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View Poll Results: What is the most difficult in learning Japanese ?

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  • the grammatical structure (subject + object + verb)

    50 16.03%
  • the particules (wa, ga, wo, ni...)

    98 31.41%
  • memorizing the vocabulary (too different from other languages)

    79 25.32%
  • the untranslatable cultural words (irasshaimase, ojama shimasu...)

    51 16.35%
  • the verbs forms (-rareru, -te, -ttara...)

    84 26.92%
  • the politeness levels (keigo...)

    98 31.41%
  • the writing (especially the kanji)

    167 53.53%
  • understanding katakana words

    33 10.58%
  • the pronuciation

    18 5.77%
  • other (non listed, please specify)

    23 7.37%
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Thread: What's difficult in Japanese ?

  1. #1
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Arrow What's difficult in Japanese ?

    So you are learning Japanese ? What do you think is the difficulty of this language ? Have you learned other languages to compare ?

    It's a multiple choice poll. Dont forget to discuss it with other members afterwards.

    Please notify me if you'd like to add more choices to the poll.


    Personnally I found everything difficult at first, except the pronunciation. The writing has been one of the funniest part for me, so it's not so much a problem. The toughest points were the structure and the particles, but it's got much better. After a few months in Japan, understanding katakatan English becomes natural and I use Japanese cultural expressions in English too.

    I'm still sometimes confused by some verb forms and need more vocabulary. Compared to Latin and Germanic languages, Japanese grammar isn't particularily difficult, it's just too different from what I am used to. Ditto for the vocabulary. I even find that the kanji are a great help in understanding new words.

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  2. #2
    Regular Member tasuki's Avatar
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    As I didn't learn Japanese with a translation in mind, unstranslatable expressions are still untranslatable in my head, but I still understand them... Particles are tough, but then again, Japanese nationals don't have them down pat either, so I don't worry about that overmuch. I simply cannot katakanize words... But then I can pronounce karaoke or sushi English style either... As for the other stuff... I'm sure there is, but I can't think of any at the moment...
    - His arrogance is matched only by his firepower.
    - La culture, c'est comme la confiture: moins on en a, plus on l'etend.
    - TANSTAAFL.

  3. #3
    Danshaku Elizabeth's Avatar
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    I suppose because sensible explanations of it may not even exist, but untranslatable and or illogical grammar has always been the most frustrating personally -- particlarly things like creating noun phrases for reference something (no, koto, tokoro, to iu no wa), sentences that seem to have two topics ("Kore wa shuchou wa....") or an abstract topic and subject "Sore wa kono koto ga"), the use of "nan" at the end of a phrase or sentence I still have no idea about....and I'm sure other things will spring to mind after reading everyone elses headaches ;).

  4. #4
    Regular Member tasuki's Avatar
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    Sentences ending in "nan"? Can you elaborate?

  5. #5
    Danshaku Elizabeth's Avatar
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    Originally posted by tasuki
    Sentences ending in "nan"? Can you elaborate?
    Well, nan da or nan desu. One instance I recently came across would be "Sensei nan da" translated by a non-native English speaker as "He was [is] a teacher" and assumed the "nan" was mainly for emphasis, something to the effect "and what a teacher he was." I wasn't sure, though, if maybe if "n da" could also be a contraction for "no" -- it wouldn't make sense in this case. But after an adjective like sukina nanda? To make a long story short, it has somehow gotten entangled in my mind with "....irun'desu" as in "it is that thing" or "it is that way."

  6. #6
    Regular Member tasuki's Avatar
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    Mmm... I think I'd have to ask a pro about that one, because I use it so much I just don't think about it anymore. Venturing a guess, I'd say it's a twist on the "na no da"/"na no desu" phrasing, which is redundant, but sometimes used for emphasis. It's mainly used informally in conversational situations, though, and the "da" is often cut out, in which case it sounds better to say na no, instead of nan. "nan" would be the contracted form of "na no". In the present tense "Sensei nan da", in the past tense "Sensei nan datta". (Of course, da is just short for desu, that at least, I'm sure of).

  7. #7
    Hadoken!!!!! Himura's Avatar
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    There´s a lot which is difficult in Japanese... but I think the pronounciation is easy
    *Sushi & Instant Soups 4 ever!!! -- Miyamoto Musashi rulez!!!*
    -==> Hayabusa & Hayate (DoA3) / Dante (Devil may Cry) <==-
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  8. #8
    Danshaku Elizabeth's Avatar
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    Originally posted by tasuki
    Mmm... I think I'd have to ask a pro about that one, because I use it so much I just don't think about it anymore. Venturing a guess, I'd say it's a twist on the "na no da"/"na no desu" phrasing, which is redundant, but sometimes used for emphasis. It's mainly used informally in conversational situations, though, and the "da" is often cut out, in which case it sounds better to say na no, instead of nan. "nan" would be the contracted form of "na no". In the present tense "Sensei nan da", in the past tense "Sensei nan datta". (Of course, da is just short for desu, that at least, I'm sure of).
    Thanks, Tasuki! I was wondering also about the "nante....na" construction, as in "Nante kirei na" or "Nante shinsetsuna (hito)nandeshou. In is redundant, isn't it??? And probably hopeless to reason out even this far....but for a semblance of order, it looks like "na" here is in its "na" adjective-role which is not to be confused with the masculine sentence-ending particle analogue to "ne"? And "nante kireinan" probably doesn't make sense either?

  9. #9
    Junior Member Spirit Of Atlantis's Avatar
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    I know several languages, i'll sum them up in order of difficulty.


    *) Ancient Greek (<< most difficult)
    1) Latin
    %) Japanese (learning)
    3) Czech/Slovak
    4) German
    5) French
    6) Dutch
    7) English (least difficult)

    * = Languages i used to know but forgot.
    % = Languages i'm learning

    I want to learn Chinese, Russian, Hebrew and Arabic too and then i think it'll be sufficient.


    I had Ancient Greek for 4 years in high school, and Latin for 7 years(i had to redo 1 year)
    The complexity of their grammar is just mind blowing.
    The ancient Greek and Romans loved to make ultra long sentences and speak in an analogic and enigma-ish way.
    I would be sitting for hours sometimes translating a few sentences of great philosophers or emperors.

    Japanese though is much easier than Ancient Greek or Latin, but the thing that still makes it hard is the shear amount you have to learn.
    And Japanese just love to bring very different compared to western languages.(which is cool)
    In a way they're like the Romans, they also spoke very poetical.(which is cool)

    Now Czech/Slovak is gramatically harder than Japanese.
    It's grammar is like a simplified form of Latin.
    What makes it easier than Japanese is that it feels more familiar to me than Japanese.
    I know that Russian for example is like Czeck/Slovak, but it has the fancy alphabet(Azbuka) too.
    So learning Russian for me would be easier than Japanese.

    German...well they have their fancy own sort of grammar too, it's a bit like Dutch, but with the Die, Der, Das, Dem, Den etc etc.(had this for 5 years in high school)
    That makes it harder than French, which only has Le and La.(French sounds sexy, had it for 4 years in high school)

    Dutch is easier for me because i live here, though it's not a very pretty language, but hey i can talk to Dutch, Belgians and even understand South Africans with it.

    And English is the easiest of them all.
    It has only "the" and "a(n)" and a quite simple set of grammatical rules, which makes it one of the most "user friendly" languages in the world i think imho.


    And about learning Chinese and Hebrew, well Chinese is imho a must, More people in the world speak Chinese than English, so English is not the nr1 language, but it is internationally wide spread which makes it very useful.
    While Chinese isn't that internationally spread(although Chinese people live everywhere hehe) it is the most widely spoken language in the world.
    Ignoring it is in my opinion arrogant.

    And last but not least, why do i want to learn Hebrew, well i have several personal reasons.
    But one reason is that it's a graphically cool looking language and it has a great history and culture.

    I like languages that are and look different graphically aswell as phonetically.
    Well there you have it.

    Oh ya and i'm kind of interested in Navajo too, which is a Native American language, but it's not like any language in the world, not even like other native american or indian languages.
    Which was one of the reasons it was used as a code by the Allied Forces in World War II.
    It is/was considered uncrackable or undecipherable.
    Though the Russians cracked it anyway.
    Cool huh?!
    Last edited by Spirit Of Atlantis; Jul 28, 2003 at 10:45.

  10. #10
    Regular Member tasuki's Avatar
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    Elizabeth
    "Nante" is an expression mainly used to express negation, where it usually replaces the particles は、が or を. For example, 「この辺郵便局なんてないです。」There aren't any post offices around here. It places an emphasis on the negative of the sentence, reinforcing it.

    Although the examples you give above can also be heard, they are not that common. In these cases, if you bear in mind what I just wrote, the way なんて is used in 「なんて親切な人…」implies a sense of disbelief, as if your first impression of the person of the image that you had of the person had led you to think otherwise and you just can't believe your eyes, ears, senses. So a more correct way of formulating the above would be 「なんて親切な人、信じられない」.

  11. #11
    Danshaku Elizabeth's Avatar
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    OK--thanks again, Tasuki. The only other context in which I had encountered "nante" was the weather -- Nante atsui(n)/samui(n?) deshou -- so wasn't sure what to extrapolate from that.

  12. #12
    Regular Member tasuki's Avatar
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    That it's unbelievably or uncommonly hot or cold... Oh, and no "n" before "deshou".

  13. #13
    Danshaku Elizabeth's Avatar
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    Originally posted by tasuki
    That it's unbelievably or uncommonly hot or cold... Oh, and no "n" before "deshou".
    Yes, I believe "How hot it is" was the precise expression in my dictionary, which sounds quite quaint....but in any case, would the "n" still come before "darou"?

  14. #14
    Regular Member tasuki's Avatar
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    The "n" that you're referring too is the "abbreviation" of "no" as you probably know. "no" is not used very often in front of adjectives. At least not in this sense. I believe "なんて暑いだろう" is more common and natural than "なんて暑いんだろう"

  15. #15
    Hi Keiichi's Avatar
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    I would say it's memorizing the vocabulary. There's just so many stuff to remember. Everything else I'm okay since I'm in a class and is going step-by-step.
    K1

  16. #16
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    I agree with Keiichi. I'm just beginning but I'm already having headaches over vocabulary. It's not that it's difficult or different from other languages... it's just that you have to learn N thousand words over again. A new symbol to go with the concept. And you can't cheat like in other Western languages because the words are similar to English. (Assuming foreign loan words are the same as they are English is dangerous ;) ). Keiichi is lucky that he has a structured class, though. I have a few dictionaries, Japanese For Dummies, and a couple of websites. And I have to improvise from there.

    Learning the kanji is definitely the second hardest part for me. Writing them is simple enough once you learn the stroke rules. Learning their meanings is a prodigious feat of memorization - pounding it into your head with repetition so that by the time you know it you've forgotten yesterday's batch. I'd say my personal biggest problem is the fact that right now they all look EXACTLY THE SAME. Well that's not quite true. It just looks like there are only about ten kanji, and they're drawn sloppily. My eyes just glaze over; my brain treats it as pictorial information, not language information. Well technically it *is* pictorial information but it should be processed as word-symbols. My brain just looks at all the pretty pictures.

  17. #17
    HennaSaru
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    the hardest part for me is listening. because nihonjin talk so fast. but that is natural ofcourse. i really need to live in japan to fully understand japanese more. i´m lucky that i have so many japanese friends how can teach me when i´m lost : )

  18. #18
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    Actually there is a pretty good explanation of "nante" at http://www.nafai.org/japanese/grammar/nafjpphrases/ section 12.3 "The many meanings of 'nante'" (even though it's listed in the TOC as 12.2). In particular, when used at the beginning of an expression, "nante" means "how/what", as in "how lovely!". so "nante kirei na" means "how pretty!" (actually, the -na here is not the one used with na-type adjectives but rather the exclamation -naa, like -yo or -ne). "nante majime na gakusei deshou" means "what a diligent student!" and so on. "nante" is used quite often in both spoken and written japanese language, so it's important to be able to interpret it naturally without disrupting the flow of the sentence.

    Hope this helps.

  19. #19
    黒い剣士 rquethe's Avatar
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    For me, vocabulary and writing are definitely the easiest. I pick up on kanji like nothing. From context and from my knowledge of some kanji and vocabulary, I am often able to guess the prounciation of some of the more common kanji words.

    Definitely for me, particles, verb forms, and grammar structure is the hardest for me. I can't construct sentences for beans despite how much instruction I've had. It's really an embarrassing point for me.
    この世界には人の運命をつかさどる何らかの超越的な"律"神の手が存在するのだろうか。少なくとも人はみず からの意志さえ自由には出来ない。

  20. #20
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    I find the writing system hard, I have trouble learning them and its really boring. I have also learned English and its very easy. The verbs are a walk in the park compared to French.

  21. #21
    Cute and Furry Ewok85's Avatar
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    Japanese words that have no translation in english, but more of a story or longer meaning. I swear the only way to master japanese is to think like a Japanese person

  22. #22
    More than words Eve's Avatar
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    Well, its hard for me to combine vocabs into sentences because when that happened, it has a completely different meaning

  23. #23
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    Lexicon, vocabulary, 語彙! And not because they are so foreign (although that has something to do with it), I just hate learning vocabulary (I was the same with Spanish). I like learning grammar, conjugations, inflections, etc., etc., more generally I like learning how things work.

    What's easy is the lack of irregular verbs and straightforwardness of the grammar, once you get used to the SOV structure. One thing about learning Japanese: it makes learning languages like Spanish, Italian, etc. a hell of a lot easier (save the irregularities in conjugations), and it really makes learning Chinese grammar easy!

    Edit:
    I almost forgot about probably the most difficult thing for any Westerner to grasp in learning Japanese: the topic/negation marker "wa/ha" and how it is used. The idea of marking anything in English is already foreign enough, but marking topics as opposed to focuses or marking negated words/phrases is even more out there. I've read a lot about the topic (subject? lol), and I still can't always use it correctly.

  24. #24
    Regular Member beluga's Avatar
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    To me, it's knowing how to pronounce the kanji. All kanji has at least 1 on and 1 kun pronounciation. Mind boggling....

  25. #25
    Infinity Gauntlet
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    Coming from a Romance language background in general and a Spanish background specifically, I've taken great joy in the Japanese pronounciation and verb/grammar structure systems. Maybe it's just me, but it simply sounds beautiful rolling off the tongue. Not like English, where everything kinda sounds blocky and disorganized in comparison.
    I've never been good with vocabulary in any language, so that's just a personal thing. And the kanji system just kinda goes without saying. My Japanese professor tells me to sit down with a pen and paper and tells me to write each kanji 100 times or something, and instead I go home and try and figure out a personal system for forming more complicated kanji based off the ones I know. I've learned from doing a lot of the latter that you're basically stuck with that pen and paper.

    As for things like particles, the only problem I have with them is when native Japanese speakers just sorta neglect them completely. To say the least, it requires some getting used to.

    -- Gerardo

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