I haven’t made much progress in my Japanese studies. Even though I have learned hiragana and katakana, I still need to review all the characters. Regularly. I’ve probably already forgotten some, so I need to practice. The next step after learning hiragana and katakana is to start learning kanji. When I decided to start learning Japanese, someone told me that I would have an easier time with kanji because I know Chinese. However, it is a little tricky getting started. The characters may be identical or similar, but Chinese and Japanese are different languages. 漢字 (kanji) means Han characters in both Chinese and Japanese. The words are pronounced differently depending on if it is Japanese or Chinese. Furthermore, the meanings may also be different depending on the language. So, when I am looking at 漢字 for Japanese, I need to train my mind to turn off the Chinese reading.
My natural response to reading 日本語 is the Chinese reading (ri ben yu). However in the presence of other Japanese words, 日本語 becomes にほんご (nihongo). It is not an easy thing to do. I think I’ve gotten stuck for awhile because I could not get past that. I need to remind myself that Japanese is a separate language with separate rules for 漢字. I realized after a while that this should not be difficult for me because I am able to distinguish between English and French. After all, “one minute” and “une minute” both use the word “minute” with identical spellings. I pronounce the word differently depending on the context. So if I’m able to make that jump, I should be able to make a similar jump from Chinese to Japanese. The main point is that Japanese words came before the characters. The 漢字 were later used to represent these words. So instead of memorizing individual characters (as I do for Chinese), I need to learn Japanese 漢字 in context of other characters.