Everything is Oll Korrect!

An eclectic bibliophile's journal…

Tag: Japanese

Maynguh Memories of Japanese Japanese Comics

clampSo, say you’ve started taking Japanese classes. What do you want to do, especially if you’re a bibliophile like me? Start reading, right? Novels and poetry are pretty tough, though, so you go to the next best thing – comics, which you’ve just discovered are not mayn-guhs but manga. I mean, hey, they’ve got pictures and stuff to help you out, so they’ll be easy, right?

I won’t say “wrong,” but they’re not really “easy,” either. Unsurprisingly, I suppose, it depends on which series you have the fortune (or misfortune) of picking out. My experience with Japanese comics in the original language started inauspiciously with the first two volumes of CLAMP’s X, which I found at a Half Price Books. It may as well have been printed in Mandalay, for all I could get out of it; a few years later I got an English edition, which only improved matters slightly but did show me that the density is not a bug but a feature, so I needn’t feel too bad about getting totally lost in the Japanese volume.

As a general point, though, already knowing the story does help immensely in following these comics. I fared much better with another CLAMP series, Cardcaptor Sakura, which I’d read in English not too long before. Being written at a generally lower level helps, too.…

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Analects of an Autodidact

Don’t you hate it when a blogger introduces a post by apologising for only being able to write up something short and quick, because he’s been busy with school?

*ahem*

Well, anyway, vocational training aside, it’s been an exciting week for me, because I’m in the home stretch of Sandberg and Tatham’s French for Reading, which I’ve mentioned before. All the main lessons are finished, I just need to get through a final section of reading passages, which I’ll probably finish this week. After that, I’ll start taking my newly-gained ability into the wild, starting off slow with Le Petit Prince, then parallel-text editions of Charles Baudelaire and Arthur Rimbaud, all of which I already own. Once I’m reasonably confident, I’ll order Les Miserables.…

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Travails of a Language Autodidact

A couple months ago, I put my Japanese study on hiatus and bought a copy of French for Reading, by Carl Sandburg and Edison Tatham. I did so partly because four years of studying Japanese started beating me down. Though I’d made several strides with James Heisig’s book Remembering the Kanji, my progress with that slowed to a crawl. So, I decided to move to a textbook that could be completed relatively quickly, but still give me something to show for my efforts at the end.…

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On Learning Japanese

If any doubted it, let me clarify: learning a foreign language is a pain. Yet, I consider having a working knowledge of a second language essential for an educated person. So, for the last few years I’ve been attempting to learn Japanese.

Luckily, I was able to take two years of it at my university (one of the few educational benefits my school provided), so I do have a good feel for basic grammar and vocabulary. After graduation, though, I came upon the problem of expanding on and maintaining what I’ve learned. As anyone who’s taken a foreign language class knows, language is very much a ‘Use it or lose it’ proposition. Even over the course of summer break after year one, I lost enough that my reaction to seeing the next semester’s review was something like ‘It’s bloody Chinese!’

Anyway, half the endeavour depends on continuing to review daily. I’ve done pretty well with that. However, my learning has been haphazard at best. Mainly, I’ve just tried to read whatever I can get my hands on, often from YesAsia.com or whatever random volumes happen to turn up at Half Price Books (like volume eight of Death Note, and volumes eleven and seventeen of Oh, My Goddess!). Yotsubato! is written at about my level, which makes me very happy. I can read Japanese better now than a year ago, but obviously that approach is generally slow and, again, haphazard.

So, for the sake of adding some kind of structure to my study, I bought a copy of James Heisig’s oft-recommended Remembering the Kanji. Mr. Heisig’s unique approach to learning kanji, the bane of every Japanese language student’s existence, involves focusing just on how to write the characters and remembering a single keyword meaning for the first two thousand or so kanji, then remembering complex kanji by creating mnemonic stories based on the simpler components many caracters are composed of. It sounds a bit gimmicky, but so far has worked very well for me (I’ve done the first 550 or so characters), especially coupled with the flash card programme Anki and the new official RtK iPhone app.

So, onward I go. Someday, someday, I’ll be able to read serious business Japanese literature. It’s a goal, at least.…

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