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Japanese language facts

  • Japanese is not directly related to any other language (family).

  • Despite the complexity, Japan boasts an adult literacy level of 99%.

  • Unlike other Asian languages Japanese is not tonal… pronunciation is a lot easier to master, that way.

  • Even though Japanese is only spoken in Japan as first language, there is a good number of dialects with considerable variation.

Japanese language facts

  • Japanese uses 4 distinct systems of writing: kanji, hiragana, katakana and romanji.
    Hiragana is syllabic and the most original writing system in Japan. It is used for simple words, conjugations, particles and children's literature as it is the first set of writing which is taught.
    Katakana is used to write foreign words.
    Kanji is based on the Chinese writing system and consists of about 2000 signs. Kanji was imported from Chinese in the 6th century AD. It has developed strongly ever since, often simplifying the original letters.
    Recently, romanji - a romanization of Japanese words - has developed, too.

  • Formal / informal address
    Japanese uses 4 different ways of addressing people: kun, chan, san and sama. Kun is somewhat condescending, chan is used for intimates and children, san is the universal mode and sama is deferential. However, getting hierarchies and politeness levels right is difficult and you need a lot of additional information (context) about your conversational partner and some insights into the working of Japanese language and culture.

  • Gender
    Vocabulary can vary according to gender of the speaking person: women use other vocabulary than men

  • There is no distinction between singular and plural. Gender, too, is not indicated grammatically. There are no relative pronouns.

  • Word order
    Verbs are usually placed at the end of a sentence.

  • Most Japanese words end in vowels, which determines the structure and rhythm of Japanese language. Usually, all syllables carry equal stress.

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