Two Weeks In, What I like about Japanese
I've studied many languages, and I consider Japanese the easiest so far. I know that sounds like I'm crazy, but consider this:
- No determiners
- No genders
- Simple word order
- Almost phonetic, and I like the fact that they drop middle and trailing vowel sounds
- Hiragana and Katakana took me three days to learn, using mnemonics
- The sound of each symbol doesn't change based on placement, legacy language, etc.
- Limited and predictable verb conjugation/agglutination
- On-line resources are plentiful and many are extremely professional with embedded audio
- Easy to find language partners, because Japanese students are aggressive learners, very polite and appreciative of your time and effort
- I don't mind particles and post-positions....and there are far less of them than there are ways to modify a sentence with connectors, conjunctions, prepositions, etc.
- Simplicity: three groups of verbs, two types of adjective endings, all verbs end in "u". You can tell that someone cared about keeping the language simple.
Negative: Kanji. It does make sense though. If you want to easily identify adult people that aren't from the country, throw a Kanji character at them. Americans do something similar, using a ball. We toss it to someone and if they catch it, they're American, and if they kick it, they're from somewhere else originally.
I haven't done Japanese on Duolingo, but I studied it for six years. It's pretty hard. There actually a lot of conjugations per verb, many Kanji, lots of ways of using particles. Kanji definitely can change pronunciation depending on position and if it's used on it's own, in combination with other kanji, or if it's part of a verb, so you have to memorize multiple pronunciations of thousands of kanji. Japanese also has formal, informal, and humble/honorific speak. That's about where i started tapping out before. That said, I love the language and it's absolutely fascinating. I say all of this to highlight the fact tat this is a very profound language, and I mean that as there is much depth to it. :)
The humble/honorific speech IMO is one the hardest parts in Japanese, and it is far too little covered in Duolingo for sufficient awareness of learners. Just to determine an appropriate phrase to use is a deep problem. It might be possible that some Japanese people themselves would make mistake - because there are websites intended for Japanese people in this respect. Just a while ago I had an exercise of taking business telephone messages, and the target was to use appropriate honorific speech with the person on the phone, and use humble speech for everything about your own company, take the request of the person on the phone, and instantly convert the honorific parts of that message into humble and humble parts into honorific, so as to repeat that message to that person and check if he agrees. How my tongue had twisted!
Thing is, that the one negative that you stated, is really, really significant. If someone was learning Japanese just to be able to watch anime/movies unsubbed, then maybe not. But for living, or even visiting (if you plan to do things independently from a tour group) Japan? Kanji is a must, if you wanna live/visit without a guide comfortably without having to ask so many questions about kanji readings (because they're everywhere, do not let Duolingo's small number of kanji fool you into believing otherwise). There will likely be English signs at tourist destinations to help, but you'll probably go to those with a tour group anyway. If you're not sure how to read something, then there will most likely be many people that will be glad to help you, but if you need to ask how to read almost everything you see, then it's just using up time that you could spend on even further exploration.
Personally, I think that Kanji alone makes Japanese one of the hardest languages to truly learn. But, that's because I don't consider just learning to speak, learning. Actually learning how to speak, write, and read, is what I consider learning a language. But, that's just my opinion.
However, learning Hiragana and Katakana in 3 days is very impressive, so nice job. I somewhat grew up around Japanese (not as much as English though), and I don't think even I learned it that fast. With your learning speed, learning enough kanji to do what you want (explore comfortably outside of a tour group) should be much easier and faster than most.
Well of course, if you already know Chinese, then Kanji will be a breeze. But for people who only speak Western languages, Kanji is quite difficult, mainly because it's so different.
And, I'd say that if the easiest way to learn Kanji is by learning another language altogether, then it's pretty hard.
There is pretty much English signs only in Tokyo from what I understand. Which is fine if you only want to visit Tokyo but, for people who want to visit other places such as Kyoto, Osaka, etc. as well. You will find a lot less English.
I personally am not finding Kanji that hard but, that's because I found a method that really works for me. I'm about a quarter of the way having learned 600 of the 2200 in about 2 months. I highly, highly, highly recommend James Heisig's "Remembering the Kanji" the method of teaching them is very impactful and you can learn 10-20 of them every other day if you review all the previous one day and learn a set the next. Those 2 books have helped me make monumental progress in learning them.
I've been 6 months in, with the help of Duolingo, LingoDeer and some other websites and my conclusion is quite the opposite. I'm able to read some kanji and stuff, but I'm still struggling to understand what people say and reading some texts. And there's the fact of keigo and non-keigo. Even in keigo there are two ways. To make things really complicated. This is not a language I'm learning in a year, that's for sure
Yeah, I feel the same after 200 days.
I can sometimes understand some simple stuff like a japanese fairy tale or a "japanese graded reading level A", which is written like for a japanese first grader 小学一年生. After completing the duo tree and like 10 various memrise courses, lingodeer, infinite japanese, with a lot of repeating of old stuff, I feel like I am at the "beginner" level finally.