Reflections on a Wandering Life.....

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Japanese Chinese Study Group 

Brother Liu caught me checking something in my little electronic dictionary. I started this study on my own several years ago. I was using an old Japanese Bible of Dad's, and Jack Helpern's Kanji dictionary. Helpern is a German Jew who has lived in Japan most of his adult life. I was referred to his dictionary by a colleague when I was teaching at UAT in Arizona. I put it aside for several years, because I was busy learning Chinese, and I couldn't see how it could be anything but a distraction at the time. But a few years ago, I decided to do a comparative study of Japanese and Chinese characters using the Bible. I found it to be very helpful. Sally from church, who studied Japanese as her second language was very helpful if I had a question once in awhile. She became interested in my study and suggested we try to find time on Sunday to meet, because she was studying for her Japanese proficiency test. We finally settled on Sunday morning before church. Sally has moved to the other side of Beijing now (after passing her proficiency test), but I've picked up another couple partners along the way. Brother Liu worked in Japan for a couple years and speaks quite well, and Jenny lived in Okinawa for 15 years, and actually became a Japanese citizen. Franz is a Chinese student studying Japanese. We all have different objectives. Jenny is more interested in learning English. But our interests intersect at the Japanese language. I am not really interested in the meaning of every word, just the ones that have kanji associated with them. The others are more interested in the other words, so I help them check those words using my little Besta dictionary, and they help me understand the relationship between Chinese and Japanese characters. I go to www.romaji.org, set the toggle to hiragana instead of romaji and paste in a chapter from my Chinese Bible in e-sword. Then I create a parallel text with English, Japanese with kanji, Japanese without kanji, and Chinese.

The kit I started with went the way of history when my computer bag was stolen a couple years ago, but I now have a little electronic dictionary that has several Chinese-English dictionaries, but also a couple really excellent hiragana dictionaries. Japanese characters were imported from Japan during the Tang Dynasty, so they're really quite old. My interest is mainly in trying to develop a multi-dimensional understanding of Chinese characters. Comparing what various characters mean in Japanese and Chinese is very helpful, especially for characters depicting words I know both from Chinese and Japanese. It is a slow, tedious study, but useful, as it adds one more dimension to understanding the relationship between characters and their original root meanings.

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