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If it weren't for the writing system...

Japanese, general discussion on the language

Re: If it weren't for the writing system...

Postby keatonatron » Sat 09.05.2009 2:58 pm

Well, just as with Japanese, if you try to learn Korean everyone you speak to will know you're not a native speaker and will be lenient with you if you can't get the politeness levels just right.

I'm pretty good about using keigo where needed, but if I slip up and say something quite informal to one of my bosses they don't even react to it because, hey, foreigners aren't supposed to understand keigo anyway :wink:
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Re: If it weren't for the writing system...

Postby jcdietz03 » Sun 09.20.2009 3:39 pm

Chinese is harder than Japanese because there are no kana to use as a crutch.

I am not sure whether or not Japanese would be harder if you eliminated kanji. You have gained something (ability to read) but also lost something (ability to discern meaning based on the kanji). I don't think it's SOV that throws people off. TJP can teach you SOV in one second right here: http://thejapanesepage.com/beginners/15_minute_japanese
It's when they DON'T follow SOV that really throws you off. I was having trouble translating this: 本日、満開ワタシ色 (song title) today. I know all those words (looked up the one I didn't know), but still can't translate. There's no verb there; you need to rely on "noun grammar" or whatever to figure it out (all those words are nouns).

There's more to Japanese grammar than just SOV. It's very different than English (or Chinese!) and there are a lot of finer points as shown here: http://thejapanesepage.com/grammar.htm
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Re: If it weren't for the writing system...

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Sun 09.20.2009 5:08 pm

jcdietz03 wrote:Chinese is harder than Japanese because there are no kana to use as a crutch.


On the other hand, Chinese characters, for the most part, have only one reading. (I assume you mean the Chinese writing system is harder than the Japanese writing system, not the language.)

I am not sure whether or not Japanese would be harder if you eliminated kanji. You have gained something (ability to read) but also lost something (ability to discern meaning based on the kanji).


I think it's pretty clear that the large amount of time it takes to learn characters does not make up for the ability to sometimes determine the meaning of an unknown word.
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Re: If it weren't for the writing system...

Postby nukemarine » Mon 09.21.2009 3:33 am

Yudan Taiteki wrote:

jcdietz03 wrote:Chinese is harder than Japanese because there are no kana to use as a crutch.



On the other hand, Chinese characters, for the most part, have only one reading. (I assume you mean the Chinese writing system is harder than the Japanese writing system, not the language.)

I am not sure whether or not Japanese would be harder if you eliminated kanji. You have gained something (ability to read) but also lost something (ability to discern meaning based on the kanji).



I think it's pretty clear that the large amount of time it takes to learn characters does not make up for the ability to sometimes determine the meaning of an unknown word.




Not sure where you're getting "pretty clear" from.

For the first part, being able to pronounce something perfectly via reading does not qualify as literacy. I can read French and Spanish out loud just fine. Don't know what I'm saying, but someone listening that understood the language would. I think understanding what you read trumps being able to pronounce it, though both are essential to literacy.

As for time, I'm not sure if investing 100 to 150 study hours to learn to write and recognize 1000 characters is an expensive investment compared to the 1000 to 2000 hours you're going to be investing latter on just learning to listen, read, speak, and write.
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Re: If it weren't for the writing system...

Postby furrykef » Mon 09.21.2009 5:09 am

nukemarine wrote:For the first part, being able to pronounce something perfectly via reading does not qualify as literacy. I can read French and Spanish out loud just fine. Don't know what I'm saying, but someone listening that understood the language would. I think understanding what you read trumps being able to pronounce it, though both are essential to literacy.


But then you're assuming that the kanji will actually help you understand what the word means. Much of the time, it won't... especially if you don't know that particular kanji. Or maybe the kanji will provide a hint, but even then, you're still just guessing unless the context is overwhelmingly suggestive of what the word seems to mean. (But if the context were that strong, then there'd be much less of a need for kanji to help you in the first place.)

In fact, I'd bet it's more often that I can correctly pronounce a word by its likely on'yomi and have no idea what it means, than to know what the word means and not know how to pronounce it. (As my studies progress and I become more able to infer meaning from context, this may change, but this is what I currently observe.)

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Re: If it weren't for the writing system...

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Mon 09.21.2009 9:20 am

Yudan Taiteki wrote:Not sure where you're getting "pretty clear" from.




Just basic logic -- a writing system using 26 (or 46, or 50, or 92) symbols is easier than one using thousands. I have been studying Japanese for over 10 years now and I still struggle with characters. Of course there are other aspects to the language, but nobody studying French, German, or even Vietnamese is still struggling with the written symbols after 10 years of study. (English has a similar problem but it's not as bad; native speakers will encounter words in writing that they aren't sure how to pronounce, but it's much easier to make an educated guess in English than it is in Japanese for most words.)

The ease with which a (non-deaf) native speaker can deal with written symbols representing their native language is directly related to how regularly the symbols represent the sounds. If the writing system is completely phonetic and regular, very young children can learn to read and write relatively quickly.

For a foreign learner, things are a bit different because most foreign learners have not mastered the language when they start learning the writing system. However, this causes a further difficulty because of the tendency for some learners to emphasize characters over the language, causing them to make connections directly between characters and their native language, bypassing Japanese (I'm not talking about Heisig here necessarily; any study system can cause this).

Speaking from personal experience, this leads to a very slow "reading" in which you are constantly switching back and forth between Japanese and English in your mind, perhaps unconsciously. Even when I had studied around 1300 or so characters, I was still not really able to read things fluently (even things containing mostly characters and vocab I was familiar with). It really wasn't until I went to Japan and really beefed up my spoken language ability that I gained faster reading skills, and then coming to OSU and having to review the basic grammar to teach it resulted in another big improvement.

As for time, I'm not sure if investing 100 to 150 study hours to learn to write and recognize 1000 characters




That looks like a Heisig reference, but all I was trying to say is that if your writing system is phonetic, it's much easier to learn to read. Of course kanji do provide some organizational benefits, but they are not significant enough to make up for the time it takes to learn them. 100-150 study hours is not mastering the entire writing system, it's just gaining a foothold.
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Re: If it weren't for the writing system...

Postby Endo » Wed 09.23.2009 7:31 pm

jcdietz03 wrote:Chinese is harder than Japanese because there are no kana to use as a crutch.
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I always used kanji as a crutch, if it were only kana my mind would go spinning. I think the kanji makes things a lot easier because everything meaning and all is in there, having a whole string of conjugated kana following it makes it more complex if you ask me. Chinese is just clean and 'simple'.
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Re: If it weren't for the writing system...

Postby JaySee » Wed 09.23.2009 8:34 pm

I think there's quite a logical explanation for the fact that many native or advanced speakers of Japanese feel a bit lost when they read kana-only texts: they're just not used to it. If you had learned (or had grown up learning) just the kana and only ever read texts without kanji, you'd not be experiencing any trouble with this at all. Of course without kanji words become more difficult to identify, so spaces to mark word boundaries would be necessary in order to make sure that things remain easily legible; this is a system that's working perfectly well for a grammatically very similar language like Korean, so why not for Japanese?

Also, I'm not really sure I agree with your assertion that the "meaning" (of I assume a word) exists in the kanji that are used for it, but there's already been a lot of discussion about the relationship between kanji and meaning on this forum so it might be best not to go into that again (if you search the forum you'll probably find quite a few posts on this topic).
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Re: If it weren't for the writing system...

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Wed 09.23.2009 9:17 pm

JaySee wrote:I think there's quite a logical explanation for the fact that many native or advanced speakers of Japanese feel a bit lost when they read kana-only texts: they're just not used to it.


And for foreign learners, especially beginner/intermediate students can find kanji easier because of dictionary use (particularly if it's computer based). If you see 勉強しなければならなくてね, the 勉強 is quite easy to look up, whereas the しなければならなくてね is probably impossible to look up using dictionaries. In addition, foreigners usually don't have as strong of a command of the grammar of Japanese, so something like 私の家で勉強する is a lot easier to parse than やってみなければわからない, even if no words have to be looked up. Homophones are also a big problem for foreign learners because they can't use context as well as native speakers to disambiguate them.
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Re: If it weren't for the writing system...

Postby Endo » Thu 09.24.2009 6:06 am

JaySee wrote:I think there's quite a logical explanation for the fact that many native or advanced speakers of Japanese feel a bit lost when they read kana-only texts: they're just not used to it. If you had learned (or had grown up learning) just the kana and only ever read texts without kanji, you'd not be experiencing any trouble with this at all. Of course without kanji words become more difficult to identify, so spaces to mark word boundaries would be necessary in order to make sure that things remain easily legible; this is a system that's working perfectly well for a grammatically very similar language like Korean, so why not for Japanese?

But then again native Japanese speakers don't have trouble with kana bakari since they grew up writing, learning, reading everything using kana first and then gradually change it for kanji. I think it comes down to experience since us Japanese learners kinda put those kanji in as soon as we're able to and don't have years of kindergarten using kana only under our belt as the Japanese do. That's why you see lot's of kids stuff using only kana, sometimes (for older kids) a sprinkling of easy kanji thrown in it but for the most part kana.

JaySee wrote:Also, I'm not really sure I agree with your assertion that the "meaning" (of I assume a word) exists in the kanji that are used for it, but there's already been a lot of discussion about the relationship between kanji and meaning on this forum so it might be best not to go into that again (if you search the forum you'll probably find quite a few posts on this topic).

I was referring to as how Chinese is used, for example if I write this:『私魚食』you can kinda make out that it says 'I eat fish' same as 『私は魚を食べます』(ref. in Chinese it's:『我吃魚』). Leaving out all the kana and you can see instantly what it says, also most words (not talking about conjugations obviously) actually do have a kanji version (how rare it may be). I was just pointing out that with a kanji it's easier to tell the meaning that a string of kana imo.
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Re: If it weren't for the writing system...

Postby AJBryant » Thu 09.24.2009 3:43 pm

Endo wrote:I was referring to as how Chinese is used, for example if I write this:『私魚食』you can kinda make out that it says 'I eat fish'


In a Chinese context, I'd read that as "private fish dining" -- and wonder "what the hell?"
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Re: If it weren't for the writing system...

Postby Endo » Thu 09.24.2009 4:09 pm

AJBryant wrote:
Endo wrote:I was referring to as how Chinese is used, for example if I write this:『私魚食』you can kinda make out that it says 'I eat fish'


In a Chinese context, I'd read that as "private fish dining" -- and wonder "what the hell?"

No I was just meaning leaving out the kana part but keeping your Japanese switch on. Ofcourse if you read that in Chinese it's a different meaning. That's why I included the reference.
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Re: If it weren't for the writing system...

Postby NileCat » Thu 09.24.2009 4:35 pm

Endo wrote:I was referring to as how Chinese is used, for example if I write this:『私魚食』you can kinda make out that it says 'I eat fish'

That's exactly what we do when we, as a tourist visiting China, need to communicate with Chinese people.
We write kanji like that on a paper napkin. Chinese people kindly understand it in many cases.
So, in that context, we can make it out. 「我欲魚食」would be likely in a restaurant. We can understand it as " I-want-fish-eat". Maybe many tourist guidebooks for Japanese visiting China recommend this simple communication method, I think. In Chinese and Japanese, basic communication is always 筆談. And it works like a miracle!
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Re: If it weren't for the writing system...

Postby Harisenbon » Thu 09.24.2009 8:00 pm

Endo wrote:But then again native Japanese speakers don't have trouble with kana bakari since they grew up writing, learning, reading everything using kana first and then gradually change it for kanji.


Trouble? no.
Harder to read? Definitely.

Give a japanese person a paragraph of text written in all katakana or hiragana and hear them say 面倒くせぇ~
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Re: If it weren't for the writing system...

Postby Endo » Fri 09.25.2009 4:58 am

NileCat wrote:That's exactly what we do when we, as a tourist visiting China, need to communicate with Chinese people.
We write kanji like that on a paper napkin. Chinese people kindly understand it in many cases.
So, in that context, we can make it out. 「我欲魚食」would be likely in a restaurant. We can understand it as " I-want-fish-eat". Maybe many tourist guidebooks for Japanese visiting China recommend this simple communication method, I think. In Chinese and Japanese, basic communication is always 筆談. And it works like a miracle!

逆にthat's also what Chinese people do who visit Japan, kanji works miracles eh? :lol:

Harisenbon wrote:
Endo wrote:But then again native Japanese speakers don't have trouble with kana bakari since they grew up writing, learning, reading everything using kana first and then gradually change it for kanji.


Trouble? no.
Harder to read? Definitely.

Give a japanese person a paragraph of text written in all katakana or hiragana and hear them say 面倒くせぇ~

I KNOW! It's so メンドクサイ to force yourself through an all hiragana/katakana text, kudos to the kids who do it effortlessly haha. If it weren't for the kanji, I might have given up! ;)
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