Learning a new language is always an exciting and daunting task; for me, Japanese was no exception. Although I do speak more than one language at a native level, I still knew that it would be a challenge to pick up a new language along with its writing system and grammatical structure. However, my love for Japanese culture, from the stunning landscapes to the unique cuisine and fascinating entertainment, pushed me to take on this challenge.
Post Trivia: I had to add a Japanese Keyboard to my Mac in order to write this post. I can now quickly switch between inputs using Ctrl+Space. 始めましょう (let's get started)
I was always intrigued by the language and how it was used in everyday life, from simple greetings to complex conversations. As someone who enjoyed watching Japanese anime and movies, I often wondered about the language and what it would be like to understand it better. I wanted to appreciate the nuances of the language and understand the culture on a deeper level. So, I decided to embark on a journey to learn Japanese and see where it would take me.
To start my journey, I chose to go with Duolingo. Duolingo is an innovative language-learning app that offers a fun and interactive way to learn a new language. I've been a Duolingo member for five years as of this writing, and it just seemed like an ideal starting place for me.
the journey to THE far EAST
Japanese is a language that uses three different writing systems: Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji. Hiragana and Katakana are phonetic alphabets that are used to write Japanese words. Kanji, on the other hand, is a set of Chinese characters that are used to write Japanese words. Kanji is the most difficult of the three writing systems to learn because it has thousands of characters, each with its own meaning and pronunciation.
On Duolingo, we start with Hiragana for the first few lessons and then move on to Katakana. The first unit introduces the primary Hiragana characters and their sounds. The lessons are short and easy to follow, with a mix of listening, reading, and writing exercises. There is the easy romanization of the Japanese words, which makes it easier to understand the pronunciation. Hovering over the words also provides a translation of the word in English, along with the pronunciation. This feature is beneficial for beginners who are just starting to learn the language.
THE FIRST WEEK
After completing some introductory units, I could read and write primary Hiragana characters. I was also able to understand simple phrases and greetings. I was excited to move on to the next unit, which introduced Katakana characters. Katakana is used to write foreign words and names, so it was interesting to learn how to write my name in Japanese. The lessons were similar to the Hiragana lessons, combining listening, reading, and writing exercises. I was able to learn the Katakana characters quickly and was able to read and write simple words and phrases.
Now that I had learned the two phonetic alphabets, I was ready to use simple Japanese phrases in everyday conversations. I was able to introduce myself and ask simple questions. I could also read and write simple words and phrases like "hello" and "goodbye."
Who's the cool guy now?
The next few weeks passed in great excitement, and I woke up thrilled to learn Japanese every day. Whenever I watched animes, I would pause and try to read the untranslated Japanese words and text which came up on the screen. I completed around 9 out of 90 units of Japanese on Duolingo in these 30 days, and I have to say, It is not easy, and indeed, Duolingo has outdone itself in laying out the course. I learned the basic grammar rules and vocabulary, which helped me understand simple sentences and conversations.
Also, the sentence structure of Japanese is very different from English. While English uses a subject-verb-object structure, Japanese uses a subject-object-verb structure. This means that the subject comes before the object, and the verb comes at the end of the sentence. Since I am a native Hindi speaker, I found this structure to be similar to Hindi, and Japanese was easier for me to follow through as compared to English speakers.
So far, I have learned how to introduce myself, ask simple questions, get to know people, tell time, count, describe my home and more. I have also gone through the setup of easy Japanese input on my Mac to flaunt some Japanese in this weblog.
WHAT DID I LEARN
Yes, the flaunting time! So, without further ado, here are some of the phrases and their meanings that I learned in the first 30 days of learning Japanese on Duolingo:
- はじめまして、中村といいます。 (Hajimemashite, Nakamura to iimasu.) - Nice to meet you; I am Nakamura.
- 私は大学生です。 (Watashi wa daigakusei desu.) - I am a college student.
- 田中さんは東京に住んでいますよね？ (Tanaka-san wa Tokyo ni sunde imasu yo ne?) - Tanaka-san lives in Tokyo, right?
- 今何時ですか？ (Ima nanji desu ka?) - What time is it now?
- 九時半ちょうどです。 (Kuji han chōdo desu.) - It is exactly 9:30.
- 私の両親は東京出身です。 (Watashi no ryōshin wa Tokyo shusshin desu.) - My parents are from Tokyo.
- 二十一歳です。 (Nijū issai desu.) - I am 21 years old.
- では、いただきます。 (Dewa, itadakimasu.) - Well then, let's eat.
THE PATH FORWARD
The path forward, huh? I am certainly excited to continue my journey with Japanese and see where it takes me. I am looking forward to learning more about the language till one day, I can watch anime without subtitles. Legend has it that no man has ever reached this impossible feat.
Until next time, またね (mata ne)!