Is Japanese hard to learn?

Started by pianohombre, February 03, 2021, 03:10:46 PM

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pianohombre

Thanks for your response. Actually years ago I followed a project that translated Hideo Kojima's Policenauts from Japanese to English. If you don't know the story, he released Snatchers for Sega CD, but Policenauts (Snatchers 2) was never released outside of Japan. So with nearly a 10 year long process they translated the audio and text of the game, even shunning donations. I bought the Japanese disk, patched it and it was a pretty good game.

I recently completed my first translation of a rom, with the help of someone else. A soccer game called Captain Tsubasa 3. It was originally only released in Japan, but later ported to Spanish and other regions/languages. I think I'll stick to translating games from Indo-European tongues like Spanish or French before jumping into deep Kanji.
"Programming in itself is beauty,
whether or not the operating system actually functions." - Linus Torvalds

spotanjo3

Quote from: pianohombre on March 17, 2021, 09:14:39 PM
Thanks for your response. Actually years ago I followed a project that translated Hideo Kojima's Policenauts from Japanese to English. If you don't know the story, he released Snatchers for Sega CD, but Policenauts (Snatchers 2) was never released outside of Japan. So with nearly a 10 year long process they translated the audio and text of the game, even shunning donations. I bought the Japanese disk, patched it and it was a pretty good game.

I recently completed my first translation of a rom, with the help of someone else. A soccer game called Captain Tsubasa 3. It was originally only released in Japan, but later ported to Spanish and other regions/languages. I think I'll stick to translating games from Indo-European tongues like Spanish or French before jumping into deep Kanji.

What about Portuguese (Portugal) ?

ThroughT1m3

#22
it depends. I would say it is more time-consuming than anything. Look up JapaneseAmmo on youtube. Misa is an amazing teacher. She doesn't teach the "anime" Japanese you cringingly hear westerners speak a lot. she teaches it the right way. I should also mention the formalities may get a bit confusing
"Keep dodging lights, like a thief in the night. The sun will rise and expose all our lies. So why deny that you and I lead different lives? The rivers from your eyes can't change my mind"

pianohombre

I have tried to learn Chinese and it's pretty nuts so I don't think I'll attempt Japanese anytime soon. Although, with all the media (videogames, anime, manga) seems pretty fun to learn.
"Programming in itself is beauty,
whether or not the operating system actually functions." - Linus Torvalds

ThroughT1m3

Quote from: pianohombre on March 24, 2022, 06:20:52 PM
I have tried to learn Chinese and it's pretty nuts so I don't think I'll attempt Japanese anytime soon. Although, with all the media (videogames, anime, manga) seems pretty fun to learn.
yea that is one of the main reasons i wanted to learn it. to play imported games and know what the text means. anime also
"Keep dodging lights, like a thief in the night. The sun will rise and expose all our lies. So why deny that you and I lead different lives? The rivers from your eyes can't change my mind"

BlazeHeatnix

I took three semesters of Japanese in college. I passed with a pity grade and didn't retain a lick of information. I was struggling with Hiragana even late into my education. I was legitimately ashamed and embarrassed.

When you're really little, it's easy to learn things like an entire alphabet. You retain that information. But as adults, our brains are hardwired to think we already have everything we need. Learning a second language is just not something I've ever been able to do, even in high school I couldn't wrap my head around Spanish. But Japanese is leagues beyond Spanish in terms of difficulty.

pianohombre

@Blazeheatnix

Yeah, actually one of the reasons I learned Chinese is because I was able to learn Spanish so easily and wanted a good challenge. But in all honesty my Spanish isn't too good. I can't do much beyond basic conversations, but I was able to pass a college level Spanish class even though I took a separate foreign language in high school.

I have a lot of Chinese learning materials, and even just picked up a beginner book on Arabic, but there isn't as many opportunities to use Chinese as Spanish so it's harder to get practice. I can literally go to a Spanish restaurant, bar, or grocery store but there isn't an equivalent in Chinese. And relationships are hard to build with foreigners via social media like Facebook. You're better off just going to chatrooms or watching the news.
"Programming in itself is beauty,
whether or not the operating system actually functions." - Linus Torvalds

yugisokubodai

If you can learn any assembly language, then Japanese is nothing to you.

FAST6191

Quote from: yugisokubodai on May 13, 2022, 10:28:55 PM
If you can learn any assembly language, then Japanese is nothing to you.

That may depend how your mind is wired and path you take to learn assembly.

I came to the world of assembly with a fairly heavy electronics background and process chart/flow chart maps reasonably well to most machine logic, especially once it clicks that complicated high level operations are not actually that bad ( https://stuff.pypt.lt/ggt80x86a/asm1.htm covering a hashing function being that even if https://www.plantation-productions.com/Webster/ is where I usually point people). Indeed I often do point people at digital logic as a first thing to learn in programming having now seen many ultimately good coders (not even just the "I heard IT makes the big monies" types) struggle with the what would appear seriously arcane and arbitrary choices that something like C or Java appears to go in for.

I would also say you can pick up assembly almost by osmosis (might have to look up certain instructions a few times*, then you find you know them, plus the whole most instructions are frivolous and it is only a core handful that do most of the work whether you are on 6502 or modern X64 supercluster), or at least can make useful observations and alterations in very short order. Japanese on the other hand unless you are some super savant you are going to be months before you can make a dent in a game for 5 year olds.

Learning Japanese on the other hand (something I have been doing in some ways for longer than I have been formally ROM hacking, albeit with far less effort) has been a slog and I am otherwise usually not bad at languages (even ones not using the Roman alphabet, which is another struggle for those learning Japanese if they are going to call ィ ヨ し エ 合 the t, backwards E, l , I and rectangle with a hat looking things for the longest time.

*plus nobody cares if you can sight read assembly as much; if you tell me what a line of code does, and indeed figure out that it is that line of code we care about for this project, and thus are able to subvert it to make the hack then I don't much care if it took you 3 hours what the https://prog.world/the-story-of-mel-a-real-programmer/ / https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sB1lRnZVv30 ain't got nothing on me types around here might be able to do in real time from memory reading a static disassembly and offer optimisations/correction on. Take 3 hours to read a kana using paragraph and we are going to have trouble/you are going to get disheartened in short order.

dshadoff

Re: "Is Japanese hard to learn?"

...it depends on your definitions of "Japanese", "hard", and "learn"...


If by "Japanese", you mean:
- If you want to be able to have light conversation, answer waiters at restaurants, and find bathrooms... it won't take years of a huge amount of effort.
- Reading and writing, with a full set of jouyou kanji, and a N1 vocabulary, this will probably take years.
- However, if you are also talking about the historical pre-genbun-icchi texts which are handwritten and represent the kanbun style of writing... good luck.  That's hard for Japanese people.

If by "hard" you mean:
a) More than a one-year entry-level course is needed to speak with your doctor or read legal texts, then it is hard
b) learning just from a textbook can't get you to communicate, then it still probably is
c) having casual conversations with friends can't be learned even while living in Japan... well then it isn't that hard

If by "learn" you mean:
a) being able to break down a sentence into its constituent parts, then it's not so hard
b) being able to construct complex sentences without a thought after a one-year course, then it is fairly hard
c) understanding the historical and geographic influences which brought modern Japanese to its current point, including regional accents and slang terms across generations, then it's pretty hard, because that's a big subject.


Learning any language goes through various stages where fluency and depth of knowledge are separate goals, each of which is difficult to achieve, but achieving both together is very hard.

Japanese makes it more difficult (for an English speaker) because there is less vocabulary overlap (must be re-learned), a reverse-sequence grammar, and cultural references which must be learned from basically nil.  Starting from Chinese, there is a.. say.. 30-50% head start though, because of shared kanji/vocabulary, and some shared literary/historical references.


But basically, if you plan to learn a language from zero, it all depends on how far you plan to go, but plan on counting in years before you aren't consciously thinking about how to construct your sentence.  (I know a few native English speakers who aren't as good at English as they would like to be in Japanese...)
Of course, motivation/desire, and time/effort applied to the task will help reduce this, but actual interactive contact with speakers of the language will be necessary.

pianohombre

Japan is a big country with over 100 million people, but of course China has 1 billion people there. I was recently translating a Chinese poem about the Chinese moon Goddess that was very beautiful. It was Traditional Chinese. I translated it to Simplified Chinese from the Tsung dynasty.
"Programming in itself is beauty,
whether or not the operating system actually functions." - Linus Torvalds

nodavidcage

 Japanese, *as a monolingual English speaker* does seem to be a very different language from English:  Its character seem to have much finer details than English letters; its grammar and sentence structure are different; it has certain noises that are not heard in English--English speakers are not familiar with the ryuul just as Japanese speakers have troubles with Rs and Ls.  A language with so many differences and subtleties is sure to be very difficult to learn, and if you really want to speak to Japanese guys and fully understand their media you will have to learn about colloquialisms, figurative usage and other complex facets that most native Japanese speakers will assume are standard.

jomteon

Here's some thoughts from a guy who lived in Japan for many years (and would still be there if covid didn't happen), and has also studied a few other languages.

Japanese is a lot less difficult than some people make it out to be, but it's still quite a challenge. However, since you already know some Mandarin, you're well on your way. As others have said, there's four scripts: romaji, hiragana, katakana, and kanji.

Romaji: Congrats, you already know it. It's just the alphabet.

Hiragana: This is a piece of cake. A week of practicing and you'll have it down flat. Plus you'll see it so much you'll never be able to forget it. (Honestly, the only people I've seen who struggle with hiragana are the ones who didn't really practice it).

Katakana: Mostly the same as hiragana with a handful of exceptions (think, like, the difference between upper and lower case letters). There's 5 challenging characters to remember (ノンソシツ), but if you are actually studying Japanese daily and reading regularly you'll naturally pick it up.

Kanji: The vast majority of kanji are literally characters taken from China. They usually have the same (or very close to the same) meaning, design, and, oftentimes, even very similar pronunciation. There are some Japan-only kanji, but not terribly many. If you got comfortable with Chinese hanzi, you'll be fine with kanji. Plus, I always say that the more you learn the easier it gets. The kanji are all connected. There's phonetic and semantic components in them so that once you have ~1000 kanji under your belt you'll be able to start guessing the meanings and pronunciations of new characters you come across.

The hardest part of learning Japanese vocabulary would be the fact that, unlike Mandarin, there are many different ways to pronounce most kanji (onyomi/kunyomi/etc).

As a plus, there's a ton of loanwords from English.

The grammar is strange, but simple and consistent. This makes it both very easy and very difficult. I would say grammar is the hardest part for me.

Honestly, I've spent time with a few languages, and none have been as rewarding as Japanese. I highly recommend it.

Also, I agree with others that the app Anki is the way to go. Pair that with Genki I & II to start, then Tobira. I recommend studying Kanji on their own (lots of controversy around that idea, but it's my hill and I'm defending it)--Kodansha Kanji Learner's Course is best for this, imo. Once you finish those text books, dive into games, manga, anime, dramas, film, literature, sake, carpentry, history, youtube, twitch--whatever!

One thing to note: Language study is made up of reading, writing, listening, and speaking. Figure out what's important to you and focus on that first. Either focus on reading, or on listening/speaking. You'll improve a lot faster that way. Once you nail one aspect, the other parts will be easier to fill in. Trying to do it all at once (like you would in a college course) is a recipe for slow improvement.

Find the stuff that excites you about Japan, and then be consistent in engaging with Japanese. You'll pick it up in no time. 2 years of serious study should get you to a pretty good area (in whichever of reading or speaking your chose). Not native-level-fluent, but you could be translating, or working in a business environment after that time.

pianohombre

#33
Apologies. My previous post was inappropriate so I deleted it. Actually, I have been studying Chinese formally for over 5 years and I even had a tutor briefly, but I still haven't even got close to mastering it. It's extremely difficult for a Westerner to learn outside university major.

Anyways, I picked up a Japanese book from the library and have been studying on and off. It's pretty nuts but I think a few characters are same in Chinese and Japanese. I have no girlfriend and no job so may as well lol.

"Programming in itself is beauty,
whether or not the operating system actually functions." - Linus Torvalds