jstuffI just added some new items to my Nihongo library. Some Uniball .18 mm Signo pens, a Showa kanji/kana practise book and a kanji practise book. I should have added a headband for studying. Ganbatte!!!

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I am going to try something a little different: translation practise – Japanese into English. Lets look at the first line of this little card i picked up in a soba shop in Shibuya.

The kana in the first line is サ-ビス or saabisu and according to my trusty Kanji book the final kanji is ken, which means ticket.  Looking up the defintion of saabisu we get that it is “service”. since katakana is used for a lot of foreign loan words;  saabisu is the Japanese-ified pronunciation and spelling of the English word servie. “saabisu ken” literally means “service ticket”. Rocket science, this definitely is not.

Tomorrow lets tackle the next line down.

readkanjitodayI picked up Len Walsh’s Read Japanese Today in the bookstore on a whim one day. I loved his historical approach to learing kanji. He goes into the history of how each character was written in China and how it evolved to its current form. This really gives you a good way to remember each kanji. Not just a simple mnemonic but the history and evolution of the kanji which is rooted in the actual depiction so it helps you remember how to write it too.

japanesethemangawayI have been reading Japanese the Manga Way by Wayne Lammers recently. Lammers uses a wide variety of manga to illustrate the topics under discussion. He also uses the four line method of translation which I prefer.  The four line method is to give the kana/kanji original on the first line, then the romaji phonetics on the second line, then the direct english translation on the third, then the correct and proper english on the fourth line. The manga comics also supplement the topics very well; giving good examples to explain the topics at hand. It is hard for the typical westerner to grasp the politeness levels in Japanese (choices of words changes based on the relationship between the speaker and the listener which can imply a lot in terms of the story, understanding it is a must).

Let's Learn Hiragana

Let's Learn Hiragana

To learn Japanese you need to start at the beginning. For Japanese children the beginning is Hiragana. Equivalent to learning the ABC‘s, the symbols of the syllabary are the sounds which form words. As Chris at Nihongo Notes states:

Basically you build a solid foundation in a similar manner to how a child would learn a language. Once you have a solid foundation you can build upon it with fancy grammar and a larger vocabulary.

The best book I have found for simply learning the Hiragana syllabary is Let’s Learn Hiragana by Yaxsuko Mitamura. She goes through the syllabary in groups, practising each one and giving basic vocabulary using the kana as she goes. Simnple drills for writing each symbol and even goes into proper pen strokes  when writing.

I have been looking for a book that teaches the Hiragana set without treating the reader like a child. Hiragana is the first thing Japanese children learnin school and a lot of the materials available have that focus. I.e. they tend to be written for kindergardners. I want a book that eschews the cutesy pictures and just focuses on building the foundation of language. Yasuko’s book does that very nicely.