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Everything posted by Scurventery

  1. Thanks! Not nearly as high as I'd like, though I'm working on that. I've taken a few classes and can struggle through some basic sentences, but I'm still short of conversational in my opinion, and I have a ton of kanji to learn. I suppose you could say I know more about Japanese linguistics than I know about using the language - I tend to work at things by learning the rules first and then moving into specifics. Grammar? No problem. Vocabulary? It's a bit of a work in progress.
  2. Chinese is more difficult to learn. Not only do you have to learn about 3000 more characters to be literate, but there is also much more nuance in pronunciation and tone that can severely affect what you're saying. While Japanese can have some obscure rules, the rules themselves are almost always very simple: there may be more than one level of honorific, but everything is set at that level using the exact same conjugation. It's no more difficult than remembering to add "please" and "thank you" once you know the rules.
  3. I think the biggest issue here is thinking of hiragana as an alphabet; it's not. Hiragana represents phonemes, and it's very specific to Japanese - it's not designed to write foreign words. The method you're using to learn other alphabets is called "transliteration", and it unfortunately isn't a method that works with phonetic characters, as they're too limited. Unless an English word happens to conform to hiragana's rules, you're going to run into major problems. One alternative you can try is using flash cards to help associate each character with its sound. Think of each as its own word, and once you know all 46 basic words and a few variations, you'll be able to phonetically sound out any word in Japanese. It sounds like a lot, but trust me - it goes quickly. Putting in a little bit of work at the front end will make further learning a lot easier!
  4. It's not just about spacing - the hiragana version will simply have more characters than one with kanji. Kana have a more or less 1:1 syllable:character ratio, with some variation. Kanji can often represent two or more syllables each, helping to condense the text.
  5. Kanji is really unlikely to disappear any time soon. Because of the limited number of phonemes in Japanese, there are a high number of homonyms, and kanji is often used to distinguish. Sake: one time it'll be the drink, another it means salmon. Hana: sometimes it means flower, others it means nose. There are sometimes small pronunciation differences, but to see them written in kana without any context, you wouldn't know which was which. The different kanji help to clarify. Others in this thread are correct: around 2000 kanji are required for basic literacy. The more you know, the easier learning will be for you.
  6. Definitely katakana. Hiragana didn't take much time at all to learn, but katakana always seemed clunkier and less clear to me. It also took a long time to stop mixing up シ and ツ or ソ and ン.
  7. Kanji is difficult for almost everyone, myself included, but the thing I've noticed myself having more difficulty with than anything is counters. Which objects require which counters seems arbitrary and frustrating, and I strongly dislike having to simply memorize them. Japanese has fairly straightforward grammar (usually!) and a few rules of thumb will get you through 90% of it, but there doesn't seem to be anything intuitive or systematic about counters.
  8. I started with romaji, and while it was a lot easier than learning kana at first, I'd say overall it just slowed me down. There's really no reason to go to the trouble of learning the rules of romaji when you could have hiragana memorized in a week or two and katakana in just a little longer than that. It's also less precise than kana - for example, the word ありがとう (thank you) can be written arigato, arigatou, or even arigatō - needlessly confusing. The sooner you begin reading Japanese script, the better off you'll be.
  9. I suppose it depends on how you define "top". Nearly 1/6th of the human race speaks Mandarin, and Spanish and English each have hundreds of millions of speakers. In general English is used as the language of business and trade. If you're looking for numbers, you could take a look here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_languages_by_total_number_of_speakers Just remember that the purpose of language is to facilitate communication between people, and the language that will bring you the most personal fulfillment probably won't be determined by the number of people who speak it - it'll depend on the people you want to connect with.
  10. I've never actually used a stand-alone device, though I remember other people having them when I was young. For the most part I rely on the internet or on smart phone apps to look up single words - no sense in carrying more than one device if you can help it.
  11. All the time. I studied French for years, and while I'm certainly not fluent, I can get by without too much trouble. That being said, I won't even admit to most people I know any at all, and if ever faced with a native speaker, I usually freeze up and try English instead. It's an issue of self-consciousness, in my opinion. I'm sure the people I've encountered in this scenario would appreciate the effort, even if it doesn't go all that well. However, I don't want to look bad, and I don't want to "butcher" their native tongue. Those two combined make it extremely hard to bring myself to use anything but English unless I'm with people I'm completely comfortable with.
  12. It absolutely is. The fact that I can't fully participate in her culture and experience her heritage without learning another language is a great motivator. If a bit of studying will allow me to grow closer to her, then why wouldn't I work at it?
  13. Google Translate has certainly gotten much better, but it's no replacement for human translation yet. I occasionally use it for a short phrase, but I'll always make sure to check the alternate translations myself to make sure the sentence is using the correct sense of a word and that I'm not saying something ridiculous. I'd never use it for anything longer than a short phrase or simple sentence, though.
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