The Japanese Language - Nihongo


















"The Devil's Language"

In the 16th century, St. Francis Xavier reported to Rome that the Japanese language had been devised by the Devil to prevent the spread of Christianity in Japan. Many who have attempted to crack the Japanese market and learn Japanese might agree with 
St. Francis!

The Japanese language is said to be one of the most difficult languages to learn. Actually, many Japanese seem to delight in the fact that only a few foreigners have mastered the language, thus giving credence to the popular "myth" that Japan is unique and therefore only the Japanese can master Japanese. 


Japanese is not a terribly difficult language in terms of the grammar or pronunciation, to a point.  For those students of European languages who have suffered through complicated verb conjugations, numerous tenses, and feminine and masculine words, Japanese will be a breath of fresh air.  

A word of caution... In general, Japanese does not use heavy accents on different syllables of words.  For example, think of how most Americans pronounce the following words - bold indicates placement of accent:

Hiroshima = Hi ro shi ma
Nagano = Na ga no

The correct pronunciation is without stress on a particular syllable.


The difficulty begins when one realizes there are various levels and styles of speaking in Japanese depending upon who you are.

Japanese is…

A language with a style used by men only
A language with a style used by women only
A humble language when speaking of oneself
An honorific language when speaking to superiors 
A polite language which covers most situations
A plain language used when speaking with one’s peers or inferiors
A language with many dialects, often not understand by the Japanese themselves
An unspoken language using “haragei”, which means intuition and gut feeling

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