Learning Japanese as a second language is a fun and challenging pursuit that will provide a lifelong learning adventure. There are many potential reasons for choosing to learn how to speak Japanese: business, travel, and interest in popular culture such as anime, just to name a few. Estimates vary, but at least 120 million people worldwide speak Japanese, making it one of the ten most spoken languages in the world. Japan is a world leader in technology, business, architecture, and it is a very important player in worldwide political affairs.
Whatever your reasons, you will find Japanese to be very challenging, as it is significantly different from English or any Romance or Germanic languages that you may have studied in the past. That is not to say it is impossible for a westerner to learn how to speak Japanese, but it will take some level of commitment and the right tools. Fortunately, it is these significant differences that also make learning how to speak Japanese so fascinating.
Japan’s position as a relatively isolated island nation has led to a culture and language system that is unlike any other in the world. It is that uniqueness that makes learning Japanese so interesting. It is difficult to have success learning the Japanese language without studying the culture as well, because they are so tightly interwoven. Learning how to speak Japanese will require the student to learn social classes, formal and informal situations, and other cultural rules that have significant bearing on the language. The good news is that Japan’s interesting culture and wonderful history will make your language learning practice that much more enjoyable.
Another challenging but very interesting aspect of learning how to speak Japanese is that reading and writing Japanese requires learning a whole new system of writing that is completely different from the Latin alphabet that so many languages use. Japanese is written with 3 sets of characters that are combined to make words and sentences that look like nothing in the western world. Another challenge, yes, but many people find that once they start studying Japanese they enjoy the reading and writing as much or more than learning how to speak Japanese. The Japanese Kana and Kanji have a fascinating history and Japanese calligraphy can be a wonderful extension of your Japanese language lessons.
We have assembled a collection of articles with the aim of providing a solid introduction to the Japanese language. Topics range from reading and writing Japanese to some of the many learning resources available to help you learn how to speak Japanese. Hopefully some of the information here will give you direction, inspiration, and a solid start on your Japanese language learning journey. Gambatte Kudasai!