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Japanese is the first language of over 130 million people, mostly Japanese citizens living in Japan and abroad. In recent years, the popularity of Japanese culture (cosplay, anime, manga, martial arts) has rapidly increased interest in the Japanese language outside the country.
Many things about the Japanese language are easy. There are no singulars and plurals: for example, "inu" means both one dog and several dogs. There are only two tenses: present and past.
You can get a flying start with Japanese by studying the language in the basic Latin alphabet.
Because Japanese has so few syllables, there are plenty of homonyms. To avoid misunderstandings, it is necessary to have characters that carry not only sounds, but also meanings.
The characters known as kanji were born from drawn symbols, which were simplified toward a harmonious square form over time. For example, the kanji character 日(JITSU, NICHI, NI, hi, ka) that stands for sun and day is thought to have developed as follows:
In addition to kanji, there are two other writing systems. This means Japanese can be written in three ways:
Roomaji characters were born of the need to write the Japanese language in the Latin alphabet. They are used in studying Japanese, but also for many other purposes, such as logo design and writing Japanese on a computer.
Japanese word order in a phrase is typically subject - object - verb. Below is the example "I speak Japanese."
The particle wa shows the subject and the particle o the object. Their order may change, but particles still make it easy to recognize the parts of the sentence.
|English||I||<- subject||Japanese||<- object||speak||.|
The verb is always at the end of the phrase, and its suffix shows the tense and politeness level. The suffix "-masu" indicates that the speaking happens right now (present tense) and that the polite level of speech is used.
The clear structure, particles, and striving toward short and simple expressions make it easy to get started with Japanese. Even with a small vocabulary, you can express yourself and understand simple replies.
On the other hand, the politeness levels of the complex social hierarchy and the habit of speaking indirectly mean that the skilled Japanese speaker must have advanced cultural knowledge and situational awareness.
All this together makes the Japanese language a fascinating hobby that will offer endless opportunities for learning more.