Post image for Learning Japanese is Hard, but you are not Alone (Infographic)

Learning Japanese is Hard, but you are not Alone (Infographic)

by on February 23, 2013

Japanese is a pretty interesting language.  Not only does it have 4 different writing systems that it uses.  It is also made more difficult by the fact that the sentence order is not the same as that of English and a lot of other languages.  It is rated as on of the most difficult languages to learn by the Foreign Service Institute, which estimates it takes around 2200 classroom hours to become proficient:

(Even the cartoon in the infographic is doing it wrong :))

Learning Japanese

Courtesy of Voxy

But yet, this seemingly impossible language to learn is becoming more and more popular.  If anything, the fact that it is difficult makes it more interesting and popular.  I was personally drawn to Japanese because of the writing.  I like the idea of symbols having meaning instead of just symbolizing sounds.

And the Japanese community is quite an amazing and supportive group.  It is also pretty international.  Just the other day I got an email from someone studying in Switzerland and I have regular readers from Pakistan to Argentina.  I love hearing from everyone about their different experiences.

Even though a lot of you might be self-studiers, like myself.  You are definitely not alone.  As the graphic below points out there are a good 3.5 million or so of us spread throughout the world.  There is a pretty good chance you can find others interested in learning Japanese like you.

What I thought was interesting about these stats is the number of kanji you need to learn.  Learning kanji can be a major hurtle with Japanese.  When you go to learn another language like Spanish or German, at least you can read it, but not Japanese.  We have the added challenge of learning a few new alphabets and kanji is highly irregular.  Some kanji have multiple ways to be pronounced.  Others have several seemingly unconnected meanings.  It is a real struggle.

Readthekanji Learn Japanese

Courtesy of ReadtheKanji.com

By the way, ReadtheKanji.com is a beautiful site for studying Japanese. You can learn the word in context with example sentences and you don’t even have to have an IME!

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Virginia February 23, 2013 at 3:02 pm

Interesting article. As my mother tongue is Spanish, I may not realize it, but Spanish is actually a very challenging language because of its verb tense conjugation, Japanese people find this very difficult.
When I was a kid, I started watching japanese anime. One of the first things that I liked about Japanese is that I couldn’t relate it to any other language I was surrounded with (Spanish, Portuguese, French, English, German, Italian, etc.) I became so curious about Japanese that I wanted to learn it. And I love hearing from other Japanese language learners’ experiences, as you said, we are not alone! :)

As always, regards from Argentina!
Virginia

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Clayton MacKnight February 25, 2013 at 6:49 am

I feel like Spanish is a lot easier for English speakers to pick up though. Mostly because we can at least read everything. :) Japanese has a bit of learning curve because of the writing systems. Spanish is also another very popular language to learn. I’d like to find some time to re-learn Spanish. One of these days…

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Fumi March 9, 2013 at 5:35 am

I do not think I would learn Japanese if I am a foreigner.
I teach Japanese language and I am so impressed with my student’s effort.
I myself, forget Kanji sometimes, it is very embarrassing specially in front of my student…
I am so happy there are many people who study Japanese.

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Clayton MacKnight March 10, 2013 at 8:44 am

Fumi! Thanks for the comment.

To be honest, I think what is so attractive about Japanese is that it is difficult. It’s an amazing challenge and the feeling of being able to understand something natively in such a difficult language is so amazing!

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Igiri March 10, 2013 at 1:18 pm

Clayton – I think in one of your posts you say that Japanese has four different alphabets, and I think this is misleading. When describing writing systems, linguists differentiate between those that are alphabetic and those that are not, and the traditional Japanese writing system is not alphabetic. (Only ‘romaji’ is alphabetic.) I am being a bit pedantic, but I think it’s an interesting distinction, and I imagine many people who don’t know Japanese would find it fascinating to know that there are languages, like Japanese, that don’t traditionally use alphabetic scripts. They might even become sufficiently curious to want to learn more!

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Clayton MacKnight March 10, 2013 at 3:14 pm

That’s a good point. I kind of struggle between should I call them alphabets and be understood, or a writing system and people (non-linguists) wonder what in the world I’m talking about. But, you are right, calling them ‘writing systems’ is probably the most accurate. It’s just hard for me to imagine that concept clearly. Where if someone told me it was an alphabet, I could understand it a little better although technically incorrect, but that’s just me. Does that make sense?

Anyway, good point and I’ll make a note of it for future posts.

I fixed the current article. Thanks for the comment and correction!

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