Overview of the Japanese Language

Linguists agree that Japanese writing clearly stems from Chinese writing. However, with many varying theories of where the language established its roots, the origins of the Japanese language are still a mystery.

Many modern researchers believe that the various dialects of the Japanese language originated from a founding language that was brought to the Japanese islands over two millennia ago. These researchers conclude that rice farmers from the Korean Peninsula brought the origins of the language with them upon settling in Japan. However, not all linguistics experts agree with this conclusion. The definitive origins of the language are not known, and some researchers believe that the language originated with hunter-gatherers who first lived on the Japanese islands about 30,000 years ago.

The multiple theories concerning the origins of the language have been considerably narrowed down over the years. Today, most linguists believe that it is either related to the Korean language or the Altaic language family. Linguistics authorities who believe that Japanese is part of the Altaic language family also tend to believe that Korean is part of this family of languages.

Other languages that are part of the Altaic family include Mongolic, Turkic, and Tungusic. The origin of the similarities between these languages is also divided into two primary camps of thought. Linguistics commonly known as “Altaicists” believe that the similarities of these languages are due to the common descent from a single proto-Altaic language that was used many thousands of years ago. “Anti-Altaicists,” the other camp of thought, believe that the similarities between the Altaic languages are due to interaction between these languages over time.

A few of the similarities between languages in the Altaic family include a lack of grammatical distinction of gender or number, no use of the passive voice, and no relative pronouns. These languages do have particles or postpositions instead of declension or word order to indicate function. The many similar characteristics of the Altaic languages are strong evidence that Japanese, which shares so many of these characteristics, is also part of this language family.

Today, the worldwide usage of the Japanese language is extensive with nearly 130 million speaking the language. Many people choose to learn Japanese as their second language, or to learn a few Japanese phrases in order to simplify traveling in the country of Japan.

Many people are drawn to the simple pronunciation scheme, the relatively straightforward set of grammatical rules, and the many opportunities available these days for learning the language. Within a short period of time, you will be able to learn the basics of Japanese, and then build upon your skills from there. With the proper tools at your side, learning Japanese can be a great deal of fun as you broaden your ability to speak a new language. Reading and writing Kanji, the Japanese writing system, tends to be more difficult for people than learning to speak the language.

There are many ways to learn Japanese words these days. An effective, modern method is to listen to a Japanese podcast designed to teach the language. By listening to the language, it will become easier to pick up on Japanese accents. There are many podcasts that include in-depth Japanese lessons for beginners, intermediate speakers, and for individuals who are becoming increasingly fluent in the language.

Beginners usually start their lessons by learning the Japanese alphabet. Learning the building blocks of the language will help you to pronounce words correctly, and to make steady progress toward understanding and speaking Japanese. If you are planning a visit to Japan, learning even a few common phrases will help you to navigate the beautiful country with greater ease. Learning how to speak Japanese is sure to enrich your travel experiences.