Differences (And Similarities) Between Japanese and English

By OptiLingo • 7 minutes read

There are tons of benefits in learning a new language. You have better concentration, you learn more efficient study habits, you may learn more about your own native language, and the list goes on and on. In this day and age where everyone is able to communicate with everyone, it’s important to at least be almost fluent in one other language that isn’t your own native tongue. Job opportunities, studying abroad, or just simply traveling can all be affected by how well you know another language.

Learning another language isn’t easy, but it’s not impossible either. Yes there are some difficulties but I can assure you it’s nothing that you cannot overcome. New vocabulary and word structure you’re unfamiliar with are changes that may scare you, however once you get it down and understand without realizing, it’s rewarding and motivating to continue on with your studies.

Some of the most popular languages in the world are English, Mandarin, the romance languages (French, Spanish, and Italian), and Japanese. Japanese has been big with foreigners with the booming industry of anime and manga. This has opened doors with musical acts from Japan touring in other places like Europe and America. Although Japanese is the complete opposite to English, many have made it on their own with learning it.

Learning characters and the multiple alphabets, Kanji, Katakana, and Hiragana, the thought of mastering all of that can be quite daunting. However, as mentioned before, it’s not impossible. With the right tools and habits, you’ll be confident enough to practice conversations in no time. With any language you can’t expect to sound authentic within a week, it takes time and a lot of discipline, but if you’re passionate it’ll come to you easy.

Surprisingly enough, if you’re a native English speaker, you’ll be glad to know that Japanese in some aspects is simpler than English. Those who have learned English as a second language can sometimes say that the language is harder than it looks. With the built in knowledge of English you may have, it could greatly enable you in how to learn Japanese language easy.

Let’s go over 10 ways on how to learn Japanese language easy.


Number One: Optional Words

Similar to English, in Japanese, both objects and subjects alike can be omitted if context was understood from a latter sentence. This comes with more advancement in your learning, but this allows for a subtle and smooth conversation for lack of a subject. Usually Japanese sentences are made up of one word sentences spoken back and forth. The context isn’t directly stated, but it’s understood, nevertheless.


Number Two: Similar Parts of Speech

As stated before, knowing English and it’s grammar rules may come in handy when learning Japanese. One of the rules that both languages share are parts of speech. That being noun, adjective, adverb, verb, pronoun, and pre/postposition. It may have caught your eye seeing that prepositions have become postpositions. This is due to Japanese prepositions coming after the word it’s referring to. Knowing that the parts of speech are quite similar, plugging it in in order to fit with the Japanese language is much simpler for those who are familiar with the English way.


Number Three: Set Phrases

There are more than likely set phrases in English and nearly every other language that exists. To make learning easier it’s best to remember this for when you reach a higher level. As you should, you’ll try to decipher a phrase and become curious to why it’s used in that manner. Something like business Japanese can make this process time-consuming since usually there is a striking difference to what a phrase means of literal context and pictorial context. Learning set phrases would be like learning key phrases when traveling and wanting to get by, except learning set phrases will instill you with knowledge of building a base vocabulary to build on.


Number Four: Gender Neutrality

Similar to English, Japanese word structure isn’t customized to gender. For pronouns there are only two gender-specific words. That being in the third person(She, He, and They), and First person (“I”). It’s a bit strange but there are gender-specific words when referring to yourself. However, it is more polite to go with a more gender-neutral option. It is also more common. Of course, you have your basic boy, girl, son, or daughter, but gender-neutral options are more common practice. Keep this in mind and it’ll make the process of learning adjectives and nouns a lot easier.


Number Five: No Noun Declension

Some have never heard of the word declension and that’s okay, neither English nor Japanese do it. Although some languages use them, as mentioned before, pre/postpositions is used in both English and Japanese to indicate purpose. When it comes to verbs you’ll end up learning about transitive/intransitive, objects, however those nouns and adjectives in those positions under no circumstance lose their form.


Number Six: Only Two Verb Tenses

Another simplistic part of Japanese is that there are only two tenses, future and present so happen to be the same, as well as past being the second tense. Although there is a separate way of saying “I am doing”, usually the most becoming tenses almost always end up being these two. There is a plethora of options of expression and voices. There is passive, potential, imperative, and many more.


Number Seven: Limited Categories of Verbs, Adjectives, and Adverbs

This is where a difference in Japanese and English lie. In English, each parts of speech have numerous categories. However, Japanese adverbs and adjectives each only have two forms. Verbs have three, one being from a grouping of irregulars. There are different rules for these categories but it’s not difficult to organize and understand. Learning one form means you’ll grasp hundreds of other words of the same structure!


Number Eight: No Plurals

Another contrasting difference between English and Japanese is the way English uses plurals. To many who learn English, this is often a learning stump. The rule isn’t an easy one, and Japanese doesn’t use it at all. Well, almost not entirely. There are some pronouns for people and some words for animals, but even still there are very little options. There are only three options, however you don’t have to use them at all. With context, you’ll be able to know if something is plural or not.


Number Nine: Simple Verb Forms

Other languages including English, the verb changes based on whoever did the action. Japanese verbs don’t do that. Even removing the subject in a Japanese sentence won’t interrupt the context of who did what. In expanding conversations, it’ll be known, but even when omitted the point still comes across.


Number Ten: Flexible Word Order

When it comes to constructing sentences in Japanese there are only two rules: Verbs come last and when dealing with compound sentences, it’s essential that every clause keeps its proper placement. The Japanese use particles which assign to every chunk of a descriptive word in a sentence. This means that a sentence doesn’t lose its meaning when a noun is placed anywhere.

There are other tips to look into that we didn’t go in depth with such as articles, word spacing, no capital letters, different writing systems, and consistent pronunciation. Though in hopes of reading this article, there is a lot of information to read through that opens up your mind more! Japanese is fun to learn and breaking things down once it gets tough opens up more discovery of the language.


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