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Archive for February, 2008

To date, we’ve learned a lot of numbers related vocabulary. We’ve covered numbers in general, the months of the year and the days of the week, which are all numbers related topics. Building on these, this post will teach you how to tell time in Japanese.

Like previous vocabulary posts, I’ll be introducing some new kanji. For the kanji, remember, the katakana is for the On reading and the hiragana is for the Kun reading. If you have no idea what I mean by On or Kun, make sure to read my post on How to Read Kanji. And, as always, I will be providing the kanji based readings for telling time followed by the kana and English translations for those who can’t read kanji yet.

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Absolute Pimsleur’s Japanese I is an excellent resource for learning Japanese, but it is not the only one and should not be treated as the be all and end all of your learning experience. I know this site focuses heavily on it, but don’t let that fool you.

Remember, you should be pursuing other avenues for learning Japanese besides Pimsleur’s. It’s a solid oral and audio comprehension (learning to understand the Japanese you hear), but it’s more a suppliment than an all-in-one tool for learning the language. You should be focusing on the reading and writing aspects of the language and learning some basic grammar and vocabulary as you go along as well. Yes, the tapes introduce new vocabulary and build on it each lesson, but I don’t think it’s enough on its own.

If you have no other means of learning the language outside Pimsleur’s, I recommend checking out the various Vocabulary posts I’ve been making for simple, progressive vocabulary lessons. Also, you would benefit from doing regular writing and reading. Re-reading the various Pimsleur’s Japanese I Transcripts I’ve been doing would be a free and easy option, as it has no romanji to mess up your learning to read the kana. While repetitive reading and writing of the same kana, word, words or sentences may seem tedious, it actually works and you will begin recognizing regular words, particles and sentence structures this way that simply listening to tapes won’t allow.

Depending on how things go, I may start adding grammar, particles, conjugations and other topics to my posts. For now, the focus remains on the Pimsleur transcripts and simple vocabulary. You can check out my Japanese Resources post if you are interested in some first hand opinion on the various Japanese books I’ve used and recommend.

Finally, I just want to reiterate that you cannot rely on a single resource when attempting to learn a language as complex as Japanese.  Aids, like Pimsleur’s, are just that, aids.  They help flesh out more in-depth courses or other aspects of the language not covered by them.  Don’t get me wrong, Pimsleur’s is damn good, but it can only take you so far and that’s all I’m trying to stress to you in this post.

Remember, keep at it and don’t get discouraged.  Progress, especially early on, takes time, but with a little effort, you’ll start to see the benefits of your hard work.

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A common question from most beginners is whether Japan (日本) is written and pronounced as  にほんor にっぽん.  In actuality, it is both.  日本 can be pronounced にほん or にっぽん and it would be correct. However, the way it works is as so:

にほん is used in everyday conversation, to name the country, language and so on.

にっぽん is, typically, only used by the government and for legal documentation.  Banks and other money related places sometimes use this notation as well.

So, if you were trying to figure out which one to use or were wondering why it was pronounced differently sometimes, there’s your answer.  I don’t live in Japan, so I’m sure there’s other circumstances that would warrant either’s use, but from what I’ve gathered from other sites and texts, this is the basic useage of both words.

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Learning kanji can be a difficult task for the most seasoned Japanese speaker. Kanji have two distinct readings – On and Kun. Many use different readings for completely different words. On top of that, many have multiple On and Kun readings to further complicate which one to use to pronounce a word. In general, the On is used in compounds, words with more than one kanji in them, and the Kun is used when the kanji is by itself. You’ll come to see that is not always the case though, as the language is riddled with exceptions and exceptions to those exceptions. For the time being, I’ll try to simplify it for everyone with some simple definitions of the two readings and explanations as to when to use them.

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So far, these vocabulary posts have taught us about both Numbers and the Months of the Year. Today, we’ll build on those lessons by learning the days of the week. While we’ll be dealing with several new kanji today, I will only be going over as it is the kanji for sun and day, which plays a big part if we are going to be naming the days of the week. As we go on, I’ll deal with the various other kanji, but for now, we don’t really need to know their readings and meanings.

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In the last vocabulary post, we learned had some Fun With Numbers, where we learned how to count in Japanese. Today, we’ll be using those numbers to figure out what month it is.

Much like the first vocabulary post, this will feature kanji readings followed by the kana for each word. Don’t worry about learning the kanji if you are just starting out. Just focus on how the numbers form each month with our new word for month.

For now, we’ll focus on the months, but eventually, we’ll learn the days of the week and how to say the actual date (no, it’s not just the number before or after the month like in English). Until then, have fun practicing the numbers and using them to form the names of the months.

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We’ve got a few quick lessons under our belts, have, hopefully, mastered all the kana and even have a little bit of basic vocabularly under our belts. I’m sure many of you are chomping at the bit with the desire to rush out and buy flashcards, dictionaries, grammar books and other useful language learning resources. Listen up all you beginners, as this is the best advice I will ever likely give you.

Don’t do it.

Seriously, you just started learning Japanese. Don’t go out and drop a couple hundred dollars on books that are far too advanced for you. There is a high probability many will stop trying to learn Japanese after the first month. Some might last until they get to the kanji. Furthermore, you don’t need those things yet. What’s a kanji dictionary going to do for you right now? Unless you are pretty far along, it’s useless. Grammar books? You don’t know enough words, let alone have the verbs, particles or know how to conjugate in Japanese.

I’m not trying to discourage you from learning the language. Far from it. I’m just trying to save you some money. Those books will be there in 3 months time when you might start needing them. Don’t overcommit when there are numerous resources on the internet available to you for the introductory Japanese lessons.

That said, you will need books eventually. Sadly, the online world doesn’t have nearly enough resources to fulfill our Japanese learning hunger. Therefore, I’ve prepared a list of my recommendations for various Japanese resources and brief descriptions of them and when you would be best served in purchasing or using them.

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