How to Speak Japanese

Learning how to speak Japanese can be fun and rewarding. You may be surprised at just how many people speak Japanese. The language has more than 126 million speakers however, the majority of speakers reside within Japan approximately 124 million. Another 2 million speakers reside out of Japan and its outlying islands. Learning how to speak Japanese can be both fun and rewarding.

Language in Japanese – The History

There is significant debate as to the origins of the Japanese language. There is some evidence linking the Japanese language to Polynesian, Ural-Altaic and Chinese. However, there is strong support for the Ural-Altaic theory.

This language family includes languages such as Mongolian and Korean. However, there is little recognizable between the languages aside from vowel harmony, structure, and extensive use of honorific speech. The pronunciation of Japanese however is completely different. The language also shows similarities to the Ryukyu language of the Ryukyu Islands. This island group is where Okinawa is located. However, again in this instance pronunciation is entirely different between the languages.

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Part of the reasoning behind this is the lack of evidence to the origins of the Japanese people. However, evidence exists of a Japanese people as early as third century BC when Chinese records indicate a unification of clan-tribes. Sixth century BC sees the introduction of Chinese culture and writing system. In fact, 40% of the current Japanese language is still made up of adaptations from the Chinese language.

Luckily, for some the carry over did not include written language. Due to the issues with accent, structure, and the ability of the Japanese to enjoy written expression, Chinese was added to the already established written form, then simplified which created the Katakana, Hiragana was created later for things such as poetry and diaries and then Kanji or Chinese characters were added to create a unique writing system. When learning how to speak Japanese consider that the spoken language is equally as interesting and diverse as the written.

There are four stages of development to spoken Japanese; Old, Late Old, Middle and Modern. These range in time periods as old which lasted up till the 8th century, Late old which lasted only from the 9-11th centuries, Middle which lasted only between the 12-16th centuries and Modern which runs from the 17th century until present. Changes include the reduction of vowel sounds from 8 to 5 however, the Japanese language has primarily remained intact.

When learning how to speak Japanese consider making sure that the teacher or program teaches the Tokyo dialect, which is the most common dialect of Japanese currently spoken. In addition, the introduction of other cultures and languages into the Japanese culture has given way to a number of words and phrases, which while pronounced in dialect, maintain their structure as well as their meaning in their original language. Japanese has also, in recent times become easier to speak due to move away from more formalized honorific styles to a more informal and loosely structured style.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

D.Clair December 30, 2010 at 12:05 am

Dear Madam/Sir, Hello,I found the discussion of the formation of the Japanese people and language to be quite interesting.I had heard before that Japanese may be a member of the Altaic Family of languages,and that the Japanese people may be a cross between Altaic speakers and Malayo-Polynesian or Austronesian speakers.Thank you kindly for your time,and have a Great Holiday. God bless you,Mr.D.Clair

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