A couple weeks ago I began studying Japanese.  I’m not sure why I suddenly got the motivation… I mean, I can point to reasons why I think it would be cool/useful to know, but there’s nothing particularly new.  In part I think it was because I was speaking with a friend on Facebook about it and he just sort of suggested “well why not learn it then?”, and I guess my thought was… “yeah… why not?”  And so I set about doing so.

My friend got me started a little bit and then I sought out some iphone apps to help in the process.  So fair I’ve been using Mirai Japanese and iStart Kana (which is also made by Mirai).  I feel like they’ve been pretty helpful thus far.

My only experience with other languages prior to this was a tiny bit of French (I switched schools and the school I switched to did not have a French class, so, I did not continue), and then Spanish.  Both of those languages use roman letters, so there is nothing new to learn in that regard, and it’s just vocabulary and grammar.  With Japanese, one must learn 2 syllaberies, hiragana (ひらがな) and katakana (カタカナ) and then also kanji (chinese characters), which I haven’t even really started on yet.  I can recognize a handful…  the main one being Japan (日本).  Kanji is rather intimidating as there are literally thousands of them… so I’m waiting until I have the kana down before I really make an effort to start learning it.

Since I started I have to say I have found it extremely interesting, if confusing.  Looking at a completely different language and thinking that to someone else your language is the strange foreign thing that is confusing and doesn’t make any sense is sort of fascinating.  It’s really sort of bizarre that these sounds and symbols are sort of intrinsically understood by us…  and in our native tongue, without us even thinking about it.

It’s also interesting to see the reasons why Japanese speakers have the accents they do when speaking english.  One of the things that I found interesting early on is that there is no tone change when asking a question in Japanese.  In english, consider the difference in how you would say “Follow me.” (a command) vs. “Follow me?” a question.  Japanese uses the question marker か to indicate a question… if I am speaking it to myself (I wouldn’t try to speak it to anyone else at this point.. haha) and I know I am asking a question, I find it very hard to NOT use the rising tone.  I don’t know if that changes the meaning at all in Japanese, but I know it’s not used to indicate that you’re asking a question.

Anyway, I don’t know how long it will take before I’m able to actually read or speak anything of use in Japanese, but for now I’m happy with the progress I’m making on learning hiragana.  I actually recognize most of the characters now.  Considering when I first looked at it I wasn’t convinced my brain would be able to remember any of them…  that gives me hope that I might actually be able to learn the rest of this stuff yet!