The concept of learning to read (or speak) Japanese is daunting for most people. The idea intimidated me as well, however I live for challenges; the idea of conquering this gets my heart racing. In the short amount of time I’ve been learning Japanese I have made some interesting observations I want to share.
The Japanese (日本語,) use an idiographic writing system which deters many from learning the language. There are three different writing systems to learn, Hiragana (ひらがな, 平仮名), Katakana (カタカナ, 片仮名) and Kanji (漢字). This could seem daunting to someone only familiar with the Roman alphabet. Each different漢字 (see above) represents a different idea or concept.
However, reading from symbols and pictures isn’t a foreign concept. It’s something that we do every day. Take a look at these symbols.
I would bet my last piece of sushi (I really like sushi) you recognise at least four of these symbols. Not only can you recognise them, you can extract meaning from them. How did you learn to read these symbols? Learning to read Japanese (or any script) isn’t much different.
Did you know there are more than 160 different road signs? How many more different symbols do you recognise? Think about how much symbolism is around us every day including shops, clothing brands, icons on your computer, website logos and so much more! It’s clear that we all have an innate ability to recognise symbols.
My mind-set is this:
Sure, it’s going to take effort and dedication. What doesn’t?
Do you remember what it was like when you first learnt to read? The struggle? The frustration? If you’re going to learn to read ANY foreign language then you’re going to have to go through this again. You did it once so you can do it again. Don’t tell yourself you can’t do it. Tell yourself you don’t want to do it. Be honest with yourself.
I’ve started out by learning to read Hiragana and Katakana.
The green ticks indicate the symbols I’ve mastered at this point. I’ve covered a whole lot more however, I’m not confidant enough to say that ‘know’ them. Knowing something to me is being able to recognize and reproduce it from memory. I can recognize all of these symbols but reproducing from memory is what I’m working on at the moment. I’ll keep you updated with my progress and I’ll write a post detailing the method I’m using to remember all of these symbols.