Learning Japanese: First Semester

Tired of University lectures? Want to feel like you’re in 5th grade again, or whenever it was when you started to learn your second language? In that case, I can warmly recommend attending the courses for a completely new one, it feels exactly the same as back then. (^-~)

Well, at least I was very reminded of the first english classes I had ten years ago. Classes of 20-30 people, the teacher brings a CD player to class, from which some people speak incredibly fast gibberish, and you start with learning the „Hello World” equivalent of actual languages:

Konnichiwa. Watashi wa Furorian desu. Kaarusuruue no daigaku no gakusei desu.
Hello, I'm Florian. I'm a student from the University of Karlsruhe.

Well, but at that point, one can spot the differences. Ten years ago, I hadn’t to learn two whole new syllabaries to write that down in English. (@_@) This has the interesting effect that understanding spoken Japanese is actually easier than reading and understanding the subtitles.

Ok, „understanding” spoken Japanese is exaggerated. Last friday, I watched „My Neighbour Totoro” in Japanese with German subtitles (it’s an old Studio Ghibli movie for children, actually), and while the language of it is relatively simple, I sat there and every minute or so I was happy to hear, somewhere in a sentence, a word I actally knew: ‘yesterday’, ‘thank you’, ‘hospital’, ‘university’ and similar.

I’ll watch that movie after every semester from now on, hoping to see some progress!

Another strange fact: Not only my friend and myself, but about half of the other attendees seemed to be informatics students. (^_^;) Coincidence? I think not.

And what would informatics students try when they learn a new writing system? They try to type it on their beloved keyboard! So did I. But switching to Japanese input methods turned out to be much harder than expected (read „I didn’t get it to work at all ”).

I found a viable alternative (which also serves as a nice segueway to get a tech topic in this post after all): A nice vim snippet you can put in your .vimrc to enable toggling your usual keymap with the kana keymap by pressing F3:

" switch between kana and normal keymap
let b:keymap_kana_switcher=0
function! ToggleKeymap()
    if b:keymap_kana_switcher==0
        set keymap=kana
        let b:keymap_kana_switcher=1
        set keymap=
        let b:keymap_kana_switcher=0

nnoremap <F3> :call ToggleKeymap()<CR>

As you might see, this is self-written, and I have no idea how to properly write vim scripts, but hey, it works! \(^_^)/ With the kana keymap, you just write the phonetical transformation of the kanas, and depending on your shift key, it’ll make hiragana or katakana out of what you typed.

Of course, this only works inside vim, but text input of any kind without vim? Who uses that? (ô_ó)

And here, I present you my closing word as a final unicode test for your browser: さようなら。

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