Showing posts with label language. Show all posts
Showing posts with label language. Show all posts

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Recom Request: Learning Japanese Characters

One day I decided I wanted to read Japanese manga in its native language.  Why not, considering I was obsessed with the drawings.  So I set out to teach myself when I was fourteen.  But first let me get this part absolutely straight: I am not fluent in Japanese after all these years. Even after taking two college courses on the language (years after I began my self-teaching journey of course), I am nowhere near voluble. Really, I would grade myself a three out of ten on a comprehension scale. I may be able to slide through the language as it relates to speaking conversationally, though. Nonetheless, fluent I hardly am; much to my disappointment. And most of that has to do with a lack of daily practice as well as an extreme lack of exposure to native speakers (I stress “extreme lack“). 

Still, I wanted to make a post sharing the book that got me started when I was fourteen, scanning my way through the international section of the public library. I found the book useful for a young beginner like myself. Even now–being moderately familiar with the language–I refer to it because of its refreshing simplicity. It does offer plenty but, like many language-learning tools, it gets its criticism also. Even so, I can say that I learned to read two out of the three forms of Japanese writing systems; I managed hiragana and katakana through the author’s visual mnemonics.  Hiragana and Katakana has always stuck with me without fail, much to my advantage later in college. However, learning the complicated strokes and compounds of kanji, featured later in the book, took some advanced tools. Nevertheless, that’s not to say that I didn't pick up a few from the book that assisted me down the road.  I mean, I can differentiate the kanji character for "sun" (=ni) and "month" (月=gatsu) clearly enough (the problem is when kanji characters fuse to make one jukugo). So at the end of the day, the book, Michael Rowley’s Kanji Pictographix, is a great start for those who decide to pick up and familiarize themselves with Japanese characters.

So I just wanted to share a little regarding this book and a few fundamentals of learning hiragana and katakana first. Then later, in another post, I'll show some other Japanese learning tools for beginners (like myself).

So what’s the difference between written Japanese hiragana and katakana. According to Rowley, hiragana is used to write words not normally written within the complexity of kanji, or as I see it, a means of deconstructing kanji characters into a simpler form. Therefore, it’s no wonder why hiragana (as well as katakana) is taught first to Japanese children. Nonetheless, the other function of hiragana is that it’s used for verb endings and speech. Example: applying the hiragana character for ka (at the end of a sentence or statement indicates that the person speaking is asking a question.

Now katakana characters are written differently than hiragana, but spoken with the same phonetics. The main different is that katakana is used to write names and words that aren't traditionally Japanese. An example would be "coffee." As a typical English (though not necessarily in its origin) word, it would be written in katakana (
 コーヒー)  in contrast to hiragana. And is further romanized as “Kōhī,” or pronounced “ko-hee”.

In case I’ve complicated this, I've included a few scans from Michael Rowley’s book to show you a few examples and to further my recommendation of this book for those just starting Japanese.

        Hiragana            Katakana          Hiragana     Katakana

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