Learning Japanese

Since Monday, I’ve been studying Hiragana, one of four Japanese writing systems. Justin is learning Japanese in school and has agreed to teach me. It’s a really interesting language that’s pretty different than everything else I’ve dabbled in. The exact origin of Japanese is unknown, it seems to have its roots in other East Asian languages like Korean, but may even draw from Turkish.

They seem to have adopted Chinese writing for their first written language, Kanji. Many of the pictograms are the same, but since the language is unique, they are spoken totally differently. There’s also romaji that uses the Latin alphabet to write Japanese as it sounds. Katakana is used for foreign words and sounds. Hiragana is the standard way to write out Japanese words if you want to spell out their sounds. Typically this is because there isn’t a Kanji for the word, or when the Kanji is unknown. From what I understand, Hiragana is the first system of writing that Japanese students learn and is the proper starting point for learning Japanese.

So far I’ve learned about 40 of the Hiragana symbols plus 25 accented versions of the symbols that change the sound. Most of the symbols represent a combination of a consonant plus a vowel like ka, gi, re, etc… and correspond with a syllable of a word. There are several combinations of the symbols that slightly change the sounds by running them together. I still need to learn those, but I’m doing pretty good for one week in.

Next up after this is Katakana, then who knows. Some Kanji and some grammar maybe? Not many people speak Japanese outside of Japan, so I probably won’t ever become proficient unless I move there (not likely). It’s just fun to learn as much of it as I can before I become bored. I’m already doing much better than I did with Russian and Mandarin, but not as well as I did with Esperanto or French (of course, French was for school so it’s hard to compare).

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