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How much different is the modern Japanese from the old Japanese?

By "old" I mean the Japanese that been used in pre-industrial Japan. (Samurai era, you know...)
Actually I want to know "do Japanese learners be able to understand that?"

Thank you.

For learning: Japanese
Base language: English
Category: Culture



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    Best Answer - Chosen by the Asker
    Classical Japanese... Well, there are all kinds of varieties and their difficulties vary considerably depending on the nature of the materials (some are written in casual language while others are serious literary works that require extensive knowledge of culture back then) and of course, on when they were written (from as recently as 150 years ago all the way to 1300 years ago).

    Some books are relatively easy. With a dictionary and a grammar book, a JLPT1 holder would probably be able to slowly work her way through taketori monogatari(princess kaguya) or some conversational works written in the Edo period.

    But if you want to crack the code of the Tale of Genji, you'd need to put a lot of effort to specifically study classical Japanese in addition to modern Japanese but it wouldn't be anywhere near as difficult as learning Japanese from scratch. If you already have a pretty good grasp of modern Japanese to the point where you can actually enjoy reading novels, I would say learning to read the Tale of Genji (or any other famous works for that matter) would only take less than one-tenth the time it took you to get to that level.

    If you mean conversational (old) Japanese, linguists say a modern native speaker of Japanese would be able to communicate with Japanese people from up to about 500 years ago without great difficulty, but for anything older than that, they would need a few months of practice to get used to it.

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