Showing posts with label Japanese. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Japanese. Show all posts

Thursday, September 10, 2015

The Fabled Difficulty of the Japanese Language

Somewhere along the line in Japan's thousands of years of history, a curious fable emerged: the Japanese language is exceedingly difficult.

If I had to guess at the origins of this fable, perhaps it is simply mirroring the fact that up until very recently, foreigners fluent in Japanese were exceedingly rare. After all, in addition to its natural geographic isolation, for some two hundred years Japan instituted a sakoku (鎖国, "locked country") policy whereby no foreigners could enter and no Japanese could leave, under penalty of death. Even to this day, Japan's homogeneous population holds steady at 98.5% Japanese, and so it's not surprising that such a fable would thrive in modern day Japan, where citizens are sometimes shocked to the point of irrepressible bewilderment upon encountering a foreigner fluent in Japanese.

Certainly the written language is difficult, but in my early years of studying the spoken language, time and time again I thought to myself, "Wow, this is so much simpler than English." And to this day, the Japanese language as a whole strikes me as exceptionally logical and consistent, as if a group of no-nonsense linguists had sat down together and planned out the entire language in advance.