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Why Are Newbies Learning The Freakin Kanji?!

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RE: Why Are Newbies Learning The Freakin Kanji?!

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Wed 12.12.2007 7:20 pm

Christine Tham wrote:
Yudan Taiteki wrote:
The idea that romaji tried and failed because of homophones is fiction.


Perhaps you may care to speak to my Japanese teacher (a native Japanese), who was forced to learn Japanese in romaji in the years after World War II.


I actually would like to, but as the adage goes, "the plural of 'anecdote' is not 'data'". People believe a lot of false things about language, thinking that because they speak a language they know everything about it -- this is sort of like me thinking that because I have a body, I don't need to study biology, I know everything about it.

There's a whole chapter in Dr. Unger's book about the efforts pre and post-WW2 to educate using romaji.
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RE: Why Are Newbies Learning The Freakin Kanji?!

Postby Christine Tham » Wed 12.12.2007 7:22 pm

everdream wrote:
But you can surely see where Yudan is coming from.? Homophones exist in speaking, there are no kanji to tell you what word they meant, you take it out of context. Perhaps sometimes, in writing, context is harder, but it isn't impossable to tell.


Have you ever tried to read a complex paragraph written entirely in hiragana? It can be quite difficult to parse, and sometimes it can be difficult to guess which word is being used purely from context.
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RE: Why Are Newbies Learning The Freakin Kanji?!

Postby Christine Tham » Wed 12.12.2007 7:25 pm

Yudan Taiteki wrote:
I actually would like to, but as the adage goes, "the plural of 'anecdote' is not 'data'".


A living person is not an 'anecdote', but represents a counter example that refutes your false statement.

Send me PM if you want the name and email address of my teacher. I can't guarantee he will reply, since he is pretty old and I am not sure how email savvy he is.
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RE: Why Are Newbies Learning The Freakin Kanji?!

Postby chikara » Wed 12.12.2007 7:43 pm

Christine Tham wrote:
..... Have you ever considered that you are effectively implying that the poster did not have an adequate mastery of English?

Why would I consider that when it is clear that I implied no such thing?

Are you implying that the NSW school system fails to teach the difference between "may not" and "did not"? ;)

Christine Tham wrote:
I prefer to believe that the poster can in fact communicate in English adequately (certainly there is no evidence otherwise), and therefore deserve a post that did not assume the poster was incompetent in the choice and usage of English words.

That certainly is your prerogative. :)
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RE: Why Are Newbies Learning The Freakin Kanji?!

Postby Christine Tham » Wed 12.12.2007 7:49 pm

chikara wrote:
Why would I consider that when it is clear that I implied no such thing?


You seem to be suggesting that non-native speakers may not have an adequate grasp of English vocabulary, and that the poster may be one such person.

There is no evidence that substantiates your suggestion.

If I was the poster, I could perhaps find your suggestion rather condescending, and perhaps even offensive, but hey, that's just me :)

chikara wrote:
Are you implying that the NSW school system fails to teach the difference between "may not" and "did not"? ;)


You are assuming that I studied in the NSW school system, and that my native language is English.

"Please try and take this into account before nit picking at posts."

Or do you only give advice, but don't follow it yourself? :o
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RE: Why Are Newbies Learning The Freakin Kanji?!

Postby jt » Wed 12.12.2007 8:54 pm

Christine,

I don't think anyone is denying that reading Japanese written in hiragana or romaji can be difficult and awkward for people who aren't used to it. This seems like it would be a given.

But surely you can understand the argument that's being made here. If homophones made it impossible (or even substantially difficult) to distinguish between words without the use of kanji, then the spoken Japanese language and also a script like Japanese braille would fail.

But they don't fail. Native Japanese speakers make themselves understood in speech every day without kanji, and blind Japanese speakers who will never see a single kanji in their entire lives are able to speak and "read" their native language with no difficulty.

Nobody is denying that there are many homophones in Japanese. People (especially native speakers) who are used to reading with kanji will no doubt feel ill at ease (and a bit "naked") when confronted by a string of hiragana or romaji. There are many reasons (see Chris' quote of Unger above) why Japan will almost certainly never abandon kanji.

But it's a big leap to go from this to saying that the Japanese written language _needs_ kanji, and that homophones are the reason for this.
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RE: Why Are Newbies Learning The Freakin Kanji?!

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Wed 12.12.2007 9:02 pm

Without hearing exactly what your teacher is saying, I can't really refute it, but Dr. Unger's book goes into great detail about the issue of script reform pre- and post-WW2. You can't just brush it all aside and substitute the simplistic explanation that homophones prevented the adoption of romaji. It's just not that simple. Your teacher may believe that he had trouble with romaji because of homophones, but people don't always know for certain why they have trouble with things. Have you never had a mistaken idea for why you were failing at something?

But as for a long passage in romaji, a while back someone transcribed the first two paragraphs of a Wikipedia article on some scientific subject in romaji, and I didn't have that much trouble reading it (although unfamiliarity with the script did slow me down). If I could do it, certainly native speakers could do it too. As a learner, it can be deceptive because you don't have the ability of a native speaker to pick up on contextual clues.

Context is enough in the overwhelming majority of the cases to know what word is intended. かける and かかる are good examples of words that have lots of meanings, are commonly written in hiragana, and nobody (except learners) has any trouble with them.
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RE: Why Are Newbies Learning The Freakin Kanji?!

Postby chikara » Wed 12.12.2007 9:18 pm

Christine Tham wrote:
chikara wrote:
Are you implying that the NSW school system fails to teach the difference between "may not" and "did not"? ;)


You are assuming that I studied in the NSW school system, and that my native language is English.

"Please try and take this into account before nit picking at posts."

Or do you only give advice, but don't follow it yourself? :o

Ever heard of sarcasm? As you don't understand the meaning of ;) I will ensure I use [sarcasm].....[/sarcasm] tags in future :D
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RE: Why Are Newbies Learning The Freakin Kanji?!

Postby HarakoMeshi » Wed 12.12.2007 9:23 pm

Just my 2c, I would think that it could have been a combination of difficulty to enact such radical change across everything, difficulty to get used to change, apprehension to get rid of a major piece of culture, and also a loss of expresiveness in written script that authors are fond of.
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RE: Why Are Newbies Learning The Freakin Kanji?!

Postby Oracle » Wed 12.12.2007 9:38 pm

Yudan Taiteki wrote:
Context is enough in the overwhelming majority of the cases to know what word is intended. かける and かかる are good examples of words that have lots of meanings, are commonly written in hiragana, and nobody (except learners) has any trouble with them.


That's very true. One of the skills that develop over time in Japanese along with vocab and listening is the ability to tune into the context of the conversation and once you can do that understanding which word is intended becomes automatic/obvious. I've only witnessed a few genuine cases of momentary confusion with homophones among native speakers. One was a conversation about a cooking accident which threw a lot of smoke out into the kitchen. A girl said 「 。。部屋がジュウマンするから。。」 and the listener whose attention had wandered a little thought she meant 部屋が叙彈する so he made some comment about her place being cheap/expensive. The girl actually meant 部屋が(煙で)充満する, as in "the room fills with smoke".

Apart from small incident like the above, sentences that play on the differences between homophones are usually just オヤジギャグ :D

(EDIT: There was a ママさん who ran a bar I went to sometimes when I lived down in 山口県 who would - without fail - make some joke about 九州 everytime someone said 吸収する, but that's in the category above ;) )
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RE: Why Are Newbies Learning The Freakin Kanji?!

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Wed 12.12.2007 10:06 pm

There's no real "expressiveness" in kanji vs. romaji; with a very small number of exceptions that are mostly found in manga and the like, it's the *language* that's expressive, not the symbols used to represent it.
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RE: Why Are Newbies Learning The Freakin Kanji?!

Postby HarakoMeshi » Wed 12.12.2007 10:42 pm

Can you tell me what's the distinction there?

I was thinking of an example like "toru" that could be written using one of something like 9 different kanji. Each version representing a different nuance of "to take", like take photos, take nutrition, to adopt, to capture, to steal.

If you take out kanji then you lose the ability to express the more exact idea in writing with fewer words. So you'd have to make the writing more wordy in certain cases than it could have been with kanji.

What we have here is that Japanese written language is actually a superset of the spoken language.

One could go a whole lifetime being illiterate without knowing that are 9 different versions of "toru" in Japanese writing, and that would be just fine. However it would be a literary disaster to simplify the written language to that of the spoken language, especially in already written literature.
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RE: Why Are Newbies Learning The Freakin Kanji?!

Postby yukamina » Wed 12.12.2007 11:18 pm

Also, I sometimes see kanji with furigana for different words...The combination of the kanji and the different furigana isn't something you can do with romaji. Or using kanji to make up words and still have the reader understand.
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RE: Why Are Newbies Learning The Freakin Kanji?!

Postby Harisenbon » Wed 12.12.2007 11:19 pm

Yudan Taiteki wrote:
There's no real "expressiveness" in kanji vs. romaji; with a very small number of exceptions that are mostly found in manga and the like, it's the *language* that's expressive, not the symbols used to represent it.


I don't feel that this is entirely true.
I think that most Japanese people will agree that there is a difference in the feeling that you get from reading the word 友達 versus ともだち, 友だち, トモダチ, etc. I think the choice to use or not use kanji when writing a word changes how one reacts to the word, and thus creates an expression simply through the use of kanji itself.

I agree that this is not something inherrent in the KANJI itself, but rather in the culture and the way they perceive the words through repeated use throughout their lives.

Some other comparisons would be the difference between ケータイ and 携帯 as well as コーヒー and 珈琲.


Getting rather off topic, I never understand why these debates occur. Japanese uses kanji. They will most likely not stop using Kanji while any of us are alive. If you want to be literate in Japanese, you must study Kanji. The End.
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RE: Why Are Newbies Learning The Freakin Kanji?!

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Wed 12.12.2007 11:23 pm

HarakoMeshi wrote:
Can you tell me what's the distinction there?

I was thinking of an example like "toru" that could be written using one of something like 9 different kanji. Each version representing a different nuance of "to take", like take photos, take nutrition, to adopt, to capture, to steal.


But the word already had those meanings before any kanji were assigned to them. The kanji were assigned based on the different shades of meaning the word already had. Any native Japanese understands all of these meanings in context without having to see any written symbols; the written symbols do not specify the meaning, they are merely assigned by convention.

As for "toru", the Koujien lists over 50 definitions for the word, so it's definitely not the case that the kanji add meanings that the word doesn't have in its spoken form.

Also, I sometimes see kanji with furigana for different words...The combination of the kanji and the different furigana isn't something you can do with romaji. Or using kanji to make up words and still have the reader understand.


This is what I was talking about; it's mostly confined to manga, advertisements, and other things like that.
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