Japan: Language                                                          

  • It is not clear when the Japanese language first appeared in the country. Chinese documents from the 3rd century show some Japanese words but in-depth texts did not appear until the 8th century. Early Japanese was influenced by Chinese during the Han Period (794–1185).


  • There are four alphabets in Japanese. The good news is that if you're an English speaker, you already know all the sounds needed to speak Japanese!



Romaji is the same alphabet that you are reading right now! It's used to write out words for advertising. It is often considered cool. Also it helps to spell out Japanese words for foreigners. Sometime there are lines added over the vowels which mean the sound should be stretched out for a longer time (photo).



Kanji are used to write most words native to Japan or of Chinese origin. Most kanji have more than one possible pronunciation (or "reading"), and some common kanji have many.



Katakana are used to write transliterations of foreign words and names and is commonly used for names of animals, plants and technical scientific terms.



Hiragana are used to write inflectional endings to adjectives and verbs and are used for small, common words that mark sentence topics, subjects and objects or have a purpose similar to English prepositions (i.e. in, to, from, by, for, etc.).