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Should You Learn And Use Romaji? — 22 Comments

  1. Interesting post. I never really learned romaji as there is essentially nothing to learn if we already speak English, which I assume everybody here does.
    Also, in case some of you guys didn’t know, (like me) you don’t have to type tsu for つ or chi for ち、or shi for し。 You can do tu, ti, and ci respectively. Didn’t realize it for an entire year almost. Don’t know if it works on all IMEs, but it does on Microsoft and Baidu.

    On another note aboute Baidu Japanese IME, I highly recommend it, it is over 8000 times better than Microsoft IME in my opinion. When you install it you can convert your Microsoft IME dictionary over, and also in the Baidu dictionary, there is almost every proverb, almost every 四字熟語, a lot of 2ch phrases, IT terms, and etc. Though my favorite feature is the emoji. For almost every emotion there is a face. I don’t know all of them, you just gotta experiment with different emotion words or words like hello or bye, etc
    泣く→(´;ω;`) ゚(゚´Д`゚)゚
    怒る→(`・ω・´) ヽ(`Д´)ノ
    オッス→( ̄Д ̄)ノ
    さようなら→(´・ω・`)/~~
    こんにちは→ヽ(^0^)ノ (^。^)/
    etc etc

    • Ah, interesting. I’ll be sure to try out the Baidu IME.
      I’ve been using the Google IME for awhile, and I think it is quite a bit better than Microsoft’s as well (though microsoft does allow you to write the kanji while google doesn’t). For emoji on google IME you just type 顔 and it has hundreds in there.

  2. I’ll be honest: I sort of feel that this whole post is based on a misconception of what I think most people mean when they say you should avoid the romanji versus the kana.

    What is meant is not, I think, that you shouldn’t LEARN the romanji, and, truth be told, I have trouble seeing how an english speaker could not do so almost automatically… Rather, what I think is meant is that one should not USE romanji WHEN kana are viable, essentially because that deprives you of useful practice time in using the kana: in the beginning it just takes time for your brain to start making the immediate association between symbol and sound, and every opportunity to do so counts.

    • The real point of this post is to show that even though kana is the obvious choice from the beginning, romaji still has its time and place for use, and should not be completely disregarded as worthless.

      • Is Kana another name for Hiragana, because on my game it is teaching me Hiragana first. Do you have a chart for Kanji or the other one for me to study or do you know where to get one?

        • Kana refers to both the Hiragana and the Katakana together. In order to understand the best way to learn them I’d try reading this post http://japaneselevelup.com/2011/12/26/is-there-a-best-way-to-attack-the-hiragana-and-katakana/
          Personally I used Heisig’s book (Remembering the Kana) which is great and very fast (complemented by Anki, of course), but I hear there are other great ones.

          As for Kanji, those are going to take you a LOT more time. Certainly not something you want to learn by looking at tables. But don’t worry about those right yet… their time will come.

      • I know what your point is. I just feel your characterization of the “romaji is bad” people is a bit off. Nor do I see “trashing” the romaji as an intrinsically bad thing, as you seem to, as it does much more good than bad, in my view.

        But, frankly, I don’t really think this topic is actually worth more of our time, so you are free to view my comments as the typical pedantism of the professional mathematician… Back to my reviews…

  3. Do you realize this page is actually the fifth listing in that simple online search? Apparently, you’ve made an impression =)

    Personally, I rather hate romaji. I feel my early use of it set me up with a fundamental flaw in my internal representations of the kana. For this very reason, I happen to own one of those funky keyboards you speak of – whether it will help me sort out the problem or not has yet to be seen.

    That’s just my personal experience, of course. The point is, I don’t dislike it because someone told me to. I dislike it because exclusive use of romaji was an easy trap to sink into way back when I first started learning (so many websites and resources were teaching with it exclusively), and I’m paying for it now.

    Any suggestions on fixing my representations? Studying the hell out of my kana until they somehow overtake the latin alphabet seems rather futile…

  4. For the most part, romaji really isn’t helpful to me. I only intend on learning reading and writing in Japanese, perhaps learning speaking and listening later (however unlikely it is, considering I don’t have any future plans to move to Japan or have any future conversations in Japanese). Also, when I’m reading, I have a tendency to translate the character to romaji text first, then read it, which makes my reading slower. There’s also the fact that when I look at romaji, I forget the Japanese pronunciation and pronounce it as it would be pronounced in English. Though, since I’m not focusing on speaking or listening, that doesn’t bother me too much (for now, at least). However, there is one good thing about romaji. When I was first trying to learn Japanese (a week or two ago), romaji simplified the Hiragana I was learning, so that I wasn’t overwhelmed by it and have a 10% more likely chance of giving up learning Japanese. But other than that, romaji has only been a hindrance to me.

  5. I agree. All articles on romaji are negative. Why ?
    If it’s up to me, I’ll abandon kana and kanji altogether.
    Kanji are impossible to learn. And kana is basically the same to romaji, both phonetic.
    But romaji is simpler, thus better.
    And I don’t see why I would get mixed up with meaning.
    If I would get mixed up reading, I would also get mixed up speaking.
    And that doesn’t happen !
    The great benefit of romaji is that it is simple, usable, and readable for anyone.
    But oh no, lets do it the hard way, everybody wants to write in kana and kanji, truly Japanese.

    • ” If it’s up to me, I’ll abandon kana and kanji altogether.”

      That’s probably a bad idea.

      “Kanji are impossible to learn.”

      No they’re not.

      “And kana is basically the same to romaji, both phonetic.”

      No it isn’t.

      ” But romaji is simpler, thus better.”

      It definitely isn’t, and that’s incredibly subjective.

      ” The great benefit of romaji is that it is simple, usable, and readable for anyone.”

      Not necessarily for Japanese people.

      “All articles on romaji are negative. Why ?”

      Because then people get the idea that they only need romaji.

    • If you literally only care about being able to converse, then I could see your argument for doing away with kana and kanji.

      But what happens when you want to read? Books. Games. News. Discussions. Wikipedia. Being able to comfortably read kana and kanji opens up a whole world that would otherwise be locked away.

      It’s stated many times on this site that your journey is your own. If you have no use for literacy, then it’s not my place to judge. I guess I just can’t bring myself to imagine how anyone could live without it.

      • Matt, although I do love literacy, I neither like the Japanese syllabaries nor the Kanji ideograms, i.e. the Japanese writing system as a whole. However, this does not mean I do not like literacy in general or much less the Japanese language itself, on the contrary. That is a very mistaken generalization you´ve just made there!

        • You’ve weighed your options and decided that, for you, Japanese literacy is not worth the effort required. That is the textbook definition of not caring about it. The reason you decided not to care about it is irrelevant.

          You’re allowed to like or dislike whatever you want, and if you’re ok with not being literate and still enjoy the language then more power to you.

          But it would be doing learners a disservice to sugarcoat reality that choosing not to learn kana and kanji comes at a steep cost – it’s just as big a disadvantage as being illiterate in any other language, especially in a world where so much communication now happens via email, instant messaging, and social media.

          Kanji isn’t that hard, and anyone can learn it. Romaji is a stepping stone at best and can’t even fully express spoken Japanese (things like small vowels, small っ, and 鼻濁音 (bidakuon) just as examples).

  6. I’ll have to be honest and say that I think that you are missing a big “but” in this article. Yes, romaji probably has its time and place, but a beginner learning Japanese should stay miles away from it. It’s a crutch which will significantly slow learning down. Learn your kana – it can be done in an afternoon!

  7. I think all the staunch supporters of Kanji and the Japanese syllabaries forget that some people don´t have any interest AT ALL in learning the (composite) Japanese writing system, i.e, they just want to learn to speak (and understand)the spoken language itself – I for one am one of them!
    Actually, this deeply mistaken insistence on the supposed unfeasibility of learning Japanese without learning the syllaberies and Kanji will only keep these people away from learning this language, which can be not only a wonderful means of contact between activists who fight for the same causes in Japan but don´t speak English or any other western language. Besides, even those who don´t want to learn the Japanese writing system can still benefit from watching Japanese TV channels available on cable (NHK for example), which will therefore allow them to understand important Japanese news, programs and interviews about scientific breakthroughs and many other relevant cultural subjects!
    Actually, that´s what has happened to me for decades: I ended up giving up learning Japanese decades ago exactly due to this unyielding inculcation of the idea that “one cannot learn Japanese without learning the syllabaries and Kanji”, whether explicit or subliminal! Now I have fortunately realized this idea is deeply mistaken, as it all depends on the USE one intends to make of the language!

    • I don’t suggest this because of a love for Kanji and Kana, but because it is simply the best way to learn the language. Even if you don’t care about reading ability, it will be difficult to find learning materials beyond beginner level that use romaji, so your quest is likely to get stopped dead in its track when you want to move beyond that. What we are suggesting is that you bite the bullet now and learn kana and start learning some kanji as well.

      It is definitely possible to focus more or less on reading ability, and based on your preferences, you should obviously focus less on it, but romaji belongs on the same shelf as get-rich-quick books as it works about as well.

      • Ok, Jasper,I get your point. Nevertheless, I haven´t changed my mind on this.Thanks for the feedback, anyway.

      • Thanks for the link, Matt. I´ve read the article and do get the author´s reasons for recommending the learner to learn th syllabaries. Actually, once I gave up the will to learn Kanji, I thought I could try just the kana and hiragsana. However, as I also study other languages and do need to save time for their study, I don´t think I will ever find the time to study them but one can never say I will never drink from these waters … Thanks for caring, anyway.

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