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Reading Japanese Visual Novels

Ok I've started learning Kanji (I know roughly 90 so far) and I don't understand why the sentences don't make sense. I know it has something to do with the Hiragana and Katakana charts but I know know exactly what it has to do with it. I'll attach an image of one of the sentences in the visual novel. I am an English speaker. If anyone could help me or point me in the right direction then it would help. I'm only trying to learn to read Japanese and not to speak it or write it.

Oh and the visual novel is called Da Capo Plus Communication.
Reading Japanese Visual Novels
posted by AdventSign

Comments 8

  • Peacherine
    Hi! You're in a good place if you're looking to learn how to translate : ) Just to clarify, before anything else:

    1. Do you know how to read hiragana and katakana?
    2. Do you know how to look up kanji online to find readings for ones you don't know?
    3. Can you use a dictionary (like Rikaichan for Firefox) to look up words and phrases you don't know?
    4. Have you started to study any basic grammar?


    I'll try to respond to your potential answers.

    1. Kanji are great, but also make sure you have the kana down too. Fluently, so you don't waste time thinking about what they are. Looking up unknown kanji and figuring out grammar will take the most time, so you don't want to spend it on straightforward kana lookup! (If you haven't learned kana yet, let me know and I can give you some good links to learn them, besides this site.) Also, hiragana particularly is used to show many grammar constructs. For example, verb conjugations are entirely done with hiragana, so you'll need to be able to tell them apart.

    2/3. If you use Firefox, I highly recommend Rikaichan. It's a Jap-Eng dictionary that you can type/paste text into. I like it especially because it'll tell you what conjugations verbs are in. Another good online dictionary (that doesn't indicate conjugations but does give example sentences for words) is here: http://www.csse.monash.edu.au/~jwb/cgi-bin/wwwjdic.cgi?1C Just type the word in and search. You can also search using roomaji.

    As for looking up unknown kanji... if it's copy-pastable text online somewhere, just paste it into one of those dictionaries. If it's in an image, like is probably the case with visual novels (?) you may need to search for them by radicals. I use this site: http://www.jisho.org/kanji/radicals/ Looking at your kanji, figure out what parts make it up and click on those. It'll show you a list of kanji with that combination of parts, and hopefully you can narrow it down to the one you need From there, it's copy-pastable if you need it to be.

    4. Probably the biggest reason the sentences still won't make sense even if you can read them is because of grammar. The ultimate Japanese grammar site is Tae Kim's guide: http://www.guidetojapanese.org/learn/grammar Start to read over those pages to build up a foundation of basic grammar, at least so you can identify what kinds of grammar you're seeing so you can look into it more if need be.


    Your sentence in the picture is 天使の羽のような花びら散りざまは、まるで永遠を思わせる一瞬。

    The words you would need to know are:

    The different grammar things included in that sentence are:

    の showing relationship between two nouns
      ➔ http://www.guidetojapanese.org/learn/grammar/nounparticles

    ような showing a comparison (like a simile)
      ➔ http://www.guidetojapanese.org/learn/grammar/similarity

    は showing a topic of the sentence
      ➔ http://www.guidetojapanese.org/learn/grammar/particlesintro

    を marking a direct object
      ➔ http://www.guidetojapanese.org/learn/grammar/verbparticles


    Short of just giving you a translation, I hope these links will help you become your own teacher and learn where to find information! Let me know if you have any other questions! がんばって! ヾ(´▽`;)ゝ
  • AdventSign
    1. No I don't know any of the Katakana or Hiragana. I tried to memorize them but it is much harder than the Kanji because I can relate the symbols in Japanese to the words in English.

    2. I do know where to look up Kanji for words I don't know. I use Translation Aggregator with the Interactive Text Hooker, MeCab and Jparser installed. The problem is that the words that are given through the Translator are usually fragmented and make little to no sense.

    3. I just installed Rikaichan yesterday. It's very helpful but it still doesn't help with understanding multiple words in sentences.

    4. I have no idea how or when to start on basic grammar. It would be nice to learn at a similar pace that I am learning Kanji so I can read the words in the sentences.

    I have absolutely no idea what order to learn all of this in. The Katakana and Hiragana I never really saw a good reason to learn because I can't relate them to any English word that is known. What winds up happening is that I try to do the Katakana and Hiragana but I don't see any pay off for it unlike Kanji where I am learning words. If I can somehow relate Katakana and Hiragana together with Kanji in sentences then it might help me focus on it more.

    I know that the grammar guide is important but what steps and order should I do it in that would help me the most?
  • AdventSign
    I just used Rikaichan to try to translate 天使 and it gave me:


    How can I know what definition is the right one? I have a partially patched copy of the game and the answer is Angel. When I get into the untranslated parts though, I won't be able to check the words anymore.
  • Peacherine
    Hmmm... I think I understand what you're saying a little more now. It seems like you directly want to see Japanese and translate it right to English, without much focus on actually being able to read it in Japanese (like being able to read the sentence in the picture as it would be pronounced in Japanese.) Right?

    Your view of kanji makes more sense that way, because yes, they inherently hold some kind of English meaning while kana don't really. However, kanji can also hold more than one meaning, as you've found out. You need to use sentence context and your own reasoning to decide what meaning makes the most sense. There usually is no one-to-one direct correspondence. With kana though, there is a pretty direct correspondence though; あ is always pronounced "ah," り is always pronounced "ri," and so on. That's why most people find kana easier to learn. But if you aren't worried about being able to pronounce words, I see why you haven't learned them.

    Unfortunately, even if you don't see as much reason to learn kana, it's pretty much essential. The Grammar site I linked to puts learning kana at the very beginning, JCJP says to learn the kana before anything else, then start the lessons... It really is essential. In your case, you could probably get away with just learning hiragana (not katakana at first). If you plan on translating, you will need to be able to read hiragana to identify grammar (and words that don't use kanji). You will need to. If you don't mind looking up every one each time you see it, that's your choice. But if it were me, I'd just spend a few days brute-force memorizing them with flashcards or something.

    As for grammar, that Grammar Guide I sent you follows an order. (You can also check out "The Complete Guide," linked to on the top menu bar. It's a little more beginner friendly.) He starts with the basics and builds off of each prior lesson. So if you're interested, start at the beginning and work your way through at least the basic foundation stuff.

    I actually had never heard of the translator program you use. It sounds like it's mainly used along with visual novels? It looks neat, but I haven't read any of those, so I have no experience using it and can't give you any tips or suggestions. That kind of translator probably will only be able to give you very rough translations though. Just like Google Translate, it can help you see if you're on the right track, but ultimately, you are the one who has to do the work if you want an accurate translation.

    Learning Japanese (or any other language) has to be something you really want to put effort and time into. Just like on this site, so many people have put a lot of work into getting as far as they are. I've been studying kanji and grammar nearly every day intensely for 3 years and just now am starting to feel like I can hold a conversation and translate things decently. It's not all instant payoff either; you have to accept both the parts that come easily and the ones you really have to work at. In your case, you seem to want to make things simpler by cutting out reading/speaking and writing, but I'm not entirely sure it's possible to really learn a language that way. Everything is so interconnected, ignoring large portions of it may actually set you back rather than help. Regardless though, you are trying to learn something new, and that's the most important part. What you've learned already is a great start, and I hope you have the motivation to continue! If you want something badly enough, you'll be able to make it happen~

    Like I said before, you're in a good place if you want to learn. This site as well as many others can help you get there. Always feel free to ask anything!

    Best wishes ✿
  • josquius
    It is certainly true that reading words you don:t know in kanji is easier, you can have a good guess at their meaning then. Japanese isn:t chinese though. There are loads of words that are written just in kana. You really really need kana, its not hard to learn. Most Japanese courses expect you to do it in the first fortnight.
  • AdventSign
    Ah I see....Kanji is used more in Chinese than Japanese? Are there any other Kana links that may be of help to me? I'm trying to figure out what the first few lines of my visual novel is (since they don't plan on translating it) and I was hoping to someday read it even if it is a slow and long process.

    I thought Kanji was only needed since it contained all the words that I need such as "I" or "Oneself" or "In"...is there any way that the Kana I learn can be applied to the visual novel for the first line?
  • AdventSign
  • Peacherine
    http://www.realkana.com/ is the site I'd recommend most. Click on "hiragana" at the top, then select the check boxes for the columns of characters you want to include while studying. Then click "options" and choose other fonts to include if you want. I recommend choosing all the fonts, since some characters look very different in different fonts. Then hit "practice." You can type your answer in, and it'll show an x if you're wrong. If you don't want to type, you can guess and then mouse hover over the image to get the answer.

    The other site I'd recommend with lots of different games to learn has unfortunately expired a few days ago, so I don't know if they'll renew it or not. http://learn-hiragana-katakana.com/?hg=0&nr=0 Here's the link just in case. I would only use this site for kana games though, not the other vocabulary lists they used to have, since I noticed a bunch of problems with them before.

    This site http://www.easyjapanese.org/index.html also has some games to review with, though I've never used it personally.

    Hope that helps.