Now I am not by any means an expert on learning languages, nor in learning Japanese in particular. But I have tried to learn some languages and am currently trying to learn Japanese so what the heck, here’s my opinion =)
I’ve been thinking lately, of the order I have been learning Japanese. We started with hiragana, then katakana, then grammar and vocabulary. We continue grammar and vocabulary and now are adding kanji to the mix. We had a Japanese tutor for awhile, which was incredible – living in the middle of nowhere and all. But then she returned to Japan so we continue being self taught. We also use a few online programs to help us remember kanji and vocabulary.
Which Comes First, Hiragana or Katakana?
Now I got to thinking (I’m not sure which way I am leaning yet) would it have been better to learn katakana first, before hiragana. The reason I was thinking this would maybe be a good idea is this: Most of the katakana words are variations of an English word. There are of course, other languages but as far as my experience has been a good majority of them are English. Now if a person learned katakana first, they would be able to sound out a word and then be able to figure out what the actual word was and be reading right from the start. That might be a pretty encouraging way to begin when you already understand some of the words.
Of course, I’m not completely sold on it. The thing that makes me hesitate to suggest it, is that often the first thing you learn will stick in your memory a bit more firmly. And if that is the case, hiragana is used more often than katakana and so it should perhaps be learned first. But, and this is my counter argument, you can’t read anything after you learn hiragana. You can sound out some words and word endings, but in the end it doesn’t give you as much understanding as learning katakana does at first because you don’t have the vocabulary in Japanese yet.
So I’m kind of torn. Another thing I would like to have done better is keeping hiragana and katakana separate in my brain. Sometimes a katakana image has stuck in my brain better than the hiragana and then I assume it is the hiragana image when it isn’t at all. I’ve done a few online memory things to try and get them in a bit more solid, but I am still embarrassingly weak on my kana.
King of the Kanji
Kanji however, I adore. Having one word encapsulated in that one image appeals to my way of thinking a lot. They seem to stick in my head way better than the kana trying to match just a sound with an image. Of course, when I refer to learning kanji here, I am only referring to learning the symbol and the translation, not the different pronunciations of the kanji. But at least with that skill, you can at least read the important parts of a written piece. Maybe one should start with kanji? It is the most important after all.
Perhaps I am drawn to it because our learning focuses a lot on the visual side of the language. We are just starting to get to the point of being able to create full sentences in Japanese and so speaking moves way slower than the reading. Or perhaps it is just my style of learning. Perhaps visual is better than auditory – although since our tutor is gone we get a lot less learning time in an auditory manner.
I don’t know. I just can’t decide what is the best order to learn things. I think you have to learn a bit of everything all at once: grammar, pronunciation, vocabulary, kana and kanji. But what is the best thing to start with? I can’t decide. Do you have an opinion? What order did you learn in?
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