Monday, January 17, 2011

Japanese Alphabet not Syllabifies? and To-Do Lists

One of the first things that I noticed about Textfugu is that almost every page has a relevant picture and quote. I laughed so hard when Tofugu quoted himself "' Romaji is completely useless. Don't learn it because you already know it' - Koichi." Also, I love that he doesn't assume that we know anything about Japanese. Even if I already know some stuff about the language, it's still interesting to read and it's extremely helpful to people who know nothing about the it. :) The way koichi words things is also really amusing; even in his videos he says things in a straightforward way that always makes me laugh ( "Unfortunately, romaji is actually pure evil, so I won’t waste your time with it." ) Even if he is stretching the truth a little, it's kind of like racist jokes (according to Avenue Q), "we laugh because [it's] based on truth." lol :) I'm definitely not saying that racist jokes are a good thing (because they're not), but I think you get the point.


After the part about getting ready to study Japanese, Koichi gives an introduction to the four forms of writing in the Japanese language (Romaji, Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji) and explains when each is used.

Romaji: BLAH! basically he spends a whole page explaining how useless romaji is and how it only hurts progress in learning Japanese lol 

Hiragana: "curvy and lovable" lol hiragana is often described as being feminine, but saying the previously mentioned phrase might be a bit much. :) It's the most common way of writing in Japanese and helps with learning Japanese pronunciation properly from the start. It's commonly used to write difficult Kanji or words with no way of writing them in Kanji, particles and suffixes (like honorifics -chan, -san, -kun, etc), and something about adding context to adjectives and adverbs (changing time tense or negativity, etc).

Katakana: "boxy and rigid" It's true that Katakana looks more masculine, but it's not as if guys write this way and girls write in Hiragana (although they do have differences in the way they speak and which words they use). Katakana is usually used to write foreign or scientific words, comic book/manga sounds effects (onomatopoeia lol), words with emphasis (like italicizing in English), and foods (like on menus).

and lastly, Kanji: The most complicated way of writing Japanese. ugh. Basically, it's Chinese characters that the Japanese adopted and use it to write pretty much all "vocabulary" words.

He then gives us a little quiz to review what he discussed in the explanations. My answers are as follows:

1. Should I bother to learn romaji? NO
2. Which “alphabet” is used to write all the “vocabulary words?” Kanji
3. Where did kanji come from? China
4. Which “alphabet” do you use to write foreign words? Katakana
5. Which “alphabet” tends to be more “boxy shaped” and “rigid?” Katakana
6. Do Hiragana & Katakana consist of the same sounds? YES
7. Which “alphabets” are you going to learn on TextFugu? all of them (except romaji :P )

8. Which “alphabet” would you use to write the “Roma” in Romaji (Roma = Rome)? Kanji? lol

AH! the last one was supposed to be Katakana; I forgot that Rome is a foreign word adapted into Japanese. Overall, I did pretty well for my first real lesson; especially since I already knew practically all of it.  ROFL!! Okay so the next thing Koichi does is show this hilarious video on YouTube called "Mr. Ando of the Woods." Oh my gosh, SO FUNNY (and also slightly creepy :P ) He does so because, if the dialogue in the video was written in Japanese it would use some of each kind of writing (i.e. it uses honorifics on names, onomatopoeia, words from other languages, etc)


 I really appreciate that Koichi took the time to go through how to make a good and proper To-Do list too. Lists are a big thing to me; I love lists. Whenever it gets to To-Do lists, though, I always get too general and end up spending too much time trying to do each thing instead of doing a little of each thing and getting closer to finishing all of them. He recommends keeping the items on the list manageable/"actionable" and short-term. Making my really general things more specific will probably help me manage my time better and help me make more time for studying Japanese. :)


I've noticed that Koichi likes consistency; I say this because the first writing method he teaches is Hiragana, which is the same writing method he first explained. He starts off explaining the pronunciation of the five "magic characters" or something like that. The five characters, are said to be magical because the Hiragana characters have a pronunciation pattern. If you have ever read any Romaji, basically all vowels are pronounced the same way ... well not ALL, but all the a's (ka, ga, na, sa, ra, etc) have an "ah" sound and similarly, all the e's (ke, ge, ne, se, re, etc) have an "eh" sound.
あ → a (ah)
い → i (ee)
う → u (oo like who or you)
え → e (eh)
お → o (oh)
Since I already know all the Hiragana and how to pronounce them, I'm not really going to go into much detail beyond that, but the r's and l's are almost pronounced the same (almost like r + l + d sound) so it can be kind of confusing. Also, the character ふ can be pronounced as either fu or hu depending on the word. (n) is the only character that doesn't have any vowel sound (ah, eh, ee, oh, oo). Lastly, in words with double consonants, the character (not to be confused with goes before the consonant that needs to be doubled. For now I'm reviewing all of the Hiragana, and when I get through all of the Hiragana sections, I will post again. :)

Learning Japanese

okay, so I've actually been studying Japanese for ... a really long time by now, but I'm still not fluent. And my vocabulary and grammar are horrible; I barely know how to read or write too! I'm a huge fan of YouTube, though, and I've been watching videos by a guy called Tofugu (Koichi). His videos are basically for teaching/learning about the Japanese language and culture (in a funny and really interesting way :) ). Tofugu has this online textbook, Textfugu, that he made recently for people teaching themselves Japanese, and this past Christmas I asked my parents if they could order it for me. Unfortunately it was outside of their Christmas budget, but Tofugu put it on sale for the new years. And I got it! I'm so excited about finally learning Japanese formally, and I know that this resource is going to help me a lot. :) In the first season of his textbook, Koichi recommends setting something up to take notes on each lesson and record thoughts on what you learned, etc. Thus, I decided to start a blog. I'll probably end up using my blog for other things too eventually, but for now it's for taking notes on my language learning progress. :)


After we sign up, we can really begin season one, which starts with preparing to learn Japanese: creating a workspace, telling people what you're doing (so that you can be accountable), understanding why you do or don't want to learn Japanese, etc.

Concerning my workspace, he says to stay consistent with location and have it be somewhere that isn't cluttered. My room is usually pretty clean and I do have a desk (with a few figurines on it) so I will probably study there. Even with my online classes though, I do school where ever: living room, dinning room, kitchen, bedroom, bathroom lol ANYWHERE, but I'm going to try associating my desk with studying Japanese. :)

Reasons why I want to study Japanese: (so that I can ... )
- read signs and communicate when I go to Japan
- minister to any non-Christian Japanese speaking people that I meet
- understand the lyrics to Japanese songs that I like without looking them up on google (so that I don't listen to trash :C )
- achieve my dream of being able to fully understand  the Japanese language
- etc?

Excuses I might make to not study Japanese: (I ...)
- am too busy with school, work, friends, church, etc
- don't feel like working on it right now, I would rather goof off
- don't feel like I'm making any progress or learning anything new
- am not understanding what I'm trying to learn
- etc?

The first things I posted under the do and do not lists are definitely the biggest reasons/issues. To go to Japan has always been my dream, whether it's just a visit or moving to live there. Someday I WILL go to Japan, and when I do I want to be prepared to make the trip more enjoyable :) Understanding the language is a huge step in getting ready to go there.

As I'm trying to get an appointment into the Naval Academy for engineering, I am working extremely hard. I was at the top of my class at the private school I attended for 3 years and got accepted into the National Honor Society, but I quit going to school there because the classes were too easy and I wanted an educational challenge. This year I am taking online classes through a Christian homeschooling program called The Potter's School (<-- unintentional harry potter reference lol they teach astronomy and ancient runes through their program! for real!! xD  anyways ...). Although the classes are AP level, they aren't labeled as so on the transcript, which is not provided through the program, but it's possible to test for AP qualification. All the classes are extremely difficult and provide a lot of school work, more so than what I did at the private school which was harder than the public school I went to before that. Not to mention my sister might get married soon, some family members are having health problems, my family might move to Florida in the next year or so, etc. I also have a job starting in the spring time at an ice cream stand (ish). Winter and early spring is an especially busy time of year for me too with the Relay for Life, Fine Arts (a nation-wide Christian ministry arts competition), midterm exams, etc, so starting my Japanese studying now might present some time management problems.

The reason I said "etc?" on both of those lists is that I may add more to the lists above as things present themselves. I will try to avoid using any excuses to not study Japanese as much as possible, and try to study at least a little bit every day. :) Please wish me luck!