I am a strong believer that, if you are going to learn Japanese, you should dive into learning Kanji from the very beginning. (Reading, them, I mean. If you want to dive into learning how to write them from the beginning, more power to you, but that’s not what I’m talking about.)
The idea is that you want to be able to read, and that means knowing the Kanji. (And, yes, furigana and very nice in that they make your life easier, but they are also a crutch that you should get away from when you can.)
The great thing about reading is that you get hit with Kanji, grammar, vocabulary, set phrases…it’s a veritable wonderland of Japanese goodness.
The hardest thing is finding stuff to read that is at your level. If you are a beginner, there are graded readers out there for you. If you are advanced, just pick up any newspaper or novel. But, what if you are in between?
Sorry, I don’t know. That’s the struggle I’m having right now. Where can I find interesting stuff that is at the right level for me?
Mostly, I can’t.
Still, I am crawling my way through my first Japanese novel.
Don’t be fooled by the fact that is looks like it is for kids. This book is full of wordplay, puns and very poetic descriptions.
A kind Japanese friend in Tokyo that I speak with each week (hooray for Skype) went out and purchased a copy of the book for himself so that, when I have troubles, I could just tell him the page number and he could look at it for himself. After reading one paragraph, he said, “Sometimes when Japanese people write books, they choose Kanji because they like how they look on the page, but they don’t always make normal words.”
Oh, boy. The word in question was 平池林 which apparently means something like “a flat forest”. I suppose it could mean “a forest on a piece of flat land”?…maybe?
Anyway, this has sent me back to the DVD to watch the movie again. It is a movie I know well, but I am watching it in Japanese with know subtitles but with “pause” and “rewind” handy so I can listen and listen again to what people are saying. Boy, do they speak fast sometimes!
So, the end result of all this is that I have something which is fun and interesting but somewhat beyond my level to read, but I’m reading it anyway with some kind help from others, and it feels really good to be able to do that. I have already picked the next book, which is getting waaaaaay ahead of myself, since it is going to take me awhile to finish this one.
So, if you’re reading this, chime in and list a Japanese language accomplishment that you have reached or are moving toward. Anything from “I have learned the daily use Kanji” to “I have passed the JLPT N1” or “I learned all the hiragana”. Big or small, share one.