Language is an integral part of our life. It is perhaps the reason why we are thought of as having attained a superior status among other species on Earth.
Our native language becomes essential in communication with our family and friends; however, for work or leisure, we often have to consider learning other languages.
Whether it be for communication with businessmen from the bustling Japanese economy or to embrace the Japanese culture (not to mention anime!), you may be interested in learning Japanese – but held back with a preconceived notion that it is too hard to learn.
While learning any new language is difficult, the same applies to taking up Japanese language lessons – where it all ultimately boils down to motivation.
The first thing to understand about Japanese is that the phonetics used in the language are very different from that of English. This is because of the dialect; how Japanese characters combine to form a word and the overall use of the tongue to produce Japanese sounds.
Some nationalities might find it easier to understand the pressure or the ebb and flow of characters in spoken Japanese. However, it may be slightly tricky at first for English-only speakers to differentiate between the subtle changes in sound intensities, which can cause a radical change in the meaning of the word.
Apart from spoken Japanese, writing is somewhat different too. There are three ways of writing in Japanese. The first two usually go together and are termed hiragana and katakana. Katakana is a different way to write hiragana; however, they both refer to the sound elements of characters which are written in order.
If you can associate each phonetic sound to a particular symbol or shape, you have essentially learned to write Japanese in either of the two modes mentioned.
A third way of writing Japanese is called Kanji. Kanji is slightly more difficult as there are thousands of words that can be formed, and each word could have a different interpretation and meaning.
Grammar in Japanese
Grammar-wise, Japanese is relatively easy. The language is formed mostly of words and contains conjectures connecting verbs together. There are some portions of the grammar that are tricky to master; however, their grammar is generally simple. There are also a variety of dialects to use, with hyoujungo being a common one.
Japanese is a language where smaller emphasis to certain syllables changes the meaning of the word or sentence – sometimes significantly.
This may sometimes be difficult for a native English speaker to grasp, as all words hold the same emphasis in the English language. However, consider the use of emphasis to denote a singular emotion, such as surprise, anger or confusion when someone says ‘What?’ in English. Japanese is no different.
There are some similarities between Japanese and English too, even some words match (e.g. romantic and romanchikku). On the other hand, some of the complications that English has are absent in Japanese, like noun genders or the required agreement of a verb with the subject of a sentence.
Japanese like all languages takes time to learn but is really not as hard as it is thought to be.