Learning Japanese: Week 2 Recap – Hiragana Begins

The Pimsleur grind continues in week 2 of my Japanese studies, but I almost made a fatal mistake: I almost didn’t realize that I’m supposed to be studying Hiragana.

Phase 1: The Grind Continues

So far, so good on the Pimsleur approach. As I continued to make my way through lessons this week, I found that in general things seemed to be getting harder. The brief honeymoon period I felt last week, where I confidently could say that I understood everything in a lesson, is long gone. Now, I rely on Pimsleur’s repetition to keep me going. Gradually, the new words and concepts seem to sink in – thought it takes a few lessons. I am still baffled, for instance, why sometimes “I want to eat dinner” is:

Watashi wa ban-gohan o tabemasu.

And other times it’s:

Watashi wa ban-gohan o tabe-tai desu.

And there are other forms of the tabe-speak that I would recognize, but not distinguish. Right now I’m just rolling with it, hoping that the concepts become clearer over time.

This was a very busy week, and I’m amazed that I was actually able to go on without breaking the chain – I studied at least 30 minutes every day, though this came with some compromises. Given a busier than usual work schedule, I had no choice but to multitask my study or abandon it for the day.

Also given that schedule, I did not play the games in the app nearly enough. This lack of review hurt my comprehension, though the games that Pimsleur come with are optional (OG Pimsleur courses were, IIRC, audio only). But this was almost fatal, as I didn’t realize until Lesson 15 that “Reading” practice began to appear in the app starting with Lesson 11. And so we begin Phase 2: Hiragana.

Understanding the Hiragana

Pimsleur apply’s the same method to learning Hiragana that is does to learning the spoken language. That is to say, it introduces a very small number of phonetic symbols first, then begins (somewhat gently) drilling you on a mix of words you know and do not know. Many of the Hiragana examples do not follow the same vocabulary from the spoken lessons, but some do. For example, the first two symbols you learn are “は ha” and “い i”, and then together, “はい hai” or a word similar to “yes” in English.

I’m taking it slow, but learning to read another phonetic alphabet is exciting, and the lightbulb moment of seeing a word and realizing once you sound it out and that it’s a word you know is really cool – something I never experienced with learning Mandarin.

Next Steps

Thanks to today’s discovery, I’m still several lessons backlogged on reading practice. So I have some makeup work to do, then I’ll continue on with the Pimsleur audio lessons and make sure that I don’t skip the supplementary practice. In the meantime, guess it’s time I find a good Hiragana/Katakana/Kanji keyboard. I already use two keyboards for English and Chinese (which toggles between Simplified and Traditional character sets), so hopefully adding yet another doesn’t cause too much confusion!

But first, a little treat. Tonight my wife and I are going to see “Weathering With You” in theaters. I really enjoyed the previous movie from this studio, “Your Name”, so I’m excited to see this one. This is the first Japanese language content I’ll have watched since I began this language learning process, so I hope to pick up a few words. Hey, I’ve known one way to ask about the weather since day 1! ii o-tenki desu ne?

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