Discouraged

I think at this point it is an issue of both logistics and cultural pride. The effort to change it all to an easier writing/reading system would probably be monumentally more difficult than to just suck it up. You can most likely do it, if I recall correctly Korea did it way back. But when they did it they probably did not have the amount of written records we have nowadays. Can you imagine compiling and translating everything they need?
But then it may have something to do with being proud about their history or something? The sheer amount of time spent on learning kanji as a native Japanese / Chinese, from my third party perspective, seems like a huge waste of time that could be spent in other studies like the sciences. But eh, what can you do.

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China did change it’s writing system to a simplified one. And tried to do so a second time that failed.

When it comes to Chinese - communism was more about elimination of cultural heritage so there was some ulterior motive behind that simplification. More people can read the party materiel, their cultural history, not so much…

this isn’t strictly speaking helpful, but it is more than possible to live in japan and be so bad at the language that you sound more like a concussed chipmunk than anything. trust me, i did it (and regret it)

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The post WW2 kana spelling reforms effectively obsoleted a mountain of printed documents and written records. That kind of dramatic change can be done, but I think it needs a combination of a widespread consensus that something needs to be done and a moment of social upheaval like the post war occupation that means that the positions of power aren’t held by establishment traditionalists who weren’t particularly disadvantaged by the current writing system. So it’s very unlikely in the foreseeable future.

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While written Japanese is a mess, you don’t need to learn every pronunciation of every kanji in every word. Once you become practised at recognising kanji, you’ll be able to recognise whole words (just like you do in your native language) rather than reading them kanji by kanji - 先生 will be せんせい not [せん、さき、ま] x [せい、じょう、しょう、い、う、お、は、き、なま、な、む].

You’ll only need to know their readings for words you don’t recognise written on paper. Anything electronic will be instantly look-up-able, and if you’re really stuck you can use a photo lookup app for paper.

The difficulty reading does mean that it’s harder to learn the language, but luckily the basics of the language itself is fairly simple - only the verbs and adjectives ever change, almost all of them are regular, and particles help map the grammatical structure of sentences. Pronunciation, despite the slight hurdle of pitch accent, is also easy to learn: mora timed, no tricky consonants, no weird vowels (looking at you Korean).

The other thing about Japanese is that there are mountains of resources. Learner podcasts, youtube videos, and graded readers; reading courses, shadowing courses, kanji writing courses, pitch accent courses, italki, and language forums like this. And the cultural output of Japan is large and widely available - manga, light novels, anime, films, even TV series if you can cope with daytime tv…

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That is a/the key point. People communicate (written/read and spoken/heard) in words (vocab), not in kanji. It will come slowly and incrementally (at least it did for me) and not some sort of switch off-to-on moment. Word by word. Both for vocab written in/with Kanji and vocab in kana only. For example, I just automatically always see and process “ありがとう” as just a single thing. I do not even parse the hiragana at all, it just registers as a whole block. Just like I do with English words. Cat just registers as cat, not as C followed by A by followed by T, oh that is the word for cat.

The more exposure you get the more words/vocab will move to this level. For this to happen, you need to be doing things aside from just kanji/vocab on WK. Read, read, read. For many this is books or online content. For me (I live in Japan) it is mostly just reading in the wild.

When I am going for a walk I am always reading signs. For some reason I like to read the signage around construction sites/areas. I look up words or phrases I encounter that I do not know. Today I added 高所作業 to my vocab. I am sure the construction companies around here are thinking “there is that weird foreign guy who is always studying the signs and looking things up”. I have actually had on several occasions someone working there come and ask me if I have any questions or am looking for something specific. I have had some of them give me mini tours of the work site and point out interesting aspects of the work or equipment to me.

When I am riding the bus or train, I am reading the signs posted on the bus or train. And the advertisements. When I am waiting on the platform I am reading the signs and the ads. I get a lot of junk/flyers in the mailbox. I usually choose one to not go directly in the recycle box and spend some time reading it. I always decline any offer for an English menu when I am at a restaurant, although I am very rarely offered one any more.

As others have pointed out, I think you will soon realize that in a lot of respects, Japanese makes more sense (internal logic and consistency) and is not as “messed up” as English. As I have written about elsewhere, every time I am asked to help a co-worker or customer or friend with a question about English I have another “wow that is weird/strange/messed up” realization.

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It’s important to remember that if you decide to continue learning Japanese with the goal of fluency, it will take thousands of hours of study, and thousands more of immersion. If you don’t like studying Japanese as you are now, try other study methods because you’re in it for the long haul.

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Recognizing that you’re discouraged and being honest about it is not a bad thing. I think we’ve all been there, and I believe it’s a symptom of wanted something really bad, like becoming fluent in a language. I have been studying Japanese for over a decade on and off and I am nowhere near fluent because I simply never put in the dedicated hours needed to master the language/I’ve gone entire years without practicing. The more time you devote, the more it will pay off in the end. That doesn’t mean you should overload yourself though! Do lessons at a reasonable pace, spread out your work, and above all, DROWN yourself in the language… I have no intention of living in Japan, but for the sake of immersion, I surround myself in Japanese and try to avoid thinking like an English speaker and more like a Japanese native. (My phone is in Japanese, I only listen to japanese music, I watch anime and JP dramas/movies, when I’m in the car I listen to JP podcasts, when I want to see a walkthrough of a video game I look up a Japanese streamer, I search things on YT in japanese, when I catch myself thinking in English I try to say it again in Japanese.) It’s a slow and difficult process, but there will be a day when it finally clicks and you’ll be amazed how far you’ve come.

Just remember that Japanese is not “broken”, rather, Japanese people think in an entirely different manner than we do as English speakers. The moment I let go off trying to translate everything back into English, and instead focused on learning to understand how Japanese speakers think, the language become so much more intuitive and beautiful to me.

If you haven’t seen this online resource during your studies, I highly recommend this textbook: “Tae Kim’s Guide to Learning Japanese”… This was the first textbook that helped me abandon thinking like an English speaker and encouraged me to learn everything like a native child would.

YOU CAN DO IT. 頑張って下さい! :durtle_love: :muscle:

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As an aside: my native language is German, and I remember being confused by the concept of spelling bees cause they make a LOT less sense in German (since things are generally much more consistently pronounced) but they were part of a lot of movies and tv shows and so had to be translated and even child-me often thought “I could spell that, it’s not that hard!”

Every language has some aspect that makes it hard to learn, especially for people whose first language doesn’t have the same weird characteristic.

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It’s said how it’s spelt

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The more I study japanese the more I feel the opposite actually…
Since it follows many patterns sometimes if I know the kanji meaning I can guess the meaning of words. Or guess the pronunciation because its similar to another word. Or even knowing a spoken word by heart from anime/dramas/games and that helping me cement the kanji when I learn a word in wanikani for which I already knew the sound but not the kanji.
What I mean is that as far as I understand from books like “fluent forever” memory is like a spider web of interconnections and if you can connect new concepts or things with existing ones the more likely it is to stick.
For example in my native spanish car is “auto”, train is “tren” and train car is “vagon”. Meaning you have to learn 3 words that don’t sound anything alike.
Meanwhile in Japanese if you learn 車(sha, kuruma) it is easier to remember that 電車 (denSHA) is like a car that runs on electricity = Train. Or to remember that 車両 (SHAryou) is a vehicle or train car.
Yes you still have to come across each word on immersion or with studying, or wanikani, but making the connection “stick” to remember all the related words might become easier.
In the beginning you may not have a lot of things to connect to but the more you learn the easier it is to associate new things to existing knowledge.
It gets easier.

FYI I’m not even advanced I just passed N3 last January but lately the more I try to read and immerse the more I experience moments of “oh yeah this word uses X kanji like this other word, makes sense” or coming across a new word in writing, trying to guess the pronunciation from remembering kanji in other words, and finding out that I was right. Which feels great.

Hang in there! ^^

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Fluent forever is a pretty good conceptual read. I don’t think it is infallible or anything and the creator’s actual application to Japanese is not ideal imho but the fundamentals are so useful.

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Agree.
I even tried the app the author made and I didn’t find it better from other multiple apps on the market for japanese.
But the concepts and the explanations of how memory works were nice in my opinion.

The interconnected web is such a good metaphor. I think of it as “pathways” to a concept - sound, Kanji, romaji, contextual placement (conceptually and literally as in “where do I see this often”) etc - it’s such a useful way of thinking about words

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The Dark Souls of languages.

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This suggests to me that it isn’t broken at all (perhaps it is our I do-European language perspective instead).

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It’s not easy, but nothing good in life comes easy. Enjoy the challenge.

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Well, it suggests at least that it’s not fatally flawed, but there’s a lot of space between that and good, where systems of all kinds can survive because they’re the incumbent, the people in a position to impose change don’t care enough and/or benefit from it, and change and upheaval is difficult and painful even if it leads to a better place eventually…

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I pretty much do the same thing - WaniKani 15 lessons + reviews every day + something else ( grammar study, podcast listening, easy reading. Can recommend group online Japanese lessons with Japonin https://www.japonin.com/ so you get some human contact as well

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Late to this, but I think this could be helpful. To be honest, when I was a beginner I sort of wondered why Japanese hadn’t somehow naturally slid toward using more kana — they have a phonetic way of writing things, why not use it? Wasn’t phonetic inherently easier? (<-- So I thought!)

Then I got more advanced (I passed the N2 some years ago) and I realized that kanji have a few absolutely massive advantages:

  • An alphabet gives transparency of pronunciation, but kanji provide transparency of meaning. I am so, so, so much more likely to know the meaning of a word I’ve never seen before in Japanese than in English, even though I know a lot of Latin and Greek roots.
  • Kanji are incredibly fast to read. Once you know kanji you can read soooooo much faster.

Once I moved up in Japanese even a little, trying to read a sentence written in hiragana became incredibly annoying — like slogging through mud. I suddenly got why all the Japanese people around me hated reading in hiragana so much. It’s because once you know kanji, they are SO FAST. They’re short and dense and a snap to recognize right away. My theory is that it’s a superpowered version of what we sometimes call “whole word recognition” in English, where we’re recognizing whole words to read instead of sounding them out. (And when you think about reading English that way, it becomes clearer how many words we’ve actually memorized, rather than seeing every letter in them all the time… I’m not a linguist but that makes sense to me!)

Anyway, when I’ve shared these revelations with native Japanese people, the reaction I get tends to be along the lines of, “omg, a second language speaker who understands!” which tickles me. Even though a person can easily write everything phonetically if they wanted to, I’ve never talked to a Japanese person who was remotely interested in the language giving up kanji. I’m there too now — now that I know enough kanji, thinking about going back to reading Japanese purely phonetically gives me a whole-body cringe.

You’ll get there too, if you keep studying. That doesn’t make kanji magically super easy to learn or anything, but the point at which you’ll start finding the ones you know far easier to read than the equivalent hiragana is probably going to be sooner than you think, and for me that provides a ton of motivation to keep adding more to that bucket.

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