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So What Exactly is the Japanese Language?

The Japanese language is the official language of Japan, spoken by nearly 130 million people worldwide. It is a member of the Japonic language family, which also includes the Ryukyuan languages spoken in Okinawa and the Amami Islands.


Japanese is known for its complex writing system, which uses three different scripts: hiragana, katakana, and kanji. Hiragana and katakana are syllabic scripts, with each character representing a single syllable. Kanji, on the other hand, are logographic characters borrowed from Chinese, with each character representing a word or concept. The use of these three scripts together allows the Japanese language to represent a wide range of sounds and meanings.

Japanese grammar is also unique, with a complex system of particles and verb forms that are used to indicate the roles of words in a sentence. This system allows for a great deal of flexibility in sentence structure, allowing speakers to express their thoughts and ideas in a variety of ways.

Despite its complexity, the Japanese language has a rich and beautiful sound, with a wide range of vowel and consonant sounds and a tonal system similar to that of Chinese. It also has a rich literary tradition, with many classic works of poetry, prose, and drama still being enjoyed by readers today.


In addition to its use in Japan, the Japanese language is also spoken by Japanese communities around the world, including in Brazil, the United States, and parts of Asia. It is also a popular second language in many countries, with many students studying it as a foreign language in schools and universities.

The history of the Japanese language can be traced back to the 8th century, when the first written records in the language appeared. These early writings were heavily influenced by Chinese, and many of the words and characters used were borrowed from Chinese. Over time, the Japanese language developed its own unique features, including a complex system of honorifics and polite forms of speech that are still used today.


During the Meiji period (1868-1912), the Japanese language underwent significant changes, with many words being borrowed from Western languages and the use of kanji being greatly expanded. This period also saw the development of a standardized form of the language, known as "kokugo" (national language), which is still used as the standard form of Japanese today.

In the 20th century, the Japanese language continued to evolve, with the development of new words and changes in grammar and pronunciation. One notable change was the increased use of loanwords from English, with many new terms being borrowed and adapted to fit the sounds and grammar of the Japanese language. This trend has continued in recent years, with the development of new words and expressions to keep up with the changing world and the needs of Japanese speakers.


Despite the challenges of learning a complex and unique language, many people around the world are drawn to the beauty and richness of the Japanese language. For some, learning Japanese is a way to connect with Japanese culture and history, while for others it is a challenge to learn a language that is so different from their own. In Japan, the study of the Japanese language is considered an essential part of education, and proficiency in the language is highly valued.

For those who are interested in learning Japanese, there are many resources available, including textbooks, language learning software, and online courses (including here at Simple Gaijin). In addition, there are many language schools and universities that offer Japanese language classes, allowing students to learn from experienced teachers and immerse themselves in the language and culture.

In conclusion, the Japanese language is a fascinating and complex language with a rich cultural heritage. It is an essential part of Japanese culture and identity, and its beauty and flexibility continue to make it a popular choice for learners around the world.

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