28 July 2017 @ 04:46 pm
Just so you know  
In English we often shorten phrases by omitting an entire half or more: "Ask not for whom the bell tolls (it tolls for thee)", "Birds of a feather (flock together)". Words are the same way, "(inter)net, teach(er), sis(ter)". Strings of words also get their first or last sounds or letters taken and merged: "Government Issue = GI, Tele Vision = TV", "shark tornado = sharknado". Japanese is exactly the same way. Each kanji is a unique word and they mix and match these words in order to say what they want. For example:

公 public/popular/wide 安 safe 局 department = 公安局 government department of public safety (3 words)
安 calm/safe 心 core/mood = mental relief (2 words)
不 not 安 calm/safe = worry (= mental upset) (2 words)
安 calm/safe 全 complete = safety, security (2 words)

公安局, 安心, 不安 and 安全 aren't unique words worth memorizing. You instead need to remember the kanji meanings, because each kanji is a separate word. Japanese people always mix and match words this way to create whatever it is that they want to say; we in English say "library, librarian", we say "Washingtonian, laundrette", but, for some reason, we don't say "libroshop, librette, bookian, bookette" — Japanese people (and most cultures in the world in general) do exactly that however. For the most part it doesn't matter what a word's origin is, they'll mix and match it to say what they want.

The trouble with this only comes when what we think is "a complete word" is actually short for a longer word. For example:

少年[男] = "few-years [male]" = young boy
少[年]女 = "few-[years] female"= young girl
妖怪[獣] = "uncanny-suspicious [beast]" = ghost, demon
妖[怪]力 = "uncanny-[suspicious] power" = demonic/supernatural power
[犯]無実 = "[crime] not true" = innocent (of a crime)

These appear in real life as: 少年, 少女, 妖怪, 妖力, 無実 and the dictionary won't show you the origins I've pointed out above, despite that if you actually do know what the full word/phrase must have at some point been (as a native speaker does!) then the shortened word is instantly recognizable and memorable without any special study.

It's my goal to make a dictionary and textbook that teach Japanese in exactly that way: showing you that what you're learning isn't actually a special, unique word and thus making everything a lot easier to learn. The problem is, this takes an amazing amount of time, especially since I'm still learning Japanese myself — I have to create the entire dictionary by gathering words MYSELF, figure out all the kanji meanings MYSELF because the existing materials are completely awful. For example, a "word" like 妖力, despite being constantly in use in manga and anime, isn't in the dictionary. I myself have to find this word and realize 妖 is short for 妖怪, as well as that 妖怪 itself is short for 妖怪獣.

So anyway, my idea was to make a dictionary that only gives kanji meanings, except it'll also point out when compound words are abbreviations (like 妖: 1. uncanny, 2. 妖怪[獣] and then I might have 妖怪[獣] as a separate entry because its meaning isn't obvous). What do you think? What should I make sure to do or not do? What are the problems you've been finding in dictionaries and textbooks? What's your ideal dictionary/textbook?
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アリス (๑❛ᴗ❛๑)ノ[personal profile] leokumi on July 29th, 2017 01:40 pm (UTC)
I would love to have a dictionary like this, because this is basically how I taught myself most kanji words -- by breaking them down into separate kanji/words that I already knew (such as 予 = beforehand and 感 = emotion/feeling, therefore 予感 must be "to feel something before it happens"/"to have a hunch", i.e. すごく嫌な予感 = "I've got a really bad feeling about this"). My biggest problem with dictionaries is that the definitions are usually either really simple/vague, or they're way too specific. And if they have example sentences, most of the time they're not very good, so it makes it harder for me to figure out how a word would actually be used in a sentence -- especially when I'm just trying to pick up new vocabulary and not translating from existing text. If that makes any sense, lmao.

Also I want to thank you for making all these reference posts lately. I appreciate them, they're very informative/interesting, and it's neat to see how other people go about studying!
lusentoj[personal profile] lusentoj on July 29th, 2017 02:46 pm (UTC)
yeah, that's why i'm trying to make all these posts. i remember all these things like not realizing until the very end of the textbook that "puppy" is actually just "child dog", or the dictionary not telling me the difference between 聞く and 聴く... despite that, very obviously, if you know those things from the beginning it really speeds up your learning!! and i'm still learning now, so writing posts helps me "finalize" what i think i know haha.

in general i just always want to try and help prove that there's always a faster or easier way to learn.

feel free to make posts on anything you want yourself too haha! i don't want it to seem like it's a comm where only mods can post!!
lusentoj[personal profile] lusentoj on July 30th, 2017 04:39 pm (UTC)
By the way, do you have any "grammar points" or anything you still feel confused about at this point...? I can keep a special eye out for good example sentences for them if so!

I'm personally confused about たる form for verbs for example (I've never bothered to look up what it means though).
アリス (๑❛ᴗ❛๑)ノ[personal profile] leokumi on July 30th, 2017 11:33 pm (UTC)
Ehhh, my biggest problem with grammar is mostly remembering which inflections to use. I constantly forget the difference between (ら)れる and (さ)せる when writing in Japanese, and sometimes I struggle with gerunds (the -て forms of verbs/connective verbs, for example 生々しくて).

I've never been good at any kind of grammar though, haha! Even English grammar still gives me trouble, and it's my first language. :|a
lusentoj[personal profile] lusentoj on July 30th, 2017 11:59 pm (UTC)
Aww, I guess you just have to keep up the "input" then... I'm sloowly getting all this stuff like られる, させる and keigo that I didn't understand at all from class, from anime lol. But it's a lot slower than I'd like!!