Does it make any sense to focus on written Japanese first?

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Re: Does it make any sense to focus on written Japanese first?

Postby ryanheise » Fri Jul 10, 2020 4:51 pm

Dragon27 wrote:Whatever justification you're making up for yourself to put aside the aural aspect of the language for later, you should start working with it from the very beginning (after all, speech is the essence of the language).


I admit may sound strange to not care about the spoken language, but different people do have different language goals. For example, some people's goal is to just be able to understand anime, and for that you don't really need to learn how to read or even speak. Enjoying all the content is reward enough. And likewise, if someone's dream is just to be able to read novels, I can imagine they similarly wouldn't need to learn how to speak or listen. It's just a different goal.

I think it's an interesting question as to whether this will hinder any later attempt to learn how to speak. Personally, I don't think it would hinder you at all. Knowing the Kanji first before learning the spoken language would be a bit like a Chinese person picking up Japanese, already having a head start on the writing system, and just having to pick up the pronunciation.

I think the original post raises an interesting point about whether speech really is the essence of language when it is not necessarily true for deaf people. What is a deaf person hearing or subvocalising when they read Kanji? Can you argue that a native Japanese deaf person who can read fluently did not really learn the true Japanese language because the essence of the language is speech? It's a very thought provoking question.
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Re: Does it make any sense to focus on written Japanese first?

Postby tdpl » Fri Jul 10, 2020 5:15 pm

Dragon27 wrote:I'm a little bit confused by the implicit dichotomy imposed by the first post. You don't have to wait 10-20 years (to do what? Master spoken Japanese to native-like level and then start reading?) before you get into novels, but you don't have to give up the spoken component as well.

I think I came up with some rough estimation based on 9 years (I think) needed to learn all kanji in Japanese schools and the 5-6 years I needed to read comfortably in English and French. I have no idea what to expect, there seems to be a lot of conflicting information online in terms of how difficult it actually is to learn Japanese.

I'm also curious about the "mind voice" aspect of reading and how it works in this language. In English, for example, when you encounter a word that you know the meaning of but you're not sure about the pronunciation, your "mind voice" will make some kind of subconscious guess about how the word is pronounced. When you're a beginner, this is something you want to avoid because it's almost always wrong. I tried some texts on LingQ and after a while I noticed that there are words that I recognize and understand without furigana but in the case of Japanese there's no hint for your "mind voice" to even try to pronounce the word so it just goes silent. Do you hear a voice in your head when reading kanji-heavy Japanese?
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Re: Does it make any sense to focus on written Japanese first?

Postby tungemål » Fri Jul 10, 2020 5:21 pm

I really think Japanese is a special case regarding reading. I find that for some words it is easier to remember the meaning, but hard to remember how to pronounce it. For other words I can easily read the pronunciation, but it is hard to remember the meaning. But the former happens more often.

It seems to me there are 4 categories of Japanese words. Most words use two characters:
1 - old chinese loanwords, where the meaning is easy to remember when you know what each kanji means because you can see the logic
2 - old chinese loanwords, where the meaning is opaque or impossible to understand from the kanji, because the logic behind has been lost in thousands of years of linguistic development.
3 - old japanese words where the kanji is used because of its meaning (usually one kanji, but can be two)
4 - words where the kanji were chosen because of the phonetic value and the meaning of the kanji is irrelevant

So a large part of the Japanese vocabulary is written with kanji where the semantic meaning of the characters is the most important attribute, more so than in Chinese. Because of this, the system for how a character should be pronounced is almost hopelessly complex, and often seems to be arbitrary (to the learner). To emphasize meaning over pronunciation was obviously a historic mistake when the Chinese characters were imported and the Japanese writing system developed, but it was inevitable considering the prestige of the Chinese literary tradition.
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Re: Does it make any sense to focus on written Japanese first?

Postby Dragon27 » Fri Jul 10, 2020 7:17 pm

ryanheise wrote:I admit may sound strange to not care about the spoken language, but different people do have different language goals.

Yeah, I thought about this, but I noticed that the author of the thread didn't just want to forgo the aural aspect of the language altogether. The author wanted to
to ignore the spoken language for a while

It's okay to ignore something for a while, of course, but it's definitely not okay to create such a large gap (learn to read novels first), if one clearly wants to develop some listening (at least, maybe even speaking afterwards) skills.

ryanheise wrote:I think it's an interesting question as to whether this will hinder any later attempt to learn how to speak. Personally, I don't think it would hinder you at all. Knowing the Kanji first before learning the spoken language would be a bit like a Chinese person picking up Japanese, already having a head start on the writing system, and just having to pick up the pronunciation.

It's not the same. A Chinese person learns an entire new language. It's more like somebody who knows some kind of heavily nonstandard (phonetic-wise) dialect of Japanese intending to correct their deeply ingrained habits and develop the standard pronunciation. I won't say it's impossible, but it's definitely much more difficult than developing the proper phonetic habits from the beginning. So I don't agree with the assessment that it won't "hinder you at all".

ryanheise wrote:I think the original post raises an interesting point about whether speech really is the essence of language when it is not necessarily true for deaf people. What is a deaf person hearing or subvocalising when they read Kanji? Can you argue that a native Japanese deaf person who can read fluently did not really learn the true Japanese language because the essence of the language is speech? It's a very thought provoking question.

Deaf people usually have a different native language - a local sign language (which has nothing to do with the ambient spoken language structurally or otherwise). It probably interacts in some way (what they think about, imagining signs, probably) with the ambient "mainstream" language that they learn to read in written form and some even read through the movement of the lips. Human is an extremely adaptable creature.
But I don't think that a person who is not deaf (I assume that TS isn't) should purposefully avoid this extremely important aspect of the language for the reasons that were stated in the starting post.
Last edited by Dragon27 on Mon Jul 13, 2020 7:02 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Does it make any sense to focus on written Japanese first?

Postby gsbod » Fri Jul 10, 2020 7:24 pm

Firstly, I think your estimate of 10-20 years is a bit too pessimistic. With consistent effort, I'm sure you can get there in 5-6 years. With intense effort, you could get there even quicker.

If your goal is to read novels, it definitely makes sense to focus on written Japanese from the outset, however don't expect any real shortcuts. For somebody with no background in an east Asian language like Chinese or Korean, the biggest barrier is vocabulary. Kanji is really just a subset of the bigger vocabulary problem. A big, time consuming subset.

If the RTK method appeals to you, there's no harm in trying it, but you need to be realistic about what you'll get at the end of it - you'll basically be able to recall an English "meaning" that has been allocated to the kanji as part of the method. This may or may not help you understand the meaning of kanji-based vocabulary when you encounter them in texts, depending on the word. I can imagine it may be a similar feeling to a monolingual English speaker reading a French text. You will be able to recognise some words and you will think you know what they mean. In many cases, but with some significant exceptions, you will be broadly correct. You will have no idea how to pronounce them correctly. There will be lots of other words in the text that you have no idea what they mean at all, including lots of important words used to structure the text. This will give you a head start over, say, a monolingual Japanese speaker, but you'll still need to put the work in to learn how to read French properly. The difference is that an English speaker gets this head start in French for free, but with RTK you need to invest the time. Whether it's worth that investment, or whether you'd be better off learning kanji and vocabulary together, at the same time, is up to you.

For what it's worth, I tried a few times with RTK but couldn't get into it. And then I realised that, having learned the first couple of hundred kanji in a fairly structured way using Basic Kanji Book, I could learn vocabulary and kanji together without any mnemonic tricks as long as I reviewed regularly using flashcards. But everyone's brain works slightly differently.
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Re: Does it make any sense to focus on written Japanese first?

Postby devilyoudont » Sat Jul 11, 2020 12:55 am

ryanheise wrote:I think the original post raises an interesting point about whether speech really is the essence of language when it is not necessarily true for deaf people. What is a deaf person hearing or subvocalising when they read Kanji? Can you argue that a native Japanese deaf person who can read fluently did not really learn the true Japanese language because the essence of the language is speech? It's a very thought provoking question.


Deaf people learn to read as a second langauge. It make interest you to know that the internal voice of deaf people is often described as the feeling of making signs, and that studies of the deaf show something similar to subvocalization with their hands (hand movement while thinking of reading at times, rather than mouth/throat movement).
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Re: Does it make any sense to focus on written Japanese first?

Postby Xenops » Sat Jul 11, 2020 2:48 am

I've come across a few people online that swear by learning the kanji from the very first. For me, I finished the first Genki book before I decided to focus on learning the radicals and the kanji. It's only recently with my more serious efforts to learning kanji do I feel like I'm progressing in the language. A couple of weeks ago I could read a Japanese model's Instagram post and her fan comments, and I understood them--not because I finished the Genki I book, but because I had just learned the kanji for blue and dress.

My approach, essentially, in this blog post: https://www.tofugu.com/japanese/kanji-learning-mistakes/
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Re: Does it make any sense to focus on written Japanese first?

Postby ninuno » Sat Jul 11, 2020 1:39 pm

Image


You can try read some manga that catering to a younger audience . They have both kanji and kana .
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Re: Does it make any sense to focus on written Japanese first?

Postby lichtrausch » Sat Jul 11, 2020 11:31 pm

Matt vs Japan recently had a video related to this topic.

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Re: Does it make any sense to focus on written Japanese first?

Postby Kamlari » Mon Jul 13, 2020 1:51 pm

Ah. It just occurred to me.
Anyone who would like to learn Japanese without sweating too much, might want to try this site. It's free, run by Japanese people.
A sample.

アリとキリギリス
Image
https://i.postimg.cc/gjT7HTPg/image.jpg
Many texts are recorded in Japanese and translated into English.
Japanese texts: normal (kanji + kana) and spaced kana only.
Have a look. And don't forget that you have ears too. (If you're deaf - bad luck.)

http://hukumusume.com/douwa/pc/aesop/03/31.htm
http://hukumusume.com/douwa/English/aes ... 1_j&E.html
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There are no Rule(r)s.
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