Over the weekend, I took my first steps to learning some basic Japanese in preparation for our big trip.
We both bought memberships to JapanesePod101, and I’m really liking it so far – clear layout, big variety of topics to pick from, and good video/audio resources.
Less approachable is Japanese itself. Most people probably don’t even thing about it, but most languages don’t treat all sounds equally. Japanese is a mora-timed language instead of a stress-timed one; each part of a word gets the same emphasis, and takes the same amount of time to say.
I posted on Facebook; “oh, it’s not that bad, I just have to re-learn HOW TO TALK!”. Just try saying words with clear emphasis (com-PU-ter, po-TAY-to) quickly and smoothly without emphasizing any of the syllables. Learning that karaoke is pronounced kahrowkey instead of kah-RE-oh-key is maybe the biggest system shock for many beginners!
One saving grace? Japanese has the fewest unique sounds of any language, so you don’t have to do too many tongue contortions.
Oh, and Japanese has three alphabets. (“because of-****ing-course it does!” goes my Facebook live commentary). In truth, the two native alphabets (katakana and hiragana) are pretty intuitive – they look different, and are used from different things, but they’re both formed from the same vowels + a consonant. My friends say they’re actually more logical than the English alphabet! The other alphabet used in Japanese is Kanji – imported Chinese characters which symbolize entire words. There’s thousands of them.
I’m having fun learning basic spoken Japanese, but I’m probably not going to pick the the Kanji by the time we leave!