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SirTenenbaum

Should people use Romaji?

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I was curious about other people's thoughts on using Romaji when studying Japanese. Is it something that helps beginners? Is it helpful at all levels? Should it be avoided entirely?

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I think it's okay to start learning basic Japanese with romaji, but don't rely too heavily on it. As soon as you can use hiragana, stop using romaji.

Personally, I don't like romaji. I think I used it for one day and then realized that I might as well just learn hiragana. Romaji just seems weird to me... lol, but that's probably my problem since I don't like pinyin either

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I don't like Romaji, it's spelling is also difficult! However, if the purpose of studying is for survival purposes, like a week in Japan for business, then it's convenient.

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It's ok for beginners that have no exposure to the language, but I would use romanji for hiragana practice. Only for the sole purpose of translating the English letters into hiragana. That was what my teacher did when I was first learning Japanese.

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It's ok for beginners that have no exposure to the language, but I would use romanji for hiragana practice. Only for the sole purpose of translating the English letters into hiragana. That was what my teacher did when I was first learning Japanese.

Oh yea, I also did this. It helped master pronunciation and also paid that my native tongue's pronunciation is similar to Japanese.

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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.

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I mainly use it while typing since I haven't yet figured/gotten used to typing in Japanese and I'm constantly checking the meaning and pronunciation of words with friends over chat. Other than that I prefer to use the Japanese characters as much as possible so as to practice writing and reading. 

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From the research I've done, seems like it would be something that indeed slows you down. Best to learn it later on, or at least, don't rely on it.

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It is OK to go with this method especially for starters to study a lesson in the Japanese writing along with its Romaji version. It does help for people studying the language that they know how to say/pronounce them with the use of Latin letters while seeing how it is written in Japanese characters.

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If I were teaching somebody with zero ability Japanese, I wouldn't teach them romaji at all. It's really pretty useless and slows down comprehension. It also leads people to make pronunciation mistakes (like pronouncing ら as "ra", with an R). Instead I would teach kana phonetically, without reference to English.

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^But wouldn't romaji help them learn to read and understand faster? Especially for those who struggle with kana.

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Yes, theoretically romaji could let someone speak basic Japanese faster. But the fastest way isn't always the best way. What's more, in the long run it'll only slow you down.

Most Japanese textbooks begin by teaching stuff like how to say hello or order at a restaurant, but I think it's better to begin with kana, and then basic grammar. In the beginning progress will feel slower (and it won't be as fun) but I think ultimately it would expedite the learning process.

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Well, I mean someone who can't read きょうはげつようびです could probably understand "Kyou ha getsuyoubi desu". So in that aspect, romaji might be helpful.

Although I do agree that romaji is not the best way to learn Japanese in the long run. It's just that starting off with it to get an understanding shouldn't be much of a problem. Just be sure to stop using it as soon as you have a good grasp on kana.

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I agree with those above who've said it's useful for learning hiragana - あ="a" for example, but shoud be dropped as soon as you can read enough hiragana to live without it.

The reason why I think like this is that the way you write things in romaji isn't the same as how you actually pronounce them. ら isn't pronounced the way you say "ra" in English, because the Japanese "r" is a hard "r" that sounds a bit more like L or D to a lot of listeners. ん isn't usually pronounced as "N", but more like a nasal sound that sounds kinda like N in some situations but not others. The word げんいん (原因 meaning "cause") isn't pronounced "gen in" like it's written in romaji, but more like "gei-yin".

What I'm getting at is that while it makes things faster at the beginning, your pronunciation in particular is held back by thinking in romaji, and once you get past the first few chapters of a textbook or course, it'll be all in hiragana anyway. There are NO real Japanese texts written in romaji. The majority of Japanese dictionaries don't have the words in romaji, just kanji with hiragana readings. The few extra minutes spent now learning to read everything in hiragana will be paid back in hours later when you can get through real texts much more easily and not have to spend as much time working on your pronunciation because you've always equated る and "ru" (and those aren't the same sound).

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As a beginner, Romaji is really helpful to just know the different sounds and what they match up with to the alphabet of choice (if given both of course, I think Romaji on it's own is a bit pointless). It's like pinyin with Chinese, the romanisation allows for easier recognition of the sound/word. However, I think its use should be limited after one has a grasp on the alphabet as it can turn into a crutch and hinder learning.

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I had always thought and heard it was better to just bite the bullet and learn the kana and kanji at the beginning, but then came across the article below a few days ago and started wondering if that was right. It deals with both Chinese and Japanese, and kana and kanji, but either way the professor who wrote it seems to be of the opinion that delaying the learning of writing and focusing on speaking and learning through English characters at the beginning can be beneficial. Anyway, some food for thought.

If you delay introducing the characters, students' mastery of pronunciation, grammar, vocabulary, syntax, and so forth, are all faster and more secure.  Surprisingly, when later on they do start to study the characters (ideally in combination with large amounts of reading interesting texts with phonetic annotation), students acquire mastery of written Chinese much more quickly and painlessly than if writing is introduced at the same time as the spoken language.

http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=10554

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I can string together verbal sentences pretty easily and understand grammer and all that, but I really can't write hiragana well because all the characters look really similar to me. I can write the romanji easily though, so for input into digital devices I'm safe, but if I can't read much at all. So I think memorizing the characters first is a lot more helpful than learning the romanji if you want to be able to both read and write.

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I think it's really only useful as an extreme beginner, to associate the sound with the kana. For example your first 2 or 3 weeks of learning. Once you have learnt the alphabet it obviously should stop being used.

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When I first started looking into the language, I always heard that you shouldn't rely on romaji much. So I'm learning the characters and the romaji together. I find that writing out the character helps me remember it more than reading the romaji anyways. Once you get past the basics, I would just stop using it so you won't rely too much on it in the future. You won't need it much anyways.

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Romaji helps at first but when you get better at hiragana, katakana, and kanji you should try not to rely on romaji.

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Without romaji I don't know how I would have started making the connection between characters and sound. But I am finding it easier, after making that jump, to think of the characters as distinct from the romaji because it's true -- the way I am tempted to pronounce something ( ん was a good example) based on the romaji is often way off.

But I am learning on my own without the aid of a teacher, so the romaji is/was really valuable intially.

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I think what everyone has said here about using romaji to make the initial step into Japanese is absolutely valid. It's really one of the main reasons romaji are even in existence (the other one being so we can name places and things in Japan - where would non-speakers of Japanese be if Tokyo appeared on maps as 東京, for example). Interestingly, I know Russian learners have their own version of romaji that uses the Cyrillic alphabet instead of the Latin one - for the same reasons.

But like others have said, romaji isn't Japanese. There are no Japanese books written in romaji. The pronunciation of Japanese is kinda approximated but doesn't perfectly match the letters in romaji - ん and が are the most glaring examples - the first is a nasal sound that sounds like "n" sometimes and isn't really pronounced at all other times, and "g" sounds more like "ng" a lot of the time (actually it varies even on where in Japan someone's from).

So learn kana! It's kinda hard to start with and takes some time to get used to it, but if you put the time in to learn it, you'll never have to turn back and the way forward will be even more open for you. The same argument goes for kanji too - try and learn some because Japanese isn't (all) written in kana either!

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I like it for use in otherwise English texts. The place I see it most often is in Japanese fairy tales where a word has no equivalent English word. Beyond that I would say no, it does little more than confusing pronunciation.

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I don't think that romaji should ever be used at all.

Using romaji would give you the idea that some sounds correspond directly with roman script languages' sounds, which most of you know is not true (especially with the r~ group).

It's best to just start with hiragana without any romaji and just learn it by hearing

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Without romaji I don't know how I would have started making the connection between characters and sound. But I am finding it easier, after making that jump, to think of the characters as distinct from the romaji because it's true -- the way I am tempted to pronounce something ( ん was a good example) based on the romaji is often way off.

But I am learning on my own without the aid of a teacher, so the romaji is/was really valuable intially.

Normally I would say romaji is not good and too much of a crutch but these are some very good points. In the introductory phases, any little bit helps and romaji offers some usefulness. I do think that making the jump to hiragana/katakana should be done as quickly as possible since they're some of the easiest parts of learning Japanese and will constantly be used.

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