Friday, 14 December 2012

Why I ♥ the Japanese language

The Japanese has an amazing middleground of difficulty that I haven't found in any other language I've been studying.

They have the amazingly beautiful Chinese characters that originally made me want to study Chinese at a young age (before I discovered manga). But the present Chinese characters are simplified (uglified) and they don't look as beautiful anymore. Simply: Japanese kanji = traditional hanzi. But Japanese also contains a 48 character syllabic alphabet. Hiragana is used for conjugations of adjectives and verbs (okurigana) as well as particles. They can also be used alongside kanji (furigana) as a means to tell readers how that kanji is read, which simplifies reading enormously. Then there's also katakana. Katakana is also a 48 character syllabic alphabet, but only used for foreign words, items and names. Sometimes, in magazines, they are used on national words too for extra impact. Katakana makes it easy to see when a word is borrowed from a different language and it's also a means for foreigners to write their names in a manner easily understood by the Japanese. Seems confusing with three ways of writing? This is how it works:
Sentence is "Watashi no namae wa Elin desu." 
Meaning "My name is Elin."
I think the way of the written language is beautiful. The Japanese are taught about 2000 kanji in school and that's basically all you need. I think that's a third of what a Chinese person would need. Japanese is beautiful and as soon as you get the hang of it, it's kind of easy.

The grammar is heaven. There are some things that can be difficult at first, because that kind of expression doesn't exist in your mothertongue or in English, but it falls into place pretty quickly. Something that I love is that Japanese only holds two irregular verbs. Suru (to do) and kuru (to come). Only two irregulars are heavenly. Compare with French that has more than 100 irregular verbs and you'll understand my joy. Above all the grammar is largely regular. There aren't many cases when you bang the grammar book against your head trying to ram it in there cause that way it might somehow get stuck *flashback to French studies*. In most cases it's just a simple : "Oh, I see, so that's how it works."

Even the pronounciation is easy. It doesn't have different tones like Chinese. Japanese is largely a flat language with hardly any intonations at all. There are no difficult sounds. The only sound I've had problem with is the 'z'-sounds, mostly because we don't have sonant z's in Swedish. But I think I've finally gotten the hang of it! :D Heck, most European languages have more difficult pronounciations than Japanese! I know that French still screws me over sometimes and I can't really make a good Spanish r-sound.

But overall I love the Japanese language because it comes almost naturally to me. To me it feels as natural to react in Japanese as to react in Swedish or English.

I think that Japanese is largely misunderstood in Europe. People seem to think that Japanese and Chinese are the same (that would be like comparing English to Russian, they're that far off). I'm not sure if people who are not familiar with either of the languages will be able to hear the difference, but in this video they sing in both Japanese and Chinese. Mostly Japanese, but a bit over halfway through the video the choir stops singing and only two girls sing - they sing in Chinese (it's also possible to look at the subs and realise that the alphabetisation of the two languages is different):
Song is large choir, singing calmly with accompanying piano. 
Not your typical Japanese cutesy hyper song.
Is watchable for anybody.

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