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Total beginner questions

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Total beginner questions

Postby CroZ » Thu 11.10.2005 9:05 pm

Hi, I just started learning Japanese today, just as something to do in my spare time and I have a few questions.
1. What is Japanese writing (all of it together) called.
2. Are all of the letters made out of a,i,u,e,o (ie.ka, ki,ku,ke,ko) or are there any single letters eg. a T on its own. If so is there a site where I can learn the symbols?
3. How come I saw "Dublin" written in Jap but it had the Katakana symbol for "A" as its first letter?
4. Can you make other cominations beyond the usual Ka,Sa,Ta.etc.
5. When people say that Japanese letters are made from sound what do they mean?
6. Do Eng words translate directly into Jap eg. If I spelt play in Hiragana would it have the same meaning? And vis-versa.
7. Would Jap words in Eng letters look the same in japanese writing? Eg. Would Mae (Meaning Front) spelt with the Hiragana symbols for Ma and E be the right symbols or would it look different.
8. For a beginner how important is Kanji?


Sorry if i'm not making sense here. And I had more stuff than that to ask but that'll do for now, oh and dont fo getting ahead of me or anything, this is tough enough as it is.
Any helps appreciated :D
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RE: Total beginner questions

Postby InsanityRanch » Thu 11.10.2005 9:39 pm

Hi! I'll give your questions a try.

CroZ wrote:
1. What is Japanese writing (all of it together) called.


Depends what you mean. If you mean all the characters (kana and kanji), the word is moji. If you mean Japanese literature, the word is wabun. If you mean something else, let me know.

2. Are all of the letters made out of a,i,u,e,o (ie.ka, ki,ku,ke,ko) or are there any single letters eg. a T on its own. If so is there a site where I can learn the symbols?
4. Can you make other cominations beyond the usual Ka,Sa,Ta.etc.


No, unlike alphabetic languages, Japanese syllables are unitary. There are no single letters. You should just learn the syllables: a, i , u, e, o, ka, ki, ku, ke, ko etc.

A few "extra" syllables have been created beyond the normal ones, in order to write foreign words. But again, they are syllables (or rather, onsetsu), not single letters. So there are representations for va, vi, vu, ve, vo in katakana, but there is no letter v.

6. Do Eng words translate directly into Jap eg. If I spelt play in Hiragana would it have the same meaning? And vis-versa.


First, I would avoid abbreviating Japanese as Jap. I'm sure you didn't mean it to be insulting, but it has a very unpleasant sound.

As for the question, Japanese borrows a great many words from English and other languages. These words are written in katakana, not hiragana. And they quickly acquire customary spellings (that is, a fixed way of writing them in katakana). The customary spellings are not always very good matches to the word's native pronunciation, either.

So no, you can't just write English words in Japanese and expect to be understood. And if you did so, you would write them in katakana, not hiragana.

I don't know what you mean by vice versa -- please explain?

7. Would Jap words in Eng letters look the same in japanese writing? Eg. Would Mae (Meaning Front) spelt with the Hiragana symbols for Ma and E be the right symbols or would it look different.


Japanese is sometimes written in English letters. This way of writing is called romaji. So I might write:

"Tenki ga ii na?" The weather is great, isn't it?

I'm not gonna get into a lecture about the pros and cons of romaji, but I will simply suggest you get away from thinking that way as quickly as possible.

As for writing "mae" --
In romaji, you write "mae"
In hiragana you could write まえ
The way it is normally written is with one kanji: 前

8. For a beginner how important is Kanji?

For a very, very beginner, not important at all. Learn hiragana, katakana and some simple sentence patterns right away; everything else can wait.

After that, people's advice will vary. My advice, for what it's worth, is begin learning kanji as soon as possible. It is a great springboard into written Japanese.

Of course, if you never intend to read Japanese, I suppose you can get by without kanji. But you will never have more than a surface grasp of the language (or any language) if you cannot read -- or that's my opinion.

3. How come I saw "Dublin" written in Jap but it had the Katakana symbol for "A" as its first letter?
5. When people say that Japanese letters are made from sound what do they mean?


Can't answer these questions. In the first case, I have no idea, since I haven't seen the writing in question. In the second case, I don't know what you mean.

Oh, maybe that Japanese is spelled phonetically (as long as you stick to kana)? This is about 95% true. With the exception of a few particles that are pronounced in an unexpected way, and differences in the way individuals pronounce certain syllables, Japanese can be written down in kana even if you have no idea what the words you are hearing mean.

(In theory. In practice, it is a lot easier to write down words you understand than those you don't.)

HTH

Shira
"Give me a fruitful error any time, full of seeds, bursting with its own corrections. You can keep your sterile truth for yourself." -- Vilfredo Pareto
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RE: Total beginner questions

Postby CroZ » Thu 11.10.2005 11:17 pm

Thanks alot but i'll get back to those questions tomorrow, its late here.
But I just have to ask a few snippets more to satisfy my curiosity.

1.So basically Romiji is pointless other than for English pronounciations. But could I, using an online dictionary use the Romiji spelling to wright it in Moji. Like, find the word for hotel which is nishi and turn that into moji by breaking it into Ni-Shi.
Like how Mae directly translates into Hiragana.
2. This would be alot easier if I could show you the characters I mean, how do I make my keyboard type in japanese characters without changing the settings altogether?
3. Why are there different words for the same thing?
Like when I looked up Hotel I got the following: nishi, roppou, uesuto, touzainanboku.
Are they just different ways of saying it or do you have to use them differently at certain times, like in french you say different things depending on whether your talking to a man or women.
That was on an online dictioanary so it didnt say what they meant.
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RE: Total beginner questions

Postby Harisenbon » Thu 11.10.2005 11:29 pm

1) Romaji is also used for inputting Japanese into the computer. Very few people (even native Japanese) use the native Japanese inputs, and instead use a romaji based IME.

2) You have to install the IME, which can be downloaded from Microsoft's site. If you are using winXP or MacOSX, all you need to do is change the input language in your control settings. More information can be found in the FAQ section on this page.

3) There are many synonyms in english too. All languages have synonyms. Sometimes they carry nuances that other words may not, some times they don't.

As for the dublin question, I think you might have misread the sign (or whatever) as the pronounciation of dublin is daburin and is written ダブリン
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RE: Total beginner questions

Postby AJBryant » Fri 11.11.2005 12:53 am

3. Why are there different words for the same thing?
Like when I looked up Hotel I got the following: nishi, roppou, uesuto, touzainanboku.


For the record, NONE of these are "hotel." They may, however, be the NAMES of hotels. The word "hotel" -- a Western concept, aftrer all -- in Japanese is "hoteru"; other words exist, though, such as ryokan or penshon ("pension").

Tony
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RE: Total beginner questions

Postby Kates » Fri 11.11.2005 11:00 am

CroZ: Having different words for the 'same thing' is not an entirely Japanese idea. Consider the words happy, glad, ecstatic, and joyful in English. They all mean basically the same thing but can have different nuances--the same is with Japanese. As a beginner, you can think of most words as meaning the same (ie: shiawase and ureshii (happy)) but you'll eventually learn the subtle differences between them, just like you have with English.
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