How I remember Japanese

 
rant by Dereck
categories: Design 20, Japan, Studies
2007-02-09 22:26:33
 
I've been on a seemingly futile quest for the past 2 or 3 years to teach myself the Japanese language. By “teach myself”, I of course mean “be exceedingly cheap and use shady internet reference material.”

The inherent flaw in my plan is that I'm terrible at memorizing lists and I'm very lazy when I can be. Because of this, I've only barely kinda memorized hiragana and katakana (which are, put one way, the Japanese alphabets).

Most kana don't look like letters to me, so I see them more as little pictures. As such, I've attempted to convince myself that the more difficult-to-memorize kana actually resemble the sound they're supposed to make. This isn't an original idea, for sure. However, I'm not taking classes or reading books, so I imagine the ways that I picture some kana are far different than what is traditionally taught.

One of the ones that stands out in particular for me is hiragana 'wa'. You can see it here. This one is confusing to me because it looks similar to re and, to a lesser extent, ne. Ne is easy to distinguish, because it has a loop at the end. Re is similar to wa, but a bit more squiggly. Wa is nice and smooth going left to right. So, what do a smooth motion going left to right and the sound 'wa' immediately bring to my mind?

Mortal Kombat.

As far as I'm concerned, the kana for wa is a picture of Liu Kang doing a flying kick from left to right, while yelling 'wa' in his silly high-pitched voice. Laugh all you want, but it works.

As a side effect, whenever I'm drilling kana, I always repeat 'wa' to myself in a much higher pitch and sustained length than the other kana. ya, yu, yo; ra, ri, ru, re, ro; waaaaaa, wo, n.