Wednesday, June 30, 2004

So I have finally relearned the first Japanese alphabet, hiragana. It's the baby letters, basically, only man, there are a ton of them. 50, actually, pretty much double the English alphabet, and this is only the first set of symbols I need to learn. I now have to go on to learning katakana, the next set, which has just as many. What's most difficult about all this is the amazing capacity the symbols have of looking like one another. "Ne" and "re", at first glance are almost the same. Same thing with "so" and "ro". My favorite symbol is for "yu" though, because it is fun to draw, and it's just pretty. If I ever got a tattoo, I might just get the symbol for "yu", which is just a sound, of course, but I like the way it looks.

I have a college level Japanese textbook, and have been reading through the conversations in the book that are all printed out in hiragana on one side of the page, and in phonetics and english on the other side of the page. I cover the english side up and make myself stumble through the dialogue. Suddenly I start having these very primal memories of learning English, while I'm looking at a symbol and saying, "Mi", then the next, "chi", then "ko", Mi-chi-ko, Michiko. Okay, that word's done. Michiko then of course goes on to say something to Ms. Yamaguchi. Good, Chris. I've learned to identify Michiko's name by heart now. heheh. Sigh. I really do feel like a kid watching the Electric Company or Sesame Street, whichever one had the sessions where the two or three headed monster, I forget how many heads, would put together the syllables of a word, the syllables moving across the bottom of the screen, until they all met in the middle and the whole word was made. This is a horribly humbling exercise.

Oh well, on to Katakana now. I remember I learned it fairly quickly in high school, so I hope I do so again, since I leave in less than a month and a half. And of course, all I'm learning is recognition of the symbols so I can read signs etc. when I'm there. If I had to sit down and someone instructed me to draw a variety of the symbols, I probably would have a difficult time doing recall from the opposite direction. I'll have to practice that while I'm in Japan, most likely. For now I'll have to settle for recognition.

4 Comments:

Blogger Kristin said...

Luckily train signs, at least in Tokyo and other major cities, are also in romanji. I had a lot more trouble with buses and had to have someone write out my destination and start points so I could match up the kanji on the signs.

11:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

of all the 78374823974 people i know that teach/taught/will teach english in asian.
not one of them spoke the language at all.

so you'll be just fine, Trin! :)

11:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ne has a curly tail, like Nessie the Loch Ness Monster.

re has a straight tail, like a rrreopard.

nu looks like a bowl of noodles with a pair of chopsticks and an egg in it.

me looks just like nu, only, the egg seems to have gotten out and made a mess.

(I swear to God, this is what my 10th grade Japanese teacher taught me. But if I still remember it — dear God, sixteen years later? That's more than half my life! — it must be good for something.)

I don’t remember any tricks for so and ro, I’m afraid — but the difference between ro and ru is that ru has a ruby in the tail.

yu is cool. It looks like a fish.

So, how much longer before you go?

-- DM

6:05 PM  
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11:08 PM  

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