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Japanese is easier than people give it credit for! ... I think

So, I am a beginner in my journey to fluency in Japanese. The reason I want to learn the language is because I visited Tokyo last year and it being "foreigner friendly" is a big fat lie. Tokyo is like cities back in Australia except suddenly Im dyslexic y'know? It's jarring. I wish to return to Tokyo with fluency and be able to participate more fully in the culture and society.

For english speakers it is said that Japanese is among the hardest languages for us to learn. I disagree in a few ways:

  1. Hiragana and Katakana are very easy to learn and memorize. No one tells beginner Japanese language enthusiasts that the first point of entry (kana) only takes a week or two to learn. Once you learn you can spend time reading childrens material and practicing sight-reading.

  2. Japanese has a lot in common with English, just done in its own way. Japanese words meaning can change based on context, and so can words in english. In Japanese, words can sound the same but be written differently and have different meanings - the same in english. Japanese is a pro-drop language, meaning parts of sentences get left out and filled in by context. Again, similar things occur in English. When I come across things in the Japanese language akin to what is outlined above I don't get flustered thinking it is complex to learn because I speak a language that is just as guilty haha.

  3. Japanese is to English as Math is to English. This might sound kind of strange, but I like how dissimilar Japanese is to English as I get to learn it as an isolated thing. In terms of video games you could argue that a language like French compared to English is like comparing Overwatch to Call of Duty - different games, slightly different play styles but mostly very much the same in feel. Whereas if English is COD, then Japanese is Pokemon. You wouldn't pick up Pokemon and expect to play the exact same way as COD. Japanese is its own game with its own set of rules. I like this because it means my understanding of English doesn't clash with my acquisition of Japanese.

ADDED: 4. Words in english repeat just like Japanese Once I started exposing myself to more Japanese audio (not to understand it but to get my brain accustomed to hearing it) I started to notice that regular Japanese speech has a lot of repeating words and styles. As english speakers we can be unconscious of how many times we repeat words like "the, and, I, of, how, to, because, but" etc. Similarly how often "ed, ing, 's" get added onto our words. Just like in point number 2, Japanese and English do have common traits. Listen to some Japanese conversations, or news shows (Terrace House on Netflix is an amazing resource for seeing how real Japanese conversations flow), and see if you hear them too.

These ideas my seem strange but they are just realizations I have had during my time with the Japanese language. Thinking of a new language in terms or a game of which I have to learn new rules and playstyles, while also forgiving it for its quirks as I can relate them to similar quirks within my own language, smooths the journey and dissipates anxiety for I know as long as I continue to put in the effort and learn with curiousity and an open mind fluency will come.

Thanks for reading my post! Feel free to share your own experiences, thoughts, and opinions!

January 14, 2019



To be honest, beginner levels in any language isn't as difficult once you get used to it. However, once you get to advanced level in Japanese, you'll be more used to Japanese, but still find a lot of the concepts to be extremely foreign and very difficult.


I completely agree with you as a long time English learner.


its very easy if youre german considering a lot of extremly spesific words and even grammar parts are shared with german


When I started learning Japanese 10 years ago (and still not fluent - hehehe) do you think I was there "oh my god it's so difficult ?". Nope ! I was just there "Oh my god, it's fascinating, it's completely new to me and wow how can they write such things". Getting curious, having fun, making mistakes are the best ways to learn any languages in my opinion. Be like a child who is amazed by the world around him.


Yep! I am with you! To me a language is like a song... I have to learn the words and the melody ;) fascinating indeed!


A fantastic reply and a great way of approaching a language!


This is completely true. I was initially interested in the language for a project and I believed I would never complete it. I put off learning for at least a year before actually making an attempt. Now, after less than a year, I have finished the course, and made all my skills golden.

  1. Japanese is easy if........ you start.
  2. Hiragana and Katakana are 3/10 difficulty whereas Kanji is a 9/10. If you work honestly and hard you can learn Kanji pretty fast. There's a whole range of mnemonics you can try as well.
  3. YOU DON'T HAVE TO LEARN EACH AND EVERY KANJI. Don't kill yourself over learning useless kanji. I went through a phase where I believed I had to know every single Kanji but it turned out to be useless. Don't learn useless Kanji. Period.

Happy Learning.......!!!

  1. Beginner Japanese is easy, once you get further things will get harder and more foreign. I don't want to discourage anyone, just stating the facts.

  2. True that. I also recommend learning radicals - kanji will appear much more structured and you'll learn new characters more quickly if you know the radicals.

  3. No, you have to learn even more kanji than the specified jouyou range, that is, if you want to get fluent in reading. There are dozens - if not hundreds - of characters used in literature and newspapers that are not in jouyou.


Yes a great way of learning radicals is using the site "WaniKani"


I was bored and I liked your post so I gave you 35 lingots, your welcome.


Please be bored more often. hahaha


When I began I used mnemonic apps to learn Hiragana and katakana (in hindsight I wished I had learned both at the same time). I focused on handwriting and memory recall by writing out the characters over and over again. Then I found a website that has japanese childrens stories written in mostly Hiragana with some kanji, and I translated the words from kana to romaji.

If you study the language outside of duolingo you will see a lot more kanji and build a familiarity with the common ones (genki, watashi etc).

[deactivated user]

    You're very right. It only takes me a lesson to remember what I learned. It also helps I pick up words from obsessively watching anime in Japanese with English subtitles.


    That's what made me decide to learn Japanese, obsessively watching anime. My goal is to get to the point of not needing subtitles.


    I definitely agree with all of your points. I really desire travelling to Japan, but I feel that I should conquer the language before I do so, which is why I am studying it on Duolingo. However, there is a countering opinion of people saying that I should go to Japan TO learn Japanese, rather than learn it in my native land. What do you guys think?


    Both. The best way to learn a language is be emersed in it and speak it with natives as often as possible. The more you use it the better you get, basically.

    However, you need to think of yourself as like a child learning english (or native language) for the first time. So, I would say just do both. Study as much as you can and get comfortable with the language, and listen to a lot of audio of spoken japanese to get comfortable with hearing the language. Then you will be better able to learn by being there.

    When I went to tokyo all I could say with confidence was "arigatou, and sumimasen". It was pretty rough.


    I'm starting to make progress on the Japanese course, and I'll be sure to take your ideas into mind! I was having trouble memorizing the hiragana and katakana, but I was juggling the Spanish tree and the Portuguese tree when I started. Now I'm done with both and I'm focusing only on Japanese, and I'm finding that it's definitely a lot easier to memorize them with fewer other languages as distractions.

    And I guess I'll have to start listening for patterns; I've watched some subbed anime and I could definitely notice myself picking up some common words and their sounds.

    Good luck with your Japanese; I'd also love to go to Japan so I guess I'd better get more familiar with the language before any traveling.


    Valid points. Like the other users have said here, it gets more complex as you study more, but it isn't some insurmountable feat.

    According to my teacher, if you work on the basics (like N5 and N4 grammar) you'll be able to speak with about most of what you will need for daily conversation. Still, studying the kanji, vocab, and some of the advanced stuff is useful if you're looking to get into texts and whatnot. In any case, thanks for the post!


    In any case, thanks for the comment! I do wonder if my opinion will change once I get more advanced!


    Japanese is weirdly similar to my native language (Hindi) in ways related to grammar and how some phrases are formed. Also the phonology is a breeze. The only problem is Kanji, I have been learning for over a year now and can probably read about 700 kanji. You're required to learn around 2,136!! It takes time to get there. 頑張って皆 ! !


    700 is impressive!! Well done. What learning strategies have you found most helpful in learning Kanji?


    I'm not sure I'm ever going to learn enough to actually communicate effectively. Seriously, if a Japanese person started speaking Japanese to me, I would start sweating and would probably blurt out "Tanaka-san wa Nihonjin desu!" because it's one of the few Japanese phrases I know.


    This made me laugh, so it gets five lingots. :)


    I have started Japanese Course with Duolingo 7 days ago. Hiragana is easy to learn and remember but Kanji will be hard. I don't think Japanese Language is easy to learn but I will give it a try.


    same here minh its hard at first but it gets easier when you write it down on paper that's what im doing


    I think its way easier than Chinese the words are more distinct and easier to remember the grammar is not the worst but the word order can be confusing but if it was not for the writing system it would be the same difficulty as some languages from eastern europe.


    I've been learning a bit of Japanese recently and I find it pretty easy. I've heard that it is one of the hardest languages to learn. I've been learning Korean for a couple years and I have to say Japanese has been quite fun and easy for me. However, I am still stuck on learning Kanji and kanji can definitely be quite confusing. But for those who want to be fluent in Japanese don't let the thought that Japanese is difficult steer you away from learning the language cuz it can be really fun once you've mastered Hiragana, Katakana and some of the grammar.


    Thank you for posting this! This sounds interesting....


    Thanks for finding it interesting!! haha

    [deactivated user]

      I agree with most of what you said. Those are some good ways to put it! Nice job! (b^_^)b✧ I find katakana a bit more challenging hiragana though. Most hiragana looks fairly different from each other (with a few exceptions). Some katakana look a lot alike with like slightly more vertical or horizontal strokes. Is there an easy way to remember them or is it just work at memorizing them? That is just what I struggle with a little bit. Thank you!


      OMG I had the exact same experience. I was so annoyed because I had a pretty decent grasp of hiragana and thought learning katakana would be a breeze. Nope! It was like starting all over again. I totally wish I had learnt both at the same time. I also found katakana to all look very same-y and that tripped me up a bit. Although, I have noticed that Katakana is more connected to kanji than hiragana is.

      Thanks for sharing! I feel better someone had a similar experience as me.

      [deactivated user]

        Thank you so much! It makes me (this might sound bad) kind of happy that I'm not the only one that has/had this same bump in the road. Thank you!


        I think what makes Japanese easier to learn than what most people assume is that it's a pretty consistent language. On top of some of the points you made, Japanese doesn't have as many irregular verbs as other languages. Despite having three writing systems (four if you debate in romaji), it's easier to pronounce than even my own native language, with only a few deviations to remember. There's also the bonus of lots of available media for support, and its global position as an important language adds an incentive to learn it.

        Some of the hardest parts encountered by beginner learners, I would argue, are kanji and honorific language. Even then, the latter is something you should really be concerned with if you want to pursue Japanese at the advanced level. Kanji, on the other hand, has its ways of being learned. I found it easier to learn them by both stroke order and radical because it helps you remember by visualization, and it also helps with guessing how other kanji are written or what they could mean. In all, you could break a lot of ground with Japanese if you are motivated to practice it daily, and you think in Japanese from early on. It has its learning curve, but like with any language, it also has plenty of room for finding tricks.


        This is an excellent comment and I thank you for taking the time to share you wisdom! Thanks!


        I totally agree with you. The basics are easy to memorise and then it's just like learning every other language.


        English still sometimes surprises me with its words and phrasings, I am by no means a profesionall in the language but I was self thought the language as many people here have been exposed and try to teach themselves words and phrasings.

        Japanese is on a whole different level, you aren't expected to write in the language but being anal about languages as I have been I find it very hard to get into the learning curve that the thing brings.


        Just to make sure I am understanding your post. You find English and Japanese to be very different to learn?

        What is it about the Japanese learning curve that you find hard?


        Japanese actually is much simpler than a fair few other languages out there... spoken. Written? Different beast altogether


        Also don't be fooled by my level 9 in Japanese! I study the language tons outside of Duolingo, I just did the course for fun.


        I would love to hear any examples or explanations you could give for the difference :)


        As someone who has been trying to learn Japanese for a year, I can't really agree. I have learned a few languages in my lifetime but so far Japanese is the hardest by far. But I like the challenge ;)


        What is it about Japanese do you find to be a challenge? :) What makes it different to the other languages you have learned? What made those languages easier?


        Dunno. I took a year of Japanese back when I was in college and I remember the first semester being pretty fun, and the second semester being excruciatingly difficult. Of course I forgot everything in the years that followed and have recently started learning again from scratch (via self-teaching). I'm finding it hard to make progress. Japanese sentence structure is such an alien thing to an English speaker. It's true that hiragana and katakana are very easy (and fun!) to learn, however. I enjoy visiting my local Japanese grocery market and book store, and just walking around reading things.

        Learn Japanese in just 5 minutes a day. For free.