Thanks! Yeah I should take it slow. I think I got into the “Learn as fast as possible” mindset lol.
I cant wait for that moment, I’m getting excited to learn!
Thanks! I’ll keep that in mind.
Its a long process, but, it only gets easier. As you start getting used to kanji learning new ones becomes easier and easier. Not only this, you can begin to read, reinforcing more words. If it feels like two much, slow down. Enjoy the process. I would recommend doing some reading about the histoy of kanji and how they work. That helped me to acclimate to them.
I wont quit! Learning a new language feels so foreign and alien to me that it makes me want to quit but the thought of conquering an incredibly difficult challenge and then thinking of the prosperity I will reap from it makes me hella motivated!
I will, thanks!
You can think like this: If it were easy, japanese wouldn’t be such an exclusive language (or any language really), so having the power of speaking japanese is something to brag about because it’s not easy, if anything it’s the hardest beside chinese/mandorin (according to languages ranked by difficulty to an english speaker).
FLEX HARD lol
It might also help to read up on Japanese orthography and how kanji work on something like wikipedia. I’ve seen a lot of beginners who are very confused about the role of kanji in the language. One thing to keep in mind is that the spoken language came first, and while some words were derived from the Chinese-based on’yomi readings, many words are simply just words that exist on their own and the way they’re written is just a visual representation of them. Also the most common kanji that you learn early on like 日 or 人 are also typically the most used in words and thus have the most amount of readings & exceptions. So don’t worry, that part will get easier.
As an example of what I mean by the kanji thing… 今日 is a native word that means “today” and is read きょう. The kanji it’s written with were chosen for their meaning, but the underlying word has nothing to do with their typical readings. It can be confusing at first coming from English where our writing system represents sounds… in Japanese, kana represent sounds but kanji represent concepts and ideas.
Oh that makes so much more sense. Thanks!
That’s the spirit!
You’ll have some ups and downs but hopefully you’ll have some fun along the way too! Oh, and you can always check in with the community if you’re feeling dispirited and need a little motivation boost or pat on the back
Keep pushing. Kanji make what should otherwise be a straightforward task of learning the language difficult. Thankfully, wk makes learning kanji a whole lot easier thanks to its streamlined level system. Next time you fret over whether learning the ‘reading’ or ‘meaning’ of a kanji is actually of any use to you, just remember, learning kanji in and of itself is useless. What you really want is to learn vocab. It’s just that unlike most languages, Japanese has thousands of characters to represent its vocab and so learning vocab by themselves can be overwhelming without first having some sort of introduction to the characters that make up a particular vocab. The easiest ones to learn would be single kanji vocab since you can pretty much associate the kanji’s overall meaning with that word.
Again, keep pushing. Many corpses lie around you representing those who have given up on the way but remind yourself that learning language is really just a matter of vocab and grammar. Keep grinding practice drills and listening. I believe the most important aspect a beginner should focus on is pronunciation, since those habits can stick for life.
I want to add something to the “weirdness” of readings such as 一人 = ひとり. I’m of course no expert on Japanese, but I do know a fair bit about linguistics:
Words / phrases that are used often are more irregular than ones that are rarely used. This is basically true across all languages, and it’s why “to be” is such a weird verb in English, but “to exonerate”, for example, is totally regular. There are a number of reasons for that: one is that words that are used often have a certain “evolutionary” pressure to become shortened, another one is that older forms are more likely to remain in use for commonly used words because they are easy to remember - whereas words that are used rarely will eventually be systematised much more so that speakers themselves can remember how to use them.
It’s not a 100% valid rule, languages can be weird and surprising after all, but as a general guideline, I think it’s true.
I’m not that far along my Japanese studies, but I’m already seeing that, after a few levels, some regularities do start to pop up, and many Kanji seem to be a bit “better behaved” than, say, 一. In fact, I can now often guess at the reading of vocab words, at least if I know an on’yomi and a kun’yomi, and often the guess is correct or at least almost correct (sometimes there is unexpected rendaku or something). Of course, there are still exceptions, but a big part of the vocabulary should be more regular.
Hey, I was wondering if BunPro is a decent alternative to Genki? Because, where I am, Genki costs way too much if I have to buy every textbook of every grade. Or do you know of any more economic alternatives?
I know there already exists a very extensive topic on these things, but it was so extensive that anytime I open that, I feel overwhelmed and get confused real fast
Diving straight into WaniKani after 4 weeks of learning Japanese sounds brutal.
If you already know the word for person ひと and the word for two people ふたり, etc, then learning the kanji once that is a staple part of your knowledge is going to be less of a problem.
Japanese is a massive commitment, but in my opinion learning kanji straight away adds massive pressure to the beginner tasks you have ahead of you.
Some people could do it, but I don’t know if I could. Maybe come back after 6 to 12 months of studying?
Full disclosure: I’m a Chinese speaker who was raised bilingual (my English is still better than my Chinese though), so I might downplay the difficulty of certain elements of Japanese without realising what it’s like for someone who grew up only speaking English.
Can you understand a Japanese text with only kanji meaning knowledge? Yes, to a certain extent. What’s the precondition? You need to know Japanese grammar. How can you identify grammatical elements? Probably by being able to read particles. The truth is that in any language that uses kanji (Mandarin included), you need a combination of reading ability and meaning knowledge. Why? For one, even studies of expert speed readers show that we all need a certain ‘inner soundtrack’ in order to be able to understand things fully. When I skim a Japanese passage using my Chinese knowledge, I often feel like I don’t fully understand until I pronounce the kanji in Mandarin or in Japanese. Secondly, the readings associated with a symbol often contain subtle references to other related words, and may also change the nuance of the symbol. Both meaning and reading are important. What’s good about RtK is that it has a fairly etymological approach to teaching meaning, which might mean you won’t feel the need for external mnemonics when memorising kanji: the kanji is your mnemonic. The problem with RtK is that it doesn’t teach readings, so you can’t start ‘saving’ vocabulary words in your memory banks by associating a sound with them, and even if it’s true that most kanji only have one or two ‘core’ meanings from which all the others can be deduced, RtK (like most kanji programmes, frankly) fails to emphasise the importance of lateral thinking. All kanji associations require lateral thinking. You have to find the link between multiple kanji based on what you already know about them, and not expect a single translation to fit all the time. For example, there was a discussion on these forums a while back about the meaning of 染 in 染める: did it mean ‘to dye something’ or ‘to taint something’? For me, the answer was ‘Both. Use lateral thinking. Use the English word “to stain” if you can’t get over the difference.’ Kanji don’t work like English words, and they never will. They’re concepts that fit into an infinite web of links and relationships with other kanji, and that’s what allows kanji to continue to stay relevant today even though so many of the components refer to ideas like lightning, fire, wood and so on as manifestations of divine conflict or elements of matter, which seem to have no place in the modern world. It’s like how scientists today come up with new technical words using Latin roots even though Roman civilisation is long gone.
So no, you’re not wasting your time. Both readings and meanings are important and helpful. Try WaniKani out as well, if you haven’t already, and see whether you prefer RtK or WaniKani. WaniKani covers both, but some people find that RtK is faster. (However, I mean, duh, you don’t have to learn readings or vocabulary, so what’s so surprising about that?)
Yup. It’s like how the concept of ‘1’ is ‘one’ when it’s alone, becomes ‘first’ in ‘1st’, can convey ‘isolation’ or ‘uniqueness’ in ‘single’, turns into ‘un-’/‘uni-’ in words like ‘unary’ or ‘unity’… Get the picture? English is the same. We just don’t use concept symbols like kanji. If we had kanji, 水 would ‘water’ when it’s alone, ‘aqua-/aque-’ in Latin-based words like ‘aquamarine’ or ‘aqueduct’, and ‘hydro-’ in words from Greek like ‘hydrogen’ (‘water-maker’) or ‘hydroelectric’. Don’t forget that ‘water’ is “Wasser” is German, and that’s probably linked to ‘wash’ because English is Germanic (i.e. from the same family of languages as German). There’s nothing to be afraid of; it’s just a different way of thinking about and representing the same changes.
This is true regardless of what language you’re learning, even your native language when you first start out. You make tons of mistakes. I’m practically a Chinese native speaker (started as a toddler, wrote essays, did projects and created presentations for ten years in school in Chinese class in an education system aiming for bilingualism, learnt probably ~2700 hànzì in the process). That didn’t stop me from making lots of errors and mixing up English and Chinese sentence structure for a while. If Japanese is the first foreign language you’re tackling, rest assured that it’s the same for everyone when they start out, particularly when the language concerned is as different from your native language (English, I presume?) as Japanese is. Nothing is hopeless: acquiring a new language takes time. Even with all the superficial similarities between parts of Chinese, Latin and German (all of which I’ve dabbled in at some point), Japanese sentence structure didn’t immediately make sense to me. I still had a lot of trouble with long sentences for about a year, partly due to a lack of exposure. Even with tons of exposure, I’d probably still have needed at least six months to work everything out, especially because Japanese requires you to reverse the order you normally think in in English: subject/topic first, then lots of circumstantial information, with relative clauses the other way around, and finally the main verb. That takes getting used to. Your brain needs to get used to processing and remembering information that way, and that takes practice, no matter how open-minded and calm you are.
I’d just like to leave you with this Sino-Japanese proverb: 千里の道も一歩から（せんりのみちもいっぽから）。– ‘even a path of a thousand miles begins with a single step’
(Chinese version with translation: 千里之行，始于足下 (qiān lǐ zhī xíng, shǐ yú zú xià) – ‘a journey of a thousand miles begins with putting one’s foot down’)
There may be a great many things to learn, but first, you need to start.
Some people feel BunPro is enough for learning the basics rapidly, but my impression of BunPro is that it’s a grammar drill system with medium-length explanations and examples that probably don’t go into enough depth. I’d suggest you try it out before making any decisions: I’m pretty sure that at least some of BunPro’s data is available for free. You’ll probably want to compare the quality and clarity of the explanations to what you can find elsewhere. If you’re going to study on your own, you probably won’t be able to use Genki to its full potential because it’s designed for a classroom, but whether or not what you can do on your own is ‘worse’ than what you’d get out of BunPro for the same price isn’t clear. The main advantage a textbook has over any sort of piecemeal ‘grammar drill’ programme is that it usually provides more coherence and meaningful context. Take a look at samples from Genki and BunPro and decide for yourself. I’m not particularly confident of giving helpful Genki-specific advice because I used a French textbook whose English edition (Japanese with Ease from Assimil) is probably out of print/only available secondhand for high prices, and whose goal was to create a guided immersion environment that didn’t focus excessively on grammar, which made learning a lot faster even if I occasionally needed to consult Google or my fluent friend for specific grammatical questions. Genki’s formatting and approach look good to me, but I know it’s fairly expensive and probably slower than my textbook. On the other hand, I detest flashcard systems (which is why my WK level is still ‘01’: I’ve never used the SRS, and don’t intend to) because I find them boring and repetitive, so I wouldn’t recommend BunPro either. (Yes, I know spaced ‘repetition’ is the point and is effective, but that’s how I feel anyhow.)
Separately, I’d like to suggest you try looking into free grammatical resources like Maggie Sensei’s site and stuff like Wasabi Japan before diving into a paid resource of any kind, even if I think textbooks are probably a good starting point for beginners since they bring together and structure knowledge so you can get off the ground quickly, instead of fiddling with isolated grammar points that don’t seem linked to each other in any way. Maggie Sensei’s lessons may seem messy for some people, but I find them really detailed and easy to understand, giving me an enormous amount of knowledge per grammar point, probably more than I’ll ever need, allowing me to understand fine nuances and special use cases.
Isn’t that the main point of learning Japanese? Im just kiding… Am I really?
First of all, thank you very much for such detailed explanation. I really appreciate it.
I would have really preferred to use Genki because I’m kind of used to self-learning from textbooks but the Genki textbooks would cost me twice the lifetime subscription on Bunpro (even that is a huge amount for the exchange rate of my country). I wanted to get some advice before I commit finances towards anything.
Thanks for these suggestions, I’ll definitely try these out.
And I can’t stress this enough, Thank you very much for your detailed response.
I would also suggest you to check Misa sensei’s Absolute Beginner Playlist. I started grammar from zero with that list and it was really enjoyable, im almost finishing it (after around 100 days) and i gotta say that i love to learn with her, so much smoother than with books. The first videos have kinda bad quality, but it improves a lot later on.
Thanks for that, I subscribed to the channel few months earlier when it was mentioned on a different topic, but thought I needed to build some basic grammar before I jump to these resources.
Since you say this can be started even with zero grammar knowledge, I’ll add this to my practice schedule - 1 video a day I guess.