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Where to start?

Have a textbook or grammar book that you find particularly helpful? What about a learning tip to share with others?

Where to start?

Postby flare » Wed 06.10.2009 12:02 am

I've recently developed an interest in self-teaching myself Japanese and was wondering where I should start.

I have spent the last few weeks learning both both Hiragana and Katakana, and am not sure where would be the most optimum area to continue. Would you guys recommend I continue by using a learning program (Pimsleur, Rosetta Stone, etc.) or text book, or should I first begin by learning some Kanji using texts or online resources.

I would also love it if you guys could give me specific recommendations on both sides. :D

Thanks in advance!
Last edited by flare on Wed 06.10.2009 4:30 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Where to start?

Postby phreadom » Wed 06.10.2009 2:20 am

First off, welcome to TJP! :)

I'm sure others here could offer a multitude of suggestions...

but I personally learned the kana like you did or are... and then started tinkering around with a few different things before digging into the Genki I textbook. I really like it!

I'm on Chapter 6 right now, working on memorizing the vocabulary for the chapter before I dig into it some more. I took some time off from it to read an old book about kanji from 1979 that showed the history behind 300 kanji and how they evolved from the original pictures that represented things etc.

Hopefully others have some helpful suggestions. :) Good luck with your studies! (sorry I can't help more, I'm a beginner myself!)

(and of course there are things on http://thejapanesepage.com/beginner etc... if you want something to poke at while you wait, or you can look through threads on the forum here etc... or maybe read through http://guidetojapanese.org/ as that is highly rated and often recommended here as required reading etc...)

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Re: Where to start?

Postby Mr.Paper » Wed 07.29.2009 10:23 pm

Hmmm...lets see. The way I study a language is I learn how the native speakers learned the target language. Like what I mean is like you should start learning counting, colors, the seasons, days of the week, months, and some vocab. Then move on to some grammar. Thats what I do.
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Re: Where to start?

Postby Mr.Paper » Wed 07.29.2009 10:24 pm

And of course the kana too.
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Re: Where to start?

Postby leonl » Wed 07.29.2009 10:55 pm

Mr.Paper wrote:Hmmm...lets see. The way I study a language is I learn how the native speakers learned the target language. Like what I mean is like you should start learning counting, colors, the seasons, days of the week, months, and some vocab. Then move on to some grammar. Thats what I do.


A standard beginners textbook will do exactly this, plus you get the benefits of integrated grammar, kanji(reading/writing), and listening practice all in one neat little package. Learning like a native is not something we can really do as foreigners. For starters children don't learn words, then grammar. By the time a child is five or six he/she already has a fairly good grasp of their native grammar. They can't explain any of it to you . But they know how its used
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Re: Where to start?

Postby Mr.Paper » Wed 07.29.2009 11:04 pm

leonl wrote:
Mr.Paper wrote:Hmmm...lets see. The way I study a language is I learn how the native speakers learned the target language. Like what I mean is like you should start learning counting, colors, the seasons, days of the week, months, and some vocab. Then move on to some grammar. Thats what I do.


A standard beginners textbook will do exactly this, plus you get the benefits of integrated grammar, kanji(reading/writing), and listening practice all in one neat little package. Learning like a native is not something we can really do as foreigners. For starters children don't learn words, then grammar. By the time a child is five or six he/she already has a fairly good grasp of their native grammar. They can't explain any of it to you . But they know how its used


Textbooks aren't always going to be great though. And Kanji shouldn't be learned right away. Japanese kids don't learn it till middle school I think. listening practice could be done by watching movies. And sure we can learn like natives, who said we can't.
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Re: Where to start?

Postby leonl » Wed 07.29.2009 11:29 pm

Mr.Paper wrote:Textbooks aren't always going to be great though. And Kanji shouldn't be learned right away. Japanese kids don't learn it till middle school I think. listening practice could be done by watching movies. And sure we can learn like natives, who said we can't.


I did not say textbooks were ideal, but they are usually the best place to start from. Even a poor textbook gives you a structure to work around, an order to learn the basics in. Secondly Japanese kids start learning kanji in the first grade. I believe they learn 80 their first year, followed by 160 in second grade. Better yet here's the wiki link

kyoiku kanji
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Re: Where to start?

Postby Harisenbon » Wed 07.29.2009 11:30 pm

Mr.Paper wrote: And Kanji shouldn't be learned right away. Japanese kids don't learn it till middle school I think.


Japanese kids start learning Kanji in 1st grade of Elementary.
However, by that time they also have a large vocabulary, having been raised in Japan and all ;)

I would suggest starting to learn kanji sometime in the first year of your Japanese study...
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Re: Where to start?

Postby Mr.Paper » Wed 07.29.2009 11:39 pm

Harisenbon wrote:
Mr.Paper wrote: And Kanji shouldn't be learned right away. Japanese kids don't learn it till middle school I think.


Japanese kids start learning Kanji in 1st grade of Elementary.
However, by that time they also have a large vocabulary, having been raised in Japan and all ;)

I would suggest starting to learn kanji sometime in the first year of your Japanese study...


Kana first then kanji. and the first kana should be hiragana then katakana.
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Re: Where to start?

Postby lonelytraveler8 » Thu 07.30.2009 5:50 am

I'm also a beginner myself, but I can certainly throw some tips out. I've found that the best thing a textbook offers is structure, which is important for teaching yourself. You don't really need to know kanji in the beginning to get the vocab and basic grammar needed to speak and listen. However, I imagine you wouldn't want to put it off long (I started in on kanji pretty quickly).

Also, whatever you do, don't use romaji. At all.

If you don't know the kana, it's most definitely the first thing that should be done. You mentioned that you've been studying it, so you picked a good place to start.
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Re: Where to start?

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Thu 07.30.2009 8:11 am

Also, don't neglect pronunciation practice. A common beginner mistake is to think that learning the kana is the same thing as learning to pronounce Japanese -- it's true that Japanese pronunciation is relatively simple, but there are still a few tricky spots that need to be practiced. Ideally whatever textbook you are working with has associated audio files or a CD.

And sure we can learn like natives, who said we can't.


Learning like natives would mean first mastering the spoken language (aside from formal speech), then learning kana, then learning kanji and reading.
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Re: Where to start?

Postby NocturnalOcean » Thu 07.30.2009 8:26 am

lonelytraveler8 wrote:Also, whatever you do, don't use romaji. At all.


I can't say I agree with this.

I believe in the beginning the most important thing is to get a grasp of basic grammar, and get a small foundation of vocabulary. So if this means that you will be using romaji for a bit, I don't see any harm in that.
However I do think that once this is in place, one can start the glide away from romaji, into using pretty much only Japanese script so that you get used to it faster. But I wouldn't say it is so important to stay away from romaji in the beginning that one should do all efforts to avoid information written in romaji.
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Re: Where to start?

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Thu 07.30.2009 8:29 am

I agree with that -- the most important thing to do is that when you do actually learn Japanese script, never use romaji as a crutch (i.e. writing romaji above kana or kanji). If you avoid that, then using romaji for a short time at the beginning won't do you any long-term harm.

(Also some people go so far as to avoid any reference work or dictionary that uses romaji, which I think is overdoing it.)
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Re: Where to start?

Postby two_heads_talking » Thu 07.30.2009 10:25 am

Yudan Taiteki wrote:I agree with that -- the most important thing to do is that when you do actually learn Japanese script, never use romaji as a crutch (i.e. writing romaji above kana or kanji). If you avoid that, then using romaji for a short time at the beginning won't do you any long-term harm.

(Also some people go so far as to avoid any reference work or dictionary that uses romaji, which I think is overdoing it.)


I agree with both those statements. Until you've mastered the kana, there is no reason you can't use romaji. In many cases, it will remind you which kana to use anyways..
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Re: Where to start?

Postby leonl » Thu 07.30.2009 11:49 am

lonelytraveler8 wrote:
Also, whatever you do, don't use romaji. At all.



Why so much hate for romaji, what did it ever do to anybody. But seriously this sentiment seems to run particularly strong amongst people like myself, who tend not to be very advanced in their studies yet
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