Friday, August 21, 2009

Learning Japanese

I started attempting Japanese this summer. It's been a long-standing whim of mine to learn a non-Europe writing system, and there is plenty of available Japanese text available, so I decided, why not? Beth thinks I've made a lot of progress, even though I only can recognize the kana and a couple dozen kanji.

The kana are easy--just sounds associated with symbols. They all look alike at first, and I still struggle with katakana shi and tsu, so and n, since the difference in those pairs is so small. But I am getting better. Eventually, I hope to recognize them right off and not have to sound them out to make a word, just like I've been doing since childhood with Roman characters. The kanji are easy since I decided to put off associating sounds with them until later. They can be learned just associating concepts, regardless of native language. Writing them is tricky, though. My magic slate is getting a workout. (I really don't know why Deaf students aren't first taught a written language like this, one based on symbols. It would make more sense than teaching a phonetic language. If there is anyone Deaf who has some insight into this, please, tell me! Maybe I am missing something?)

I listen to Japanese music on the way to work and back, and watch a half hour or so of Japanese television shows in the evening, and spend a couple hours looking at Japanese blogs, running them through Google Translate and then picking out interesting looking sentences (the ones Google Translate especially botches :D ) for me to work on myself. Can I translate better than a machine? I have to make heavy use of an online dictionary, but I am getting there! And then, of course, I spend some time every night just working on learning kanji and refreshing the kana.

But, yanub, you ask, how do you find time to do all that? And is that really the best way to learn a language? Answer: Once I get home, I don't do much that doesn't involve sitting. This is interesting, and also doesn't strain my joints. And, you may have gathered, I tend to hyperfocus on things that interest me until I am completely bored of them. Is this the best way to learn a language? Oh, I don't know. It's a way. If I spent time worrying about the best way, then I'd never get around to trying any way.

Hmmm, I guess that's my summer report. Now I should go find some crayons and notebook paper to illustrate it. I wonder if my mom will put it on her fridge?


Elizabeth McClung said...

It is really hard for some and easy for others and difficult but some people find ways to keep at it - I think you are that. For me, after two and a half weeks in Japan and prestudy and training I could not recognize a single Kanji as written. Nada. Was okay in speaking and guestures but the written stuff was beyond me. That is why I am so impressed - because either that or admit that I am thick beyond belief.

yanub said...

Oh, Beth, you are certainly not dense! I can barely make out spoken words. Learning to hear and speak, and learning to read and write, are different things altogether. You should hear my attempts at speaking. No, you shouldn't. The resultant laughter might do you in. I am worse than awful.

Full Tilt said...

The two of you are about as far from dense as I am from the north pole!

I struggle to recognize and pronounce Hebrew, but it has been worth the effort and all of the silly mistakes to try...

Keep at it Yanub!