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poisonedantidote's avatar

How to crack oriental languages?

Asked by poisonedantidote (21544 points ) July 8th, 2011

I have always been fascinated by languages, I am able to speak a few languages, and know some words and phrases in many others, including some klingon, hehe… However, all the languages I know are descended from Latin and Greek.

If I wanted to learn a language that is based on Latin and Greek I could probably learn it very well in 4 to 5 months, I already have so many other similar words and structures that it is easy.

If i wanted to learn a language that originates in the orient, I would have no idea.

I tried to learn Japanese once, I tried for a couple of weeks online, I picked up a few words and phrases, but it just wont go in.

I heard a friend from Thailand talking the other day, she and her brother sounded amazing to listen to, all the words sounded so short, and it was packed with energy. I would love to learn to speak like that, but the language is so alien, it makes it hard.

Other than your typical courses and lessons, is there anywhere I can read up about the origins of oriental languages? more precisely, where can I read up on the logical structure of the languages?

Basically, where can I lean how oriental languages are different in composition?

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7 Answers

poisonedantidote's avatar

Please excuse the massive generalization of lumping Thai in with Chinese and Japanese and vice versa

Seelix's avatar

The best method to learn any language is through immersion. About 12 years ago, I spent a month with my sister in Japan where she was teaching English. I’ll admit that I have a knack for languages, but I was able to pick up quite a bit of conversational Japanese while I was there (though only spoken – written Japanese is still completely foreign) although I had only ever studied Romance languages before.

Sorry I can’t offer any more advice – immersion is not easy to achieve, I know. I hope you’re able to find a method that works for you.

JLeslie's avatar

@poisonedantidote When I was in Japan for a week we had a Berlitz book and I felt being able to speak Spanish, as I know you do, was actually a big help. Helped in pronounciation. I think you should go to Tokyo, it’s fantastic.

Meanwhile, I think your idea is good to study the structure. Berlitz does not do that, it just tells you a word or sentence. I think since you know so many languages you are more technical about the process. Most adults learn language as conversational, but you are looking to learn it in a more primary or secondary school way, so I think text books are more likely to give you what you want. Hopefully someone can recommend a specific book for you here.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@poisonedantidote Lumping the Thai in with the Chinese is no different than lumping the Germans and the Swedish in with the ‘Mericans. We all have the same root language.

Porifera's avatar

In general, you need to study the basics of the language you want to learn before you actually attempt to speak it. You can do this on your own by looking it up on Google. By basics I mean: structure of the language and basic vocabulary. Prepare flash cards and vocabulary lists to start building a good vocabulary base so that when the time comes you have enough input to give output. Also, check out videos on YT to get the feel and touch of the language so to speak. If you have a Skype account, you can go here and contact people who are interested in exchanging conversation in English for conversation in their language. All this will allow you to find out if you really like the language and if you are ready for the next step which would naturally be to go to the country where the language is spoken.

prasad's avatar

There are many countries, cultures & languages in oriental countries. You may follow links below to know more.
Languages of Asia
Languages of India

There are many languages in India itself (possibly 30–35); each state has different language. All of these languages originated from *Sanskrit” language. It is not easy & presently not spoken; however, it is still alive. Spiritual & ancient knowledge is in Sanskrit; though it is translated into many languages. Presently, Hindi is used as national language. My mother tongue is Marathi. I know little Sanskrit, as it was my elective in school.

A little I know about other languages. There are about 6 languages in Chinese; most prominently used one is Mandarine, which is world’s most spoken language! English is second! Surprising! I too surprised, but it’s true. It is hard to learn as there are no alphabets or letters in Chinese. There are picture like words for writing purpose. I have heard there are about 4000 words one needs to know to use Chinese well.
There are letters in Japanese. So, it is relatively easy for learning to write Japanese.
Urdu is used in Pakistan. Spoken Urdu & spoken Hindi are same; but they have different scripts or letters for writing. So, if I go to Pakistan, I can speak, but cannot read or write Urdu, as I know Hindi.

anartist's avatar

Get involved in things that use a lot of words in the language. When I learned karate I picked up a handful of words I can count to 99 [the structure is easy if you make it to 10, you’ve got 99 ichi, ni, san, shi, go, roku, shichi, hachi, kyu, ju. Then start ju-ichi, ju-ni etc] and a handful of other words including ‘drink up!’ [gambei] sensei [leader master]—get into anime and learn some more maybe even phrases. Japanese cuisine and tea ceremonies more words. The watch lots of Japanese movies with english subtitles. Part of it is immersion. Helps to have Japanese friends.

When you know what they sound like and what they mean—learn what they look like.

Also odd and interesting—Japanese, Koreans, and Chinese share a lot of the same ideograms, but they often mean different things.

You could start a little closer to home but in reverse. Learn the Greek alpha, then how to pronounce and recognize greek words is easier—and cyrillic is similar and knowing how it sounds helps you read it.

Actually sanscrit and aramaic may be the beginning of all of it.

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