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Do you know?
Japanese is a language isolate that has no relation to any other language.
It is the 9th most spoken language with more than 130 million speakers, among whom 128 million are native speakers.
Around 99% of the population in Japan speak Japanese as their first language; Japanese is the de facto official language in the country.
It is one of the fastest spoken languages. An average Japanese speaker speaks 7.84 syllables per second.
History of the Japanese Language
In the Japanese language, Japan is called 日本, pronounced as Nihon, and the language is called Nihongo. Early Portuguese explorers who traveled to China and got to know about the country recorded the name as ‘Jipangu’. They deciphered the name from Mandarin pronunciation, which to them sounded like ‘Cipan’.
The origin of the Japanese language is not known. Linguists have come up with various hypotheses, but those theories are refuted on the ground of inadequate evidential support. In fact, it is the only major language whose origin is not determined.
The earliest mention of Japanese words can be found in some Chinese history books of 3rd century; however, it is too little to get an idea about the Japanese language of that time. It is believed that the Japanese language didn’t have a written script before Chinese characters were imported. During the Kofun period (3rd and 4th century), Chinese people living in Japan started using Chinese characters to write Japanese words. This written system is known as Kanji. Later it was adopted by the Japanese people. The first written examples of the Japanese language in Kanji can be traced back to the 5th and 6th centuries. It was proper names inscribed on a sword and a mirror.
During Heian Period (794 to 1185), Japanese people developed their own scripts called Hiragana and Katakana. To date, the Japanese language uses all three writing systems- Chinese Kanji as well as native Hiragana and Katakana.
After inventing scripts, in the following centuries (1185 to 1600), the language began to transform into modern Japanese leaving behind the traits of Old Japanese. This was the time when European loanwords started to enter Japanese vocabulary. The borrowing began with the Portuguese during the 16th century. Then it was followed by Dutch during Japan’s self-imposed isolation of the Edo period.
During the second half of the 19th century, Japan was reopened after the Meiji restoration. Around this time, the inflow of foreign loanwords known as gairaigo was increased. Several French, German, and English loanwords were adopted in the language.
Why learn Japanese?
How to learn Japanese?
Is it hard to learn Japanese?
Japanese is considered one of the most difficult languages to learn. English and other European language speakers find it particularly complicated. The Japanese grammar shares no similarities with English grammar system, and the writing system is fairly complex.
What makes it challenging to learn Japanese?
The Japanese language uses a combination of three writing systems: kanji, hiragana, and katakana. Kanji is pictographic, while hiragana and katakana are phonetic. Japanese uses all three writing systems together, sometimes even within the same sentence.
The Japanese grammar is also quite confusing for English speakers. Japanese speakers end their sentences with a verb, as they follow subject-object-verb word order. Another tricky area in the Japanese grammar system is its extensive use of honorifics, known as Keigo. Japanese speakers use different verb conjugations depending on whether they are in a formal, polite, or casual setup. Formal Japanese is even further divided to express humbleness or show respect. The whole system of honorifics may seem extremely complicated to a beginner.
Besides, Japan has many regional dialects, and they are drastically different from one another. The common practice is to start the lesson with the most standard Tokyo dialect.