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Basic Japanese

1852 Basic Japanese

Japanese is one of the world’s major languages, with more than 127 million speakers all over the world. It is an isolated language, bearing no resemblance to any other language. It is independent and the only dominant language whose genetic affiliation is not known. Despite all these confusions, the fact that over 100 million people speak it proves we can't ignore this language. It is an important foreign language when it comes to learning foreign languages for better career growth. Learning basic Japanese could be one of the best skills one can possess to be fit for the current job market, spread globally. Many top companies have an association with Japanese companies for technology, managerial expertise and other advanced techniques.

It is a lovely language to speak as well as to write; the script looks very artistic and is unique from all other language scripts. Japanese speaking skills open up many opportunities for candidates looking for a decent paying job in multinational companies and wish to grow their career at the global level.

Learning Basic Japanese

Learning basic Japanese is one of the rising trends observed among foreign language learners. Choosing Japanese over other foreign languages open new avenues for Japanese speakers wanting to pursue higher studies or jobs, abroad. It provides learners with multiple job opportunities in Japanese companies established in different parts of the world. The international business has led to the rise in foreign language jobs like translators, foreign language tutors, interpreters, writers etc. One can learn the Japanese language to explore the new world of various opportunities available to Japanese speaking candidates.

Learning basic Japanese language can be easy as it does not have many complicated rules, and there are no cases, genders and articles. It is more straightforward than it seems to be. The Japanese writing style is seen in two ways i) Horizontally from left to right and ii) Vertically from top to bottom and right to left. In comparison with other languages, Japanese has fewer sounds and pronunciation causes little or no trouble to the learners.

Modern Japanese is written in a mixture of three basic characters:

i) Kanji (Kahn-jee) - Chinese ideographic symbols

ii) Hiragana (Hee-rah-gah-nah)

iii) Katakana (ka-ta-ka-na)

Kanji is mainly used for nouns, verb stems, adjective stems, and so on. Hiragana has round-shaped letters, used for grammatical elements such as particles, auxiliary verbs and suffixes of nouns. Katakana is a Japanese syllabary. It is one component of the Japanese writing system along with hiragana, kanji and in some cases, the Latin script (known as Rōmaji). It has an angular letter shape, which is most often used for words of foreign origin and also for emphasis.

Hiragana and Katakana are phonetic symbols of the Japanese language. One need not remember how to spell Japanese words, because their pronunciations are directly related to their spellings, and this is one of the easy tricks of learning the Japanese language.

Kanji has thousands of characters, whereas Hiragana and Katakana have 46 each. There are rules as to when which characters should we use with certain exceptions. Also, the Kanji characters have multiple pronunciations for a single word.

Different words and expressions are used to show respect when communicating with an unknown person or a superior in the Japanese language, and the style differs from talking to a child or a close relative or friends. There are three primary politeness levels in the Japanese language- the plain, 'Kudaketa'; the simple, polite 'Teinei' and the advanced polite form 'Keigo'. These are used depending on the type of conversation, and to suit the level of politeness required during the conversation.

In Japanese phonology, two crucial concepts must be identified - the syllable and the mora. ‘Mora’ is a rhythmic unit, based on its length. These play a significant role in the accent of the Japanese language. Each word is with a distinct tone pattern, and here the focus is on word-pitch, which forms the basis of the accent. There are many dialects based on the geographical distribution which might confuse the learners. The spread of the kyōtsū-go, which means 'common language'. It is based on the Tokyo dialect has unified the linguistic differences of dialects prevailing in the Japanese language. Mass media and the modern spread of foreign languages has also helped to level out the differences in the dialects.

Basic Japanese Words

Learning basic Japanese begins with learning the sounds of the alphabet and moving towards the basic Japanese words and its pronunciations. Japanese has five vowels, and the sound has two versions - short and long. Elongated sound for vowels, is represented by a line on top of it, such as ā, ē , ō, ū and so on. The phonology of Japanese language includes a pitch-accent system that helps to differentiate identical Hiragana spelling or words from different Japanese dialects.

Japanese has an extensive grammatical system to express politeness in the conversations. This is due to the extremely hierarchical nature of Japanese society. The Japanese speaking involves different expressions used to express politeness and formality required in the situation and between different sections of society. It is a very disciplined language with different forms of politeness to be used depending on the people involved. When learning basic Japanese language, one must keep in mind this important concept of politeness and formality as this is a vital part of the communication system in Japanese society. One cannot ignore this aspect considering it to be unimportant, because it might cause trouble to one speaking in a plain tone to superiors, unintentionally, which is regarded as disrespectful in Japanese society.

While learning basic Japanese, one needs to give more importance to the most frequently used words like greetings, requests, condolences, directions, time etc. It is essential to take learning in the right direction to make it more effective. The words used in daily conversations should be focused on first and learnt to be able to communicate in basic Japanese. Learning advanced language skills would only be possible if one knows the basic Japanese words well.

Japanese nouns have no gender, number or other grammatical aspects. Questions in Japanese have the same structure as affirmative sentences but has intonation rising in the end to show the question. In a formal arrangement, items have -ka added at the end. For instance, ‘ii desu’ stands for “It is okay” and ‘ii desu -ka’ stands for “Is it okay?”.

  • Konnichiwa - Hello

  • Ohayō gozaimasu - Good Morning

  • Konbanwa - Good Evening

  • Oyasuminasai - Good Night

  • Sayōnara - Goodbye

  • Dewa mata - See You

  • Arigatō gozaimasu - Thank You

  • Dōitashimashite - You’re welcome

  • Sumimasen - Excuse Me

  • Dōmo sumimasen - I am sorry

  • O-negai shimasu - Please

These are the few basic Japanese words or phrases used in daily conversations.

Basic Japanese Sentences

After learning Japanese words, the next step is to learn to frame basic Japanese sentences. One needs to use the basic words learnt and frame meaningful sentences to communicate in the Japanese language. Japanese sentence formation is very different from English sentence formation. In the English language, the sentence structure is basically “SVO”- Subject-Verb-Object; whereas, in the Japanese language, the sentence structure is usually “SOV” - Subject-Object-Verb.

For instance, in English “I eat Sushi”, here ‘I’ is the subject, ‘eat’ is the verb and ‘Sushi’ is the object. In Japanese, it would be “I Sushi eat” in Subject-Object-Verb order.

Japanese sentences are mainly understood with the help of grammatical markers called ‘particles’. The particles show how the word before it, relates to the other words in the sentence.

  • Sentences are framed using ‘desu’, a particular verb which is pronounced as ‘dess’. This verb is just like the verb ‘be’ (am, are, is) in the English language.

“Kore wa kuruma desu” means “This is a car”. Here ‘wa’ is the particle used. These particles are like the backbone of Japanese.

  • The function of ‘particle’ is crucial in the Japanese language. For instance, “Tara saw Neha”, would be “Tara wa Neha wo mimashita” in Japanese. Here there are two particles used ‘wa’ and ‘wo’ (pronounced as ‘o’). ‘Wa’ defines the subject of a sentence and ‘wo’ describes the object.

Here, the word before ‘wa’ is Tara which shows that Tara is the person who performed the act of seeing. The word before ‘wo’ is 'Neha', which indicates that she is the object seen in this example.

The word order in Japanese is not important as in English, the words can be written in other order by just using the particles at the right place. The sentence would still mean the same.

“Tara wa Neha wo mimashita” which means “Tara saw Neha”.

“ Neha wo Tara wa mimashita” which still means “Tara saw Neha”. Here the order of the words have changed, but the particles play the role of giving the same meaning to the sentences.

  • The particle ‘no’ indicates possession in Japanese just like ‘yours, mine, hers', his, theirs’ in the English language. Example, “Tara’s Car” is “Tara no kuruma,” in Japanese. Here ‘no’ indicates that the car belongs to Tara.

  • Do you speak English? - “Eigo o hanasemasu ka.”

  • How are you? - “O-genki desu ka.”

  • I'm fine. Thank you - “Genki desu.”

  • I am delighted to meet you.- “Oaidekite ureshī desu.”

These are the few basic Japanese sentences; one can learn Japanese sentences easily due to minimum grammatical aspects and simple rules of sentence formation.

When one has learnt the basic Japanese words and sentences, one can practice and start communicating in the Japanese language to get a good hold on this language. One can watch Japanese movies, videos, news etc to follow the essential words learnt and go further in the Japanese learning process.


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