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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?

Re: Where to start?

Postby lonelytraveler8 » Thu 07.30.2009 2:55 pm

Well, it took me only 4 days to learn both Hiragana and Katakana, so it was hardly an inconvenience learning it first. I don't hate it, though, and the only dictionary I own is Kodansha's romaji dictionary. But I honestly find the kana to be what aids me most in learning vocabulary. For some reason, I'm more easily able to picture the series of characters in my head than I'm able to recall each syllable when I'm struggling on something.

I don't mean to say romaji is a terrible thing, but learning the kana was the best thing I personally could have done in the beginning. The ironic thing: I absolutely knew that that statement was going to be quoted and torn this way. Even so, I still believe it, although I could have worded it a little less strongly.

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..


Oddly enough, roman character don't offer any visual or mental cues, unlike the kana. Everyone thinks and learns differently, though, so I must partially revoke my statement.
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Re: Where to start?

Postby Triddy » Thu 07.30.2009 5:01 pm

Hmm. When I first took Japanese 11 Intro in High School, we used Romaji for about the first month. It may seem easier at first, but I truly believe that it hampered my progress for quite some time. Whenever there was romaji available, my eyes would always drift up to it. Or I would unconciously try and associate the kana to roman letters, which really slows things down and inhibits seperation of the languages. I missed a lot of practice for kana, and it took me much, much longer to be able to read them fluidly than people who started with them.

I know that people won't agree with me, but I truly believe that it is best to learn Hiragana instead of using Romaji at all. You can learn Hiragana in a day or two. Don't argue with me, just make a stack of flashcards and try it. You won't get a deep understanding of it, and you're obviously going to struggle a tiny bit, but it's enough to get you to the point where you're going to be practicing both Hiragana and grammar at the same time.

Now that this is out of the way, it's time to address the OP's question. My recommendation to you is the same as Phreadom's: Get a textbook, and use Tae Kim's guide as a reference.

For a textbook, you're probably going to want either "Japanese For Everyone" (This is not Minna No Nihongo, that's different), or "Genki". They both cover more or less the same material, and are both excellent ways to get yourself started in the language. Japanese For Everyone has many, many more exercises than Genki, and moves at a faster pace. Genki, however, is spread into 2 volumes, so you're going to have to pay twice as much. Compare between the two, but you can't really go wrong with either of these.

Tae Kim's guide should be used in conjunction with a textbook wherever possible. As soon as you learn a new grammar point, head over to guidetojapanese.org and read the explanation there too. You're going to get two seperate explanations this way, along with more examples and most importantly, more practice.
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Re: Where to start?

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Thu 07.30.2009 5:17 pm

Triddy wrote:Hmm. When I first took Japanese 11 Intro in High School, we used Romaji for about the first month. It may seem easier at first, but I truly believe that it hampered my progress for quite some time. Whenever there was romaji available, my eyes would always drift up to it.


If there's romaji available, that's natural -- the key is not to have romaji available once you've made the switch to hiragana. As I said earlier, sometimes what happens to people who use romaji for a while is that they overuse romaji as a crutch when they start to learn kana/kanji.

Or I would unconciously try and associate the kana to roman letters, which really slows things down and inhibits seperation of the languages.


Japanese represented in romaji is still Japanese, not English, so there shouldn't be any issue with language confusion. If you learn the hiragana first, before anything else, you automatically have to associate kana to roman letters because you have nothing else to relate them to.

I missed a lot of practice for kana, and it took me much, much longer to be able to read them fluidly than people who started with them.


I used romaji for the first four *months* of my Japanese study and I never thought that it hampered me in any way. When I studied Chinese we used exclusively pinyin for 7 weeks, and continued to use pinyin quite a bit after that while learning characters as well, and I never found that hurt my ability to learn to read Chinese either.

If someone wants to start out with kana I think that's perfectly fine (with the warning that you still need to do pronunciation practice), but saying that you absolutely must start out by learning hiragana is going too far.

In my opinion the best case is a classroom environment that starts out with a focus on speaking ability, using romaji for reference (but no books or notes -- and thus no romaji -- are allowed during class). Once the students have some grammatical and spoken background, they can learn the kana and connect sentences written in kana to what they already know how to say, which is the same way that native speakers learn to read their own language.
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Re: Where to start?

Postby lonelytraveler8 » Thu 07.30.2009 5:38 pm

Yudan Taiteki wrote:In my opinion the best case is a classroom environment that starts out with a focus on speaking ability, using romaji for reference (but no books or notes -- and thus no romaji -- are allowed during class). Once the students have some grammatical and spoken background, they can learn the kana and connect sentences written in kana to what they already know how to say, which is the same way that native speakers learn to read their own language.


I agree with this. That's actually how I got started. We started learning basic grammar "As for X, X is Y" and です. We were also required to learn about 15 kana per day, with a quiz everyday. I just happened to really enjoy the kana and learned it all in a few sittings.

Perhaps I'm an odd case, because I don't generally associate the kana with romaji. I actually stumbled a bit when I first started typing because of this. What I usually think of when I see a kana, is the sound it represents, rather than the romaji, and it's more or less been that way since I started, which probably explains why knowing the kana helps me learn vocabulary easily.

Anyway, as for the OP, anything that I could have offered has been offered. Multiple times, in some cases. Good luck!
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