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How are the following verbs which are related to learning different to each other?

  • 勉強する
  • 習う
  • 学ぶ
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dont forget 覚える! –  Gerard Sexton Jul 5 '11 at 6:29
    
@Gerard 覚える is simply "to remember/memorize". Learning is more than memorizing ;) –  Lukman Jul 5 '11 at 6:30
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@Lukman 覚える is actually sometimes used with the meaning of learning, for instance many people say 仕事を覚える for learning a new job, even non-repetitive jobs. –  Nicolas Raoul Jul 5 '11 at 7:09
    
You could also add 身につける to the list, for when learning by yourself, as opposed to learning from a teacher/mentor (学ぶ). –  shang Jul 5 '11 at 8:02
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2 Answers

up vote 6 down vote accepted

学ぶ

The original character is: 學

Meaning 2 hands writing characters and teaching a child

学ぶ is to imitate (or assimilate and repeat) what the teacher says. Study a subject from a teacher.

Most meaningful examples:

私たちは学ぶために学校に行く (We go to school to learn.)

私は日本語を学びはじめてから40年になる (It is forty years since I began the study of Japanese.)

英語を学び始めた (I started to learn English)

習う

This character is composed of 羽 (wings) and 白 (clear/understand)

It shows how to learn by repeated practice like a small bird learning to fly.

Most meaningful examples:

バイクの乗り方を習う (learning to ride a bike)

車の運転を習っていない (I haven't learned to drive - I can't drive)

書道を習うのは楽しい (Learning calligraphy is fun.)

勉強する

勉 = make an effort 強 = powerful

It came to be used for "to study" but outside the class. Nobody teaches you, you "force" yourself to study something, do you homework, assimilate a lesson...etc.

Most meaningful examples:

先生は私にもっと勉強するようにと言った (The teacher told me study harder.)

これからもっと勉強します (I'll study harder in future)

Examples taken from EDICT and organized for this answer in the correct categories.

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How about 学習する? :p –  phirru Jul 4 '11 at 15:58
    
@phirru: You're taught how to fly by a school teacher ;) –  repecmps Jul 4 '11 at 16:43
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To quote my philosophy of education prof, the difference between 学and 習う can be described as the difference between "knowing that cesium is an element" and "knowing how to ride a bike" -- obtaining knowledge vs. acquiring a skill. –  Rei Miyasaka Jul 5 '11 at 9:45
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勉強する is 'study' and is usually applied to school/literature.

習う is 'learn' and is usually applied to things like learning instruments or skills.

学ぶ carries a more 'in depth' meaning to it, and is usually applied to things like a vocation or 'years of study in XYZ'.

勉強する is the most common and is fairly good at being used in place of the others.

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I just don't thing that "勉強" applies as well as you say to other things. If you say "today, I learned a new word", you'll never say 勉強, will you? I think that 習う (and to a slightly lesser extent 学ぶ) have a broader use. –  Axioplase Jul 5 '11 at 2:14
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