This month I’ve been studying Japanese for one year!
With absolutely no background or prior knowledge of the Japanese language I started learning. To me, the most logical first step was to learn some basic words and most of all: 平仮名 and 片仮名 (Hiragana and Katakana respectively), the basic phonetic script. Using the Nintendo DS has played a major role in all this using applications such as Project JDS (<- highly recommended) and My Japanese Coach to make a start. After learning 平仮名 and 片仮名 I worked on my vocabulary using Smart.FM and grammer skills using the book: Japanese for Busy People I: Romanized Version while making a start on 漢字(Kanji) via About.com.
So where are we now? Well, my trip to Japan helped a great deal in mastering basic vocabulary and grammer, no doubt about it. And it also taught me a basic understanding of Kanji. Being surrounded by a language and it’s characters gives one a feeling of “must understand this”. Added; Some Kanji make a whole lot of sense by themselves. For instance: The Kanji for train station looks like this: 駅. If magnified a bit one can clearly make out a train and its rails, some stairs and is that a bench perhaps? Here is the mentioned Kanji in a bigger form:
Can you see what I mean? On the right is the track with a train on it, and on the left are some stairs and what appears to be benches or maybe even an escalator. Of course this doesn’t mean that every kanji is decipherable by taking a good look and using a bit of imagination. Colors are a good example of this. Red: 赤 Blue: 青 Black: 黒White: 白. What shape is a color? This can only be learned by studying. My Japanese coach helps a little, so does Smart.FM, but I guess most of all About.com’s Joyo Kanji. (Joyo Kanji are the first 1006 Kanji taught in primary school.) Since it also teaches you the right stroke order plus the 音読み (onyomi) and 訓読み (kunyomi); The different readings of a Kanji.
But the biggest help so far has been these books I picked up in Japan. (Very cheaply, I might add!) As I now understand the meaning of pretty much every first grade Kanji. Next challenge: Getting the on- & kunyomi stuck in my head and learning a greater understanding of creating sentences.
Happy 2010 and happy studying everyone!