· After all that , I feel I finally figured out the magic recipe. (see Trial and Error post pt1)
1. Try to find the SIMILARITIES between your native language and the language you are learning. Everywhere I looked kept saying, "Japanese is so hard," "It's so different from English," “Japanese is idographic. It’s represented in pictures or symbols.” Hello, so is English. WE just call them letters. Kanji are symbols that have sounds (readings). Sounds make words. (Letters have sounds. Sounds make words when put together.) Um…duh. Granted, their symbols sometimes look like what the word is supposed to be whereas in English the word “eggs” does not look like eggs. The kanji for eggs (tamago) actually looks a little like sunny side up eggs. Don’t trip over ON and KUN readings. Many letters and words in English have more than one reading and sound. (think of all our vowels and the letters Y, G. Words like homophones and homographs, dipthongs, and digraphs. In this context, other languages are a cinch!)
2. Speaking: Learn simple phrases, verbs, and vocabulary that have meaning to you in your daily activities and interactions. Expand your vocabulary later. Begin to use what you learn. Find a penpal or torment your relatives and friends. We do this as children when we are learning English (want cake –vs- Please may I have a piece of chocolate cake?) It only makes sense.
3. Learn to read and write words and phrases as they are written in their native language. For Japanese I found starting out by learning the strokes was easiest. I started with one stroke kanji and worked my way up. By the time you get to the 7 stroke kanji, you’ve seen and written many of the elements several times and stroke order becomes almost automatic. For reading, start off with leveled children’s books and newspapers with helpers then work your way up. Eventually you won’t need them. Try not to cheat by using bilingual books. :)
4. Practice the alphabet of the language. Pay attention to the sounds the letters make.
5. Use mnemonics that work for YOU. Mnemonics with a city reference won't mean squat to someone from a fishing village. Draw pictures, make up a song, make up a sentence, associate it with something you already know, or act it out.
6. Listen to speakers of the language in every form you can find. Cartoons, game shows, variety shows (Gaki no Tsuaki is hilarious!) music, language cds, dramas (soap operas), action films, etc. Just LISTEN. Words sound differently when they are being sung in a song versus whispered or screamed. Eventually it will begin to make sense. You’ll pick up on words and phrases you’ve learned.
7. Be patient. You weren’t born and raised with this language. It’s going to take you some time to learn it. Some people learn it in 3months - others in 3years. You probably have school, work, or a family to deal with as well.
8. Ask yourself: What is your goal for learning the language? If it’s to speak it for when you travel on a vacation or for a short term job assignment, you don’t need to be fluent and learn the entire vocabulary (Hell, even regular native English speakers don’t know every word in the dictionary). You just need to know how to say a few things.
9. Have fun. If it’s all drill, drill, drill you won’t have any fun and more than likely won’t remember anything.