Japanese is not easy to learn. That’s it, we’ve said… but don’t go just yet!
Japan is a spectacular country, surprising and full of fascinating contrasts, where the modernity of the cities and technology coexists with the antiquity of its traditions and crafts. And although Japan is a magical country to visit, landing in such a vastly different and dynamic place can be disconcerting. If you want to get to know the country well and appreciate the special beauty of the Japanese way of life, you must learn the language.
There are many advantages to learning Japanese, and we recommend you give this mystical language a spin as it can shape your professional and personal life. In this article, we will answer the question “Is Japanese easy to learn?” and we will give you some very good reasons why learning Japanese is an excellent idea.
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Learning Japanese is not easy, especially because of its writing system, which combines pictograms called kanji imported from Chinese with two different forms of Japanese script. However, the basic grammar is very simple, the pronunciation rules are surprisingly standard, and the Japanese alphabet is straightforward. While you won’t understand everything written in kanji, you will be able to read sushi on a menu or identify your train stop on a map. And you’ll begin to grasp the logic of your surroundings: a wonderful example is the beautiful city of Kyoto, whose streets are laid out in a grid. It won’t take you long to realize that a series of streets spanning the entire width of the city is not named, but numbered. On a Latinized city map, you’d never notice this, but when you know some basic Japanese it’s impossible to get lost!
In the 1970s and 1980s, Japan’s meteoric economic growth and technological innovation made it an obvious place to pursue a career. Today, it is China that has unstoppable economic development and growing international influence. We’ve all heard that Mandarin is the language to learn for the future, but let’s not forget that Japan is still the world’s third-largest economy and one of the most technologically innovative places in the world.
Plus, there are over 125 million Japanese speakers, so you’ll have plenty of people to practice with.
The Japanese are well known for their technological innovation; from bullet trains and babysitting robots to beer self-dispensers and sushi conveyor belts that deliver your order in seconds. But for all its ultra-modernity, Japan has not lost connection with its roots: it enthusiastically celebrates the cherry blossoms in spring and the red autumn color of the mountains (and its philosophies on the transience of both seasons); it observes with sincerity and joy the ancient festivals and religious rituals; and it revels in the Japanese character of the island’s varied corners.
Also, noteworthy is the unique and poetic nature of the Japanese language. We can think of no other language that conveys such nuances and subtleties with so little. A good example of this is the number of Japanese words that have no translation into other languages.
Like other Southeast Asian languages, Japanese is a very analytical language, which gives importance to the function of words rather than having an extensive inflectional system to differentiate their linguistic properties. These languages also share similarities, such as their subject-predicate sentence structure.
Japanese grammar is quite similar to Korean grammar, and both languages have an advanced honorific system to show respect. Japanese takes its writing system (Kanji) from Chinese ideograms. Learning Japanese may not be easy, but it will help you learn languages like Korean and Chinese because many of their concepts are very similar.
Japan is a prosperous country and has the most diverse economy in Asia, with a gross domestic product of $4.9 trillion in 2018. Japan is the world’s third-largest economic power, behind the United States of America and China.
Its companies are among the largest, most efficient, and most recognized in the world such as Sony, Honda, Sanyo, Toshiba, Casio, and Toyota among many others from a wide variety of sectors. Whatever your business field is, it is very likely that one of your main competitors is a Japanese company.
Considering that Japan is, geographically, a remote island with a high population density and few natural resources, it is impressive that such a country has been able to become a world power. The Japanese have always depended on their creativity and scientific knowledge to succeed, not only economically, but also ecologically.
The Japanese are known for being leaders in technologies such as visual media and robotics. This constant innovation has led to the Japanese becoming world leaders in patents, reaching 420,000 a year.
The Japanese indeed have a writing system radically different from English, but foreigners can read and understand it without problems thanks to its two syllabaries, hiragana, and katakana.
These two syllabaries consist of a total of 44 symbols very easy to learn, it is common to be able to memorize them all in just a few days. If you decide to get into the Japanese language, start with the Japanese alphabet.
In addition, the grammar is much simpler than that of other European languages. Japanese has no gender, no articles, and no plurals. Verbs have only two forms: past and present. And the pronunciation is very similar to Spanish.
Learning Japanese can be a good challenge, fortunately… the effort made by foreigners is highly valued and, in most contexts, mistakes are forgiven.
Perhaps the biggest challenge is that Japanese students must learn many kanji to speak fluently. It is little consolation to know that to read a newspaper you have to memorize about 2,000 of them. It is undoubtedly time-consuming, and not everyone enjoys learning the logic and order needed to recreate these intricacies, but it is rewarding precisely because of how rich and interesting the Japanese language is.
Japanese may not be easy to learn, but you are not alone on this journey. If you decide to learn Japanese online, you can have access to hundreds of online Japanese teachers who can work with you in 1-on-1 classes to improve your Japanese. On italki you will find highly skilled native speakers and Japanese tutors who will help you through your learning process and, most importantly, who want you to succeed. Book a trial class on italki and see how your Japanese will improve with the help of a native speaker.
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