Guess why I'm enjoying 5Faves so much?
Because it lets me play a BBC channel and no one will call me a nerd.
Okay, this time it's learning Japanese language - this stuff costs me about 6 hours a week (~2,5 hours of class and ~3,5 hours of self-education and homework). There are things that give me headaches, there are really complicated grammar topics, but there are also things that I'd love to share ('cause they're my personal faves).
1. Chinese and Japanese pronunciation of characters.
The funny thing is that Chinese characters (kanji) are used to write lots of Japanese words. Another funny (and not quite easy to remember) thing is that each character has multiple ways of pronunciation. Most characters (and words) have two roots of pronunciation, the Chinese one and the Japanese one.
Now look here.
All these kanji have the same Chinese pronunciation - shin. They have completely different meanings.
If you read them in Japanese, you would have kami, susumu, shinjiru, atarashii, makoto, nobasu, kokoro and oya. In English - God, advance, believe, new, true, stretch, heart, and parent.
2. The symbolism of kanji.
Let's take, for example, this complicated word written in kanji.
You can probably say nothing about its possible meanings only by its looks.
It's not quite right.
The first character means "by itself". It always means that something is self-induced or self-active.
The third character simply means a wheel.
The second character has two parts. The left one is basically a wheel, but a heavy one (with two additional sticks). The right one gives the idea of moving.
Now tell me, if something moves by itself and has wheels, what's that?
It's actually a car, jidousha in Japanese.
3. Funky grammar.
There are no conjugation of verbs, no gender of nouns, no articles and no fixed syntax.
It means that if you have a sentence, its subject may not be clear. And there are various particles that follow nouns to make it understandable. The verb is always at the end.
For example, if I say something like hako no naka ni neko ga imasu, it would mean that a cat is in the box:
- imasu is the verb is related to living creatures,
- hako is the box,
- naka is inside,
- no shows that we mean the inner part of the box (not something else),
- ni means that something mentioned in the sentence after the box is actually inside it,
- neko is the cat,
- ga means that we're speaking about the cat (plus, we suppose that the person we're speaking to knows that we're speaking about it).
Sometimes it seems like Master Yoda is speaking to you. No, really.
4. Various ways to count things.
When we want to say something like "On the 5th of May, I have bought three packs of cookies and two fish. I've served cookies to four guests that came, and gave the fish to my six cats"...that's just an example, rather stupid, I know. Although, we just name the numbers and don't think about it.
In Japanese, there are special particles to use when you count. They are attached to numbers. That's what happens next:
- godai, if you have 5 cars or computers,
- gomai, if you have 5 sheets of paper,
- gobi, if you have 5 fish,
- gonin, if 5 persons came for a cup of tea,
- nihon, if there are 2 bottles of something,
- nisatsu, if you took 2 books from a library,
- nijikan gofun, if 2 hours and 5 minutes passed,
- nihatsu, if you had 2 orgasms or have only 2 bullets left in your gun (no kidding),
If you're interested, there is a list here (but not all of counter words are mentioned).
5. All possible levels of politeness.
Polite be you will!
The use of polite forms and honorifics is mandatory in lots of social situations. This might be tricky. For example, if you're talking about family and the person you're talking with asks if you have siblings, you use ordinary forms to speak about your siblings. To speak about his or her siblings, you use poilte forms.
Imagine another situation.
You're a junior and you want to ask your senior something. Of course, if you're friends, you can say something like Kiite ii? which would mean Can I ask you a question?.
But if it's your boss or someone you don't know well (so you wish to be very polite), you ask Kikasete-itadakeru to ureshii no desu ga?
Which means I would be delighted if I may be permitted to ask a question.
Things like that are actually used.
The main idea is that if you want to learn Japanese, it comes only with lots of cultural details and exceptions and rules and everything. So you must love it to learn it properly.
Like every other language, I think.