Learning Japanese Is Easier Than You Think – Here’s Why

When it comes to learning Japanese, the word that will probably come to mind for many non-Japanese people is “difficult”. For many westerners, there are so many barriers to understanding the Japanese way of life; from a complicated language, a unique culture and a complicated history.

However, learning Japanese is actually not as difficult as you may think. As with all languages, Japanese has its own challenges, but there are also some important factors that could change your perceptions about learning Japanese.

In this article, we will discuss why learning Japanese is easier than you think.

1. Writing

Japanese writing consists of 3 different sets of characters:

Kanji

Kanju has about 2000 Chinese-imported characters that are commonly used, mostly simplified versions and significantly fewer than you have to learn in Chinese. Kanji is one of the aspects of Japanese that learners usually have difficulty with, but with the help of technology and the Internet, it is getting much easier.

Hiragana 

Hiragana has 46 characters that are not complex at all and very easy to write.

Katakana 

Kataka also has 46 characters used for writing foreign loanwords in Japanese, and it is very similar to Hiragana in a lot of ways.

2. Pronunciation

“Simple” is the word to describe the Japanese phonetic system, with each Hiragana character having only one sound. That means there are only 46 possible sounds in the language, a reasonable number to train yourself in pronouncing and hearing, and you can click here for some software that will help to perfect your Japanese pronunciation. Japanese is also not a tonal language, with all syllables being either high-pitched or low-pitched. Therefore, changing your pitch or stress when saying a word does not have an impact on its meaning like in other languages such as Chinese and Vietnamese.

3. Grammar

English grammar is incredibly difficult for non-natives to understand, and thanks to constant debate about whether perfect grammar exists or not, the matter has become even more complicated. Japanese, by comparison, is actually very simple. Similarly to English, there are no gendered nouns, but unlike English, pronouns, objects and subjects do not have to match verbs and can be left out in certain contexts. 

4. Particles

Particles are short words that have the ability to string parts of a sentence together, but the truth is you do not have to have a proper understanding of these words to effectively communicate with others. You can get away with not using them and people will still be able to understand you properly. As with all language learning, your primary focus should be fluency rather than accuracy.

5. Tense

Precision and punctuality are widely regarded to be some of the most valuable character traits of Japanese people, but their language is incredibly easy-going when it comes to tense. A future tense does not exist in Japanese, and while it seems confusing at first, people can still clearly understand the meaning based on the context. The past tense is there in Japanese but it is subject to clear rules, contrary to the sometimes unorthodox past tense in English. 

6. Loanwords

There are many benefits to being an English speaker, but how is that related to a foreign language like Japanese? Well, there are literally thousands of English words that have been borrowed and brought into the Japanese language to date, giving native English speakers around the world an easy introduction to the learning process. 

A massive pre-existing bank of Japanese words is already there for you to draw on, and all you have to do is learn the Japanified version of the words (Katakana) and then get used to the way English is transferred to Japanese. You can understand and communicate a great amount of information without having to know much about grammar and Kanji at all.

7. Consumer Media

The Japanese creative industry is an incredibly productive one, with a huge amount of TV shows, movies, books, magazines, music, animation, comics, and video games coming out each year. The majority of these products and services are aimed at young people; resulting in an extremely quick changing and stylized way of speaking. Japanese media is a great way to immerse yourself in the language and home your skills.

Japanese at first glance appears so alien, that many people wrongly assume it will be impossible to learn. However, if you understand where the easiest aspects to start with are, the learning process will be significantly faster, and you can have more fun along the way. Every language presents its own set of unique challenges at some point but with the right approach, learning Japanese will be far easier than you think it is.