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https://koreancrusade.com/2016/04/19/trade-offs-the-8020-rule-and-learning-2-languages-at-once/

I discuss various issues on language learning based on my 5 years experience studying Korean in Korea. Please visit and feel free to contribute any thoughts. Thanks guys!

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When it comes to learning a language, asian ones are somehow last on my list, no offense but it seems to bee too hard for me, I do not really think about myself getting into it, however nice topic you made there, thanks for sharing.

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Very nice write up, OP.  I concur with your statement about trade-offs.  Learning a new language takes a lot of effort, no matter which language it is.  Asian languages, especially Chinese (and its variations), Japanese and Korean seem to require more effort for Westerners than European languages.  I think its not only because the writing system is vastly different but because the linguistics are different.  When learning an Asian language, you more or less have to rewire yourself to speak in a way you are not used to. 

 

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When it comes about learning an Asian language I have been always interested in learning Japanese, but I just can't find that possible at the time being. I can't even understand their alphabet, and the way they read and write is exactly the opposite of how I am used to. How much time do you think it would take me to learn their alphabet? Also I've realized that they do not have a standard one like the Latin alphabet for example, they can write a word using a single symbol, how is that even possible?

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18 minutes ago, GennevierAnderson said:

When it comes about learning an Asian language I have been always interested in learning Japanese, but I just can't find that possible at the time being. I can't even understand their alphabet, and the way they read and write is exactly the opposite of how I am used to. How much time do you think it would take me to learn their alphabet? Also I've realized that they do not have a standard one like the Latin alphabet for example, they can write a word using a single symbol, how is that even possible?

Time:
- Chinese Hanzi and Japanese Kanji: between 3 months and 10 years, depending on your efforts.
- Japanese Kana and Korean Hangul: between 90 minutes and 2 days is enough.

Symbol stuff: it's true for Chinese and half-true in Japanese, but not in Korean.

If you're learning Korean, you'll be able to read everything in no-time, but you'll need to learn vocabulary separately.
If you're learning Chinese, you'll be able to read everything after a lot of time, but you'll learn lots of vocabulary along the way.
If you're learning Japanese, that's a mix of the former 2 situations. :P

But in every case you should keep in mind that they don't use spaces, making it hard to distinguish words from each other sometimes.

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Thanks for sharing! I have been watching All American Girl with Margaret Cho and I have been interested in learning Korean for some time now. I am excited to read about your adventures while learning the language.

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 4/19/2016 at 0:37 AM, Blaveloper said:

Time:
- Chinese Hanzi and Japanese Kanji: between 3 months and 10 years, depending on your efforts.
- Japanese Kana and Korean Hangul: between 90 minutes and 2 days is enough.

Symbol stuff: it's true for Chinese and half-true in Japanese, but not in Korean.

If you're learning Korean, you'll be able to read everything in no-time, but you'll need to learn vocabulary separately.
If you're learning Chinese, you'll be able to read everything after a lot of time, but you'll learn lots of vocabulary along the way.
If you're learning Japanese, that's a mix of the former 2 situations. :P

But in every case you should keep in mind that they don't use spaces, making it hard to distinguish words from each other sometimes.

This is literally crazy how the dialect Kana of Japanese can take about 90 minutes to learn, or am I mistaken something? Also, what is the reason of this difference between Japanese Kana and Japanese Kanji? Why does one can be learned in 90 minutes and the other in at least 90 days?

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1 hour ago, GennevierAnderson said:

This is literally crazy how the dialect Kana of Japanese can take about 90 minutes to learn, or am I mistaken something? Also, what is the reason of this difference between Japanese Kana and Japanese Kanji? Why does one can be learned in 90 minutes and the other in at least 90 days?

Japanese kana isn't a dialect, it's a writing system. For example: は、さ、ま、ら、た、な is kana. It is the foundational system of Japanese, the first that children learn when learning to read and write. However, kanji is based off of Chinese characters, has two different readings depending on its form, and can carry a dozen different meanings. So, where kana isn't symbolic and just needs memorization, kanji requires understanding of kana, comprehension of the symbolic meanings and readings, and the ability to write said kanji. 

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2 hours ago, GennevierAnderson said:

This is literally crazy how the dialect Kana of Japanese can take about 90 minutes to learn, or am I mistaken something? Also, what is the reason of this difference between Japanese Kana and Japanese Kanji? Why does one can be learned in 90 minutes and the other in at least 90 days?

As Teira already said, Kana and Kanji are writing systems.

To help you understand things better, here are the Kana alphabets:
Hiragana
Katakana

And here are the most commonly used Kanji characters (warning: people with slow internet will probably need to wait quite a long time for it to load):
Kanji

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I'm currently learning thai and the difficulty of it is palpable. It's kind of overwhelming to have so many different vocal inflections for so many words, but I am making my way through it all and trying to get as much done as I can before I arrive. 

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23 hours ago, Teira Eri said:

Japanese kana isn't a dialect, it's a writing system. For example: は、さ、ま、ら、た、な is kana. It is the foundational system of Japanese, the first that children learn when learning to read and write. However, kanji is based off of Chinese characters, has two different readings depending on its form, and can carry a dozen different meanings. So, where kana isn't symbolic and just needs memorization, kanji requires understanding of kana, comprehension of the symbolic meanings and readings, and the ability to write said kanji. 

That seems more complicated than I'll ever be able to understand. How do people understand that kanji if it doesn't mean the same thing every time? Also, the average Japanese uses Kanji or Kana?

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3 hours ago, GennevierAnderson said:

That seems more complicated than I'll ever be able to understand. How do people understand that kanji if it doesn't mean the same thing every time? Also, the average Japanese uses Kanji or Kana?

I'll answer the latter first since that's easier! Generally Japanese uses a mix of Kanji, Hiragana, Katakana and Romaji -- as Blaveloper mentioned in a post after mine.  So a sentence generally looks like this: 私の好きな俳優はジョニー・デップだ。彼はカッコすぎーと思うよ。Translation: My favorite actor's Johnny Depp.  He's just too cool!
In that sentence there's kanji (私、好、俳優、彼、思)、Hiragana(の、な、は、う、よ)、and Katakana (ジョニー、カッコ).

When it comes to understanding the meaning behind Kanji, there are two ways: 1) the standalone meaning, and 2) the reading of it when combined with another kanji.  There are also radicals--or pieces--of the kanji character that carry meanings to help define what a single symbol stands for, however going into detail about that will only obfuscate the explanation, so let's backpedal. First, let's look at 俳優 (actor, haiyuu, はいゆう、ハイユウ). When we separate the characters , they have different readings. 俳(はい)has no other reading, but 優 can be read as ゆう/ う (from Chinese) or as a verb or adjective (優れる・すぐれる|優しい・やさしい). If it's combined with another symbol, it's usually the Chinese reading.  When it's standing alone, it usually carries the meaning the Japanese assigned to it.

That's probably confusing as heck to someone who's never studied Japanese before haha.  Sorry if I blew anyone's mind (.__.)

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To add something to it: the simpler the kanji, the more readings it can have.

Looking at just 下 (below/down) alone, you can read it as "shita", "ge", "sa", "kuda", "moto", "shimo", "o", and  "ka".
Which one you need to use depends on the word this Kanji is used in and also on the context used.

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On 4/19/2016 at 2:52 PM, FenWoFon said:

When it comes to learning a language, asian ones are somehow last on my list, no offense but it seems to bee too hard for me, I do not really think about myself getting into it, however nice topic you made there, thanks for sharing.

The truth is that it will take you about 30 minutes to understand the construct of words ( each ´block´ is actually a syllable),  it will take you a day to memorize the letters, and another day to learn the more difficult pronunciations.   It took me literally no time at all, less than a week until I could read everything in Korean.   What really makes it fun is that often times you will read a sign, and as you pronounce the words, you realize it is just the korean characters spelling an english word..... so you already know how to pronounce it.

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 19.04.2016 at 11:13 PM, GennevierAnderson said:

When it comes about learning an Asian language I have been always interested in learning Japanese, but I just can't find that possible at the time being. I can't even understand their alphabet, and the way they read and write is exactly the opposite of how I am used to. How much time do you think it would take me to learn their alphabet? Also I've realized that they do not have a standard one like the Latin alphabet for example, they can write a word using a single symbol, how is that even possible?

If you really want to learn Japanese, you should try this, mate. :)

http://www.uhpress.hawaii.edu/p-7516-9780824835927.aspx

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First of all, I love your blog and it's already bookmarked.:) Now that's out of the way, let's focus on the issue at hand... Learning two languages at once. Personally, I prefer learning only one language and mastering it. Once I've got a good foundation of it, like you have said, that's when I start studying other languages. But keep in mind that it would take me a year or more before I can even master one language. So despite the possibility of learning two languages at once, I still don't recommend it if the individual isn't familiar with at least one of the languages.

Now, when it comes to actually learning and studying these languages, you can allot more time for the new language. After all, you have already mastered the basics of the other language so it's enough to allot a few minutes a day for it. But if you can, allot at least an hour a day for the newer language. Your suggestion about alternating the two might work as well. This way, you won't be confused and you can focus on one language per day.

That's about it... I think your post is very helpful as well. I'm going to share it to my friends who are into language learning as well. 

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On 19/04/2016 at 5:37 AM, Blaveloper said:

Time:
- Japanese Kana and Korean Hangul: between 90 minutes and 2 days is enough.

Symbol stuff: it's true for Chinese and half-true in Japanese, but not in Korean.

If you're learning Korean, you'll be able to read everything in no-time, but you'll need to learn vocabulary separately.
But in every case you should keep in mind that they don't use spaces, making it hard to distinguish words from each other sometimes.

This is quite true of Korean. All one really needs to learn first is to memorize its vowels and consonants. When I worked for a Korean Language school last year, we had Korean classes and that's what we were asked to do first. Once you memorize all the characters, you can actually start reading Korean. That is, you can read the Korean texts as they are, but of course absent the comprehension. You have to learn the vocabulary separately in order for you to make sense of the Korean texts you already know how to read.

While the symbols may seem easy to memorize, it was the pronunciation I had the most difficulty.

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 4/19/2016 at 2:52 PM, FenWoFon said:

When it comes to learning a language, asian ones are somehow last on my list, no offense but it seems to bee too hard for me, I do not really think about myself getting into it, however nice topic you made there, thanks for sharing.

 

Same here :/  I really like the Japanese culture, but the script is what puts the language on the very last spot on the list.   I'd love to earn it, but I know that learning all those characters  would be very hard for me.  But the desire to learn Japanese is there :)  Maybe I will learn it once I have more time off, like when I retire ;) 

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I spent my childhood learning Chinese and it was difficult but Now I am glad that I was able to learn it at an early age because I had much more time and patience back then, and not to mention I didn't have much of a choice so that was just more reason for me to stick with it. Now I am trying to learn Japanese but I am more casual with it since I am just doing so mostly as a hobby and I am using what I have learned on how to learn languages from my past, and now I'm glad it's much easier since I could just look it up online whenever I have time and also have endless resources to learn from. 

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18 hours ago, Trellum said:

Same here :/  I really like the Japanese culture, but the script is what puts the language on the very last spot on the list.   I'd love to earn it, but I know that learning all those characters  would be very hard for me.  But the desire to learn Japanese is there :)  Maybe I will learn it once I have more time off, like when I retire ;) 

One little note: Japanese doesn't have a script, it has 3 scripts.
Although 2 of the 3 (Hiragana and Katakana) can easily be taught in a weekend, the 3rd one (Kanji) would require at least 1.5 years to learn.
But the good news about Kanji is, once you master all the Jouyou Kanji (most commonly used Kanji), you'll automatically know over 6000 vocabulary words for free.

So if I were you, I would be rather worried about the grammar, Japanese grammar can be a real bitch to master.
I'll be taking the JLPT N4 test next month, and I still have trouble with the grammar part, I have no problems with the Kanji and vocabulary parts at all.

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4 hours ago, Blaveloper said:

One little note: Japanese doesn't have a script, it has 3 scripts.
Although 2 of the 3 (Hiragana and Katakana) can easily be taught in a weekend, the 3rd one (Kanji) would require at least 1.5 years to learn.
But the good news about Kanji is, once you master all the Jouyou Kanji (most commonly used Kanji), you'll automatically know over 6000 vocabulary words for free.

So if I were you, I would be rather worried about the grammar, Japanese grammar can be a real bitch to master.
I'll be taking the JLPT N4 test next month, and I still have trouble with the grammar part, I have no problems with the Kanji and vocabulary parts at all.

When I wrote ''script'' I didn't mean to be very specific ;)    I mean it as a generalization, ie: their script is very different to the one I am used to.  Kind of lazy, I know, but that is the main reason I haven't even tried.  Thanks for the info, it's good to have that in mind, if I ever decide to go for it.  I've a friend who lives in Japan... 10 years or so, and her Japanese is good, but not fluent D:  She recently started taking private classes,  because her grammar is not perfect yet.  I'm not so sure i'll ever go for it,  but thanks for the info  :) 

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