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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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Numbers are one of the most important pieces of vocabulary you can learn in Japanese, maybe any language. They are used far more often than you would think. What time is it? What day is it? What year? How much does this cost? What house number? Radio station? The list of uses and needs goes on and on. It’s also fun being able to count, as it makes me feel like I’m learning something. Sure, knowing simple sentences is alright, but when someone breaks out something I don’t recognize, those simple phrases are useless. With numbers, I feel like I know what I’m doing, which is encouraging. The fact it’s so useful is a nice bonus. Let’s begin, shall we?

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Pronounciation

While it’s fine for Latin and other dead languages to not require knowing how to speak it aloud, if you are learning a new language, it’s most likely to speak it for one reason or another and the first step to speaking a language is learning how to pronounce words. Thankfully, Japanese is a relatively simple language in this regard. Whereas in English we have numerous rules and exceptions to said rules and different pronounciations for words, Japanese has a relatively small amount of sounds that a word can be made up from and they form the basis for the kana.

For example, in English, just look at tomato. “You say tomato, I say tomato.”, is a popular phrase that illustrates two distinct pronounciations for the same word, with the same meaning that is not associated with an accent or specific dialect.

In contrast, in Japanese, if you see or , they are always pronounced the exact same way with very defined exceptions and those exceptions cause the sounds to be identical every time. This means there is a very limited number of sounds from which a word can be pronounced which is a good and bad thing, as you will come to see later.

So, for our first step to learning Japanese, you should familiarize yourself with the hiragana and katakana. Both are identical in the sounds they allow you to speak, but it would be beneficial to get a glimpse of two of the three writing systems Japanese uses.

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How to Learn Japanese

I thought I’d outline the basics of how I intend to learn Japanese and, while I’m not an expert, how believe anyone can learn a new language.

However, before I outline these steps, think back to how you learned to speak English. When you were born, you knew nothing. You were a blank slate waiting to learn how to speak. You’re mental capacity was also much lower than what it is today…I hope.

From this blank slate, you listened and learned through osmosis. First you started making sounds, such as ga, da, buh, duh, and so on. Eventually, these sounds turned into primative words, such as dada or mama. The amount and variety of words you learned continued to grow until you were forming primative sentences, like ‘i want mommy’ or ‘not tired’, until you eventually were able to form basic sentences and carry out simple conversations outside of the simple commands and statments.

Finally, you entered school and you are introduced to the alphabet for the first time. You may have come into contact with it a little earlier, but it’s around this time you start actively learning it and how to write and read words. Once you knew how to read the words, you went about learning more and more words as well as gradually learning more and more grammar until you arrived at where you are today.

Obviously, this is a simplified version and there are likely to many variations to this, but, in general, this is how you learned your first language. Let’s apply this to learning Japanese.

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Hello and welcome to Kirby no Nihongo. The purpose of the site is to basically document my learning experience as I go about learning Japanese. You can follow along, offer advice and join in along the way if you like.Before we start, I guess I should let everyone know just how bad I am at Japanese. I’m barely a step above beginner. I know all the kana, have a decent vocabulary for a beginner (yay anime!) and I can form basic sentences (no, not just random jibberish that I have no idea what it means and they are not quotes from Suzumiya Haruihi-sama). So, while I am absolutely brutal and no where near an actual Japanese speaker’s level, I’m not someone that hears Japanese and can’t even make out the sounds being spoken. I can also read as if I’m a fully functioning retard, provided it has no kanji in it.

Now that we know just how good (ie bad) I am at this, here’s how we’ll be rectifying the situation.

I am using the Absolute Pimsleur’s Japanese I audio mp3s through various means. I’ve worked my way up to about lesson 20 and I typically re-listen (if that’s a word) to each lesson once or twice before moving on to the next lesson. For instance, I went through lesson’s 1-3 sequentially, but redid them all once just for practice hearing and speaking the language and did this for subsequent lessons.

I also practiced my reading and writing kana while I’ve been building my vocabulary for the past couple of weeks to the point I now know every kana and can read them whenever I see them (ie not just rote memorization, but actually know them), although going through a word can be slow as I still can’t actively connect (-n) and various other connecting syllables, like はい(hai), where the a and i blend together. I still read those as ha – i and then realize it should have been hai.

So, that’s about it. I’ll probably post transcripts for the Pimsleur lessons for my own practice in writing the words and in case anyone wanted to follow along. I may post random other guides or tools I’ll be using to further my, and your, studies.

– Kirby