If any of you are like me, I’ve always found the Japanese language and culture very alluring. When talking about Japan, you can’t help but imagine the neon lights of Tokyo, square watermelons, ninjas, Godzilla and vending machines that supply anything you could want.
That being said, I never elected to take any Japanese language classes in school because I always thought learning the language would be too difficult.
But why is that so?
Well, for starters, Japanese can be written with 3 different methods of writing called Hiragana, katakana and Kanji. English only has one alphabet of 26 letters, and still the majority of Americans have a hard time speaking and writing the language correctly. Japanese is therefore considered the most complex written language in the world. In order to get by with the basics, you need to learn all of the Hiragana and Katakana alphabets, and at least a few hundred Kanji.
Most Japanese words also have two roots of pronunciation, a Chinese root and a Japanese root, which are completely different.
All of the 8 Kanji characters above are pronounced “shin” and all 8 of them are totally unrelated to each other in meaning. They are from left to right: God, advance, believe, new, true, stretch, heart, and parent. There are no tones in Japanese as there are in Chinese, and so the pronounciation of shin is exactly the same for all the above. Besides these, there are many more Kanji that are also pronounced “shin”. The Japanese way to pronounce the characters above are, “kami”, susumu, “shinjiru”, “atarashii”, “makoto”, “nobasu”, “kokoro”, and “oya”. Notice that the Japanese way of pronouncing a word is multi-syllabic, whereas the Chinese way is a single syllable.
If that’s not enough to steer you away from learning Japanese translation, there are still plenty of more reasons why Japanese is so difficult.
In the Japanese language, the main verb comes at the end of the sentence. This can result in the meaning of a long sentence being hard to grasp. Imagine a sentence in English like “When studying to learn Japanese translation, it is best not get sidetracked watching anime,” but keeping “studying” until the very end of the sentence.
Particles follow the nouns to denote their usage, as well. This is often hard for foreigners to learn since they are used to the opposite. However, some other languages do follow the same grammar rules as Japanese, such as Korean and Mongolian. So if you are a native speaker of either of those languages, you can skip ahead a chapter! Japanese also has English words with different meanings (e.g. vacancy: vacation; maker: manufacturer).
Japanese is also considered a “fuzzy” language. For instance, because there is no verb conjugation according to person, the subject of a sentence can be unclear at times. And because the subject is often assumed to be already understood, it is frequently dropped entirely adding to the confusion and ambiguity. One Japanese linguist, however, says that it is not really the language that is fuzzy but the way it is used as a result of the culture.
The Japanese people also don’t like to be blunt or rude. Consequently, they hesitate to express opinions in a strong and clear manner, which can lead to much longer than average attempts at conversations. This also leads to the existence of several levels of polite language to learn. These words are called “honorifics”. If you don’t learn them, you will be seen as impolite or an ignorant foreigner. So be sure to mind your honorifics!
So after all of that, you may be asking, “Is there any good news about learning the Japanese language or practicing Japanese translation?”
I’m so glad you asked…
- No verb conjugation!
- No gender of nouns!
- No articles (a, the)
- Number (singular and plural) not important and barely exists!
- Not hard to learn to pronounce as there are only 48 sounds in the language, and only 5 vowels and 11 consonants!
- Syntax or the word order of a sentence, excepting the final verb, is relatively free!
So perhaps it’s may not be too difficult to learn afterall…However, if you are need of Japanese translation services, I would highly suggest hiring a translation service agency for a truly professional Japanese translation. Otherwise you could end up looking like an ignorant foreigner. But if you want to explore the language on your own, then Konichiwa (may not be the best word to use, but it is the only one I know…) to you!