Well I’m not sure if anyone’s still reading but I felt like sending my Japanese-learning process out into the void of the Internet. I’m learning some in preparation for my trip to Japan next year.
So I have gone through Hiragana and Katakana (storing the latter one in the back of my mind, where it will be mostly neglected for now) and while I still need to look them up sometimes, it is coming along enough that I am getting my feet wet with some Kanji and grammar.
I think the most fascinating part of this language so far is how the approach is really entirely different than the languages I am used to. I didn’t really think too much about the symbols in Japanese but now that I am looking into it, I guess I didn’t quite expect to be faced with this difference.
So, with any European language, you basically have an alphabet and you build words out of that. More or less, even if you need to remember stupid and inconsistent rules, you can figure out how to pronounce the words.
Not in Japanese! Now, it is obvious that these symbols can’t convey the pronunciation but what I was unprepared for is that even the combination of symbols is not consistent. Take, for example, the Japanese word for adult, 大人. This word is comprised of two Kanji, the one for “big” and the one for “person”. Now, I already learned that person is pronounced hito, yet adult is pronounced otona.
German is frustrating because there are extraordinarily large words, which can be difficult for the novice to break down (see: Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz) but at least it is possible. With Japanese, every Kanji can have multiple readings, which means that you can’t reliably build worlds like in the other languages I know.
More concisely, the spoken word seems to be divorced from the written word. Of course, there are the already-mentioned other two alphabets, which, in fact, do allow you to spell words out phonetically but apparently that would lead to too many collisions (who cares – English has a million).
Anyway, it’s an adventure.