The vast majority of native speakers reside in Japan and the island group of Okinawa. Other significant Japanese speaking populations reside in the U.S., Canada, Australia, Korea, China and other parts of Asia. There has been a surge of interest in Japanese as a second language in recent decades largely due to Japan’s economic status and a fascination with Japanese culture. Are you considering learning Japanese? Be it for cultural, intellectual or practical reasons, there are many benefits to acquiring this language.
Becoming proficient in Japanese will increase your marketability in both the domestic and international job markets. Japan has the one of strongest economies of the world with a GDP by some accounts second only to that of the U.S. The average Japanese household has sizeable disposable monthly incomes which make it no surprise that the Japanese import more goods from the U.S. than most any other nation. U.S. companies will need individuals who will be able to bridge the communication gap to expand their business into Japan’s substantial market.
Japan’s economic success seems more remarkable in light of the fact that it is a densely populated island nation of relatively few natural resources. The Japanese have relied on their imaginative, technological innovations to drive their economy as well as striving to be finding new ways to more efficient and ecological. The Japanese are dominant in hi-tech fields such as optical media, semiconductors, and robotics. They are also top among nations for the number of patent applications submitted each year.
In addition to technology, culture happens to be one of Japans biggest exports. Sushi bars, bonsai, karaoke, and anime have become cultural mainstays worldwide. One of the benefits of studying Japanese is the inside perspective one gains on these and other unique cultural artifacts. Learning Japanese is the key to cultivating an intimate view into the values, ethics, religious beliefs, and aesthetics of Japan. While Asian cultures significantly differ from one another, they share many similarities that set them apart from the West. By virtue of studying Japanese, you also gain a deeper understanding of other great Asia civilizations like China, Korea and India which have helped shape the history and culture of Japan.
Learning Japanese is a springboard for learning other Asian languages. Japanese along with other languages of Southeast Asia are analytical and rely on the function of words instead of inflections to indicate linguistic properties. The sentence structures of these languages are comparable as well; Japanese and Korean in particular have analogous grammatical structures and their systems of honorifics for demonstrating respect are similar. The Japanese also borrowed much of their vocabulary from China and their first writing system was directly adopted from that of Chinese.
Japanese does pose some challenge for speakers of English that these languages share little in the way of vocabulary and have completely different writing systems. The English speaker who studies Japanese may in fact find themselves questioning their most basic assumptions about how languages operate. However, the would-be student of Japanese should be undaunted. There are many ways in which Japanese is simpler than Indo–European languages. The nouns have no plural forms or genders. There are no subjunctive moods and no definite or indefinite articles. There are only two verb tenses and only a few irregular verbs. There are only five vowel sounds to spoken Japanese making it relatively easy to pronounce and the spelling consistent.
The Japanese writing system uses three main scripts: Kanji, Hiragana, and Katakana. Kanji are ideographs originating from Chinese characters that are used to write the major content of words such as verbs, nouns, and adjectives. Hiragana is a set of symbols that approximate the syllables that compose words; it is used to write grammatical markers and endings. Katakana is another set of symbols that is used for words borrowed from foreigners and other sounds. Most Japanese sentences are written in a combination of Kanji and Hiragana.
Learning Japanese is a challenge but one that rewards much in the way of practical and intellectual benefits. Please contact our department to learn more about taking Japanese classes at ACC.