a large population. Dialects a numerous and varied. Of course, what you're learning is some abstract "television-presenter Japanese", that isn't too dissimilar from an attenuated Tokyo dialect. But go to Osaka further down the coast (where I reaside), and the language changes drastically. If you've only ever studied and heard "standard Japanese" you won't stand a chance. I've lived here a couple of years, and I still don't understand a word when someone starts speaking in a broad Osaka dialect.

A few things... (4, Interesting)

T_ConX (783573) | more than 8 years ago | (#15073198)

1) Anime is not a good place to learn Japanese. A useful anecdote for this would be to imagine a Japanese person learning English from episodes of Simpsons and Family Guy. While such thoughts are no doubt filled with hillarity, they do prove just how silly Anime-bin Japanese would seem to native speakers...

That said, I'm not totally ripping on Anime. Watch it if you want to, but mix it up with some live action Japanese films (Ringu is one of my favorites).

2) If you're into video games, I suggest downloading an Emulator and some ROMs of old Japanese video games. Ones that have a decent deal of text (SNES era RPGs), but not ones that require to much reading. Also, pick games that you may be somewhat familiar with. I'm a big Front Mission 3 fan, so I got the Japanese SNES (or should I say Super Famicom) ROM of the original. Fun times!

3) Get a good dictionary. You'll need it for everything.

4) Also, get a Grammar guide. Japanese Grammar is crazy compared to English, and is, IMHO, comparable to some programming languages.

Well, formal Japanese grammar may be difficult. Casual Japanese is more forgiving when it comes to particle usage.

Othe rthen that, all I can recommend is taking some actual Japanese classes. It's a hard language to learn, but not impossible. It will take a great deal of time before you get any good at it, but after 2 years of studying it myself... I'm still learning, but I have no regrets!

Re:A few things... (1)

dido (9125) | more than 8 years ago | (#15073372)

Good advice from an anonymous coward, but hey, I really must object to the reasoning behind #4. If Japanese grammar were comparable to some programming languages in complexity then it must be very easy indeed. I used to learn how to program in one language and write nontrivial programs in many of them in a matter of weeks. I learned Java in less than a week. Scheme took a little longer, maybe a month, but at the end of it I was writing a simple expert system of sorts, and after that, Common Lisp, Haskell, and OCaml were a piece of cake. I don't think of myself as being an exceptionally gifted computer scientist, and I know more than a few people who learn programming languages at such a similar rate. All of this is completely unsupervised learning, with only reference books and web sites to explain things, no formal classes.

In contrast, a Japanese language school here in my country is offering a ten-month full-time course of study that brings you from knowing absolutely no Japanese to being able to confidently take and pass the JLPT Level 2 Exam, but that's five days a week for ten months for nine hours a day. I know of no programming language that has such a steep learning curve, that you would need to study it for almost a year before you become proficient enough to write a nontrivial program.

By the way, I wouldn't characterize Japanese grammar as being crazy compared to English, which has just as many special cases and odd constructions, if not more. It's just different from English, and in many ways, it's actually simpler. It is the Japanese writing system that is crazy. The Occupation government at the end of the war should have abolished the use of Kanji, and then maybe they'd have stuck to using only the Kana syllabaries...

You need a grammar guide because Japanese grammar is obviously different from English, and for no other reason.

Re:A few things... (1)

SinGunner (911891) | more than 8 years ago | (#15073445)

If you ever tried to read Japanese in only kana, you'd shoot yourself. Every beginning learner wants to do away with kanji, but it's absolutely necessary. It's hard enough to tell where one word ends and another begins, but without it you'd be lost forever. Also, furigana is provided for any real hard kanji.

On Abandoning the Kanji (1)

dido (9125) | more than 8 years ago | (#15073727)

I know what you mean, however there are some children's storybooks I have that make minimal use of kanji, roughly less than a dozen in each book, all with furigana, and they are not hard at all. As a parallel example, the Koreans have actually managed to almost completely do away with Hanja, and now nearly everything they write is in the Hangul syllabary. I find it hard to believe that there are truly insurmountable technical difficulties for the Japanese to do something similar and abandon Kanji in favor of exclusive use of the Kana. But certainly, and cultural or social obstacles to such a move abound. I read about what happened [nanzan-u.ac.jp] (PDF link to the introduction of Remembering the Kanji III) when the Occupation Government attempted to curtail the number of officially used kanji to only 1850 and how well that went over with the public, with people growing up legally nameless rather than abandoning the kanji they had been using. I imagine a move to totally abandon the Kanji would be greeted with even more disdain.

Re:On Abandoning the Kanji (1)

SinGunner (911891) | more than 8 years ago | (#15073855)

I think it's easiest to put it in terms we can all understand. Would you want to take the spaces out of English? Kanji is largely there to break up the text into something more intelligible. When you see it, you read multiple syllables at once and your eyes won't get lost on the page. It's a lot easier to read "watashi no na mae ha" than "watashinonamaeha". Those spaces are inserted at the intersection of kanji. And, of course, you'd never say "Watshi no namae ha", simply because it would make you sound like a gaijin. Just say "desu" after your name. That, and if you get a chance, watch some "Hakujin Sensei", cause that man kills me.

Re:A few things... (1)

Niahak (581661) | more than 8 years ago | (#15073687)

As an aside to the video game comment (and as yet another Japanese student) I would recommend starting off with NES or Genesis games.

Those games (for the most part) have very few kanji and a lot more hiragana and katakana, so it would be good practice to learn those character sets. If you can also find a dictionary program (I like JQuickTrans [coolest.com] you can build up some vocabulary, particularly if the games are text-heavy. I started off with an NES adventure game by the name of Jesus, which was somewhat text-heavy (I had gone off of a couple years of classes, and I ended up writing an English script for it) - it had no kanji whatsoever and thus was extremely friendly. but even an action game would probably be okay as long as it has some text.

If you're going to try using video games to learn it, I recommend NOT starting off on an SNES (or later) game. There are far too many kanji in some games to easily start reading using them. That said, they can be good for building up knowledge of kanji if you're willing to go through and look them up.

In addition, video games should not be your only exposure to the language. As others have said, listening is important as well as speaking. If you're not afraid of a gung-ho approach, going there is a good way to build up that language - but then, as another poster mentioned, Japanese will not expect you to know the language at all, so you need to be outgoing about it.

Most of all, though, pick things you enjoy doing. If you start learning off okay, but start to lose interest, you'll start to lose any fluency you built up. Stick with it, and have fun! I know I have.

Best way? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15073208)

Best way? Live in Japan. I'll leave the details up to you.

Gambatte!

Konnichiwa - watashi no adobaisu (4, Informative)

linguae (763922) | more than 8 years ago | (#15073217)

From personal experience (been studying Nihongo for over six years; and I'm far from fluent):

  1. If you are lucky and you are in college, take Japanese courses. If you are even more interested, minor (or, even better, major) in Japanese. Much hurdles will be solved. (If you don't have these luxuries, then read on.)
  2. The first thing to learn is hiragana and katakana. Hiragana and katakana are the basic phonetic characters in Japanese. You must master these character sets in order to move on. (You can slide by with romanji, but the sooner you are confortable with hiragana and katakana, the better). But don't worry about it; there are only 100 or so characters to learn, and you will master these within a week or two, and there are numerous sites available.
  3. Next, start mastering basic vocabulary and grammar.
  4. Learn kanji. Kanji is the biggest hurdle; you need to learn 1,945 kanji characters in order to be equivalent to a Japanese high school graduate in kanji knowledge. This is a long road (even after six years, I only know about 150 or so, but there are people, with the right books, who can get all of them mastered within a year or two). Once you master kanji, the rest should fall into place.
  5. Don't forget your conversational skills. Podcasts are great for listening skills. Speaking is a harder skill. If you just so happen to live in a big city (especially in California; Bay Area, Sacramento, and Los Angeles area), there might be a Japanese-American community with native speakers. Make connections. If there isn't a Japanese community in your area, then try to find somebody.
  6. Don't quit. Eventually you'll become fluent, even if it takes a decade or so.
  7. Once you gain a good level of proficiency, take the JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test). If you pass the highest level, then you have just as much skills in Japanese as a native Japanese speaker, according to the test.
  8. Travel to Japan, and see what Japan is all about.

Yokoso! Welcome to the club. Japanese is a very interesting language. It is much more challenging than the Romance languages (it took me only a year to develop near-fluent Spanish skills, in comparison). However, you will gain access to another culture and will allow you to translate all of that anime. I got interested in Japanese through Pokemon, by the way.

Re:Konnichiwa - watashi no adobaisu (1)

BJH (11355) | more than 8 years ago | (#15073375)

Once you gain a good level of proficiency, take the JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test). If you pass the highest level, then you have just as much skills in Japanese as a native Japanese speaker, according to the test.

I don't know where you heard this, but it's bollocks. Foreign students entering Japanese universities privately (as opposed to on a government scholarship) need to take the Level 1 JLPT, but passing it doesn't guarantee anything like native proficiency.

I took the JLPT in my third year of university and passed it with a score in the low 90s, but no way would I have considered myself anywhere near "native" ability at the time.

Re:Konnichiwa - watashi no adobaisu (1)

illuminatedwax (537131) | more than 8 years ago | (#15073489)

Are you kidding?? JLPT level 1 is considered difficult for Japanese speakers. Perhaps you took a different level of JLPT. JLPT level 1 is about as close as you can get to a testable native level. Also, maybe the confusion is that JLPT doesn't test speaking ability, which generally comes along with listening. I can actually see how that might be different at a university.

JLPT 4 - Basic Japanese
JLPT 3 - Competency
JLPT 2 - Proficiency
JLPT 1 - Fluency

Re:Konnichiwa - watashi no adobaisu (1)

BJH (11355) | more than 8 years ago | (#15073640)

Er, no, I do actually know what level I took - 4, 3, and 2 I passed in 1990, and 1 in 1993.

And no, it's not difficult for native speakers.

Re:Konnichiwa - watashi no adobaisu (1)

illuminatedwax (537131) | more than 8 years ago | (#15073755)

Certainly your speaking then might not have been native - speaking is difficult, if not impossible to do at a 'native' level if you're not born and raised in the country.

But JLPT 1 is hard. The writing portion is the part of the test that native speakers find hard - many Japanese people are not good at reading and writing. I've asked many of them personally. It makes sense too - how many native English speakers can't spell for shit? Some people I know who are really good at Japanese have trouble with JLPT 1. If you pass JLPT 1, maybe you aren't a native-level speaker, but you are probably a native-level listener, reader, and writer. And it makes sense, having apparently studied for three years to make the bridge between JLPT 1 and 2.

Otherwise, I don't know what JLPT you're taking.

Re:Konnichiwa - watashi no adobaisu (1)

BJH (11355) | more than 8 years ago | (#15073835)

The writing portion is the part of the test that native speakers find hard - many Japanese people are not good at reading and writing.

Uh-huh. "Many" meaning...

I've asked many of them personally. ..."some of the people you know", apparently. Any Japanese person who has been through high school would not find the JPLT particularly difficult.

Some people I know who are really good at Japanese have trouble with JLPT 1.

"Really good" is a subjective assessment. I would have said some people I know who wouldn't have had a chance of passing the JPLT were "really good", too - when my Japanese was at the elementary level.

And it makes sense, having apparently studied for three years to make the bridge between JLPT 1 and 2.

Nah, I came within three or four points of a passing grade in the following level 1 test after I passed level 2, but I didn't bother retaking level 1 for a couple of years after that (didn't need it at the time).

Really, level 1 is not that hard.

 

Re:Konnichiwa - watashi no adobaisu (1)

lampiaio (848018) | more than 8 years ago | (#15073867)

how come you passed 4, 3 and 2 all in 1990, if the test happens once a year and only one level can be taken?

Re:Konnichiwa - watashi no adobaisu (1)

BJH (11355) | more than 8 years ago | (#15073896)

In Japan, it's held twice a year with back-to-back tests if you want to take two levels on the same day... don't know if that still applies though.

Re:Konnichiwa - watashi no adobaisu (0)

lampiaio (848018) | more than 8 years ago | (#15073904)

Sorry to be a grammar nazi in Japanese, but if you've been studying Japanese for 5 years you should know that it's not "romanji", but "rômaji".

Rôma = Rome
Roman = romance

Misconceptions (1)

ResQuad (243184) | more than 8 years ago | (#15073226)

I think the first step to learning Japanese is to get rid of the misconceptions. Japanese is really not as hard as people make it out to be, at least the verbal portion. Yes, the writing is difficult.

Regardless of which, I belive the "best" way to learn japanese is figure out what you want to do with it. If you simple want to watch anime and understand, then listen to things like the pimsluers audio books, etc. Anything to help you get the very basics down, even "tourist" leasons work. Once you understand the basic grammer (which I personally belive is relativly easy), you can get vocab books.

If you don't worry about the written language, you should be ok. And of course once you can speak it, you can learn to read it.

I took several simesters of Nihongo about 6 years ago. Didn't follow it much after that, though I wanted to. Recently I picked up the Primslers from Audible.com and found it reasonably good - especially if you know nothing about the language.

Please reconsider (1)

winmine (934311) | more than 8 years ago | (#15073228)

Learn Japanese? This guy reccommends against it [idge.net] .

Anime style... (1)

creimer (824291) | more than 8 years ago | (#15073238)

When you speak Japanese, make sure your English subtitles mean something entirely different.

Some personal experience (1)

RRcGoose (891473) | more than 8 years ago | (#15073243)

I recently have tried to learn Japanese, and can pass on a few tips.

The first thing I would recommend trying to learn is the written language. Of this there are three forms: Hiragana ('Traditional Japanese'), Katakana (For borrowed and modern words), and Kanji (The advanced characters). I worked on this by just trying to learn five characters a day, and then constantly repeating them until the whole set was memorized. A good reference, at least for the hiragana, is http://www.thejapanesepage.com/ [thejapanesepage.com] , which has decent exercises to remember everything.

After learning at least the hiragana and katakana, you can start working on grammar and vocabulary. Two books I used for grammar were 'Japanese Step by Step' by Gene Nishi and 'Easy Japanese' by Jack Seward, both of which I recommend. I also used the Rosetta Stone software for a little bit, although found it a bit difficult. All it does is show you a picture and has you say a phrase associated to what's going on in the picture with little explanation as to what is being said.

The one thing I truly wish I had was a tutor to check myself against instead of flying blind. At times, I feel like if I were to go to Japan and try out what I've learned, I'd end up like that guy in the Monty Python skit saying the dirty phrases instead of the true language.

Most importantly, if you're really serious about learning Japanese, stick with it! Make your learning a fun experience!

Steve-

theres some good resources out there (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15073245)

I've been taking japanese here at college for almost 2 years, and having had some immersion thanks to anime, I've been used to the way it sounds for a while. Seriously, I find it easier than french, like alot easier, when learned at a slow but steady pace. It's gonna take a while for me to learn all those kanji, but at least I don't feel like everything is being crammed down my throat at an impossible-to-digest rate. One option is to look at the Genki textbook series, I found a good price earlier on thejapanshop.com, and you can get the texbook, workbook, associated audio CDs, and an answer book which has answers for the textbook and workbook exercises for both Genki 1 and Genki 2. This seems like a reasonable plan for self study, and it's not priced anywhere near that of normal texbooks. Many people seem to like the genki series (although we use Nakama for our classes here).
As a general quick reference, I've been using nihongoresources.com as kind of a quick reference dictionary, although there are a few little language guides on the site too. Once you're used to it though, and can find little mental things to relate words to, it's really not too bad. Most conjugations do follow patterns, with not many exceptions to the ones I've seen. Word order is rather flexible, so generally as long as the verb is last everything is ok. Casual speech gets more complicated, and it'll probably be like another year before I'll ever be able to translate japanese song lyrics, but getting started in japanese really isn't too bad. Posting as AC because I haven't logged in for like a year. Ganbatteyo!

don't (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15073253)

What's peoples obsession with learning Japanese? The only two reasons people learn Japanese is to either watch their bootleg anime, or actually move to Japan (and supposedly watch more anime, I dunno). These are the same people who use Japanese suffixes (chan, san, etc.) in an english conversation, making themselves sound like a dumbass. Get a new obsession.

Don't rely on imported J-pop culture (1)

Zadaz (950521) | more than 8 years ago | (#15073267)

Find a native Japanese speaker to teach you. Ideally one on one. If you don't speak it, you will not learn it. Ideally get a Japanese boy/girl friend.

Don't expect to learn too quickly, Unless you have an amazing aptitude you'll need to study pretty hard for several years before you can even get the gist of most anime. Is that going to be worth it to watch Naruto without the subtitles? (And still miss most of the subtext). And that's taking lessons several times a week plus hours of homework, study, and memorization.

Spend time learning the culture as well as the language.

I'd start with the "Minna No Nihongo" books and stay way from the "For Busy People" books since they don't provide near as much depth, usage, or have as good of exercises. The "Minna No Nihongo" books also let you focus your attention as much as you want with optional listening CD's and Kanji exercise books that go with the lessons.

And of course, go to Japan and go somewhere outside of Tokyo/Kyoto and learn to sink or swim.

I agree with what other posters have said about learning Anime Japanese because it's pretty much socially unacceptable. See if you can rent or download Japanese drama's to listen to, since they have more common speech.

Re:Don't rely on imported J-pop culture (1)

Guppy06 (410832) | more than 8 years ago | (#15073761)

"Ideally get a Japanese boy/girl friend."

Dude, this is Slashdot. We aren't even able to get Wapanese girlfriends.

BTW, I don't think "Will you go out with me so you can teach me a new language?" will work as a good pick-up line. Not that I would know, since, again, I'm a Slashdotter.

You could always ask Homer Simpson! (1)

writermike (57327) | more than 8 years ago | (#15073268)

"Shimatta-baka-ni!"

[[D'oh]]

Easy (5, Funny)

rlp (11898) | more than 8 years ago | (#15073271)

Get Dragonball Z on DVD. Start watching in Japanese with English subtitles. About half-way through the battle with Freeza (episode #5259) turn off the subtitles.

Re:Easy (1)

jsrlepage (696948) | more than 8 years ago | (#15073585)

That's when they stop actual conversation and start to fight and shout a number of "k3wl move names" until the credits, right?

Rosetta Stone (1)

datafr0g (831498) | more than 8 years ago | (#15073277)

The Rosetta Stone software is brilliant - check it out here: http://www.rosettastone.com/ [rosettastone.com]

It's quite effective at forcing you to think in another language - after a short while of trying the french course, I found that I was thinking in that lauguage which I believe is the most natural way to learn. For example, parts of the courses work by giving you 4 pictures of things to choose from and you have to pick based on what word you hear - there's no handholding if you don't want it. The later courses combine those words into phrases and you really are thinking in the lanuguage as opposed to translating it (from english) in your head. This happens because you associate the image with the word specific to the language you're learning - very cool and very fast. There are many other sections to the courses but they all work the same way - associate a word or phrase in the language you're learning directly with objects or things you can see or hear, etc. By the way, I spent a while after a couple of hours on the course walking around and noticing things I could name in the new language - it worked very well and there was no manual conversion from english going on in my head.
Most other software or books, cd's, etc I've tried seem to teach through repitition and what I've found is that I end up translating the language in my head from english to whatever other language. If you can *think* in that language from the start, it becomes far easier to become fluent and retain the language - after all, Japanese people think in Japanese, they don't convert it from english first!

Hope that helps :)

Re:Rosetta Stone (1)

darkmayo (251580) | more than 8 years ago | (#15073774)

Just picked it up myself, and so far I have to agree with the parent.

Its like learning through immersion. Sure there is a text book in english but you dont even have to look at it. Just start it up and go, there is no english in the app itself translating what was just said so it forces you to think in japanese so to speak. If you really get stuck you can always take a peek at the english listing to see what the hell they are talking about, but when you figure it out in your head its much more effective.. imo

and cough...I seem to have seen it available on certain ummm.. torrent sites too.

What worked for me... (1)

Hootenanny (966459) | more than 8 years ago | (#15073285)

I used a two-pronged approach to teach myself some Japanese.

1. Use the Rosetta Stone software to familiarize yourself with the vocabulary, sound, and appearance of Japanese language. I found this to be useful for learning-by-repetition.

2. At the same time, get a Japanese textbook and learn the details of the grammar. Start by memorizing the hiragana alphabet. Learn about the particles.

If you simply use the language - i.e. take approach #1 alone - then you miss out on essential understanding of *why* the language works the way it does. If you simply study it like a science - i.e. take approach #2 alone - then you prevent your brain from learning a language the most natural way, by imitation.

Good luck, and I hope this helps...

Don't forget the real world (1)

mtippett (110279) | more than 8 years ago | (#15073300)

A few things to remember.

    It sounds like you are currently unilingual - don't underestimate the amount of internal training that you will have to do.
    Children learn slowly, adults try to learn quickly, give your self time.
    Never assume the a translation carries the meaning, it won't.

Now on the learning

    Learn with Hiragana and Katakana if at all possible, Romaji will end up adding more complexity to learning, it is only a standardized approximation to the actual language.
    Don't rely on electronic-only methods, write read and use a paper dictionary.
    Get children's books - they are simple and give you the basics
    Get a hiragana based japanese-english/english-japanese dictionary
    Get a kanji based japanese-english dictionary
    For Linux software I use gjiten, edit and uim

Good luck - it's a fun language to learn (1)

Chang (2714) | more than 8 years ago | (#15073301)

I learned Japanese as a teenager by living in Japan and immersing myself while cutting out my native language as much as possible. This is by far the best way to learn any language.

If that isn't possible (immersion) I have a few specific suggestions

Focus more on learning the kana, nouns, verbs, and adverbs.

Focus less on honorific and polite forms. These will come in time and you need an understanding of Japanese culture and social contexts to make effective use of them anyways. Native Japanese do not expect you as a beginner to use these correctly.

Don't sweat the particles (ga, ha, o, ni) so much - they are a little tough to get used to but pattern recognition will get you there eventually.

Don't worry at all about Kanji in the beginning - it's a complete waste of time for a beginner and they will come easily when you are ready to absorb them (late in the learning process)

After you get some basic vocabulary down then start to learn to conjugate verbs - there are only a couple of patterns to remember and you will suddenly be able to conjugate verbs a dozen different ways as fast as you can learn the verb bases.

Enjoy the fact that Japanese has no real plural forms, no future tenses, and no articles. It makes it much simpler as a language.

Also enjoy the fact that Japanese has a highly regular pronunciation that makes it a snap to pronounce.

Ignore the regional dialects in the beginning - it's very important to learn these if you are going to live somewhere where they speak but you'll be able to make yourself understood and if you know standard Japanese you can puzzle these out when the time comes.

Focus on listening comprehension by watching Japanese TV/movies/radio and get yourself a conversation partner. There are people who are dying to trade English conversation for Japanese and you can do this over the net. There is no substitute for speaking and listening when learning any language. Don't worry about mistakes just try to speak as much as possible.

Get yourself a pen pal or an email/IM partner so you can practice reading quickly and responding in writing.

Whatever you do - don't try to learn Japanese primarily by watching anime or reading manga. You will sound like a complete dork.

why not take a class? (2, Interesting)

Mr. Slippery (47854) | more than 8 years ago | (#15073308)

I know you said "without attending to classes", but I'd suggest you reconsider. I'm taking a class at the local community college and finding it well worth the time and money. (A class at a community or commuter college may be much better suited to the part-time student - the intro Japanese class at UMCP [umd.edu] is six credit hours, which would be difficult to fit into my schedule, while the one I'm taking [aacc.edu] is only three.)

I was motivated to finally take a class after my second trip to Japan last fall. After meeting one Spanish woman who spoke four langages, and a Polish woman who was there teaching English and studying shodo, I was embarassed that after twenty years of karate training in a Japanese style [seidomd.com] , and shiatsu training [earthtouchshiatsu.com] , and two brief trips to Japan, I knew only enough Japanese to say "thank you", "excuse me", and "please bring me a beer". (Well, and "roundhouse kick to the neck", but that's not a phrase that comes up much in polite conversation.)

The class is sociologically interesting, though - a bunch of 18 and 19 year old anime fans, and me at 36.

Yes. (1)

urinetrouble (809485) | more than 8 years ago | (#15073314)

I learned from high school courses. One last year (An introductory class), and then independent study this year (Not enough interest for a second-year class but it worked out). The thing is, I'm already forgetting. This tells me that the only way for me to really know the language properly is to constantly practise it. That probably means either moving to Japan or getting a job as a sushi chef like I'm kind of half-assedly planning to.

I also second not learning from games/anime. That won't teach you Japanese, that will just make you into a wapanese jackass. Commitment to learning a language properly doesn't mean playing video games and watching cartoons.

Advices on Learning Japanese? (1)

MrYotsuya (27522) | more than 8 years ago | (#15073326)

Advices on Learning Japanese?

I think "advice" is it's own plural. How about mastering the English language before going on to greener pastures?

Re: Advices on Learning Japanese? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15073711)

I think it's is a contraction of it is. You want to use its in this situation.

Slime Forest (2, Informative)

Netochka (874088) | more than 8 years ago | (#15073349)

I found this: http://lrnj.com/ [lrnj.com] to be a fun way to help me learn the characters (although probably writing them repeatedly is the best for drilling them into your brain)

Japanese for Programmers? (Partial Threadjack) (1)

SecretAsianMan (45389) | more than 8 years ago | (#15073368)

I was going to submit an Ask Slashdot myself, but from a different perspective. I'm a professional software engineer. I'm not one of those simpletons with a ju-co degree writing Windows logon scripts because they heard there was good money. No, I get up in the morning and write RSX-11M device drivers just to wake up. I've learned maybe 30 or 40 languages, from various assemblies to Haskell. I became fluent in Spanish in four years. Languages are easy, and many /. readers are in the same predicament.

So how can people like us learn Japanese? We don't have the patience to work through the standard type of "learn a little bit at a time with no view of the big picture" learning material. What we want is a big-picture view of the entire language, from which we can pick individual pieces of lexeme, grammar, vocabulary, and usage to study. We long ago stopped using the hopelessly verbose SAMS $LANGUAGE Bible books to learn programming languages, and we would still prefer BNF to the front of a Nutshell book. What is the equivalent for conversational languages, especially Japanese?

Re:Japanese for Programmers? (Partial Threadjack) (1)

Edward Ka-Spel (779129) | more than 8 years ago | (#15073897)

Oddly enough, Japanese is very similar to a computer language.  Just a few simple rules, and (almost) no exceptions to the rules.  If I really thought about it, perhaps I could even create a fairly simple BNF for it.  Here is an off-the-cuff attempt.  I can never remember the exact BNF punctuation, so I will make up one.

sentence := <expression>* <verb conjugate>.
expression := <noun clause> | <sub-sentence>
noun clause := noun <particle>
particle := wa | ga | o | ni | na | de | kara | made | aida | NULL | others I forget right now.  (as a side note, each particle gives an indication to the part of the sentence.  Subject, direct object, indirect object, adverb, etc.
sub-sentence := sentence <conjunction>
conjunction := yoni | mae | ato | kara | nara | NULL | etc.  (with a little bit of thought perhaps the conjunction and the particle rule could be the same rule)
verb conjugate := verb base <conjugate>
conjugate := a | i | u | e | o | te | ite

And there you have it.  Now that I think about it, it is a little bit oversimplified.  But what do you expect for free and in five minutes...

Example:
taberu mae ni te o aratte kudasai
<expression> <expression> <verb conjugate>
<expression> <expression> kudasa <conjugate>
<expression> <expression> kudasai
<sentence> mae ni <expression> kudasai
<verb conjugate> mae ni <expression> kudasai
tabe <conjugate> mae ni <expression> kudasai
taberu mae ni <expression> kudasai
taberu mae ni <sentence> kudasai
taberu mae ni <expression> <verb conjugate> kudasai
taberu mae ni <expression> ara <conjugate> kudasai
taberu mae ni <expression> aratte kudasai
taberu mae ni te <particle> aratte kudasai
taberu mae ni te o aratte kudasai
please wash your hands before you eat.

QED  :)

Learning Japanese (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15073376)

First, I highly recommend a site: http://www.csse.monash.edu.au/~jwb/wwwjdic.html [monash.edu.au] . This site has everything from java character input recognition for the dictionary, to a Japanese dictionary with examples for every word.

Second, to help learn all of the hiragana, katakana, and kanji (and everything else Japanese related) you should check out a program called SuperMemo. This program is a simple flashcard program, but it uses a spaced repetition algorithm to help you remember things before you forget them. (btw, I've read that people have used SuperMemo and MASTERED a language in something like 2-3 years.)

Also, having a friend that attempted to learn kanji on his own (also he has a very good imagination), he created a method called Kanji Town (just google it, he has a blog about it).

Finally, you need to immerse yourself in the language - through Pimsler, any Japanese music you can listen to, watch Japanese TV shows... every bit of audio stuff you can find to add to your reading studies.

My advice (for what it's worth) (1)

Kuukai (865890) | more than 8 years ago | (#15073379)

Well, I'm no language teacher, but I am a pretty good non-native speaker of Japanese... I recommend learning hiragana and katakana on the web first. Shouldn't be too hard, that's how I learned and I think it took at most a few weeks. Also, the basic grammatical structure of Japanese isn't too complicated, in fact it's extremely simple, so it shouldn't be too hard to learn basic stuff from books/the web. It's kanji that makes Japanese "hard" (learn how to do radical lookup in a dictionary program like JWPce as soon as possible, and get good at it). Even if you don't want to pay a teacher, maybe you could find a Japanese person to practice with (or other otaku learning Japanese). I'm not sure how far you can actually get without formal instruction, but either way, pumping that anime addiction of yours is what you want to do. Anime itself is pretty hard to follow at a beginner level, but you'll have a fair amount of luck with shows like Pokemon, aimed at younger viewers. An even better way to practice is video games. Many games for PS2 etc. have subtitles and speech at the same time, which makes things much easier to understand, as your abilities in reading and listening will supplement each other (trust me, this is amazingly helpful)... Older games (PSX, etc. once you learn how to look up kanji) will help your reading, and you can go through text at your own pace rather than being force-fed at fluent-level. Well, at the level you're at, there are plenty of good GB games with all the text in hiragana with spaces, which might help. And when doing any of these, especially now, don't expect 100% comprehension, just do your best to learn what you didn't understand. Use the dictionary all the time, quiz yourself, and double-check your ideas about grammar using Google (as in, use it to see if things you want to say in Japanese have ever been said before, a clear sign of at least semi-validity). Without taking a class, it all hinges on how much effort you put into this, but learning Japanese can turn into a fun hobby. Expose yourself to the language as much as possible, though, or you won't have much fodder for your self-learning. Not sure what other advice I can give. Good luck!

Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter (2, Insightful)

r0xtarninja (966463) | more than 8 years ago | (#15073392)

If you want to learn Japanese solely on account of games and/or anime, I can tell you now to not bother. It's not worth the effort, nor is it a particularly useful language. That said, if you're insane like me, your best bet is to find a college with a good Japanese program, study a few years, then go live in Japan for a while. No matter how much you study, you'll never reach any useful level of fluency if you don't go over there for a while. Learning Japanese inherently requires you to learn Japan as well. GLHF

Re:Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15073789)

Hell, there are better things to do with your time, like learning Klingonii [wikipedia.org] !

Are you male, or female? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15073417)

I've been told by a fellow traveller that most Japanese taught to foreigneers is woman's Japanese. He found this out while living in Japan. He was talking to a local in a bar and the local told him that he speaks Japanese very well for a woman. My understanding is that the two sexes have either their own words or mannerisms/inflections in the language. Maybe this is something you don't have to worry about in the beginning or are only interested in a certain level of understanding.

Can anyone verify this?

The right question (1)

Punto (100573) | more than 8 years ago | (#15073419)

Most people here will tell you "take a formal course", but the thing is that we're used to learning things that might seem complicated, but are based on a few simple concepts that one can learn from reading a couple of pages on the manual and then looking at the source. I think the right question would be "how can I learn japanese the same way I learned programming?", and there is no easy answer. You have to learn around 1000 'basic' words, and then their variations (like conjugations, etc).

I know people who learned english from games like Maniac Mansion when they were teenagers, but that meant spending several hours every day on the games, and they didn't have to learn any new alphabets to get started. I don't know what would happen if you gave a japanese graphic adventure to a teenager (but I'd be interested to know :)

It's not hard, but it's not possible either. (2, Interesting)

SinGunner (911891) | more than 8 years ago | (#15073421)

I came here (Tokyo) last year with a friend who had the same level of Japanese I did (3 years in College/Minor), though we both had separate agendas. His was to learn Japanese, mine was to find a job. While I got my job and studied a little bit in my spare time and am capable of getting by, he entered a school dedicated to teaching Japanese to foreigners. His Japanese now is what anyone would call pera pera (fluent). He can read Japanese better than a goodly number of Japanese and can write it better than most (Japanese don't actually know kanji that well unless they kept it up in college and use it daily), but he is still behind. The heart of any language is idiom, and it's something that simply cannot be 100% expressed in another language.

So while it's always good to learn another language, A) you're not going to learn Japanese anywhere but in Japan, and B) you're never going to be that good at Japanese (I'm at least at the point where I can tell the gaijin personalities on TV who may even know more about Japanese culture speak with strange accents and have strange word usage).

On a side note, I loved anime in America, but coming here, it really is rather obvious how childish it is. If you're caught watching it here, girls will be screaming "AKIBAKEI!" and shit at you. A gaijin even saying the word "anime" here makes me feel hiku (umm.. like embarassed, sorta).

advice (4, Interesting)

illuminatedwax (537131) | more than 8 years ago | (#15073452)

You are about to learn a difficult language. The basics, and even the way of thinking can be quite different than English. I studied for about 3 years, took 2 years off and forgot a lot of it, then studied another year, and now I work a tech job in Japan.

At the same time, don't let Japanese scare you. The best asset for learning a language is confidence. If you don't have any confidence, you won't be able to communicate or learn any language.

1) If you can, take a course at your University. This is the best way to start learning. If you're lucky, you'll get a rigorous course. If you're unlucky, you'll get a very easy course that uses romaji. The key to learning the language is to push yourself. I learned at University of Chicago, which has one of the best (and most difficult) Japanese programs (I did terribly :). If you can't take a course, try and get "Communicating in Japanese" by Hiroyoshi Noto. Make sure you get the tapes, too. It's an excellent book, and will take more time but teach you more than, say, "Japanese for Busy People."

2) Learn Kana right away. You will be sorry if reading kana doesn't come as second nature to you after a year. Make sure you begin at least studying Kanji, too. The sooner you start learning Kanji, the less scary it will be later. (check out the book "Kanji and Kana"!)

3) Be prepared for a long road. You should ideally spend at least 2 years studying the language before you can even think about being "fluent." Then, if you want to be able to speak the language, you should spend a good amount of time in Japan. Maybe you'll learn faster (some people have a natural ability for picking up languages), but you might learn more slowly, too. If you have the time and resources, there are many schools in Japan where that you can study Japanese for anywhere from 4 weeks to a year.

4) a) If you want to learn Japanese because of anime, don't worry about it. Getting interested in learning a language just because you enjoy something that country produces is no worse than getting interested because you want to make money, or something. Just make sure you realize there are other interesting things about Japan. Get involved in really learning about the whole culture. I find talking with Japanese people is much more revealing than reading about it somewhere.
b) If you want to read manga or watch anime, first off, realize that ou need a very strong Japanese base to understand them in the first place. There's a lot of stuff you're just not going to get unless you really have a strong background in Japanese. It'll probably be a year or two (at least it was for me) before you'll actually be able to use the simplest anime or manga for practice. But if you do use it to study, don't worry about ruining your skills somehow. Major universities use Miyazaki films to teach courses. Just be aware that they do use some words or phrases that will get you laughed at in everyday conversation. For example, you may end up sounding either like a little girl or a stupid high school kid.

So other than that, the most important advice is of course, Practice, Practice, Practice. If you do go it on your own, I wish you best of luck, and I warn you that you will need much self-motivation to get anywhere, because it will take a lot of time.

Re:advice (1)

Ekhymosis (949557) | more than 8 years ago | (#15073753)

Parent has excellent advice.

Also, it has been said the best way to learn any language is to live in the country where it is spoken. I currently live in Japan, in the country where barely anyone speaks English, and even fewer speak it well. My Japanese skill is by far from perfect, however while I studied the language one of my professors told me to actively seek out situations where you are forced to speak Japanese and guage how well you did, etc. I have joined a bunch of clubs where no one speaks English (however, one does speak Spanish so I can still communicate!). At first, it sucked. Royally. It was frustrating as hell trying to communicate with the people, but if you make an effort, the people WILL respond in like and do their best to communicate with you, etc. Yes, it is a stressful thing to learn a new language, but believe you me, the rewards greatly outweigh the hell you go through learning the language.

I am still far from fluent, but now I can be functional at the office and even chat with the other teachers once in a while, albeit nothing philosophical, just stuff about work, sports, and small talk.

Also, vocabulary and grammar do not make a language. The culture is also vital in learning the language. That is why many top linguists can talk about a culture based on the way the language is used. Basically they can reconstruct the culture (or a good deal of it) just by studying the language and its nuances. =)

:D (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15073455)

Get a Japanese girlfriend.

So, if I learn Japanese, (1)

rts008 (812749) | more than 8 years ago | (#15073493)

then I can read ans say "All your base belong to us?"
Cool!

Language Mixxer (1)

Chapium (550445) | more than 8 years ago | (#15073504)

This [dickinson.edu] might be a good resource. Speak with others via Skype. The internet limitations themselves might be hurdles, but its worth a shot.

I am doing the same thing (1)

Rayston (454282) | more than 8 years ago | (#15073658)

I am doing the same thing although I will likely eventually take classes as I would like to be able to put this on a resume. Heres one interesting approach to learning the alphabets and even some simple words. http://lrnj.com/ [lrnj.com] Its a retro style adventure game (think Final Fantasy) that trys to teach you the japanese alphabet's along the way.

Learning a Language (1)

KevinIsOwn (618900) | more than 8 years ago | (#15073685)

By looking for ways to learn a language without classes you are really setting yourself up for failure. I'm not saying it can't be done, and I'm sure a couple people throughout history have been somewhat successful, but it leaves out the best way to learn a language: Experiencing it.

Now, I'm definitely not fluent in German, but I'm getting better and better by simply talking to Germans and going to class and conversing in the language as much as possible. Watching foreign tv shows and reading foreign websites is a great way to supplement your learning, but ultimately understanding a different language (especially one as apparently difficult as Japanese. I'm scared of it, and I'm learning German) is something that will definitely not happen overnight. It really requires lots of interaction with other people who speak various levels of whatever language one wants to learn.

Experiencing a language takes 2 forms: Class, and going to the country. At first going to the country is obviously out of the question, leaving only class.
I spent 5 months in Germany and have been speaking my broken German for about a year and a half now and am not even close to where I'd like to be with the language, but I will tell you that my 5 months in Germany helped my language more than anything else.

General Language Advice (1)

Daengbo (523424) | more than 8 years ago | (#15073758)

First of all, so that you know I'm not talking out of my ass, I am an American who has successfully learned Mandarin, Thai, and Lao. I have also tried but failed to learn Khmer and Korean (a language similar to Japanese in many ways).

Last time I checked, the US DoD rated Japanese as a level four language, meaning that in order to get a working proficiency, they expect a full time language student to take about a year and a half of five to six hours a day in small classes with two to three hours of homework a day. My guess is that, as a gamer, you don't have the two thousand free hours they expect you to study for, nor do you have qualified native-speaker teachers to help you. You are therefore extremely limited in what you can achieve without going to live in Japan.

In the end, that is what I suggest if you REALLY want to become proficient in the language. If you have a four year degree, you can become an English teacher there (though it looks as though you'll need to improve your English skills before you go ...), take lessons in your free time, and get totally immersed in the language. I don't think that there's really any other option for you. Even immersion will probably take two to three years.

Sorry for the bad news.

Few recommendations from my limited experience (1)

siddesu (698447) | more than 8 years ago | (#15073777)

1. Get good textbooks. I have used the series of Kenkyusha, and found them very good for self study -- beginner thru intermediate. Here's da links (and nope, unfortunately I ain't getting commission on them):

http://webshop.kenkyusha.co.jp/book/4-327-38420-8. html [kenkyusha.co.jp]
http://webshop.kenkyusha.co.jp/book/4-327-38424-0. html [kenkyusha.co.jp]
http://webshop.kenkyusha.co.jp/book/4-327-38439-9. html [kenkyusha.co.jp]

I have tried a lot of other books (and have seen probably the bigger part of all available texts) and find these to be very good to beginners. Part of the goodness is complete lack of English and romanized characters in the books, which helps you concentrate on the Japanese (as opposed to what you think Japanese is).

2. Read and write a lot, nothing beats that. Do each exercise several times over ;)

3. Try to find Japanese who'd be interested to learn English from you. You'd be surprised how helpful having someone to talk to you is. If in Japan, search for International exchange center (kokusai kouryuu kaikan/center) in your area -- and hook up with a retired Japanese volunteer for language exchange - works WAY better for picking up the language than a girlfriend.

4. Read and write a lot.

5. Try to spend some time in Japan, and if you do that, stay away from English-speaking environments. Work in a Japanese Japanese company is a huge boost. See 3 as well.

6. If available, spend 5 years before you start studying Japanese to learn Chinese well, better in a place that uses the traditional Characters.

DS (1)

rishistar (662278) | more than 8 years ago | (#15073781)

I'm hoping for a DS based Japanese teaching program....

The Wikipedia approach (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15073796)

A few years ago, I had a brilliant idea; Create a list of resources for learning japanese on Wikipedia, put a few entries on it, let others quickly fill it with interesting stuff.

The list can be found here [wikipedia.org] , and it actually grew a bit since I first wrote it, so I can say it worked.

How to learn Japanese? (1)

Dhalphir (862198) | more than 8 years ago | (#15073801)

Buy every single game you want to buy in the Japanese version from now on and slowly try to understand it using a tourists English-Japanese dictionary. :)

It ain't so hard / it's very hard (4, Interesting)

A nonymous Coward (7548) | more than 8 years ago | (#15073829)

I learned some Japanese 30 years ago while stationed in Japan in the Navy. I was mostly self taught originally and took some courses after I got out, and have been back for several month long vacations since. My biggest problem as a tourist is that it takes several days to get my accent back and remember the body language, and then somewhere in the 2nd or 3rd week, I remember them too well, and the locals assume I know more than I do about social norms in general.

There's a book which I unfortunately do not have with me now, Tuttle Press I think, possibly called Basic Japanese Grammar. Looking around the Amazon web site, I found a book, ISBN 0804819408, which looks close, but I won't swear it to be what I have at home. If you respond to this and leave a request, I can look it up this weekend and post it. It is not perfect, but it is an excellent cheat sheet. It is almost like a tech sheet for hardware, a basic summary of grammar rules with simple explanations of how to use them, when, and why.

OK, the good. Japanese grammer is incredibly regular, almost mathematical. I believe there are only three irregular verbs in the entire language, and then only in how they form their root for further conjugation. The verb you find in the dictionary is the familiar present tense. There is no distinction between singular or plural, first second or third person. Purists will cringe, but the dictionary form is perfectly acceptable for starters. Natives will be so surprised that you are even making an attempt at their language that the lack of politeness will not matter a whit.

I believe that anyone wanting to get along as a tourist can learn real Japanese, not pidgin, in a week of nightly study with this book. You will have crap pronunciation and almost no vocabulary, but you will be able to speak complete sentences, slowly.

I recommend this as the initial course, a week, a month, not to master it, but to see if you can grok it. The grammer may be very regular, but it is different, and you will have to think differently to make any headway. If you persist in thinking in your native language patterns, you will make no headway and had best give it up. This book will give you an excellent background in seeing if you can rewarp your mindset. You will not learn any useful reading or writing. Forget those for now. The purpose here is to introduce you to the thought patterns behind Japanese. Nothing else matters at first. If you can't get your brain into the Japanese mode, there is no point going any further.

If you want to continue, take college courses, community college courses, private school courses, or whatever you can. Here you will learn reading and writing, complete grammar including politeness levels, etc.

Reading and writing is both easy and hard. There is a pattern to the kanji, and there are only (I think) 212 basic kanji. All other kanji are built from those, and dictionaries are organized around them also. This will help considerably in memorizing them and in possibly (possibly!) understanding the meaning of kanji you have never seen before. Pronouncing kanji is another matter. There is almost no clue in the characters themselves as to their pronunciation. Here you rely on dictionaries and rote memorization.

I got to the point of around 500 kanji before I stopped trying to learn more. I was only going to class twice a week, it took me an hour to read a single page in a book (including waga hai wa neko de aru for you who snicker :-), and I got so used to my dictionary that I could open it to within 5 or ten pages of the kanji in question. But I was forgetting kanji as fast as I was learning them, and evetually gave it up. 500 kanji is probably around 4th or 5th grade level. Not very impressive.

On the other hand, once you get into the pattern of kanji, you can draw them in your hand for natives, and you can make a lot more sense of maps and bus signs. Traveling is a lot easier when you can memorize kanji long enough to find the right platform or bus without having to hold a piece of paper up and compare it to the sign as it goes past.

One of my fondest memories of learning Japanese was the different mindset. You really do think differently in Japanese. To this day, I can watch my tora-san movies and understand far more than I would have expected, just from their body language and tone of voice. These DVDs have no subtitles, and they speak much too fast and use too much slang for me to understand more than a few words and phrases. But having learned how the language shapes your thoughts, I have a much easier time than I would have thought possible.

Watch Japanese news broadcasts if possible. They speak just like any news broadcasters, slow and regular, and it was an exciting day when I finally understood enough words and phrases to get an idea of what the announcer was talking about, even if I didn't understand the details.

Learning Japanese is very rewarding mentally, even if you never learn enough to make a career out of it. You will never regret it.

I know I'm yelling at the deaf here: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15073857)

Pardon, but no amount of starry-eyed fanboyism will teach you Japanese. Japanese is, as stated frequently above, a heavily nuanced language, completely tied to the culture that evolved alongside it. Unless you are willing to study Japanese language, culture, and history thoroughly (either at a university or with a private tutor), it will be entirely useless toward the ends for which you seek to learn it (...that content can't be understood completely due to the complexity and subtleties of the Japanese language). Complexities are complex and subtleties subtle expressly because they are acquired through years of immersion in Japanese culture, not through practice or schooling. And self-taught Japanese will only be useful in impressing your similarly-minded American friends that have yet to take up this fruitless hobby. Of all the reasons to study a language, your pretentious loathing of English dubbing is silly-bordering-on-stupid.

Basically, if you are serious about learning Japanese, move to Japan. If you are not serious, and I would say that your stated reasons point this way, don't bother.

Simple (1)

lampiaio (848018) | more than 8 years ago | (#15073883)

Why, just read Slashdot in Japanese! [slashdot.jp]

actually, I read it using an interesting web service that shows the definition of each word when you mouse over them. Try it! [rikai.com]
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