Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year --「しんねんおめでとうございます。」

Another year has come and gone. Strange, I don't feel any different.  /shrug

I'm still working on the ability to instantly recognize all 46 hiragana ( ひらがな ). Writing them at the same time as learning to recognize them is a great way to speed up the learning process. My end-goal is to be able to read, write and pronounce the 46 basic hiragana, the 25 daku-ten and the 36 handaku-ten quickly. Once I feel comfortable in my ability to read, write and pronounce all of them quickly (near-fluently), I will move on to the katakana equivalents.

I will move on to kanji after becoming completely comfortable with reading, writing and pronouncing both kana sets. The really difficult aspect of the written language is kanji. Each kanji can have one or more readings (meanings); each of which is only understood if the context in-which it was used, was conveyed and understood.

A quick example in English:

i.   I am content with the outcome.
ii.  The content of this article is helpful.

The word "content" is an excellent example of a heteronym; a word with multiple meanings depending on the pronounciation and context in which it is used. The emphasis on CONtent refers to what something contains, while conTENT refers to being happy with an end result.

Japanese is full of homonyms and heteronyms because the basic syllabry is comprised of just 101 "phonetics", or sounds. In contrast, English uses more than 3,000 "phonetics" for 70,000 of the most-commonly used words. A stark contrast indeed.

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