Why are you learning Japanese? Is it (with Chinese) the most difficult language in the world?

Grammar - the study of the classes of words, their inflections), and their functions and relations in the sentence

If you’re going to talk down to someone, I suggest you at least know what you’re talking about. “de” (does that make you feel better?) is a particle. If you don’t understand what a particle is I suggest looking it up.

I’ll read the rest when you get off your high horse. Which I assume will be never.

If you want to take it personal, feel free. Take it for what it’s worth, it’s okay to be wrong. I’m not exactly waiting around for your opinion and you shouldn’t be waiting for mine either.

I took a job in Japan pretty much because my best friend had worked there briefly and enjoyed it, so I figured I’d like it. Left after about 2 years and only knew like 5 words. I was a bit hard on myself for not taking advantage of the opportunity, so I decided I wanted to learn “A” foreign language and not be a “dumb American” that only spoke English. I settled on Japanese since I had such a great time in Japan and wanted to go back someday.

Studied quite a bit and have lived there off and on since then, about 7 years in total now. Finally trying to buckle down and really learn kanji as reading/writing are my weak areas.

I have a wife and daughter now and will probably retire here, so it would be awesome if I wasn’t functionally illiterate. I’d much prefer for my daughter to go to school here instead of the states. Someday I’d like to learn Chinese as well, no desire to ever live there, but learning a decent amount of Japanese has been the best thing I’ve ever done for myself. The people are awesome, I have a great time every time I go out.

Enjoying Japanese media is a bonus, they have some great TV programs and movies. I’m not real big on most anime though, with a few exceptions.


Oh that’s a new view of Chinese. Didn’t expect so much difficulty. Reminds me a bit to Korean. Thank you for your effort to make it clearer! =)

I’ll eventually catch up with everyone’s replies but for now, here’s my take on this (sorry if some of these have been mentioned before).

Well, I’m studying Japanese simply because I’m in love with Japan. As many others, I started through pop culture. First anime, then music; since then my relationship with Japan has evolved a lot and the more I learn about its people, culture and mentality, the more I like it. I think it’s a country that fits my ways of thinking very well, I’ve really enjoyed the time I’ve spent in Japan and I hope I can live there for a longer period some day.

There surely should be more difficult languages than Japanese or Chinese, or so I’ve heard, but haven’t tried any of those. I find Japanese to be more difficult than Chinese because of the absurdly complicated take they took on their writing system and all the cultural layers added to the language. Japanese is, syntactically speaking, quite simple, but their levels of politeness, the vagueness of their speech patterns and other particularities of the language make it very difficult to learn.

I studied mandarin for a year and a half, and maybe I’m just speaking from a beginner’s point of view, but I found it to be easier than Japanese, at least on grammar and writing. Pronunciation is tough but I think that’s a minor obstacle compared to the hundreds of hours you’ll spend learning on’ and kun’ yomi, which don’t exist in Chinese.

Is it a waste of time to learn such a difficult language that is pretty much useless outside of Japan? Some may say so. But hey, I’m doing this for myself, because I like it. Once I have a decent level on Japanese I’d like to try out Korean, which has similar grammar to Japanese and… no Kanji, yay!

Simple, i have to wait two years for yenpress to translate the light novels i’m reading.
Might aswell use this time to learn japanese and not have to wait next time :wink:


its very easy to come across a form one previously did not know (for example “kirjoittaja”) and still have a rough idea of the theme or idea of what’s going on with this unknown word

I just wanna point out that most people in my Finnish classes were actually having great difficulties in recognising even “already known words” once you got beyond the most basic texts. Especially the consonant gradation seemed to trip people up:
An example: Helsinki changes into Helsingin (still easy to recognize),
But most were utterly confused when the words changed a bit more than that, e.g.
You could ask ten people what the “original” word might be and get at least six different answers :wink:
But, yeah Finnish is fun :grin:


Hmm, I started Japanese as a kid. I think I had heard that Pokemon or something like that from Japan, so I self-studied for a long time.
Anyway, I started early, so the syntax makes sense to me, for the most part. It is, however, very different from English and the romance languages. I can see why it would be a problem if I started as an adult, maybe. Kids pick these things up much quicker. As for Chinese, I just started mandarin and was surprised how easily I’ve been picking it up, actually. I feel like the biggest roadblock is that normal reading is done without a proper alphabet. Even though I’m used to kanji, I’m still weirded out by the total lack of declension and conjugation in Chinese. It’s what makes it easy, but it’s also what makes it hard.
Also, I’d like to say, I took Latin in high school, and I was very good at it, but I’ve definitely not gone out of my way to pursue other languages with such complex declension systems (I’m looking at you, Finnish). It’s one thing to read the cases, but remembering them in speech is just too much for me. Thankfully, academic Latin is rarely spoken extemporaneously.
I think that, because English so rarely acknowledges its own case system, and because it retains so few case visible changes compared to even closely related languages like German, those are more difficult for English speakers. Changing word order is one thing; having to spell a noun completely differently depending on its use its a whole different problem. In English, we just tack on words like “in” or “at”, and there’s never any spelling change. “My cat” and “from the cat” are spelled the same. It’s the drastic changes in spelling and pronunciation, like puer->puerorum, that trip people up.


If I can ask, where are you from and what aspect of the Japanese mindset do you find yourself most in tune with?


I’m from germany. I can’t really give a precise answer on that, it’s a rather hazy feeling I have. But some aspects would be the generall attidute, dependancy, not being obnoxious, not doing any crimes, better to have few very good friends than a lot of buddies you can’t count on, etc.

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I’ve dabbled in learning several other languages over the years (Spanish, Italian, Russian), so Japanese was a bit of a random choice. I guess I was re-watching Sailor Moon and thought that it might be an interesting languages to get it. I love how it’s really streamlined in some ways (like no verb conjugation based on subject) but really complex in others (like kanji!). I just find it a really elegant language overall.

As other’s have said, it’s hard to say that one language is harder than another because it really does depend on which ones you already have under your belt. The writing system of Japanese might be more complex, and the sentence structure more foreign, but it’s conjugation is a breeze compared to the complicated case system of Russian!

The big thing that makes it harder for me is that there is no vocabulary transfer. Let me explain. I’m native English and French speaker. Several years ago I spent 6 week in Italy living with a family. While I had hardly studied, I found Italian really easy to pick up, due to my prior knowledge of French. Sure, the similar grammar structure helped, but the big thing is that in Italian I could frequently guess what the vocab would be. For example, words that end in “ment” in French, usually are the same in Italian but with 'mente" instead. Even nouns were frequently similar. So while this didn’t work 100% of the time, I could usually make myself understood. My vocabulary was probably boosted by 2 or 3 times simply because of my prior knowledge of French.

Japanese does have English loan words, but it’s not predictable in the way that the relationship between French and Italian is. So if I don’t a word in Japanese, I have no way of guessing it. I’ve just got absolutely nothing. So for me, that’s what really makes it so difficult.


Thanks for giving some first-hand data!

If a had small data set (100 or so words which are derivatives of a few shared base words) I might be able to do an analysis and come up with a set of reasonably reliable rules for when and why those sound changes happen (such as why [k] can change to both [v] and [j]).

I’m learning Japanese because:

  1. Once I graduate from high school, I’m planning my senior trip there and I’d like to know what’s going on.
  2. After I’ve gotten a degree in engineering from college, I want to get a job in Tokyo.
  3. I’ve always been fascinated with Japanese culture.

Sheesh, this is getting heated.

Syphus, I’ll have to respectfully disagree with your claim. I started learning Japanese in middle school (self-taught), so I’ve been familiar with it for a long time. However when I wanted to study abroad in Japan in high school, the Tohoku earthquake made it impossible, and I ended up going to China instead. I was hesitant at first, not knowing a word of Chinese. But I do have to say, I felt a much easier transition into Chinese than I probably would’ve even if I had continued my Japanese. This is because of what I’d like to call “sympathetic grammar”, or features of a language that make a language learner go, “Oh! This is just the same as [congruent feature in one’s native language].” There were a LOT more of this"sympathetic grammar" in Chinese than I’ve ever encountered in Japanese, and I’m currently living in Japan.

That’s not to say that the two languages were perfectly parallel, no two languages are. But all of the examples you described were just the grammar points I had to play close attention to when I first learned them simply BECAUSE they were noticably less congruent than most other Chinese grammar points. That’s a big leap from Japanese, a language where from the very start, in order to construct your first sentence, you have to awkwardly wrap your brain around rearranging the object and verb of the sentence. Let alone the other wildly different grammatical patterns, particles, politeness, conjugations, and untranslateable idioms/greetings that exist in Japanese. Sometimes I just listen to Chinese radio while I’m here because after all the mental energy I spent all day listening to Japanese, I just want my brain to have a nice warm hug.

That being said, I’m learning Japanese because it’s a challenge, and that’s exactly why I love it.


I’m learning Japanese because I’m into languages and I’m fascinated by many aspects of Japanese culture. At the moment I can speak Spanish( I live and work in Spain), Portuguese and Italian but now learning European languages doesn’t seem such a big deal and I want a real challenge. My favourite part of the language learning journey is when you start to understand what people are saying without consciously translating, it’s a total buzz. I can’t wait to one day have that experience watching an anime or having conversations with Japanese people.

I looked into Mandarin and I reckon Japanese is harder. It just seems more complex. I honestly don’t get why people think tones are so difficult. It makes the language more beautiful and memorable.


Wow, I feel like the odd woman out as someone who’s learning for academic reasons, haha. I have degrees in history and art history, and I’m currently a graduate student in art history. My interests in my field are REALLY all over the place (like Greco-Buddhist sculpture, Fragonard, and Renaissance city planning all over the place), and when I started my master’s program my advisor asked me what I my focus and language were going to be, and I really didn’t know what to say. I’d taken East Asian art with her and she’d really liked my work, so she asked why I didn’t go with Japanese since she knew that I go there often (seven times so far). I’ve done a fair bit of work on Japonisme and Art Nouveau before and loved it, and a few years ago I happened to see an exhibition of Kobayashi Kiyochika’s prints at the Freer Gallery that really stuck with me in a big way. I did a paper on the influence of Western traditional painting and photographic perspective on his work, and to be honest I just couldn’t get him out of my head. I told my advisor I couldn’t possibly learn to read Japanese and would just take German reading and figure something out, but two weeks later after a lot of sleepless nights I was asking my wife if I could go to language immersion school in Japan for two years, knowing that if I didn’t follow my heart I would always regret it, and she said yes. So I’m doing WaniKani to get a bit of a head start and will be headed to Tokyo next fall. My long-term plans are probably for a PhD, maybe in Japanese art history or maybe jumping back to regular history, which would be just fine since my bachelor’s had a focus on WWII and I’m still learning to read German next semester. In the shorter term, I’d really like to be able to read the Wachifield books to my wife, who loves collecting Dayan merchandise but can’t read the stories!


because 帰国子女 not functioned properly here~

it even not close to university student level~ more shame 中学生 are better than 帰国生 at some point、in the end not excel in both 国語 and 英語~

but i have nice ability to flew under the radar so people doesn’t know how actually cheap my real ability (゚ー゚)~

Let’s be honest… English is the hardest language in the world to learn.

As for why I started to learn Japanese, I think after the 2011 tsunami and hearing it on the news I started to become more and more interested with the country and culture. It soon grew into classes and personal studies and here we are. :slight_smile:

I had a fantastically positive experience when I visited Japan a few years ago. I could however only communicate on a very basic level from stray words and phrases I had picked up from watching anime when I was younger.

I want to learn japanese a lot better and go back to Japan and have an even better experience. :smiley:

It’s just really fun and rewarding to learn additional languages even though it can be hard to see their practical value.

Haha, I am Czech and we have 7 cases too and lot more funny stuf to play around with our language. It is hard but beautiful as a kanji :laughing:

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