Is Japanese hard to learn for English speakers? Many might say yes, but let us take a look more deeply into this subject.
Notably, the difficulty of language learning depends on the native tongue of the learner. Also, how close their mother tongue is to their prospective language may affect their learning experience. For example, Japanese is one of the most challenging languages for Americans to grasp, but Chinese speakers say otherwise. Is Japanese hard to learn for English speakers?
Well, let’s find out in this post. Also, read more for the tips to help you learn the Japanese language faster.
Is Japanese Hard to Learn for English Speakers: Top Reasons
Now, to answer the question, is Japanese hard to learn for English speakers? Many English speakers believe that learning Japanese is one of the most difficult languages to master. Undoubtedly, it appears to be difficult since it uses three different writing systems, a sentence structure that differs from English, and a confusing hierarchy of politeness. But, believe it or not, it is feasible to learn Japanese fluently. Before beginning your language learning adventure, you should know a few things to be more equipped for the coursework. Learn why people keep asking: Is Japanese hard to learn for English speakers?
System of Writing
Three interrelated writing systems make up the Japanese alphabet. Kanji is the eldest writing system and comprises picture-based logograms from China. On the contrary, Hiragana and katakana are Japanese alphabets that express syllable sounds. Japanese use these writing systems today, sometimes in the same phrase, which may be confusing. Hence, if you’re considering visiting Japan or studying the basics of Japanese, mastering Hiragana and Katakana will be helpful. However, Kanji may be more difficult, but we’ll get to it afterward.
Noteworthy: Romaji is not a form of Japanese writing. It is the Romanization of the Japanese alphabet. Romaji may be useful in certain circumstances, but it isn’t a credible alternative to Hiragana, Katakana, or Kanji – but that’s a tale for another day.
Here are the three writing systems of Japan explained:
The oldest writing system used in Japan was Kanji. It emerged in Japan in the 4th or 5th century through the Korean peninsula. Hence, it was during a period when the country had its spoken language but no accompanying writing system. Then, the Japanese matched a Chinese Kanji character to its counterpart in their language. However, the Chinese pronunciation extended to Japan through commercial ties with Chinese speakers. As a result, reading Kanji characters may be one of two ways: on-yomi for Chinese characters and kun-yomi for Japanese.
Memorizing the Kanji is, without a doubt, the hardest part of learning Japanese for English speakers. However, they pose no threat. The more different Kanji you memorize, the more manageable it gets. First, you should know that Kanji aren’t always a group of symbols you string together to make sounds and words, like katakana and Hiragana. A Kanji can stand for one word. You may already know that each Kanji character represents an idea or thought. So, Kanji letters are either pictures of words, called logograms, or, better yet, symbols, each of which stands for a whole morpheme.
In reality, there are more than 50,000 Kanji characters, even though most Japanese people don’t know more than a small number of them. By the time a Japanese person is 16 or 17, they only know about 2,000 Kanji. Don’t worry, though! I also have some great news about Kanji. Studies show that about 80 percent of all Kanji in a corpus of ordinary text comprise the 500 most-used Kanji. So, if you know at least 500 Kanji, you will be able to understand a large part of almost any written work.
The foundation of learning Japanese is Hiragana. It helps you learn how to say things in Japanese and start understanding how the language works. Hiragana letters, which stand for the 46 basic sounds in Japanese, are often used to make Japanese-based words.
When practicing writing Hiragana by hand, the stroke’s sequence and orientation matter. You’ll understand why when you read other people’s hurriedly scribbled notes. Hence, if everyone writes in the same order, the letters “flow” rather well. Also, you should start paying attention to stroke order with Hiragana to avoid bad habits. Although there are many internet resources to assist you in learning Hiragana, paper and a pen or pencil remain preferable.
Katakana is another part of the Japanese writing system that is essential to learn for people starting to learn the language. It is the third way of writing in Japan. Like Hiragana, it is a native alphabet based on sounds. The katakana character set is helpful because it covers the same sounds as the Hiragana writing system. Some of the characters, like the ones for ‘mo’ – も and モ – and ‘ya’ – や and ヤ, even look a little bit identical.
Is Japanese hard to learn for English speakers? Overall, the grammar used in the Japanese language is one of the hardest things to comprehend for English speakers. In Japanese, the verb is located at the end of every sentence, which seems strange to people who speak English. The order of words in English is Subject-Verb-Object. In this case, for example, I went to school. However, in Japanese, the order of words is in Subject-Object-Verb. Hence, for instance, the given sentence would be, I school (to) went.
The Japanese form is much easier to conjugate, and there are no words for making it plural. However, changing forms from living to nonliving objects takes some time. Moreover, Japanese only has two tenses: the past and the present. Even though there are different ways to say each tense, it is much faster and easier to use than English.
Gendered language is one of the largest omissions in Japanese textbooks, courses, and private sessions. Compared to other major languages, the Japanese language is exceptional in how much the collective language of women varies from that of males.
What does “gendered language” really mean? In a language, this refers to how men and women communicate differently from one another. However, for the Japanese language, gender language refers to gender roles rather than grammatical gender. A male’s use of feminine speech is not deemed as grammatically incorrect but as effeminate or gay. Also, there are no gender distinctions in polite speech, except for the rare usage of wa. Moreover, there are no gender differences in written Japanese apart from quoted speech, excluding that women may be more feasible to employ courteous speech in the first place.
Use of Polite Words
In Japan, courtesy rules above all else; to be disrespectful is to offend personally and culturally. In general, spoken Japanese has three major degrees of politeness. The basic polite form is teinei, the advanced polite form is keigo, while the plain version is kudaketa. Being deliberate with your honorifics may go a long way in impressing your colleagues and bosses and forging relationships within your community, even if most foreigners and immigrants are usually excused on the accurateness of using keigo.
Take a minute to listen to convenience store workers if you live in Japan. You may find their Japanese to be extremely perplexing. That’s because, between the interaction of a consumer and a cashier, the customer is greatly respected, and it is the epitome of daily keigo. While it is challenging to learn at first, there are a few common words that, with time and practice, will flow naturally.
Tips To Improve Japanese Language Learning Process
Many people studying languages ask: Is Japanese hard to learn for English speakers? Learning Japanese is much harder for English speakers than mastering any other language. In reality, learning a language requires effort and dedication on your behalf. But, learning a new language may help you advance personally and professionally. Also, becoming proficient will take around 88 weeks or 2200 hours of study. The language of Japan might have caught your attention either because you want to be a permanent resident or you desire to comprehend your favorite animes and mangas better. Whatever your motivation might be, here is some advice for you to reach your answer to the question: Is Japanese hard to learn for English speakers?
1. Establish a Goal
First, determine why you are trying to learn Japanese. You and other language learners take an interest in learning Japanese so that you may utilize it in your studies, career, hobbies, or everyday conversations. Hence, it would be best to consider which aspects of Japanese you should prioritize to achieve your objective. In reality, you don’t often need to be completely proficient. Moreover, you don’t have to know every word in the dictionary or have beautiful penmanship to write. For example, if you want to learn Japanese to watch anime without subtitles, is it important for you to learn all the Kanji?
To become fluent, you will surely need to learn some Kanji; however, they are not necessary for regular verbal conversation. Memorizing all Kanji you encounter is also unnecessary if you are merely learning the language to watch anime. So, putting off learning that part of Japanese could save you a lot of time and stress. In the same way, if you’re learning Japanese for business, concentrate on learning a language that’s related to your job.
2. Start with the Basics
A lot of people assume that Japanese is a very tricky language, but the truth is that you already recognize some Japanese. Saying goodbye and hello in Japanese might not be foreign to you, such as the terms konnichiwa and sayonara, respectively. You may also know about tsunamis, karaoke, ramen, samurai, and other Japanese terms. Think about it: you’ve been learning Japanese even when you weren’t trying.
Is Japanese hard to learn for English speakers? Truthfully, there are no shortcuts to learning the Japanese language. Hence, it is not necessary to rush your language learning process. No language police would arrest you for not knowing all the words in the Japanese dictionary. Rather, it makes better sense to focus on the most helpful words. Keep in mind to concentrate on the words that people use most often, and you’ll be well at speaking in Japanese quickly.
3. Recognize Your Preferred Method for Language Learning
According to educators, there are four basic ways to learn a language: visually, auditorily, kinesthetically, and reading and writing. Consider your preferred learning style, and work to your advantage. Doing this may prevent wasting time and advance your Japanese learning!
For instance, listening is the best way to learn if you’re an auditory learner. So instead of reading books when you’re short on time, concentrate on podcasts and audio courses. However, if you struggle with reading or writing, audio lessons alone won’t be enough to help you retain the information, so be sure to take notes using a pen and paper.
4. Learn From Native Speakers
Nothing compares to speaking with native speakers if you want to improve your Japanese pronunciation and intonation. The most crucial and effective step you can take to learn a language is this one if you want to become fluent. Thus, you won’t get very far in your studies if you can’t communicate in Japanese. Therefore, it’s worthwhile to attempt to locate friendly native Japanese people eager to converse and help you learn.
5. Engage Yourself With the Japanese Language
Many people claim that the secret to language learning is immersion. Hence, for English speakers that find Japanese hard, you must immerse yourself in the language. Although it’s mostly true, engrossing with the language doesn’t mean you need to be physically in Japan. Making your smartphone work for you is one of the suggestions for doing this. Switch your phone’s language to a Japanese language setting. The same thing is possible with your computer. It’s alright if you find it challenging at this point. Facebook is a fantastic program for making the first changeover since it is still simple to use while being multilingual.
Another option is to surround oneself with language using different techniques within your authority. Playing Japanese video games and watching Japanese TV programs, movies, and anime all the time is one of the simplest methods of comprehending the language.
6. Think and Speak in Japanese
Teaching your mind to reason in a foreign tongue is one of the most crucial strategies to improve your knowledge of the Japanese language. Using this strategy, you’ll be able to memorize new words and grammar even more quickly. Reading the definition of a term or the justification of a grammatical point does not ensure that you will remember it later. However, you’ll be able to remember these terms and their grammar more if you actively use them! Even if all you do is name objects around the home or describe meals, you may start doing this as soon as you start your studies.
7. Employ mnemonics
Mnemonics are tricks of the mind that aid with remembering. Through the use of visual or aural clues, this approach links new learning to existing information. Basic mnemonic techniques use acronyms, key phrases, or rhyming words. Moreover, a narrative, image, or song might serve as a mnemonic. If they work for you, mnemonics may be a very efficient method for learning a language rapidly.
8. Focus and Stay Motivated
Once you are regretting and choosing to stop your language learning process, think about why you started in the first place. Language learning might not be easy, but you’ll surely get the hang of it once you practice. Last but not least, remember to recognize and appreciate your accomplishments. Any language might be difficult to learn, but if you persevere, you’ll soon be saying, “Nihongo ga hanasemasu”! Thus, you will soon realize the right answer to the question: Is Japanese hard to learn for English speakers?
Besides, do not be afraid to make errors and fail. In reality, if you don’t fail once in a while, you aren’t human. We are all still learning. Even locals need to pick up some new skills. Please don’t shy away from failure; it’s a necessary part of learning Japanese. Rather, accept it!
Master the Japanese Language in No Time!
Several techniques speed up your language acquisition, as seen in the article above. At this point, you might have an answer to the question: Is Japanese hard to learn for English speakers? Whether your answer is yes or a no, choosing a handful of the tips mentioned above and sticking with them is crucial, even if not all of them suit your learning method. One of the many effective methods to learn Japanese is to develop effective study techniques. Believe that Japanese is not hard to learn for English speakers like you and that you can eventually be fluent in conversing using it. Remain positive and open-minded.