Many people ask, “Is Japanese difficult to learn?” It does have a reputation for being difficult, but I believe that reputation is unfair or unjust. So we are here to tell you that learning Japanese is not as tough as you think!

Every language has more and less difficult bits. When you get past the mental barrier of believing Japanese is difficult to learn, you will likely discover that you can learn Japanese, and with little to no more difficulty than any other language.

In order to become a fluent Japanese speaker, you can enroll yourself with Japanese teachers at italki. They will you with pronunciation, and kanji and polish your Japanese reading and writing abilities. Book yourself through the website and be a pro at speaking and writing Japanese!

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Why do some people think Japanese is hard

There are some factors that play a major contribution in building the reputation of the Japanese language as one of the most difficult languages to learn.

The three writing systems in Japanese scare people

True, Japanese has three different writing systems, and one of them, kanji, has thousands of characters, making it difficult to learn. The other two are easy to learn in a week or two.

People are being told that Japanese is difficult to learn

The US Foreign Service Institute, or FSI, is an American government organization that trains foreign diplomats – and they’re partly to blame for the Japanese’s reputation for being difficult to learn. They have consistently ranked Japanese as the language that takes the longest for their students to master.

Because of the FSI rankings, bloggers and potential language learners have assumed that Japanese must be the most difficult language to learn. However, the amount of time it takes to learn a new language – particularly the language required of diplomats – does not necessarily indicate how difficult the language is in general.

People find honorific speech confusing

In Japanese culture, politeness is essential. While Japanese has far fewer tenses and irregular verbs in general, there are some extra polite and humble variations of words and phrases you should learn, especially if you plan to do business in Japan. This is known as honorific speech, and it can be difficult to master even for native Japanese speakers.

honorific speech

The fact that you need to learn a specific extra set of vocabulary to talk to people of different ranks, especially higher-ranking officials and royalty could be related to the difficulty that new American diplomats appear to have to learn Japanese. Just the kind of issue you are unlikely to encounter until you are much further along in your studies.

People are scared by the change in word order

Japanese sentence structure differs from that of English and many other Western languages.

We use subject-verb-object: I go to the school.

Japanese sentences use subject-object-verb: I school (to) go.

Speaking as an English speaker who has learned basic Japanese, it’s not bad once you get the hang of it, but some people find it difficult to grasp.

Now, we will discuss some of the reasons explaining that Japanese isn’t as hard to learn as you think.

Hiragana and katakana are easy to learn

To learn Japanese, you must first learn new writing systems. However, hiragana and katakana are relatively simple to learn and share many similarities, so once you have mastered one, the other is a piece of cake.

Furthermore, using mnemonics makes hiragana and katakana easier to remember. It will undoubtedly take some practice, but once you have mastered these two writing systems, you can move on to real learning.

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Pronunciation is straightforward

Japanese has far fewer sounds than English – in a strange way, it sounds more like Italian. The syllables are pronounced as they are, and you won’t be surprised by any strange sounds once you figure out how they go together.

Furthermore, unlike many other Asian languages, such as Vietnamese, Thai, and Chinese, Japanese is not tonal. That is, while your pitch may change the meaning of a word in Mandarin, it does not in Japanese. Tonal languages are the most difficult for speakers of non-tonal languages, such as Germanic and Romance languages, to learn.

Grammar has simple rules

Japanese grammar differs from English grammar (consider the school example above: I go to the school vs. I school to go), but it is very regular. There are only past and present tenses, no gender, and few to no exceptions to Japanese grammar rules.

So once you learn it, you know it. There’s no guessing whether a desk is masculine or feminine, and no trying to figure out what ‘desiderative past subjunctive mood’ even means.

You can take the help of technology

Learning Japanese used to entail flipping through massive dictionaries, and learning to write meant thoroughly learning strokes in order to write kanji correctly. Kanji can now be looked up or typed using romaji. It is simple to add a Japanese keyboard to your phone or laptop, and it will make your life much easier.

The most difficult aspect of Japanese reading and writing is definitely memorizing kanji, but you have a significant advantage over your ancient ancestors. It is known as the internet’s magic, and it allows you to learn quickly and from anywhere.

There are different Japanese learning websites that can help you learn Japanese kanji anywhere you like.

Find Your Perfect Teacher

At italki, you can find your Japanese tutor from all qualified and experienced teachers. Now experience the excellent language learning journey!

Book a trial lesson

Loanwords are everywhere

We live in a wonderful mixed-up world where cultures are more intertwined than ever before. We have far greater access to each other’s food and culture than even 10 or 15 years ago. So it may come as no surprise that, just as we know what sushi, sake, and tsunami mean in English, there are many words that are translated into Japanese but essentially shared.

  • バー “baa”  bar
  • アイスクリーム “aisukuriimu” ice cream
  • レストラン “resutoran” restaurant

You have so many learning resources available

All of the resources available to you make learning Japanese easier than ever before. You can supplement your learning with everything from YouTube videos and Japanese TV to online memory games and kanji flashcard tools created by others.

You can watch anime to learn Japanese. Yes! Isn’t that a fun way to learn Japanese? Make use of all the learning resources available to you. You need multiple supports while learning Japanese. Take advantage of every learning resource available and you will start seeing your progress within a few days.

Frequently asked questions

Q. What is the hardest about learning Japanese?

A. The three writing systems, especially kanji.

Q. What is the simplest aspect of learning Japanese?

A. There are many parts of Japanese that are simple to learn. Its verbs and nouns do not change form as much as in many other languages, and it lacks plurals. The pronunciation is also very consistent.

Q. What is the first thing to learn in Japanese?

A. Learn to Read Hiragana.

Final words

The best tip to learn Japanese for beginners is language immersion. While it is possible to get by in metropolitan areas with little or no Japanese language skills, you will miss out on a lot of what Japan has to offer and will frequently find yourself in difficulty when dealing with day-to-day living situations.

You can also learn Japanese for free or with the help of Japanese learning apps. You can get yourself enrolled in a Japanese learning course. If you are currently living in Tokyo, look for Japanese learning schools. Pull up your socks and start learning Japanese, it is surely not as hard as you think.

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