Japanese is pretty

Not really a question, just wanted to put this out there: Japanese is a pretty language. I’m fluent in Hebrew and English, have a bit of French, had recently studied a bit of Russian, and I gotta say - Japanese has been the most delightful thing to learn for the past year or so. What I love most about it is how rarely it smacks you in the face for no reason whatsoever.

  • No genders! Hell, almost no plurals!
  • A minuscule amount of tenses! -leers at English-
  • Phonetic writing is basically mostly actually phonetic! -leers even harder at English-

It does smack you in the face, but with good reasons:

  • Kanji is hard, yeah, but it appears necessary, with the crazy amount of homophones. (…and likely the crazy amount of homophones stems from Kanji’s existence).
  • There’s a lot of nuance to know about with particles and honorifics and stuff, but it actually… delivers nuance!

Now, see, Russian smacks you in the face for no reason other than “screw you, I’m the Russian language”. There’s two plurals, one for 2-4/12-14/22-24/… and another for 5-10/15-20 and I probably got that wrong. Memorizing the 6 different cases (…which doesn’t include plurals, but yeah, that too) needs to be done on a word-per-word basis, stress changes the meaning of the word but isn’t actually written down, and more. It’s terribly frustrating.

So far, the only places I’ve had Japanese smack me in the face for no reason are:

  • シvsツ and ソvsン(…vsリ in handwriting, see notable DBZ character クソソソ). I mean, c’mon, you arbitrarily reduced Kanji to get those, surely you could’ve chosen more distinctive ones.
  • Counters, though it doesn’t seem that bad.

So, there, that was a bit of an antirant. Curious to know of other places to expect needless lingual face-smacks :slight_smile:


A minuscule amount of tenses!

English does not have that many conjugations either. For example, the entire conjugation of the irregular verb “to drink” is described by “he drinks”, “he is drinking”, “he drank”, “he has drunk”. Every other tense is formed by one of these forms plus a helper verb, e.g. “he will drink”, “he would have drunk”, etc. For comparsion, the equivalent verb in German (“trinken”, also an irregular verb) has about 20 distinct conjugations.

If you count not just distinct conjugations as tenses, but also helper verb constructions (like how the future tense in English is “will” in present tense + actual verb infinitive), then Japanese has much more than 2 tenses. As a simple example, the present continuous “to be drinking” pretty much translates one-to-one into Japanese as 飲んでいる, i.e. て-form of 飲む + いる (which is pretty much “to be”).

シvsツ and ソvsン(…vsリ in handwriting, see notable DBZ character クソソソ). I mean, c’mon, you arbitrarily reduced Kanji to get those, surely you could’ve chosen more distinctive ones.

Good thing we don’t have this in the Latin script. Could you imagine if people couldn’t tell a lower-case L from an upper-case I?

Edit: Just to clarify though, I completely agree with your overall sentiment.


@lutzky @xyrill I had to scroll up to see if you guys weren’t the same person (笑). Very similar avatars (and your names both have y’s)!

Anyway I agree that Japanese is a pretty language, but all of those tenses and such can also be pretty. Like, I like the thought of Hungarian, and the look of Finnish a whole lot!


Not that I’m annoyed or anything, but just… the reduction wasn’t arbitrary at all. If you said katakana was arbitrary, I might agree, because I have no idea how the fragments were chosen, but hiragana are simplified 草書 aka Grass/Running Script. They’re a calligraphic form. Here’s a video I found about it: Links between Kana and Kanji

Now, I agree that handwritten stuff is often kinda hard to decipher (my pet peeve was the fact that one mangaka’s あ’s kept looking like… お’s, I think?), but that’s partly because we’re not used to how Japanese people write. I follow the rules I learnt from Chinese calligraphy, so I’m not at all used to kana that have no ‘texture’ e.g. no slightly wavy finishing touches at the ends of horizontal strokes, which is nothing like the smooth, unfussy writing of mangaka’s and many other Japanese people who upload handwritten stuff online. I think it’ll get easier with time. Anyhow though, the reason the examples you raised are things Japanese people can tell apart fairly easily… is probably because of stroke order and direction? When written on paper/in calligraphic form, you’ll notice which ends of the strokes are thinner, which will clearly tell you which is which.

Yup, one of the quirks of Japanese (and Chinese!) I wonder if Korean has them too… basically though, they’re kind of like the ‘proper terms’ for groups in English, like a ‘peck’ of peppers or a ‘gaggle’ of geese, just that they’re everywhere in Japanese.

I can’t really think of any other ‘why, Japanese, why!!!’ moments… except perhaps finding out that the 〜ている form is both ‘present continuous’ (i.e. ‘to be doing’) and ‘present state’ (something like ‘to have done’, because the action happened in the past, but the state remains). I don’t remember being taught that by my textbook, and I needed to learn it myself later on.


It sure is a pretty language. One of the main reasons I am studying japanese is because I want to read NiSiOiSiN’s works, who is known for using the language in the most creative ways.


I have one for you: Onomatopoeia. Not only does Japanese have these for sounds just like in English, but they also have them for emotions. They’re all over the place and they are so hard to keep track of!


I think as you start tackling more challenging material in Japanese, you may have a few head smacks. One example: Japanese has many ways of identifying subjects and objects, very rarely by using pronouns. As a Japanese learner, it takes a while to pick up on cues that don’t exist in English which the Japanese use where we would use pronouns to identify who is who.

Of course, if you already are familiar with languages as varied in structure as Hebrew and Russian, I’d assume that the syntax of Japanese wouldn’t be as disorienting as it is for people who only know subject-verb-object languages like English, Spanish, French, etc.

Also, learning when to use が vs は may take some time to master.


Yeah, colloquial Hebrew is actually a great help in getting the “feel” of Japanese, omitting as much of the sentence as possible, to make sense.


Does “infinity” count as “some time”?


Also, who needs vowels anyway. You’re well prepped for kanji lacking furigana.


I actually always use Nikkud as an analogy for Furigana, I’d imagine one gets weaned off them the same way.


Ah, I never knew what it was called. That’s good to know!

Yes, you get weaned off of furigana as you learn more kanji and words, and as you read more content at various levels of difficulty.


From a mathematical perspect: yes. From a linguistic perspective: yes. From a logographical perspective: yes. From a etymological perspective: no.

I am also currently learning Latin, and whilst I absolutely agree on the other points, I primarily miss the opportunity to delve into the etymology of words. Most likely this is because I have no prior knowledge of any other East-Asain languages, however, speaking from a point of view strictly on the pleasure of learning the language, this is one small downside for me. Just to be devil’s advocate to your praise :upside_down_face:.

I should also make clear that kanji fits the etymology gap quite nicely. That being said, it’s a lot harder to learn (though a lot easier now with Wanikani!), so it’s a kind of mixed blessing.

Finally, just to make clear, I 100% agree with the main sentiment of your post; Japanese is a terrifically fun and satisfying language to learn!


I’m not sure I follow what you mean about etymology in Japanese. What makes the etymology of words in Japanese… aesthetically unpleasant?.. If that’s what you were intending to express.

I enjoy reading about etymology in Japanese, so it’s an interesting point to hear.


just imagine a hiragana crossing the two strips of the katakana. (shi) perfectly crosses the シ (shi) strips vertically, and (tsu) perfectly crosses the ツ (tsu) strips horizontally.


Hey! Another native Hebrew speaker! Didn’t think there’d be another on this site.


Sounds difficult. It’s so much easier in Japanese, for example when talking about days of the month, we use kunyomi and か counter for 1st to 10th, well except for 1st which is special, but after that it’s onyomi and にち, well of course except for 14th, 20th and 24th which are obviously back to kunyomi and か. So pretty !


As I said: I can only speak to my experience learning languages, and one of the things I was not able to enjoy in Japanese was the etymology. I also mentioned that this is probably because, as a European, I have not had that much exposure to East-Asain languages; perhaps there are significant etymological connection amongst the languages, but nevertheless they are unbeknownst to me and therefore do not increase the pleasure which I gain from learning Japanese.

On the other hand, I also stated that I am learning Latin. This is relevant because, in stark contrast to Japanese, I can enjoy learning about the original words from which many English words are derived. Of course, I could not and would not expect such an experience in Japanese; I simply brought it up as an example.

I hope this clarifies what I meant; as I mentioned previously, I of course love Japanese and was merely playing devil’s advocate in order to illustrate the other ways languages differ from one another.


To be fair to the thread starter, he did mention counters :slightly_smiling_face:.


I feel that learning kanji is enough of a smack in the face that the rest of the language is like yeah, let’s take it easy, they’ve already had it hard enough.