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Thread: Japanese for Erogamers

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    Japanese for Erogamers


    Hello people.

    Well, this is just another Japanese lessons thread, but my primary aim is to help people who have zero Japanese knowledge learn to read eroge, er, visual novels. The idea is, I'll cover the basic first, then walk you through a visual novel by using some screenshots, while explaining about various elements of Japanese like vocabulary and grammar. That way, you can build up your reading skills while enjoying the story at the same time.

    I'll try to update this regularly, maybe once a week or in 10 days. If you have any suggestions, feel free to let me know.

    Table of contents:
    1. Preface
    2. Kana (memorization methods, basic terms in VN)
    3. Kanji (1) (purpose, usage, learner's trap)
    4. Kanji (2) (kyōiku kanji, radicals, what to learn about kanji, dictionaries, building kanji)
    5. Sentence structure (word dividing, particles)
    6. Playthrough (1) (under construction)
    7. ...
    Last edited by Frankincense; May 26th, 2018 at 06:07 PM.
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    Re: Japanese for Erogamers

    Preface

    Before you continue reading, please ask yourself these questions first.

    1. Do you like visual novels?
    This is a very important question, because the ultimate goal of this thread is not to learn Japanese from visual novels, but to be able to read Japanese visual novels. Some people don't like them because they contain adult content. Some people just prefer more mainstream games, or other media like books or TV dramas. What about you?

    2. Are you content with all the translated visual novels so far?
    Do you want to explore visual novels outside those that are already translated? If you think that the English visual novel pool isn't so crappy and you're already satisfied with it, this might not be worth your time.

    3. Do you really want to learn Japanese only to be able to read visual novels?
    This thread might or might not be applicable for practical use. Even if it is, learning a new language is always a daunting task, especially a difficult language like Japanese. You need to invest your time and effort. If you don't have use of Japanese for another purpose, do you think you should strive just to play visual novels? Some people say it is if you really love visual novels. Some say it isn't because it's too much for a hobby. Both sides have a point. Listen to them and decide for yourself. Don't let anyone decide for you.

    4. Are you determined enough?
    If you're taken aback by the fact that there are hundreds of kanji to learn, you're not interested enough. If you say you have no time, you actually do but you're allocating it for something higher up on your priority list. If you want to prove that you're really tenacious enough, don't let any excuses hold you back.

    Now I suppose you're already quite fluent in English. My very first advice is, don't try to learn Japanese the way you learned English. Japanese is from a different language family and has some elements completely alien to English, from letters to syntax. It's not like German, or Dutch, or French. Actually, it's better not to think of it as language as you know it, but as a new communication system instead.

    To make it easier to understand, I'll try to compare Japanese with English from time to time so that you clearly see the difference.

    So, how exactly is a complete and utter newbie supposed to actually read a visual novel?

    The idea is, by using a dictionary, you can understand all unknown words. Even if you can't understand the sentence's idea as a whole, you can still understand the gist of it. This is true for all languages with written form. Just keep reading and, if you encounter an unknown word, consult a dictionary.

    In practice, however, it's not as easy as it sounds.

    First thing first, let's take a look at Japanese characters. We won't be able to do anything without knowing them.

    There are 3 main types of characters in Japanese: hiragana, katakana and kanji.

    Next lesson: Kana >
    Last edited by Frankincense; December 13th, 2017 at 01:06 PM.
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    Re: Japanese for Erogamers

    < Previous lesson: Preface

    Kana

    Kana is the basic of the basic of the very basic. Some of you that have slight knowledge of Japanese might already know this. You can skip this if you think you're already fine with this.

    There are two types of kana systems, hiragana and katakana. Hiragana is mainly used for native Japanese words, and katakana is mainly used for loan words.

    It usually takes a few weeks for a beginner to learn kana characters.

    Wait. Aren't I all set to go with rōmaji? Isn't it enough?

    Rōmaji is merely the representation, transliteration, of Japanese sounds using alphabet. It helps beginners understand Japanese pronunciation to an extent but has no use whatsoever for reading Japanese text. It's like a comfort zone that provides a false sense of security. Japanese has its own characters. Learn them.

    I feel that Tae Kim's guide already has everything you should know about kana, so allow me to link you to it.
    http://www.guidetojapanese.org/learn/grammar/hiragana
    http://www.guidetojapanese.org/learn...ar/hiragana_ex
    http://www.guidetojapanese.org/learn/grammar/katakana
    http://www.guidetojapanese.org/learn...ar/katakana_ex
    I strongly suggest you learn their correct pronunciations too by listening to the provided sound clips (rōmaji does not and cannot represent them accurately). Sure, you can just read a visual novel all the way from start to finish, but being able to listen also helps with a lot of things. For example, it helps you understand kanji readings, sentence structure, grammatical mood, etc. I'll be talking about this in later chapters.

    Well, Tae Kim's guide is so complete that I actually don't have any more things to add, but at least allow me to give you some advice about memorization methods.

    How do I distinguish hiragana from katakana?

    You actually don't need to. Once you memorize all the characters, you'll be able to tell which is which immediately. But for starters, the shapes of katakana characters are more straight and more sharply cornered.
    For example, let's look at characters whose hiragana and katakana are very similar.
    The hiragana for "mo" is も and its katakana is モ.
    The hiragana for "ri" is り and its katakana is リ.
    Notice the difference? It's okay if you can't see it now, but you'll eventually do once you get used to it.

    Mnemonics

    One popular and effective method of memorizing kana is to use mnemonics. You can find a lot of them on the internet. They're mostly easy to understand

    But if you find that some mnemonics don't make sense, don't try to force them into your head. Instead, create your own mnemonics. Associate those characters with things that are easy for you to understand. They don't have to be English words. It's even better if you can associate them with words from your mother tongue.

    Before you think of some pictures, it's best if you can associate them with alphabet, for example:
    "あ" looks like "a", so it's "a".
    "ん" looks like "n", so it's "n".
    "ケ" looks like "K", so it's "ke".

    Here's some of my mnemonics:
    "の" looks like a no symbol (prohibition sign), so it's "no".
    "ロ" looks like number zero, so it's "ro".
    "ち" looks like a chilli pepper, so it's "chi".
    "ネ" looks like a nail, so it's "ne".
    "は" looks like a man holding a hammer, so it's "ha".
    "ぬ" looks like a nuclear missile, so it's "nu".
    "ヘ" looks like a mountain, which will be hell to traverse, thus "he".
    "ふ" , "fu", is the only character romanized with "f", so I can associate it with any word with "f". I likened it to a flame.

    Like how ancient constellation names don't make sense to modern humans, some of these might not make sense to you; its my own memorization method that I created only for myself. You should do the same, creating your own method. What's your first impression when you see a certain character or when you hear its pronunciation? Associate that impression with the character. You can make up some random story. It doesn't matter if people don't understand it, so long as you understand it. It doesn't matter how ridiculous, so long as it clicks in your head.

    For characters that look similar, it will be less confusing to associate them with the same thing and give a story about why they look different. For example, this chart has good mnemonics of シ (2,4) and ツ (3,2):


    Another great method of memorization is to associate kana characters with famous names. Names, especially those in logos, actually make a good tool for remembering characters. Famous names are something you don't forget easily. And when you see a logo, you remember it as one whole snapshot of memory, not a series of symbols. The character's properties such as shape, size, color and position also further assists you in your memorization.

    This method works best with:
    - Duplicated characters
    - Characters that are clearly distinct from others

    Some of the examples:

    To Love-Ru

    I don't actually read any manga but this is worth a mention since the exotic name and the conspicuous る (ru) make this a perfect mnemonic for る (ru).

    LovePlus

    LovePlus has been so well-known that, even if you don't play handheld games, I think you already have seen this logo at some point.
    This is the best example of what I stated earlier about similar characters. All characters here have the same "フ" body but they're different from one another in a way. You can use each character's position to help you with association.
    For example, the last character is the only one that has a tail (ス). The last syllable of LovePlus is "su", so ス = "su".

    Love Live!

    Transliteration: ra-bu-ra-i-bu
    The repeat of ラ (ra) and ブ (bu) makes them easy to memorize.

    Anyway, since this thread is about visual novels, let's look at some real visual novels too. Although visual novels are far from being mainstream and not universally famous, if you're a fan of visual novels and have been around visual novel forums or blogs, you probably already know a considerable amount of them and probably have already seen some of their box arts, promotional arts, screenshots, etc.

    Happiness! 2 Sakura Celebration

    はぴねす (ha-pi-ne-su)
    The first character "は" is bigger and stands out from the rest, which makes it very recognizable. And since it's the first character, it must be "ha".

    Haruru Minamo ni!

    はるるみなもに (ha-ru-ru-mi-na-mo-ni)
    る is iterated and made distinct with color green.

    Yuyukana -Under the Starlight-

    ユユカナ (yu-yu-ka-na)
    The iterated ユ is made distinct because of the following カ's different art style.

    Irotoridori no Sekai

    いろとりどりのセカイ (i-ro-to-ri-do-ri-no-se-ka-i)
    The logo uses a pretty plain font, but the iterated とりどり part is easy to remember.

    Tayutama: Kiss on my Deity

    タユタマ (ta-yu-ta-ma)
    This is not a very good example because the characters are too stylized to be immediately recognizable, but the style is very unique, which might help you memorize those characters.

    And now, we can actually start learning some kana words:

    Haruoto Alice * Gram

    Regardless of genre, all games have one thing in common and that is the title screen options. They usually consist of "start game", "load game", "options", etc. Many visual novels nowadays have all-English menu like this, but it's not always the case, so let's also look at some other games with Japanese menu.

    Kimi no Tonari de Koishiteru!

    These title menus are usually written in katakana, which is straightforward and easy to remember, which makes it a good place to start.

    ゲームスタート (gē-mu-su-tā-to) = game start

    コンティニュー (ko-n-ti-nyū) = continue (quickload)

    データロード (dē-ta-rō-do) = data load

    エクストラ (e-ku-su-to-ra) = extra (CG, scene recollection, BGM, etc. that are available once you clear the game)

    The last 2 options contain kanji characters. It would be excellent if you can remember them because you'll see them a lot in the future, but at this beginning phase you don't really have to worry about kanji that much.
    From now on, I'll underline all the kanji so you can clearly distinguish them.

    環境設定 (kan-kyou-set-tei) = game settings/game options/system configurations

    ゲームを終了する (gē-mu-wo-shuu-ryou-su-ru) = end game/quit game
    This is not just a word but one whole sentence. Let's break it down.
    ゲーム = game. を = object indicator (indicating that "game" is the object of this sentence). 終了 = end. する = to do

    MagusTale ~Sekaiju to Koisuru Mahoutsukai~


    はじめから (ha-ji-me-ka-ra) = start from beginning
    This is the same as ゲームスタート, but this one uses native Japanese instead of transliterated English. はじめ = beginning. から = from.

    つづきから (tsu-zu-ki-ka-ra) = continue
    Literally "start from succeeding point". Same as データロード.
    つづき = continuation/follow-up.

    おまけ (o-ma-ke) = extra
    Same as エクストラ. This is another word that you'll be hearing a lot even outside the games. Omake also means side content or bonus materials.

    環境設定 (kan-kyou-set-tei) = game setting/game options/system configurations

    終了 (shuu-ryou) = end/quit

    Same as ゲームを終了する (end game/quit game), but instead of being written in a whole sentence, this is only one word 終了 (end/quit).

    Newton to Ringo no Ki


    はじめから (ha-ji-me-ka-ra) = start from beginning

    つづきから (tsu-zu-ki-ka-ra) = continue

    コンフィグ (ko-n-fi-gu) = config
    Same as 環境設定, but this one is simply the transliteration of the English word "config".

    ゲームをわる (gē-mu-wo-o-wa-ru) = end game/quit game
    Same as ゲームを終了する. わる is a synonym of 終了する (to end). Of course, you don't have to worry about kanji words for now. You'll be seeing this word a lot and remember it naturally.

    Koiiro Soramoyou


    はじめる (ha-ji-me-ru) = to start/to begin
    Same as はじめから. はじめる is a verb means "to begin".

    ロード (rō-do) = load
    Same as データロード.

    設定 (set-tei) = settings
    Merely an abbr. of 環境設定.

    おしまい (o-shi-ma-i) = end
    Yet another way to say "end".

    Lovely Quest


    はじめから (ha-ji-me-ka-ra) = start from beginning

    つづきから (tsu-zu-ki-ka-ra) = continue

    オプション (o-pu-sho-n) = option
    Same as 環境設定, but this one is simply the transliteration of the English word "option".

    おまけ (o-ma-ke) = extra

    ゲーム終了 (gē-mu-shuu-ryou) = end game/quit game
    Same as ゲームを終了する (end game/quit game), but instead of being written in a whole sentence, this is a compound noun - ゲーム (game) + 終了 (end/quit).

    As you can see, Japanese has synonyms too. There are a lot of slightly different ways to call the same option (similar to English "exit", "exit game", "quit game", "quit playing", "close program", "exit to Windows", etc.), so don't panic when you see new terms popping up. Make association with things you already know and memorize them. Add them to your vocabulary list.

    Vocabulary list:
    ゲームスタート / はじめから / はじめる = game start
    コンティニュー = continue (quickload)
    データロード / つづきから /ロード = data load
    エクストラ = extra
    環境設定 / 設定 / コンフィグ / オプション = game settings/game options/system configurations
    ゲームを終了する / ゲーム終了 / ゲームをわる / おしまい = end game/quit game

    If you have a game already installed right now, I suggest you also look at its system configuration screen. A configuration screen usually contains a lot of katakana words which you can practice, but each game's configuration screen is significantly different from another, so I'm a little hesitant to post them here. Nevertheless, I'm going to show you one example, so that you understand what it looks like.

    Magus Tale ~Sekaiju to Koisuru Mahoutsukai~


    (Side note: we've already seen 設定 a lot of time. 設定 (set-tei) means setting. It could be a setting of a movie or a novel (main theme, environment, background, etc.) In this context, it means system/configuration settings. This word is easy to memorize too, because "settei" sounds a lot like "setting". Still remember to create your mnemonics?)

    システム設定 (shi-su-te-mu-set-tei) = system settings

    サウンド設定 (sa-u-n-do-set-tei) = sound settings

    チャラボイス (cha-ra-bo-i-su) = character voices

    We'll be looking at the システム設定 tab. Keep in mind that it's nice if you can actually remember those kanji words, but at this stage we're only practicing kana. There's no real need to rush ahead.

    Can you differentiate katakana words from the rest, and do you know their meaning?
      Spoiler: list of katakana words 
    テキスト (te-ki-su-to) = text
    オート (ō-to) = auto
    モード (mō-do) = mode
    スキップ (su-kip-pu) = skip
    メッセージ (mes-sē-ji) = message
    フォント (fo-n-to) = font
    ゴシック (go-shik-ku) = Gothic (font name)
    フルスクリーン (fu-ru-su-ku-rī-n) = full screen
    ウインドウ (u-i-n-do-u) = window
    エフェクト (e-fe-ku-to) = effect


    That's the end of my kana lesson. After this, I will assume that you're already familiar with kana, and will no longer write pronunciation with rōmaji.

    Next lesson: Kanji >
    Last edited by Frankincense; May 19th, 2018 at 05:42 PM.
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    Re: Japanese for Erogamers

    I'm happy to say this looks better than I thought, seeing this type of thread here is pretty awesome. The games you recommended are also nice, and some of them are the ones I was thinking of recommending here. I'll be checking out this thread a lot, so looking forward for more!
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    Re: Japanese for Erogamers

    < Previous lesson: Kana

    Kanji (1)

    Kanji is the writing system used alongside kana. It consists of Chinese characters. Kanji characters are graphic symbols that represent physical objects, ideas, concepts, etc. They don't represent speech sounds.

    Kanji is perhaps the main reason why beginners decide to quit, what with the whopping amount of 2,136 jōyō kanji and their stroke orders, stroke counts, radicals, readings, and many more exceptions. Why do people have to learn this thing? Isn't kana already enough?

    Why do we need kanji?

    We need kanji mainly for disambiguation. Without kanji, Japanese text would be very ambiguous and barely readable for the following reasons.

    -Japanese has truckloads of homophones.

    Homophones are words that have the same pronunciation but different meanings. For example, the word はし can mean either "chopsticks" or "bridge".
    In spoken Japanese, we use pitch accent (the variation in tones of syllables) to differentiate word meanings. Chopsticks し would go high first and then low, while bridge は would go low first and then high. The difference is apparent when you actually hear people say these two words together. You might be able to find some voice clips that compare the two homophones on the internet.
    On the other hand, there's no way to differentiate homophones in written Japanese without kanji. Both chopsticks and bridge are written はし. But if we use kanji, 箸 for chopsticks and 橋 for bridge, we know the meaning immediately.

    -Contexts in written Japanese aren't conveyed as clearly as those in spoken Japanese.

    "We don't have to use kanji to differentiate meanings. We can guess them from contexts."
    That's true to an extent. But don't forget that talking and reading are substantially different.
    The information we receive when we talk face-to-face isn't just words, but the whole environment. This includes gestures, moods, social positions, locations, situations, hours of day, etc. For example, being in a restaurant helps us interpret はし as "chopsticks", not "bridge". When we ask for more さけ, the empty plate helps the waiter interpret さけ as "salmon", not "liquor".
    Conversely, the information we receive when we read is mostly just text strings . We can only derive contexts from that (and maybe from the relationship between the sender and the receiver too, in the case of letters, but we're talking about visual novels). At the beginning of a story, we are thrown into a different world. We have to start from nowhere and are only guided forward by the writer. Miscommunication could lead to disaster. When the writer wants to convey something, he has to be as clear as possible, thus the use of kanji.

    -Japanese writing system has no word divider.

    In spoken Japanese, we divide sentences into parts and make them easy to understand using intonation and small pauses.
    Meanwhile, written Japanese has no word divider. While English has space, Japanese has nothing. The closest things to word dividers Japanese language has are particles (I'll talk about particles in later chapters), but they're still indistinguishable from other hiragana characters. However, if we write nouns, verbs and adjectives in kanji, we can easily detect those particles, which act somewhat like boundaries of words.
    In short, Breaking sentences down into words is essential for understanding visual novels (and all other Japanese text).

    I'm still not convinced. Kanji is a stupid system. I can think of a better system Japan could adopt.

    All visual novels use kanji. If you don't understand kanji, you can't read them.

    Now that we've cleared that up, let's see kanji in some real sentences.
    To give you a better understanding, I'll start from English language first. Unfortunately, English doesn't have its own equivalent of kanji, but a close example would be "Xing" (crossing) or "Xmas" (Christmas), whose X doesn't represent a single consonant sound but replaces a part of the word, while the reading remains the same.


    Screenshot from Haruoto Alice * Gram

    This is an example of kanji in a real sentence.

    大丈夫 (だいじょうぶ) = fine/alright

    賑やか (にぎやか) = bustling/lively

    楽しい (たのしい) = fun

    Now I'm going to show you how kanji helps with identifying words in sentences. If we can break down sentences, we will know what to look up in a dictionary. Without kanji, this line would be written "あはは……だいじょうぶですよ。にぎやかでたのしいです", which would be too confusing for beginners.
    But with kanji, we can easily divide the sentence.
    「あはは……大丈夫ですよ。賑やかで楽しいです」
    Words that contain kanji usually start with kanji.
    「あはは……大丈夫ですよ。賑やか楽しいです」

    You might be wondering why 楽しい has some hiragana in it and why it isn't kanji all the way.
    The しい part is called okurigana (there are several more, like う in 言う or きい in 大きい).

    One of okurigana's uses is to inflect verbs and adjectives. Look at this image for example.


    Screenshot from Haruoto Alice * Gram

    今日 (きょう) = today

    Have you noticed that 楽しい has been changed to 楽しかった?
    Think of English adjective inflections (big, bigger, biggest). This is mostly the same; you modify a word's grammatical category by changing the part that is attached to the end.
    楽しかった is the past form of 楽しい. The hiragana part has been changed to indicate tense. It's just an indicator and doesn't have any meaning by itself, so it doesn't need kanji.

    Another of okurigana's uses is to modify the word's nuance. Take the word 賑やか in the first image for example. 賑やか (にぎやか) is an adjective that means "bustling", but there's another word that uses the same kanji, 賑わう (にぎわう), which is a verb that means "to be crowded/to prosper". It sometimes also changes the reading of the kanji. For example 細い (ほそい) is an adjective means "thin", but 細かい (こまかい) is an adjective means "small/fine/trivial". However, if you're still a beginner, I suggest you ignore this whole paragraph as I only wrote this here for the sake of completing my explanation of okurigana. This type of use has no rule to it and it's different for all words, so remembering it doesn't help much.

    We now know how kanji characters are used. But while kanji is necessary for written Japanese, it's not the only viable way. There is no rule stating that you must use kanji whenever possible. There are instances where hiragana is favored over kanji too.
    For example, Japanese core words are often seen in hiragana form.



    Screenshot from Haruoto Alice * Gram

    開けます (あけます) = open

    The difference between these two images is that they use two different versions of 分かりました (わかりました) (understood). Both are viable and interchangeable. You might be puzzled if this is the first time you see this word, but わかりました is so often used that after awhile you won't have any trouble distinguishing it from other words in the same sentence. This is the same for other core words like ある/いる (to be, as in to exist), する (to do), なる (to become), etc. (This actually helps because it'd be a hassle if you had to write a very common word every time with kanji.)
    In fact, all words can be written in hiragana, katakana, or kanji interchangeably. You can use "たのしい", "楽しい" or even "タノシイ" and it'll still be grammatically correct. It will just be very confusing under normal circumstances. (Yes, you can write native Japanese words in katakana, but I'll talk about its use while we're actually walking through a game. For now, just remember each system's general usage.)

    Learner's traps.

    Before learning kanji, let's first talk about general misconceptions about kanji.

    Think back to when you first learned kana. It's a finite set of characters. It's shown on an easy to understand chart. It has its own "alphabetical order". Kanji characters, on the other hand, have no definitive number and aren't sorted by order. When you compare kanji with kana, you start to think that you somehow need some kind of ordered list in order to help you keep track of your own progress, thus turning to this jōyō kanji list.
    Well, why not? By definition, it's the list of regularly used kanji. If you remember all of their meanings, stroke orders and readings beforehand, you will no longer get stuck when you see some unknown kanji words later, right?

    This kind of thinking is so wrong on so many levels.

    In my opinion, the Jōyō kanji list is more like a database than a practical list. They're sorted by kana order (あ, い, う, え, お...) which is reasonable for data storage. But this doesn't help learners in any practical ways because kana order doesn't equal difficulty order or frequency order. If you look at it, you'll see that the first kanji is 亜 (あ), which is mainly used for names and jargon, hardly "regularly used". And for the so-called list of regularly used kanji, it doesn't contain that many everyday kanji. For example, some characters are there only because they're used in government affairs, formal language, place names, etc. You'll be wasting valuable time trying to stuff useless information into your head.
    Therefore, even with this list, learners will still be clueless about where to start anyway. It simply dumps everything in front of you and has you put everything into order yourself.

    Secondly, the idea of memorizing every kanji in advance is absurd. Kanji is used differently than kana; Kana represents syllable sounds but kanji represents meanings of words. Kana is the most fundamental unit of Japanese writing system and you absolutely need to learn every single one of them before going any further. Kanji on the other hand isn't even fundamental. To use a kanji, you need to know the combination of syllables, the definition, and the context. You don't build anything upon kanji. It's the other way around. It's better to think of kanji as "words", not "letters". You don't learn kanji before anything else like alphabet. You learn kanji the way you learn vocabulary. Learning the whole kanji list beforehand is close to learning a whole dictionary before attempting any real reading. Memorizing kanji without an actual context is agonizingly difficult. Even if you can memorize them all, you’ll still have no idea which readings to use, when and how, because you don't know about any contexts.

    Moreover, trying to learn everything you can learn from a given kanji is a very ineffective way to learn it. Because, again, it's a waste of time to learn things that you eventually aren't going to use.
    Let's look at a very basic kanji "生" for example, and you'll immediately see how ridiculous it is to try to learn everything of it.

    Look at all those 20+ readings. That's for a single first-grader's kanji, and there are actually still many more ways to read this. The only commonly used readings here are perhaps セイ, きる, まれる and なま. The others are only sometimes or very rarely used.

    Am I really wasting that much time learning the list? Someone told me he could learn the whole list in just 3 weeks.

    Think about it. 2,136 characters in 3 weeks means 100 characters a day. If you're a genius, you might be able to manage it, but if you could manage it, you wouldn't need a guide in the first place.

    In short, it is very important to learn selectively. Learn to filter pieces of information and don't waste time with useless junk. Leave rare kanji and words to your dictionary.

    (Well, this is dragging longer than I thought. More about learning kanji in the next lesson.)

    Next lesson: Kanji (2) >
    Last edited by Frankincense; May 19th, 2018 at 05:43 PM.
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    Re: Japanese for Erogamers

    I'd say that this may have the potential to become Japanese for gaming in general and not just for ero-gaming...
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    Re: Japanese for Erogamers

    < Previous lesson: Kanji (1)

    Kanji (2)

    Kanji is somewhat hard, but might not be as hard as you think. Here are some words of encouragement.

    Even native Japanese people don't remember all kanji, or even some common kanji.

    It doesn't make sense to compare yourself with a real native Japanese in the first place, but if you insist, I'd say that even native Japanese do forget kanji from time to time. As I stated earlier, there is no definitive number of kanji, so it's impossible to memorize them all. In fact, it's not really surprising to find that some native Japanese don't remember some jōyō kanji. For example, my Japanese teacher, who's a native Japanese, knew many extremely difficult characters but still struggled to write some relatively common ones such as 鐘 (bell) or 癒 (healing). My point is, don't treat kanji as the minimum requirement. Some native Japanese don't even bother. Don't actively try to memorize some kanji. If it's a common kanji, sooner or later you'll memorize it naturally.

    Japanese words aren't any more difficult than English. They require roughly the same amount of memorization. They just feel a bit different.

    -English alphabet is phonemic while Japanese kana is syllabic.
    -English differentiates homophones with different combinations of letters (i.e. rain and reign), while Japanese uses kanji (i.e. 箸 and 橋).
    -Kanji readings are littered with exceptions, but so are English readings. For example, there are the same combinations of letters that are pronounced differently like "ough" in "tough", "though" and "through" or "lead" in "lead vocalist" and "lead pipe", or silent characters like "t" in "fasten" or "w" in "who".

    So where do I start?

    Well, certainly you need to start somewhere, but that's still not going to be the Jōyō kanji list.

    There is a toned-down version of Jōyō kanji list, though. It's called Kyōiku kanji list, which contains 1,006 kanji (just google it). This is a much better list for learners as it's specifically designed for educational purpose. The kanji are sorted by school years. It starts from simple, easy to recognize characters, and the learning curve is relatively gentle. Most kanji textbooks you see in bookstores are based on it.

    If you don't know of any good learning materials, I suggest you start from this list. But it still won't be very effective to just follow the list character by character. Remember to prioritize. Don't try to learn every kanji you see. Start with easy and common ones and only take in what you can at a time.
    In my opinion, grade 1 kanji are absolute must. Grade 2 kanji are very common and you should learn most of them too. From grade 3 on, there will be some rare kanji. I suggest you prioritize with your common sense. Estimate their usefulness by looking at their meanings.
    For example, 悪 (bad), 使 (use) or 意 (idea) sounds like something that would appear in many contexts and you might want to learn them first, but, 炭 (coal), 詩 (poem) or 笛 (whistle) sounds like something that only appears in some specific contexts and you might want to save them for later.

    These are all the grade 1 Kyōiku kanji:
      Spoiler: grade 1 kanji 

    -Number:
    一 (one)
    二 (two)
    三 (three)
    四 (four)
    五 (five)
    六 (six)
    七 (seven)
    八 (eight)
    九 (nine)
    十 (ten)
    百 (hundred)
    千 (thousand)
    -Calendar:
    日 (sun/day/Sunday)
    月 (moon/month/Monday)
    火 (fire/Tuesday)
    水 (water/Wednesday)
    木 (tree/Thursday)
    金 (gold/Friday)
    土 (earth/Saturday)
    年 (year)
    -Position/direction:
    上 (above)
    下 (below)
    中 (inside/middle)
    左 (left)
    右 (right)
    -Person:
    人 (man)
    名 (name)
    女 (male)
    男 (female)
    -Body:
    口 (mouth)
    目 (eye)
    耳 (ear)
    手 (hand)
    足 (foot)
    -Verb:
    入 (enter)
    出 (exit)
    立 (stand)
    見 (look)
    -Size:
    大 (big)
    小 (small)
    -Color:
    白 (white)
    赤 (red)
    青 (blue)
    -School:
    字 (character)
    文 (sentence)
    学 (study)
    校 (school)
    先 (ahead)
    生 (life)
    -Natural feature:
    山 (mountain)
    川 (river)
    林 (grove)
    森 (forest)
    -Weather:
    天 (heaven)
    気 (spirit/feeling)
    雨 (rain)
    空 (sky)
    -Community:
    村 (village)
    町 (town)
    -Misc.:
    田 (rice field)
    夕 (evening)
    早 (early)
    本 (book)
    子 (child)
    休 (rest)
    力 (power)
    円 (yen)
    草 (grass)
    花 (flower)
    音 (sound)
    車 (wheel/vehicle)
    竹 (bamboo)
    糸 (thread)
    貝 (shell)
    犬 (dog)
    石 (stone)
    正 (correct/justice)
    王 (king)
    玉 (ball)
    虫 (insect)

    This isn't the best way to categorize them, but you can roughly guess from their meanings how often they are going to be used. I just want to show you that.
    And while some of these don't actually appear that frequently, they have simple shapes and will still be extremely useful for learning subsequent kanji.

    Mnemonics

    If you still remember how to create mnemonics, now's the time when it really comes in handy.
    Some basic kanji are actually pictures that represent real objects, for example, 木 (tree), 山 (mountain), and 鳥 (bird). It's pretty easy to memorize their meanings with their shapes. Some kanji such as 力 (power) or 多 (many), though, represent abstract concepts which require you to use your imagination a bit. I suggest you start with simple-shaped kanji first, because they're easy to memorize and you can associate more complex kanji with them later.

    Radicals

    You might have already noticed that some kanji are composed of small parts (like 人 and 木 in 休). These small parts are called radicals. Radicals are originally kanji, so they kind of look like some already existing kanji. They are used to give broad categories of meaning to kanji characters.

    For example, let's look at the grade 1 kanji 貝. 貝 is, for a grade 1 kanji, very rarely used. However, there are quite a number of common kanji that have 貝 as their radical.
    貝 means shell, which was an ancient Chinese currency. Therefore you can roughly guess that kanji with particle 貝 must have something to do with money:
      Spoiler: kanji with radical 貝 
    買 (buy)
    販 (vend)
    費 (cost)
    貸 (lend)
    貧 (poverty)
    貯 (save)
    貨 (goods)
    財 (fortune)
    賃 (wage)
    貿 (trade)
    貴 (valuable)
    購 (purchase)
    貢 (tribute)


    Some radicals are distorted forms of kanji. For example, 氵 is originally 水 (water).
    If you see 氵 in a kanji, you'll be able to guess that it's somehow connected to water:
      Spoiler: kanji with radical 氵 
    池 (pond)
    海 (sea)
    洗 (wash)
    泳 (swim)
    注 (pour)
    沈 (sink)
    湯 (hot water)
    液 (liquid)
    波 (wave)
    涙 (tear)
    湿 (damp)
    泡 (bubble)
    汁 (soup)
    汗 (sweat)


    This doesn't mean that all kanji with the same radical should be put in the same category though. Some of them don't immediately make sense. For example, these kanji contain either 貝 or 氵, but how they're connected to "money" or "water" doesn't really strike home:
      Spoiler: kanji with radical 貝 

    員 (member)
    敗 (defeat)
    貫 (pierce)
    貼 (affix)
    側 (side)

      Spoiler: kanji with radical 氵 

    漢 (China)
    況 (situation)
    泊 (overnight stay)
    溜 (accumulate)
    滅 (destroy)

    In such cases, you have to come up with some mnemonics yourself.

    (You don't have to actually remember all these kanji right away. This is just to show you how radicals hint kanji's meanings, and how they're useful for associative learning.)

    What about readings? Don't we learn kanji readings?

    I don't really recommend memorizing kanji readings. In fact, I would advise against it, because rules for kanji readings aren't consistent enough to be of any use.
    Kanji readings are categorized as Chinese reading (onyomi) or native Japanese reading (kunyomi). There's a general rule stating that kanji compounds (words that are composed of two or more kanji characters) use Chinese readings, and words with single kanji characters use native readings. For example, 先生 (teacher) reads せんせい and 力 (power) reads ちから.
    However, many kanji have many Chinese or native readings. For example, has にん and じん as its Chinese readings, while 生 has せい and しょう. So, how are we supposed to read 生 (human life)? Is it にんせい, にんしょう, じんせい, or じんしょう? In the end, beginners still have to use their dictionaries to find out that the correct reading is じんせい.
    And let's not forget that Japanese language is littered with exceptions. For example, according to the rules, kanji compounds use Chinese reading, so beginners would think 前 (name) must use the Chinese reading めいぜん, but the correct answer is actually まえ, and that's the native reading kunyomi.
    Not to mention that there are some words which ignore kanji readings altogether. It's just impossible for beginners to know that 明日 (tomorrow) reads あした or that 大人 (adult) reads おとな with only the knowledge of these kanji's readings. The kanji are there only for the meanings. おとな is known as 大人 as a whole. You can't break おとな down and assign each kana to 大 or 人; it is the reading of the whole word, the combination of these characters. And, again, beginners have no choice but to consult their dictionaries.

    My advice is, kanji readings are easier to remember in real usable words, not individual characters. Think of something that can be used in real contexts.
    For a word composed of a stand-alone kanji, remember the correct reading of the word.
    Remember 力 (power) as ちから, not りき or りょく.
    Remember 人 (man) as ひと, not にん or じん.
    For kanji compounds, remember the reading of the whole word first, then break it down if possible.
    Remember 大学 (university) as だいがく, and you'll also get that 大 = だい and 学 = がく.
    If you remember individual kanji first, you'll know that 大 = だい/たい and 学 = がく, but you won't know if 大学 is だいがく or たいがく.


    Screenshot from ~Da Capo II~ Plus Communication

    大丈夫 (だいじょうぶ) (fine/alright) (This is one of the most common words you'll here in visual novels. The word itself is also an expression meaning "I'm fine" or "everything will be fine".)

    Here's to show you why memorizing words is better than memorizing individual characters.

    It's easier to memorize a word as a whole than a single kanji because it's longer. Japanese language is full of homophones, so being longer helps a lot in memorizing. More syllables and more characters mean more distinct characteristics, which make it easier for you to notice some sort of pattern that will help you create your mnemonic.
    This is the same for English language. Take the word "run" for instance. "Run" consists of only very common letters, and is short, which makes it hard to memorize. But "runner", while also consists of only very common letters, is much easier to memorize because there's some kinds of distinct patterns in it, be it the iterated n, the r at both ends of the word, or the sequence that is almost the same backward as forward.

    Now look at the three kanji that form the word 大丈夫. The three characters look very similar, which makes remembering the word as a whole easy.
    But if you try to remember the kanji one by one, you'll have a hard time differentiating three similar characters and you'll only be wasting your brain capacity to remember 丈 which is a character that's almost never used on its own. (And you'll still be confused about which readings to use, だいじょうぶ or たいじょうぶ.)

    What about stroke orders?

    Stroke orders, unlike readings, have pretty consistent rules. Learning the rules of stroke orders isn't that troublesome. However, you don't need writing skills to enjoy visual novels.
    The only benefit of knowing stroke order is that you'll know how to count kanji strokes, which is useful if you can't use a text hooker and still want to search a kanji in a dictionary.
    If you can spend some time for it, good, but don't make it your priority.

    How to look up a kanji in a dictionary?

    It's just a matter of copying the text and pasting it onto some kind of dictionary program.
    To get text from a visual novel, you need a text hooker. It's a program that grabs text from a running visual novel. You can copy the text to the clipboard and paste it to a dictionary of your choice. The most popular text hookers are ITHVNR and VNR. There's a guide on how to use ITHVNR here ("Interactive Text Hooker"):
    http://www.anime-sharing.com/forum/t...r-guide-67016/

    I've never used a text parser before. If you want to try it, just read the guide till the end. Be advised that while text parsers are handy, they can be inaccurate. (I'll cover sentence structure in the next chapter.)

    For online dictionary, I recommend http://jisho.org/.
    For offline dictionary, I recommend JWPce. It's a simple word processor with a built-in Japanese dictionary that uses the same database as jisho.org. It doesn't cover word inflections like jisho.org though, but it's faster. You can get JWPce from http://www.tanos.co.uk/jlpt/extras/jwpce/

    (Once you get comfortable with Japanese language, I suggest you switch to Japanese-Japanese dictionary such as https://www.weblio.jp/ or https://dictionary.goo.ne.jp/, which generally has wider vocabulary.)

    If for some reason you can't get the text hooker to work, you can use jisho.org to search kanji by radicals or by handwriting (must know correct stroke order).
    For JWPce, you can search by radicals, stroke counts or patterns.

    (On a side note, if you're using some dictionary app on smartphone or tablet, you can search kanji by handwriting, by adding Chinese keyboard. If you're using a print dictionary (not recommended because it's too time-consuming), you must search by radicals or stroke counts.)

    Building your kanji

    When expanding your kanji, you'll want to almost always use mnemonics, but if you're a beginner, it will be impossible to create associations between kanji when every kanji you see is completely new to you.
    That's why I recommend you to drill yourself in grade 1 (and possibly some grade 2) kanji ASAP. Because:
    1. They're mostly based on real objects, which are easy to associate with.
    2. They have simple shapes, which are easy to recognize.
    3. You'll be associating the more complex kanji with these.
    Memorizing these might sound difficult, but compared to 46x2 kana characters, it's not really that bad, because you have mnemonics based on real objects, and you don't have to remember every possible reading.

    But only learning from the list isn't enough. Sooner or later you'll have to tackle some unknown kanji yourself.


    Screenshot from Yome Sagashi ga Hakadori Sugite Yabai.

    In real visual novels, you'll see a line full of kanji like this. Don't panic. The first thing you ought to do is not panic, but find their meanings.

    If you look them up in your dictionary, you'll find their meanings as follows.
    兄 = elder brother
    眠そう = seem sleepy (眠い (sleepy) + そう (seeming))
    夜更かし = staying up late
    夢 = dream
    見た = looked/saw
    But dictionary is just a one-time solution. If you don't want to rely on it every time, you need to memorize them.
    You can associate unknown kanji with the ones you already know. Here, we find that 眠 (sleep) and 見 (look) have the radical 目 (eye). It's easy to make connection between sleep/look and eye. It's also easy to associate 夜 (night) and 夢 (dream) with their radical 夕 (evening).
    It might be a little difficult to associate 兄 and 更 with any other basic kanji. You might be able to come up with some mnemonics, but if you can't, rote is always an option.

    You said I should prioritize. How do I know which kanji is more common than others?

    As I stated before, if you're a beginner, every kanji will be completely new to you. You have no way to know which kanji are common and which aren't. So how do you prioritize?

    It's simple. Just let the game tell you which kanji to prioritize. Just keep reading on and you'll notice that some kanji starts to appear more frequently than the others.







    Screenshots from Yome Sagashi ga Hakadori Sugite Yabai.

    We now see that 見, 兄 and 夢 seem to appear more frequently than the others, at least in this game's context, so we should at least prioritize them over the others. Don't spend too much time on one sentence though. Just learn them as you progress. Keep reading on, and every time you run into a kanji you recognize, review it.

    Don't be let down if you fail to remember some kanji, because you will forget them. You won't remember everything in such a short time unless you have photographic memory. In the end, no matter what method of learning you use, you still have to go through the painful cycle of remembering and forgetting. But if you keep seeing the same thing over and over again, it will eventually stick into your head.

    That's the end of my kanji lesson. Remember that learning kanji is harsh at the start, but as you acquire more kanji, you'll have more things to use for associative learning, and you'll also have a more developed kanji sense, so it's actually getting exponentially easier. Eventually you'll be amazed at how fast you can learn more and more kanji compared to when you were still completely new.

    Here's my final words of encouragement, quoting Tae Kim:
    You may be thinking, “Wow, 2,000 [kanji] is a lot!” But don’t worry, it pales in comparison to the tens of thousands of words that an adult has memorized in her lifetime. And believe it or not, having a fixed set of characters with mnemonics and compounds actually helps with the much bigger job of learning vocabulary. Once you’ve learned a new word in seconds based on characters you already know, you’ll know what I mean. Trust me.

    Next lesson: Sentence structure >
    Last edited by Frankincense; May 26th, 2018 at 06:08 PM.
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    Re: Japanese for Erogamers

    For some reason lookup via handwriting never works for me (maybe my caligraphy is so very crappy) and hooking text isn't my style...so I just dissect the radicals on jisho.org. Doesn't work all the time, but works most of the time...

    I sure have forgotten how I was a beginner...I did have some Chinese background so my case is pretty wonky...
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    Re: Japanese for Erogamers

    Generally, for handwriting lookup, what's important is the stroke order and only the stroke order. Even if you're really bad at it (as I am), as long as the stroke order is correct, software detection will likely still succeed to some extent.

    Here are some examples of me using zKanji. I'm sure all this handwriting (well, mouse-writing) below is illegible to humans, myself included.

    First attempt: trying to write (yami; darkness). Not really the best match, but close enough.


    Second attempt: (yome; bride). Got it right in the first try.


    Third attempt: (ryuu; Chinese-style dragon). Success.
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    Re: Japanese for Erogamers

    Wow, this is quite something. Very helpful.
    I can read/write hiragana and katana with ease. Then went on to Kanji and kinda gave up after the first 15 or so...
    I'll be checking this back for sure. Thanks Franky :3
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