Talk to TLF
Novi Digital Logo

Fascinating facts about the Japanese language

By Hilary Picken | April 15, 2020 | Language Facts

Fascinating facts about the Japanese language
Japanese is the official and main language used by approximately 127 million people in Japan, equating to 99% of the country’s population.

Japanese throughout the world

Japanese is the 9th most spoken language in the world but is not one of the six official UN languages. Almost 10% of all Internet users are estimated to be Japanese, with Japan boasting one of the highest literacy rates in the world of over 99%.

There are a number of immigrant communities around the world that speak the language due to historical emigrant migration to South Korea, Taiwan, parts of China, the Philippines, Brazil (which boasts the largest emigrant Japanese population with 1.5 million speakers), Peru, Argentina, Australia, Canada (Vancouver), and the USA (California and Hawaii).

There are also around 2.5 million people of Japanese origin, many of whom speak Japanese as their first language, living in Brazil and the rest of the Americas, particularly in the United States.

You’ll also find a sizeable expatriate presence in major cities such as London, New York and Paris.

Characteristics of Japanese

The Japanese written language is considered one of the world’s most complex and difficult-to-learn languages, which can put many potential learners off. However, there are a number of attributes that will make learning the language a little easier; just like English Japanese has no gender and there is no differentiation between plural and singular.

The biggest and most obvious challenge when it comes to learning Japanese is learning the characters. These have no relation to languages of a Latin origin and therefore, it really is a case of having to learn and memorise them.

  • Japanese uses four different systems of writing, these are: kanji, hiragana, katakana and romanji.
  • Hiragana is syllabic and the most original writing system in Japan. It is used for simple words, conjugations, particles and children’s literature as it is the first set of writing which is taught.
  • Katakana is used to write foreign words.
  • Kanji is based on the Chinese writing system and consists of about 2000 signs. Kanji was imported from Chinese in the 6th century AD.
  • Recently, romanji – a romanization of Japanese words – has developed, too. Often simplifying the original letters.