If You Thought English Was Hard, You Should Try Japanese

When you decide to learn a new language, the first steps will always be challenging and exciting. Knowing another language opens doors to new cultures and enriches horizons you never thought you would discover. However, the frustration can be just as incredible, especially when choosing a complex language.

Learning English, the world’s most spoken language, may seem a natural choice and quite an easy feat to achieve. However, many people see learning English as a challenging task. Well, just imagine taking on the daunting task of learning Japanese! This article explores the intricacies of learning the ancient and sacred Japanese language, with all its particularities and unseen beauty. 

How Difficult is it to Learn Japanese?

Japanese is one of the most challenging languages for English speakers for several reasons. It features complex sounds and intonation patterns unfamiliar to English speakers and three distinct writing systems: Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji. The sentence structure in Japanese is the opposite of English, and the Japanese expressions of politeness add to its complexity. These aspects collectively make Japanese a particularly difficult language for English speakers.

The Intricate Japanese Writing System

Before worrying about intonation or grammar rules, you must know that Japanese has three writing systems. There’s the katakana, hiragana, and kanji. The first two are what is referred to as phonetic alphabets. Contrary to English, in which vowels are treated separately from constants, each with their pronunciations in various contexts, phonetic alphabets are always pronounced and written in one pre-defined way.

To learn both hiragana and katakana efficiently, you can start by associating each sound with its corresponding symbol. You'll want to obtain a reliable chart for both scripts and dedicate time to practice writing and vocalizing each sound. This will help you master both scripts simultaneously. The differences come from the fact that katakana is often used to write foreign words or emphasize the written word. Hiragana is the first writing system taught to Japanese children since it’s the most basic. 

The third system of writing, known as kanji, can be pretty confusing for those unfamiliar with it. The characters in kanji resemble the Chinese script, which can make it difficult for native English speakers to understand. Unlike English, where each symbol represents a sound, each kanji symbol represents a concept. There are thousands of these symbols, and the exact number remains unknown. However, the Japanese curriculum for students up to junior high includes 2,136 commonly used kanji characters. Adults with proficient reading ability are expected to recognize approximately a thousand additional kanji characters.

Basic communication can be done using the first two writing systems. However, these two alone won’t get you far. Even simple websites such as Japanese online casinos or shopping online on native stores can be too much if you don’t try hard to master the third system. 

Japanese Grammar: If you thought the Writing System is Hard, Wait Until You Hear About This

Let’s say you put in the hours and finally mastered the Japanese writing system. Well done! Few English speakers (or people from anywhere else, as it matters) can take pride in that feat. However, you can’t start celebrating just yet because you must forget everything you think you know about grammar. 

In Japanese grammar, the word order differs from English because the verb goes at the end of each sentence, a fact that will simultaneously make your tongue and brain twist. For example, if in English you would say, “I went to school,” in Japanese, the correct order would be “I school went.”

On the bright side, there are no pluralizers to remember, and the conjugation is much easier. However, you do have different forms for inanimate and animate objects - something that’s valid for English as well. 

Additionally, you will only deal with the present and past tense in Japanese. Another exciting thing about the Nipon language is that many things are considered evident from the context, while they must be spelled out in other languages. 

Final Words

Immersing yourself in Japanese is the key to effectively learning the language. Not having the basic language skills can limit your experience of Japan's full cultural richness and complicate everyday tasks such as navigating official paperwork, visiting the post office, or communicating efficiently with Japanese colleagues. And don’t forget, there are a lot of useful apps and websites designed to make learning Japanese an easier task.

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