The Sign I can now read

A narrow, cobblestone street with dim streetlights was the road I trod each day to go to work, or come home at night. I was living in Shinjuku, and only a block away from the Shinjuku history museum. Each day I would walk past a large silver sign, packed with Kanji that I didn’t really know. I could recognize “新宿” because I lived in that ward and saw the kanji so often, but the rest I could recognize but not literally read. In seeing that sign each day, I felt as if I would never be able to break up heavier groups of Kanji, or thought it would take forever.

Today, I wrote the name of the museum from memory, for one of my upcoming video blogs. In blogging about my learning ups and downs with Japanese, i’ve discovered a passion I haven’t felt in a while, and i’m running with it. Seeing my personal evolution is something I like to be aware of, and to go from getting angry and frustrated at not being able to read simple Kanji, to beasting out some long words for a video i’m making to help others feels a little weird.

It’s interesting that I like blogging about this; the technical details the little insights I gather. I’m seeing that a language is something you can really go after, taking small bite after small bite, until you take a hefty chunk out of the beast’s hindquarters.

What seems to be happening right now is that i’m in this “absorption phase” where I seem to be understanding the implicit meaning of enough Kanji to work through sentences without a lot of difficulty. Once I have some kind of reference material to check example sentences and so on, I find that i’m not getting as annoyed when I stick on a Kanji I don’t remember.

Context is getting clearer, and i’m starting to remember words that relate to certain things like 支度 which means “preparation”, but always seems to be attached something else. Like, 旅支度 -preparing to travel/travel preparation 食事支度 – preparing a meal,etc.

I’m sure I will see the word more often, but what I’m pointing out in this blog post is that learning new vocabulary right now doesn’t feel painful like it used to. Whenever I used to read sentences, each time i hit vocabularly I didn’t know, I felt as if I didn’t know ANYTHING at all, and i’d start to get stressed. But as you read more sentences, there are definitely high frequency words, or words that have meanings linked to certain situations.

Either way, for me to be able to write 東京都庭園美術館 (tokyo metropolitan art museum) by hand, and explain what I am writing is bananas. I have still tons of stuff to learn ahead of me, but I’ve definitely taken a mental step I didn’t realize in terms of writing and recognizing Kanji. The next leap I want to take is discovering a level of grammar comprehension that allows me to write most of what I am thinking in simple sentences.

I have been trying to take notes or make lists in Japanese, but I’m still not so good speaking simply. Japanese works well if you can speak as simply as possible, and i’m having issues speaking simply, but i’m seeing if I can work out the kinks with language exchange.

But the word I was referring to earlier is the : 新宿歴史博物館。(shinjuku history museum)

so breaking it up real quick:

新宿 ーしんじゅく Shinjuku

歴史 ーれきし rekishi

博物館ーはくぶつかん hakubutsukan

What’s cool is that 博物館 is VERY common. So like “Science museum” is

科学博物館 (科学 – かがく)science + museum

and then stuff with museums and buildings are variations of these kanji in different ways. I’m not so worried now about the variations because if i encounter them in reading manga then I will have a “sense” of where they come from if they resemble 博物館。

and I think this is the point of working through Kanji. Hesig didn’t called it “Remembering the Kanji” versus “Memorizing the Kanji” for nothing.

But to make a ridiculously simple sentence insane, one could say


Where A の方が、B より+verb  means “A is more than B”.

I just made A & B really big words.

So I just said “The shinjuku history museum is more interesting than the Tokyo Teien metropolitan art museum.”

But i’m seeing that this is how some “big Kanji” once broken up aren’t so beastly and evil. I still can’t always remember “radioactive material” though : p  because I don’t use it very often, but you can check my Tweeling and Neeling post to see how I was fiddling with some news to try and learn new words.

I just checked it, and it’s 放射性 (radioactive)

which is literally in Heisig: ‘release shoot nature/sex’

but radiation by itself is 放射 so i’m not sure if 性 is like adding “tion” onto Kanji, but if i find that out, I will blog about it.


About marcusbird

Writer, Designer, Filmmaker
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