Although Japanese is objectively a challenging language to learn, not everything about it is difficult. Sure, Kanji and new grammar rules can be a headache at first, but overcoming these difficulties is what makes language learning satisfying and exciting, similar to how you conquered the English language. And when it comes to Japanese, many aspects are simplified so that learners can catch a break. Read on to learn what’s easy about Japanese you may have missed so far!
1. No tones
Tones in languages refer to the specific way of properly pronouncing a word or symbol. An example is in Mandarin Chinese where 马 (mǎ) and 妈 (mā), meaning “horse” and “mother”, respectively, may seem like the same word to those unfamiliar with tonal languages, but the fact is that they are different words each pronounced with their tones. This is how most languages that have tones typically work. Since Japanese is not a tonal language, unlike other East Asian languages like Mandarin, Vietnamese, and Thai, much less work is required to reach good speaking skills.
2. Limited word forms
Adjectives and adverbs only have two forms in the Japanese language while verbs have three, with one being a small set of irregulars (to have, to do, to be and to come). For adjectives, these are –na and –i words. Adverbs have –ni and –ku words (. Lastly, verbs have –u and –ru verbs. Each category has its unique rules, but after you learn one form of a word, you will have learned the same form for many other similar words.
3. Only two verb tenses
There are only two verb tenses in Japanese, past and present/future. The present and future tense verb forms (I do/I will do) are the same, and while there is a separate form for gerunds (I am doing), for all intents and purposes, these are the only proper tenses. There are also other ways of expressing different voices and moods, like passive, imperative, ability, and so on, using Japanese verbs. Still, these two basic tenses serve as your foundation for creating complete sentences.
Present and future: 食べる (たべる) — I (will) eat
Past: 食べた (たべた) — I ate
4. Simple verb conjugations
Japanese verbs do not change according to who does what or how many people there are. If there is enough context, you can even omit the subject of the sentence and simply infer the who or how many.
What are your hobbies? (Hobby what?)
I just read. (Read only.)
The speakers still understand one another in this example even though the person doing the action could be anyone, and only two sentences are involved.
5. Highly flexible word order
When it comes to Japanese word order, there are only two rules to abide by:
Verbs always come last, and in compound sentences, every clause must keep its parts in their right places.
Otherwise, you can be flexible with your word order since the use of particles makes it easy to understand the role of each word in a sentence. Thus, you can move things around in your sentences as long as you use the correct particles.
6. No articles
There are ways to indicate definite or indefinite relationships depending on the context in Japanese without using the equivalent of English articles like the, a, or an.
(The) frog swam in the pond
The need for articles becomes unnoticeable, and they are one less thing to learn.
7. Consistent pronunciation
The Japanese language only uses five vowels tied to a distinct syllable. They are pronounced with the same rhythm with no stress and have a predictable use in Japanese words. The same cannot be said for English where the spelling of words does not always match their correct pronunciation. This means you have to learn words individually to ensure you pronounce them correctly. You will not have to deal with the “tschüss”, “samhain”, or “eau” of European languages, either.
When people claim just how challenging learning Japanese can be, they often don’t factor in its many easy-to-grasp aspects that balance out this “difficulty”. The points covered above are just the tip of the iceberg, and you’re sure to discover many other parts of Japanese that are straightforward to understand.
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