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Why Are Newbies Learning The Freakin Kanji?!

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RE: Why Are Newbies Learning The Freakin Kanji?!

Postby Tesu » Sat 12.15.2007 10:13 pm

Nibble's post explains it perfectly IMO. Though I'm sure you *could* read everything in Romaji without it being too big of an issue, there would definitely be something lost when changing over.

Chris,

Asking native speakers with no linguistic training is not a very reliable way to determine the effectiveness of the writing system. Without linguistic training and research, even native speakers are not qualified to make judgments about their own language (whatever that language is).


I'm correct in thinking that you have studied linguistics, correct? The above comment (and plenty of your other posts) often give a sense of "I have studied linguistics, you haven't. Therefore, my opinion is the only one of which can be correct". You should be careful about that.

I also notice you didn't reply to Nibble's reply in your last post. Possibly because he's completely correct?
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RE: Why Are Newbies Learning The Freakin Kanji?!

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Sat 12.15.2007 10:56 pm

I'm correct in thinking that you have studied linguistics, correct? The above comment (and plenty of your other posts) often give a sense of "I have studied linguistics, you haven't. Therefore, my opinion is the only one of which can be correct". You should be careful about that.


I suppose; in the same sense that a biologist's "opinion" about biology is more correct than people just sitting around and guessing, or expressing their personal preferences.

I also notice you didn't reply to Nibble's reply in your last post. Possibly because he's completely correct?


I'm not sure what response I could make. I can't refute that native speakers believe those things about their own language. It's impossible to refute aesthetic judgments.

As for a "significant loss of expressiveness", that would necessarily lead to English being significantly less expressive than Chinese because we lack kanji. If western writing systems can do it, so could Chinese and Japanese.
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RE: Why Are Newbies Learning The Freakin Kanji?!

Postby Shirasagi » Sat 12.15.2007 11:29 pm

Given Chris's training, it would behoove everyone who lacks that training to pay close attention to him and learn from what he has to say. He hasn't just studied linguistics, he's made his livelihood dependent on it.

I find the mixture of kanji and kana in Japanese to be quite fascinating. Particularly in my hobby of Yagyu Shinkage Ryu. Old masters of budo like playing games with kanji.

But that doesn't make it a main feature of Japanese, or even necessary. It's just something that can be done with the writing system as it, just like quirky spellings in English.

Japanese doesn't *need* kanji. That doesn't mean I want to change the current system.
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RE: Why Are Newbies Learning The Freakin Kanji?!

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Sun 12.16.2007 12:42 am

誠にかたじけなし。
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RE: Why Are Newbies Learning The Freakin Kanji?!

Postby Ken Pro » Sun 12.16.2007 3:35 am

I have trouble seeing kanji as beautiful. To me they are communication, and not understanding what is being communicated is frustrating. Something tells me it's why the Japanese want to retain it, to preserve a uniqueness about them that is inaccessible to foreigners.

In my mind, when I see kanji, I hear the Japanese words in my head. And those words are visualized in romaji, because I learned phonetics in English. So I may never appreciate the "beauty" of kanji, seeing them as just signifiers of meaning that I must decipher with my English-trained brain.

Being able to read a Japanese sentence that includes kanji is a proud moment, though. Like having a secret decoder ring in one's head.
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RE: Why Are Newbies Learning The Freakin Kanji?!

Postby Shirasagi » Sun 12.16.2007 4:49 am

Ken Pro wrote:
I have trouble seeing kanji as beautiful. To me they are communication, and not understanding what is being communicated is frustrating. Something tells me it's why the Japanese want to retain it, to preserve a uniqueness about them that is inaccessible to foreigners.


I suspect the Japanese want to retain for the same reasons spelling reform has never gone over well in the States, and is giving Germany fits right now. People prefer to write the way they are used to.

For me, the basic kanji forms can be beautiful or ugly. I really like 電, with it's heavy top and flowing bottom. By the same token, I don't care much for 飛 or 非. Visually they are unappealing. Perhaps that's why I have trouble writing them nicely. Some words, like 恋, 愛, 美, or 清 I feel very positive about just by connotation. There aren't many bad words using those kanji.

In my mind, when I see kanji, I hear the Japanese words in my head. And those words are visualized in romaji, because I learned phonetics in English. So I may never appreciate the "beauty" of kanji, seeing them as just signifiers of meaning that I must decipher with my English-trained brain.

Being able to read a Japanese sentence that includes kanji is a proud moment, though. Like having a secret decoder ring in one's head.


I take it you are a relative beginner? My brain, too, was trained in English, and what's more, my initial training in Japanese was in romaji. But when I look at kanji, and hear in my head whatever word it represents, I don't visualize it as English. If anything beyond the word itself, I visualize the kana. The more you read in Japanese, the more the brain becomes used to simply operating in Japanese.

I remember one day after I had returned from Japan, I was walking in my local supermarket. Unbeknownst to me, the supermarket had put in a small international foods section. As I walked by, I saw a package that said メ[スやきそば. I read it without breaking stride and continued walking. After a few steps, I stopped and thought, "That was Japanese!" (Then I bought some yakisoba and enjoyed it for dinner that night.)

See enough kanji and kana, and you start being able to passively read it, bypassing the English centers of your brain entirely. The same goes for speaking. What I have found quite interesting since I've started learning German is that when I attempt to speak in German, I have to concentrate in order to not speak Japanese. There are now two language centers that feed information directly to my comprehension part of my brain - the native English one, and the somewhat smaller Japanese one. When I shift out of English (in order to speak German), I naturally shift into Japanese mode.
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RE: Why Are Newbies Learning The Freakin Kanji?!

Postby HarakoMeshi » Mon 12.17.2007 1:51 am

Yudan Taiteki wrote:
I'm correct in thinking that you have studied linguistics, correct? The above comment (and plenty of your other posts) often give a sense of "I have studied linguistics, you haven't. Therefore, my opinion is the only one of which can be correct". You should be careful about that.


I suppose; in the same sense that a biologist's "opinion" about biology is more correct than people just sitting around and guessing, or expressing their personal preferences.

...
As for a "significant loss of expressiveness", that would necessarily lead to English being significantly less expressive than Chinese because we lack kanji. If western writing systems can do it, so could Chinese and Japanese.


I'm very surprised to read such an argument from someone who claims to have an understanding of linguistics. You seem to have a poor appreciation for what you study.

There are many differences between languages. To use English, there are many expressive attributes that English doesn't have that other languages do. Just because English is a perfectly fine language and an English speaker can be perfectly content with its expresiveness, doesn't mean that other languages have superfluous attributes.

If you tried to for example ask a native of a romantic language country to drop some of their language features because /English does fine without them/, they would laugh in your general direction, especially the writers, poets, and musicians.

The argument in question here is easily settled by means of a simple positive example.

 sakana o torimashita. ~ Took a fish.
 魚 を 捕りました。 ~ Caught a fish.
 魚 を 盗りました。 ~ Stole a fish.
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RE: Why Are Newbies Learning The Freakin Kanji?!

Postby Ken Pro » Mon 12.17.2007 3:57 am

Shirasagi wrote:
I take it you are a relative beginner? My brain, too, was trained in English, and what's more, my initial training in Japanese was in romaji. But when I look at kanji, and hear in my head whatever word it represents, I don't visualize it as English. If anything beyond the word itself, I visualize the kana. The more you read in Japanese, the more the brain becomes used to simply operating in Japanese.


Yes, I only began studying kanji a year and a half ago, after a year of basic grammar, vocab, and kana. The transition from romaji to kana wasn't easy. Likewise the transition from kana to kanji in the cases where kanji had to replace kana.

At this point, romaji still has a hold on my consciousness. When I see a page of type that has both kana and romaji on it, my eyes drift naturally towards the romaji. Adjusting to kanji+kana is yet another step.

The above post about the beauty of language is something I'm ambivalent about. I have an advanced degree in English and know how beautiful it can be. But normal people do not study English, or even appreciate English on that level. If the *normal* Japanese writing system were equated with the lofty heights of English poetry, what a turnoff!!! Normal Japanese is not poetry....calling it that sounds fetishistic.....
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RE: Why Are Newbies Learning The Freakin Kanji?!

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Mon 12.17.2007 6:02 am

If you tried to for example ask a native of a romantic language country to drop some of their language features because /English does fine without them/, they would laugh in your general direction, especially the writers, poets, and musicians.


The point I'm trying to make is that the writing system is not a feature of the language; it's a tool used to represent the language. You can talk about the stylistic or aesthetic losses that would come with changing the writing system, but that has nothing to do with the expressive abilities of the Japanese language itself.

The argument in question here is easily settled by means of a simple positive example.

 sakana ga torimashita. ~ Took a fish.
 魚 が 捕りました。 ~ Caught a fish.
 魚 が 盗りました。 ~ Stole a fish.


I'm not sure all of those are natural (even if you change the が to を), but assuming that they are:

Of course if you remove all the context you can create examples like these (the romaji example could also mean "caught" or "stole" a fish -- I'm not sure I've managed to convince you that the spoken word "toru" can have all the meanings that are representable with the kanji). I can do the same thing in English -- "That's a set" can have several meanings but that doesn't mean we need kanji.
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RE: Why Are Newbies Learning The Freakin Kanji?!

Postby HarakoMeshi » Mon 12.17.2007 6:37 am

Sorry, my stupid hurried error with が/を.

I think we can agree that toru has all those meanings in the spoken language too. Usually the object, agent, or other context, will make it fairly clear what is the intention. Spoken language also has other cues that are not represented in the Japanese writing system.

The point I was trying to make is it seems the writing with kanji could be more specific, in certain cases, with a shorter context.
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RE: Why Are Newbies Learning The Freakin Kanji?!

Postby sushi4ever » Sat 12.22.2007 9:13 pm

okay, i've just read all 6 pages, so just let me state my opinion on the topics here....

first off, after learning hiragana and katakana you could start with learning kanji in context with vocabulary, that's how it works for me but i also don't overdo it no matter what other "students of the japanese language" may think...
(what, you only know XXX kanji so far? loser.)

then, for the uselessness of kanji: geez, it's a part of the japanese language and culture and i don't think that the japanese people will abandon them just for the sake of foreigners learning their language, it's THEIRS, so deal with it, lol
i mean, look at my home country germany: we had quite a few reforms to make the written language more understandable for non-natives (social bastards XD) BUT (!) i highly doubt we'd ever scrap off our very few unique characters (ä, ö, ü, ß) just because non-natives find them troublesome.

i can't really understand why people are making such a fuss about this matter. the kanji WILL come to you sooner or later during your japanese-learning-journey so don't make them more important than they are. they may be more difficult than the latin alphabet but if you're really annoyed by them, don't learn the language.
accept it all or you will fail at some point in your effort to learn it.

my very subjective two cents ^^
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RE: Why Are Newbies Learning The Freakin Kanji?!

Postby JaySee » Sun 12.23.2007 8:26 am

I don't really think abolishing kanji will ONLY benefit foreigners, so if they do it it's not like they'd do it just for them. While children learn their first language without actually having to make any effort, written language is something different. Of course Japanese children already speak the language the characters are used for and they see them every day which might make passively remembering them easier, but that doesn't take away the fact that they, like us, also have to actively study to memorize almost 2000 characters, which for them too takes a lot of time. For that rason I also highly doubt that the main purpose of the spelling reforms in German was to make it simpler for non-natives to learn. It might have been a side effect, but making spelling easier is not just beneficial to non natives: natives often too find certain aspects of their spelling very difficult and make (lots of) mistakes when they write, so they too very much benefit from creating a more regular way of writing the language.

Also, there's a clear difference between arguing that using charatcers does not serve any purpose from a linguistic point of view, and being "really annoyed" by them.
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RE: Why Are Newbies Learning The Freakin Kanji?!

Postby sushi4ever » Sun 12.23.2007 4:10 pm

well, up to now, they didn't turn into a bunch of illiterates so i guess it's bearable to keep them.

and i wasn't clear about the german reform thingy: of course it wasn't mainly aimed at non-natives, it WAS flawed to some extent although i was perfectly fine with it as it was, the CHANGE is now making more trouble although it makes sense.

of course, characters aren't present when speaking a language but people should just accept the fact that nothing is going to change in the japanese writing system.
but maybe i'm too pragmatic when it comes to such matters, i don't know.
and of course, there IS a difference but most of the time you encounter a mixture of both sides, you can't fully deny that.

as stated above, VERY subjective ^^
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RE: Why Are Newbies Learning The Freakin Kanji?!

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Sun 12.23.2007 11:17 pm

One of the frequent straw men that comes up in this debate is the idea that people who think kanji are not necessary are arguing that point because they are annoyed at having to learn kanji. This is not true.

Sometimes it's just fun to discuss something whether or not it has an actual effect.

Having said that, though, I do think that mistaken beliefs about kanji and the writing system in general are directly responsible for the poor study methods that plague some beginners and even intermediate students. Self-studiers and even some language programs tend to emphasize kanji above all else to the point where some people seem to equate studying Japanese with studying kanji.
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RE: Why Are Newbies Learning The Freakin Kanji?!

Postby sushi4ever » Mon 12.24.2007 10:47 pm

i second that. :D
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