Ever thought about studying Japanese but were overwhelmed by how difficult the written language looks? Most people feel the same way at first. But, once you appreciate how beautiful written Japanese is, it’s hard not to fall in love with it.
Despite only being spoken primarily in Japan itself, Japanese is one of the most spoken languages in the world, with around 127 million speakers. Written Japanese is made up of three different sets of characters – hiragana, katakana, and kanji (Chinese characters). This can make it seem quite daunting but don’t worry – even Japanese people don’t know every character!
Even though Japanese has been recorded from as early as the 8th century, its origins are a bit of a mystery. Of course, one of the greatest influences on Japanese is Chinese. One of the sets of characters in Japanese is made up of Chinese characters which in some cases differ only slightly to modern Chinese characters. Kanji are they most difficult to learn as there are around 2000 characters used in daily life, but could be up to 40,000 recorded in some sources. Each character represents a emaning, so they are very useful for conveying information quickly. These characters are complicated but beautiful, and are an artform when written in calligraphy (or shodo).
The sentence structure of Japanese is SOV (subject, object, verb) which is different from English which is SVO (subject, verb, object). This can make Japanese grammar difficult to understand at first, but the rules are quite regular and easy to pick up after some study.
Even though the initial hurdle of studying written Japanese may be very high, after immersing yourself in the language, Japanese is one of the most beautiful and rewarding languages to learn. Good luck – 頑張ってね!(gambattene! )