Japanese: a not so difficult language 日本語はそんなに難しくない
Japanese in peace
Japanese is a language that has the reputation of being complicated. Subtle levels of politeness, several writing systems, thousands of ideograms. However, beyond this image of an arduous idiom, Japanese conceals numerous facilities...
The genres? The agreements? We forget!
“But why do we say a table? And not “one”? ". Who hasn't heard this kind of question from foreigners trying to unravel the mysteries of Molière's language? Tricky question. The Japanese student is much luckier, the common nouns in this language have no gender! For example :
- “a library” is called “toshokan”, literally “library”. The sentence "there is a library" will therefore mean "toshokan ga arimasu", or word for word "library there is".
The simplicity doesn't stop there. We all remember those dictations in which the teacher circled the space following a word with a thick red marker to mark the absence of an “s”. Those chords that we forgot, out of thoughtlessness, or because of complex grammatical rules - the chord of the auxiliary avoir in the past tense! -, well, they just don't exist in Japanese! As we have said, common nouns have no gender. Similarly, a word is written the same in singular and plural. Thereby :
- “I eat an apple” and “I eat apples” are both written, “ringo wo taberu” . “ringo” (“apple”) is written and pronounced the same in both cases.
Read also: Counting in Japanese
A pronunciation within everyone's reach
The pronunciation of the Japanese language requires little or no effort for some foreigners. For example, the French are well adapted to Japanese pronunciations. Japanese has 22 phonemes, compared to 37 in French, the phoneme being the smallest unit of pronunciation in a language (the consonant “t” or the vowel “a” are phonemes). Japanese, therefore, has fewer sounds to pronounce than French, and apart from the “r” (which is understood between the French “r” and “l”) most of the sounds are already present in our language! Only the aspirated "h" remains difficult to tame for French speakers...
Read also: Aizuchi: the art of conversation in Japanese
The quiet conjugation
The experience of the conjugation of verbs in Japanese is another pleasant passage in our discovery of the language. Past tense? Imperfect past tense? Future tense? As many times of the indicative that have punctuated our years of primary and college. In Japanese, the tenses of the indicative are limited to the past and the "non-past" (a single tense to indicate the present and the future). Verbs, like common nouns, do not agree with the subject and their ending only changes to indicate negation or level of politeness.
Add that the subjunctive does not exist, that the imperative has only four forms, corresponding to groups of verbs and irregular verbs, as well as a negative form, and the conjugation work is greatly facilitated!
But the kanji?
Some might reply that there remains a difficulty, and a central one! That of the kanjis, the ideograms of Chinese origin which populate the Japanese writings and which require so much work to be memorized. But this writing system allows at the same time to be able to guess the meaning of a word without even knowing the reading.
For example, 外国 "gaikoku" is a compound word from the kanji 外 "gay" meaning "outside" and 国 "koku" meaning country. The meaning of the word is, therefore “outside country”, or more exactly “foreign”.
So, ready to open the notebooks?
Read also: Some kanji to know for traveling in Japan