Learning Japanese pt. 2 [FAQ]

As a continuation to the first Learning Japanese post, I decided to take a look at some common questions I came across while procrastinating spending time on forums and websites that deal with learning the Japanese language.

I try to answer them based on how I feel about them and my own experience. Hopefully it will be of some use of you.

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Learning Japanese pt. 1 [My Story]

There’s one question that’s bound to come up over and over again on any forum or website dedicated to learning Japanese:

“How did you learn Japanese?”

or perhaps just:

“How should I learn Japanese?”

…Or a variation of the above.

It’s not surprising – after all, learning a new language is a huge task and many people have no idea how or where to even begin, especially if they have never learned a foreign language before. That’s why, I figured I’d give answering this question a shot. This is going to be a multi-part post, and the first one is a summary of how I’ve learned Japanese up to this point.

Note that this is 100% my experience. What it means is that you might try some of the stuff that worked for me and find out that it doesn’t work for you. You might try stuff that didn’t work for me and realize it’s a great fit for you. My way is not the only true way of learning the language – there’s no such thing as one, “right” way of learning a new language. There’s only what works for you and what doesn’t, which you’re going to have to find out through trial and error.

So, with all of this out of the way, let’s get started.


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How I Play Video Games in Japanese

With Pokemon Sun and Moon already out in Japan and the US (at the time of writing this post, my fellow Europeans still have to wait a few days, unfortunately) I’m sure some of you will want to make use of one of the game’s best features – the ability to play it in multiple languages – to brush up on your Japanese skills.

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Or one of the other languages for that matter, but this is a blog dedicated to Japanese games, after all…

Anyway, if you’re not proficient with the language yet chances are you’re gonna run into quite a few new words during your Pokemon adventure. I know, I had to look up so much stuff back when I tried playing Pokemon Y in Japanese two years ago. Pokemon games, despite being quite beginner-friendly, are still written with native speakers in mind, after all.

Of course, stopping to look up unknown words can get quite annoying, especially in Japanese, where just inputting the word into an electronic dictionary can be tricky, if it’s written in kanji you haven’t learned yet. Over time, I’ve developed a way to make this as unobtrusive as possible for myself.

Of course it also gets easier as you understand more and have to look up less and less, but you’ve got to start somewhere.

Naturally, all of the stuff here is applicable not only to Pokemon, but any game, or reading just about anything that doesn’t come in a form you can copy-and-paste.

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Playing Japanese games on EU/US 3DS – a guide

Unfortunately for everyone involved, Nintendo’s latest handheld system is region-locked. Say you’re learning Japanese and you want to play some 3DS games to practice the language – unfortunately, importing a 3DS from Japan isn’t exactly cheap and chances are you already have an EU or USA-region console that you don’t want to part with.

Fortunately, not all hope is lost! There are still ways to play some games in Japanese on your system.

(I mean legitimately – if you want to learn more about hacking your device, you’ll have to look elsewhere.)


Pokemon games

 

As many of you might already be aware, in the 3DS Pokemon games (that is Pokemon X/Y as well as Pokemon Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire), you can pick the language you want to use before you start the game and yes, Japanese is one of these choices. Note that you can’t change your language afterwards, unless you wipe your save and start fresh, so no switching back into English mid-way. That might actually prove to be helpful, though, as it ensures you won’t wimp out, because reading Japanese is haaard.

You can also switch between hiragana-only and kanji modes in-game, so you can play even if you’re not feeling too confident in your kanji-reading abilities yet.

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A guide to making sense of stats in Japanese RPGs

So you want to start playing RPGs in Japanese

Maybe you’re like me and grab the nearest available Final Fantasy game (which in my case was FFX). After all, what could possibly go wrong?

Then you get to the status screen and it’s like “boy, what should I even be looking at here.”

So, I decided to put together a little guide on how to read the status screens in jRPGs. Of course, every game is going to be slightly different here, but they all tend to have some similarities. I’m going to look at the stats from a couple popular RPGs and we’ll see how they compare.

First, let’s look at the stat screen in Fire Emblem: Rekka no Ken (released simply as Fire Emblem in the West).

fe7 stats

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