As readers may recall, I am studying both Japanese and Korean. I’ve studied Japanese for years, but I only started learning Korean in late 2012. Since I am married to a Japanese lady, and my daughter speaks it fluently, I definitely know more Japanese than Korean, and I like to read Japanese books sometimes.
Because of this, I have been using Japanese-language resources to learn Korean as well. Why? For three reasons:
First, I found that Japanese book stores have a lot more resources on Korean than English does. They are neighbors after all, and even though they have periodic political conflicts, the reality is that a lot of Japanese still want to know Korean, and many Koreans still want to learn Japanese. Not surprisingly, there are a lot of books. When I go to an English-language bookstore (even online), the books on Korean language are very few. It’s changing because of KPop and such, and the efforts of TTMIK, but it is still very small compared to Japanese.
Second, some things about Korean are much easier to explain in Japanese than English. For example, the double-consonants in Korean, ㄸ ㄲ ㅉ ㅃ are difficult to explain in English. But in Japanese, it’s the same as adding a small っ in front of the syllable. On the other hand, other things are easier to explain in English than Japanese. For example, Hangul is more similar to the Roman Alphabet than Japanese Kana in terms of constructions (vowels, consonants, etc). So, Japanese books often have to teach Hangul in terms of English: ㅏ is “a”, etc.
Third, it helps me learn more Japanese too. There are still words and phrases in the book I have to look up, so I kind of learn two languages at once. 一石二鳥 as they say in Japan (“two birds with one stone”, isseki nichō). I got this idea originally from a post made by Khatzumoto on AJATT, and I was pretty skeptical at first, but it turns out he was right all along: use your secondary language to learn a tertiary language.
The picture shown above is from a Japanese book about Hangul I bought on Amazon JP. The book is a really good explanation of Hangul in Japanese and has a lot of humor in it. It’s a pretty fun book to read, and has helped me write Hangul a lot better than before. There are almost no books in English on how to write Hangul, so this is a valuable resources for me.
Separately, I’ve also begun exploring Korean through Japanese, not English podcasts. TTMIK is a fantastic service for learning Korean in English, but when I’m listening to it, I’m not listening to Japanese, and I really want to improve my Japanese listening as well. I have listened to Japanese podcasts for years, but they are mostly news or comedy podcasts. Sometimes, they are interesting, but I get tired of the crude jokes or the stiff, formal news. I would prefer to listen to a subject that interests me, but in Japanese, not English. So, why not learn Korean through Japanese podcasts? This is still a work-in-progress, so I’ll write about it more later, but it helps solve the tension I had before about learning two languages rather nicely.
Anyhow, it’s really fun to read books or learn things in a foreign language, but it also really helps you get out of “blind spots” you might have, but never notice. It’s the same reason why I like reading Buddhist books in Japanese when possible: there are lots of differences in tone and details than English books.
P.S. Yes, my handwriting is terrible.