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How Is Japanese Different From English?
By:Daniel C Howard

The Japanese language, also known as Nihongo, is a widely spoken language not only in Japan but also by Japanese expatriates around the world. More than 130 million people all over the globe speak Japanese. Aside from being a prominent language in the East, how is Japanese different from English, a language of the West? There are some major points that define the dissimilarities between the two languages.

Dissimilarity in Roots

Whereas English is considered to have evolved from the Germanic language family and with close relations to Dutch, Flemish, Low German and Frisian languages, Japanese is said to be in a language family of its own. Japanese is from the Japanese-Ryukyuan or Japonic language family. Expert linguists believe that it has no close connections with other languages.

Dissimilarity in Alphabet

English alphabet is quite simple with only 26 letters, each of which has a sound or set of sounds, that when combined will form a word. Japanese on the other hand, is more complex considering that it has three major scripts, namely, the two syllabaries - Katakana and Hiragana, and the Kanji, which is based on Chinese characters or logographs. Katakana is used to write down foreign terms, while Hiragana is used to express tones. Kanji, meanwhile, is for the root words. While still learning Kanji, younger students use Hiragana. By the time they finish school, they have usually learned around 2000 Kanji characters.

Dissimilarity in Grammar

Japanese language is characterized by the subject-object-verb pattern. This means the action word appears at the end of utterances, clauses and sentences. In English, the verb is found near the beginning of a sentence and defines the direction and meaning of the statement. In Japanese, the verb cannot serve this function because it is at the end of the sentence, so it is the context and the particles that will give you hints on what to expect.

Also, "prepositions" come after the noun and subordinating conjunctions also come after the clause. Conversely, adjectival phrases come before the noun they are describing. Because of the differences in syntax, difficulty typically arises if you are an English speaker learning Japanese.

Here are some more points where Japanese differs from English:

· Nouns do not take plural forms. One can only surmise the quantity referred to (whether singular or plural) by the context.

· In questions, the English language need to transpose words' positions in the sentence; in Japanese, this need not be done as adding the particle "ka" at the end of sentences convey questions.

· The Japanese language has no future tense for verbs. Instead the present tense along with time indicators are used to convey future actions.

· Nouns and pronouns have no possessive forms. In English, the possessive form is usually created by adding -'s to the noun, or by the pronouns, his, hers, theirs, etc. In Japanese, the possessive particle "no" is placed after the noun.

· There are no equivalent words for "a", "the" and "an". If you refer to an object, you only need to say the name of the object.

These are just some of the differences between Japanese and English. As you can see, some of these differences in the Japanese language seem to be simpler, which makes it an easier language to learn.

I am a language teacher living in Asia. I have over a decade of experience teaching all ages a variety of subjects. For free Japanese info and lessons, please visit my blog here.

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