Today after getting my hair cut, I went to Fuji Grand (dept. store) to buy nice new squishy insoles for my indoor-shoes at the schools, when I went down the escalator on the side with the bookstore…and as I went by it I first thought “Ooohh, learning-Japanese inspiration!” and then immediately thought, “Now Stephanie, you know good and well that purchasing more Japanese-learning books is not going to do you any good if you don’t sit down and study the ones you already have…” And as I had those thoughts, I turned the corner at the bottom of one escalator and went up the next, back to the bookstore, and came back out with these:
“The King of Drills.” Sounds fun, doesn’t it? I think the blow is lessened by the cute puppy on the front. Anyway, these are two books for kanji learning aimed at elementary students. Japan has three writing systems, and the first two are fairly simple alphabets that kids basically seem to know even in kindergarten, but the third–kanji, or borrowed Chinese characters, has thousands to learn, and kids build on their kanji knowledge all the way though junior high. I think I’m around a 3rd or 4th grader’s level (reading, anyway–I don’t write as much as type, and lately I haven’t been “officially” studying kanji either, although I do try to read all the teacher’s handouts that come my way). I’ve been really bothered this year by how good some of the kids’ handwriting looks compared to mine, haha, and I have to admit I’ve been a little jealous of their cute kanji practice books with little illustrations, while all my grown-up practice books are boring ><
But now, thanks to the King of Drills (haha, Gurren Lagann, anyone?), I can receive guidance on my kanji from cute little princes and princesses, and their pets! What could be better than that??
The practice books, like most Japanese books, read right-to-left, top-to-bottom. Japanese can be written either vertically or horizontally–it was traditionally written vertically, but now it just depends on the medium. The boxes above have a reading written next to them, and you’re supposed to fill in the kanji there.
This page introduces new characters and shows you the correct stroke order, and the different readings. Japanese characters often have several readings, at least two–the Chinese reading, and the Japanese reading. The reading changes based on the word. This is something that makes Japanese harder than Chinese, since Chinese (I’ve heard) tends to only have one reading for a character. However, Japanese pronunciation is super easy compared to Chinese, because Japanese doesn’t have tones. (Thank goodness haha.) Japanese has the fewest vowels of any language–it literally only has five and they’re always said the same way, not like English which claims to have five but says those vowels in tons of different ways. I’ve always thought it amazing how a language with so few vowels/so little difficulty (comparatively) for pronunciation ends up being so beautiful. (If you want to hear some normally-spoken Japanese (ie, not a song), here’s an unrelated commercial of Sakurai Sho sitting in a forest reading about cancer insurance to the Aflac duck.)
I just spent my first several minutes with these books taking pictures and writing about them on my blog in English^^; Obviously, my Japanese studies are progressing nicely.
Song of the Day: Super Junior M, “Break Down.” I discovered this song 4 days later than the release date–I didn’t know whether to be proud that I’m not checking up on stuff like that every day, or embarrassed that it took that long ><;