5 months of Japanese studies – making progress!

The day before yesterday (I must keep up with these posts!) marked my five months anniversary of Japanese studies. I never thought I would hold out for so many months when I started learning Japanese on my own on August 18, 2010. Attending a class is one thing, but when you just decide for yourself that you will learn a language, simply by self studies, it is very easy to just let it slip, as I did during my third month.

So I look upon my Japanese studies as not only a way to learn the language, but also as an exercise in self discipline. And believe me, I have been very disciplined in the last month!

During my 10-day Christmas stay in Sweden I took a break from Japanese From Zero (the book was too big and heavy for my cabin luggage), but only to start reading my first Swedish book on the Japanese language:

  • Japansk språklära by Chieko Fujio Düring.

It’s a grammar. And most of it was way over my head. Still, it felt very good to get an overview of the Japanese language. (Yes, I read the book as you would a novel, from beginning to end.) Now I know what is to come, and how much of it. Half the book covers the conjugation of verbs, which is where Japanese grammar is most complex. Good to know! I finished the book before I was back in Berlin.

One disappointment though: The Japanese in Japansk språklära was entirely in romaji. I’ve taken care to read as little romaji as possible since I began my studies, so it didn’t feel good to “go back” like this – to a spelling stage that I had worked hard to skip. To make matters worse, the book used Kunrei for romanisation instead of the internationally more common Hepburn, which was the one I had encountered before. However, when I got used to it, I preferred Kunrei because it is more logical.

My instinct that romaji should be avoided is apparently supported by “the latest schools of thought,” according to this great text on how to choose the best Japanese dictionary:

Romanisation is the use of the English alphabet to represent Japanese words, and while it may seem a tempting way to get started, the latest schools of thought emphasise mastering each kana syllabary from the outset. Very few textbooks or Japanese language programs these days use romanisation as it is seen as an unnecessary crutch which hinders you from learning authentic Japanese.

For this reason, steer clear of any text that uses romanisation. My experience and observation of others learning Japanese tell me that as soon as you learn kana, all of your romanised texts will become worthless.

That is so true – I hate going back to Japanese From Zero 1 and 2 for exactly that reason. (The “progressive” spelling in Japanese From Zero means that the romaji is substituted by kana peu à peu throughout the book – hiragana in the first book and katakana in the second one.)

When I came back to Berlin, I finished Japanese From Zero 3. That was the last book in that series. There are pictures of the covers of a Japanese From Zero 4 and Japanese From Zero 5 on the back of each book, but apparently, these last two volumes have never been realised.

Since then – that was about 10 days ago – I’ve tried to learn more kanji in Let’s Learn Kanji. But more importantly, I started to use a site that is, how shall I put it, pretty fantastic:

Yes, that’s the site that the video at the beginning of this post refers to. I’ve become completely addicted to it. When I had my weekly live lesson today, I realised that I used several of the words that I have learned through that site. Basically, you can study anything, but it seems to me that it’s tailor-made for people who study Japanese. I might write a post about it later. It’s so good I can’t believe it’s for free. It’s one of the things that I would gladly pay for!

So, where do I go from here? It’s become quite evident to me that what I lack the most in my Japanese studies is real conversation. I only have it with my tutor and I’m still very bad at it. And I can’t do “tandem training” because there are no Japanese people in Berlin who are learning Swedish. Maybe I’ll pay someone to talk to me.

Oh, and then there’s the radio. Every morning I wake up to FM Tanabe – a station I found by coincidence on my internet radio, and which contains quite a lot of talk in between the music. Unfortunately I don’t understand anything, but I do pick up words every here and there. When I wake up at 8 in the morning it’s 4 pm in Japan and they send a program called ハイスクール – High School! I’ve already become addicted to their song “Radio, Radio” which they sing every morning, or afternoon as it is for them. Oo-oooh-oooooh-ooh-oooh. Ooo-oo-oooo-ooooho! Radio! Raaaaaadio!!! 😀

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