My Japanese Journey (Kanji 1-26)


About a week ago, I was inspired to start learning Japanese again. As you may know if you follow me on Twitter, I just got done reading the Dragon Ball manga again. I loved it as much as the first time, but immediately noticed that the translations were starting to affect my enjoyment of it. I found the first 16 volumes to be fine, but once it got to the Dragon Ball we all know and love, it got REALLY weird.

Here’s a Piccolo quote from his first encounter with Raditz: “What you say! Know you not the one to whom you show such insolence? ” Okay, Shakespeare. I know that in Japanese, Piccolo speaks in a more proper manner, which is why it was translated this way. But, really, Viz? Having Piccolo say Queer twice in one volume? I thought I got enough of that in English class. It’s funny, as you get further into the series, Piccolo speaks like a normal person, which makes the early translating really standout.

Before, I just had to suck it up, knowing I wasn’t really getting the true Dragon Ball experience. That is, until I read the “About Us” page on Kanzenshuu. One profile stood out to me, Herms’. In it, he states, in the third-person, how he was just a kid living in the Midwest playing Japanese games. They, specifically Digimon games, led him to learn Katakana on his own, and eventually take a Japanese Summer class. The class condensed two semesters of college Japanese into two months. He eventually took more college classes, and ended up living in Japan. Herms is currently the translator for the all-encompassing Dragon Ball fan-site, Kanzenshuu. After reading that, I thought to myself “If he can do it, so can I!”

Being able to read the Dragon Ball manga, among others, in the original format sounds like a dream. One that is achievable. Not only that, I’d also be able to play Japanese games, not be so reliant on subtitles, and maybe do some translating of my own for the PlayStation community. It also helps that I have two years of High School Japanese under my belt.

Now, two years sounds like a lot. I should know how to read simple paragraphs by now, right? Well, I only learned enough to pass both classes, which was only the basics. I rarely took the time to study on my own, as I saw it as school work, rather than a fun way to spend my free-time. Not saying that learning a language will always be fun but, I slacked off… a lot. Hell, my second year was mostly spent playing PS Vita. But I’m happy that those two years didn’t go to waste.

A few days after I considered learning the language again, I started to reteach myself  Hiragana (ひらがな) & Katakana (カタカナ). Luckily, I still remembered most, and moved onto simple grammar rules. Though, I’ve only taught myself present and past tense. Non-formal. I was able to recover my old worksheets and notes, which have already proved useful, thanks to my refusal to throw old work away because I knew something like this would come up. But before I continued with the grammar, I stopped to learn some Kanji, since many have already popped up on the websites I’m learning from. And after reading many blogs, the consensus on learning Kanji is RTK. Where you come up with a story for every character, allowing you to memorize them much quicker. I never did that while taking the classes, which would have helped a ton, no doubt.

I’m about two days into RTK, and I’ve already learned 26 characters. A tip for learning Kanji that many bloggers have suggested is to announce your progress every so often. Humans love telling people what they’re doing, it’s in our nature. And I thought that was a good idea. Originally, I was just going to tweet my progress, but I figured that writing a blog post every so often would be better, and if I list the Kanji, it’d help me review while doing something I already do on a near-daily basis. So, without further ado, here are the Kanji that I’ve learned as of today:

1. 学 – Study, learning. This one is fairly simple, and was used a lot in class, so I didn’t bother with a story.

2. 行く – Going. This one is kind of strange, and was mostly borrowed from someone else’s story: The Flash is GOING in different directions. It works. I swear.

3. 食べる – Eat, food. The two lines at the top are a house, and the rest is the table. A family is getting ready to eat their food.

4. 校 – School. The left stick is the board with the grades on it, and the rest are kids scrambling to read it.

5. 語 – Language. Since “ご” also means “five,” I think of the left side protecting the right, which has the Kanji for five in it.

6. 英 – English. The two horizontal lines at the top are two students trying to learn from their teacher sitting at his desk towards the bottom.

7. 日 – Day, Sun. The box is kind of like the Sun. I’m reaching a bit here.

8. 本 – Book. The tree grows pages. Aka the two lines coming out of it.

9. 生 – Life, birth. The three horizontal lines are kids that are living.

10. 住む – Live, reside. The left side is a road, and the right are the houses next to it.

11. 々 – This just comes after a Kanji that you want repeated.

12. 友 – Friend. These friends are as close as can be.

13. 何 – What. This one is my favorite. A guy is at an art exhibition, and he looks at the painting in the frame and says, “What?”

14. 人 – Person. It looks like a stick figure.

15. 年 – Year. That line down the middle is slashing through a guy’s new YEAR’S resolutions.

The following are numbers. Pretty simple to just memorize.

16. 一 – One.

17. 二 – Two.

18. 三 – Three.

19. 四 – Four.

20. 五 – Five.

21. 六 – Six.

22. 七 – Seven.

23. 八 – Eight.

24. 九 – Nine.

25. 十 – Ten.

26. 百 – Hundred.

I actually learned most of these today, which I consider it pretty impressive. Granted, I did have prior knowledge thanks to my Japanese classes. The RTK challenge is about 2,000 Kanji in three months, which is impossible for me at the moment. But in three months, I definitely think I can be at around 500. I just have to push through the tough patches, and make studying a daily thing.

I plan to make a blog post for every 25 characters I learn. This is also a really easy way to keep track of them, too. But even then, Japanese is more than Kanji. Just like any language, it’s about grammar, speaking, and applying. I know it’s gonna be a long journey, but I’m sure to enjoy it. Later!


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