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Japanese Language
Introduction
This site explains the Japanese language in the simplest possible terms. Whether you're in school enrolled in a Japanese language degree program, interested in manga or anime, or traveling to Japan and need to know a few quick phrases, this site will give you the language skills you need, in order to enjoy your favorite aspects of Japanese society.

A little background about the language. Japanese is spoken by an estimated 130 million people worldwide and is the primary language spoken in Japan. In fact, Japan is the only country where Japanese is the primary language.

Learning to speak Japanese is much easier than what you’ve probably been led to believe. The writing system, well that’s another story.

The Japanese writing system can take awhile to learn but it can also be a lot of fun. If you're a beginner, you'll need to learn romaji before taking on the Japanese scripts or kanji. You'll probably find that learning kanji can be pretty addicting. The Chinese characters represent things found in nature and abstract concepts. As you continue to study these pictographs, you'll eventually see patterns and want to learn as many as you can.

The Japanese language can be written using any of four different scripts.
  • Romaji - This script uses English letters to represent Japanese sounds and words and is a substitute script used until hiragana, katakana, and kanji are learned. It was devised as a way to communicate in spoken and written Japanese quickly without needing to learn the thousands of combined characters in the other scripts. Romaji is used in Japanese, especially for company names and logos, advertising, and when inputting Japanese into a computer. Romaji is used anywhere in Japan where there are many foreigners, such as big cities, train stations, and hotels. Romaji is the first script you should learn.
  • Hiragana - This is a Japanese script used for already established words in the language such as sun, moon, house, mountain, people, etc. This script, along with kanji, make up about 98% of the language. This is the second script you should learn.
  • Katakana - This is a Japanese script used for foreign or borrowed words from other languages. Words such as convenience store (combini), television (terebi), and hotel (hoteru), are all written in katakana. This script makes up about 2% of the language. The usage is growing as more words are incorporated into Japanese from other languages. This is the third script you should learn.
  • Kanji - These are Chinese characters which were brought into the Japanese language thousands of years ago. The characters represent things in nature and are really fun to learn. This is the fourth script you should learn.
Now that you know the basics, you're ready to begin. Read either of following:
Japanese speaking introduction - Everything you need to know to get you speaking Japanese in only a few hours.
Japanese writing introduction - An explanation of all the Japanese scripts including a complete list of kyouyou kanji, which is the kanji learned through grade 6 of elementary school in Japan.
 

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