There are many reasons why you may decide to learn Japanese. Some people learn it because they’ve been inspired by anime or video games, others want an Asian language for the purpose of travel, and a few decide to learn for work. A lot of hopeful learners, though, are put off when they see the Japanese writing system, which is famous for being incredibly difficult to learn and nearly impossible to master.
If you want to learn Japanese, however, don’t despair! Many aspects of this wonderful language are actually very easy to learn. Here are five aspects of Japanese where learners catch a break.
When people study English as a second language, especially Japanese people, they tend to find tag questions such as “don’t they?”, “isn’t he?”, “aren’t you?” very difficult to get the hang of. This is due to the fact that the tag question must match the preposition in the sentence, and if the preposition is positive, the tag question must be negative and vice-versa.
However, in Japanese, all of these complicated tag questions all fit into one translation in Japanese, and that is “ne”! You can say any sentence in any tense and just add “ne” at the end to make it a tag question. Easy!
Adding “s” to the end of a noun usually makes it a plural in English. There are also words that are an exception to this rule, such as woman (women), goose (geese), and foot (feet). There are also different plural spellings depending on the last letter of words. These cause no end of aches and pains for English language learners.
In Japanese, though, the word doesn’t change even if it becomes a plural! This makes it incredibly easy to learn, although you do have to be clear in Japanese conversation whether you’re talking about one thing or several.
Many English words have stress in certain syllables that learners have to master. It’s one of the most annoying aspects of learning it. Japanese treats all its syllables and letters equally, however, and with some exceptions in terms of accent, stress doesn’t affect the meanings of words in Japanese.
This is also true of tones. You may know that Mandarin and Cantonese have many different tones that completely change the meaning of words. Although Japanese does use some of the same characters as Chinese, they left the tone rules over on the mainland. This is great news for learners of Japanese!
When speaking English, if you just exclaim “COLD!”, you sound incompetent. You need to include the thing you are describing (i.e. “it’s cold”) for a grammatically correct sentence. However, in Japanese, you actually can just say an adjective and, as long as the context is clear in the situation, your sentence makes perfect grammatical sense. Words like kirei (beautiful), kawaii (cute), samui (cold), atsui (hot), and hayai (fast), then, can be exclaimed and shouted as much as you like without having to worry about any of the grammatical fluff.
Spelling is a massive headache for learners of English and even native speakers. However, once you’ve learned a Japanese word (in its hiragana or Roman spelling), you’ll know exactly how it is spelled. There is no such thing as a silent letter in Japanese, meaning that although you do have to learn how to read it in kanji characters, there are no nasty surprises when it comes to how it is spelled.
Japanese is a difficult language to learn but it’s also massively fun to study and getting to a competent level reaps great rewards. With these five easy aspects of the language in mind, hopefully, you can enter the world of Japanese study with a little more confidence!