Learning Japanese the Baka Way


I am ashamed to report that so far, my New Year's Resolution has been a complete and utter failure: I haven't read any yaoi. I'm afraid this year is going to be just like all the others, and I'll neglect my important resolution to instead accomplish some silly, pointless little goal. While I pathetically try to become woman enough to break into the world of lavishly illustrated bishounen shenanigans, I think I'll learn to read some Japanese. At least that way I'll accomplish something this year.

Besides, unlike in that movie Julie and Julia, setting a goal and then blogging about my experiences on the internet does not require me to throw several live lobsters into a vat of boiling water- well, unless of course that ends up being a good mnemonic for something.

Hit the jump for more reverse-psychology and my daring, i.e. stupid, plan to turn my brain into a moonspeak processor.

A better look at my cheering section

A better look at my cheering section: Sakura, Sailor Venus, Badtz-Maru, Mr. Destructoid. and Cheer Bear. Cheer Bear is only a place-holder until I get myself a Grumpy Bear, by the way. Now I know what you're thinking: where is Usagi? There was no room left; in these times, sometimes we must make tough decisions.

Like many otaku, I've been meaning to learn Japanese for a long time, and have even been making some attempt to study it on a regular basis, but it's always been way at the bottom of my to-do list. It suddenly hit me the other day, while thinking about how awesome our translators are here at Japanator (and by the way, thanks again guys), that I currently have more incentive to take the plunge than I ever have before. Being able to read Japanese would make me better equipped for both work and leisure; it would greatly benefit me in virtually every area of my life.

Before I detail the forthcoming multi-disciplinary assault on my senses, I should point out that I did actually take a minor in Japanese. I only took it for two years and never could read more than a few hundred kanji, but between several college classes and many years of Otaku-ism, I'm far from a beginner. On the plus side, this makes this whole exercise seem much less ridiculous; on the minus, this makes it harder for you to follow along at home if you're starting from scratch- if you too would like to learn Japanese the Baka Way! However, regardless of where you are in your language study, I hope that reporting on my experiences with different books, software, and studying techniques will be useful; that's really the point of this whole exercise.

That, and to create a situation where I'll feel really bad if I fail, which just goes to show that only in the quest to become more erudite can one commit astounding, truly breathtaking feats of stupidity.

The Goal:

The awesome Tuttle Kanji Cards

Tuttle Kanji Cards, recommended by everyone under the sun. I'm currently working on mastering the first box; the second one is just there for show.

Okay, it's time to be realistic for a moment: it is not my goal to master Japanese. That's an excellent long-term goal, and one I hope to graduate to some day, but it's too unrealistically ambitious even for a self-professed baka like me. It is also not my goal to learn to speak Japanese, per se. I have no immediate plans of going to Japan (boo), and while I will inevitably improve my vocabulary and grammar over time, learning to read and write is of much, much more immediate use to me. It's also something much easier to achieve through self-study.

Setting a specific number of Kanji to memorize seems both arbitrary and intimidating, so of course that's where I have to start. While it's tempting to set a goal of all 1,945 Jōyō Kanji for maximum absurdity, I would like to have the tiniest chance of actually succeeding, so the 1,006 Kyōiku Kanji it is. Maybe I'll move on to the Jōyō Kanji next year...not that this is a New Year's resolution or anything. My New Year's resolution is to read yaoi, remember?

Besides, all of this is clearly just an excuse for me to read all 14 volumes of Sailor Moon.

The Plan:

I KNEW I had a reason for buying these

I swear I'll find volume 7 one of these days. Perhaps in my closet? Under the bed?

In short, my plan is to combine my reasonably formidable powers of study with my ungodly powers of attention whoring, in order to accomplish what I never could back when I was trying not to be a bitch.

I plan to study Japanese every day, however that only means I have to be consistent- I know better than to expect hours of labor from myself every day. That's why my Daily Quest, or so I'm calling it, is to review my kanji flashcards; on most days I should be able to do more, but if I at least go over my flash cards consistently, I will have accomplished something. One of the nice things about memorizing kanji is that sometimes, the most important thing to do is just remember to keep sticking it in your face- out of sight, out of mind. Keeping up on reviewing requires a commitment, but it's not actually that challenging.

I plan to translate all 14 volumes of Sailor Moon, and when I say 'translate', I mean copying it over. I've actually tried translating it literally- writing down the English text right next to the Japanese- but then when I look back at what I've done, my eyes are immediately drawn to the English and it defeats the purpose. I'm going to copy it (although I plan to use mostly stick figures for the artwork- I'm not that big of a masochist), and write down commonly occurring words that I don't know. 14 volumes may seem like a lot, but I have a feeling that the translation will start going faster and faster once I've started to internalize some of the common SM vocabulary.

In addition, I want to make what's typically downtime for me into Japanese-time; lately the only games I play are dungeon crawlers that require hours of grinding, and they generally have boring music. I've loaded my MP3 player with Japanese lessons and short stories, and have started listening to it whenever I pick up a game. The effect is more subliminal than anything else, but every little bit helps. So far it's been working out quite well, but just a tip: Never listen to anything by Natsume Sōseki while trying to customize a weapon for killing the undead; it is better if you don't know why. If you would like to try this out for yourself, be my guest, but I warn you: this level of multi-tasking may in fact be indicative of a disease.

I love me some Flash Cards

I'm a sucker for all kinds of stationary, especially specialized flash cards like these. You can get these at Japanese bookstores like Kinokuniya, and some college bookstores.

Well, if I can survive my first week or two of Learning Japanese the Baka Way, I'll let you know all about my favorite textbooks, software, and other stuff that I spent a stupid amount of money on at some point because I thought it might help. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go play Etrian Odyssey while listening to a Fruits Basket Drama CD, and hope it doesn't do anything to my brain that wasn't already inevitable.

My sculpting could still use some work

This will be me after a few weeks of this; actually, I had this half-finished sculpture of Rydia from Final Fantasy IV on my desk when I was setting it up for Japanese, and just kept her on there for the hell of it. Actually, maybe I should take the fact that she is still headless as a reminder to finish my damn projects.

It's kawaii and it's MINE

Oh, and I would like to conclude this with the observation that I own this and you do not.

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Karen Mead
Karen MeadContributor   gamer profile

Hi, I'm a former newspaper journalist who got tired of having a front row seat to the death of print. There probably could be some interesting story there about a disenchanted reporter moving on ... more + disclosures



Filed under... #Japanator Original #learn japanese #top stories



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