Planning to visit Japan but unsure of what language to learn? You might be surprised to know that there are over 5+ spoken languages in Japan, and that number does not even include the other foreign languages like Mandarin Chinese and English. Fortunately, a huge percentage of the population speaks the standard Japanese language, so this means that learning the basics can definitely help you connect with the locals and appreciate the Japanese culture better. Let’s get to know more about this in today’s post.
Even before the craze around the Korean language emerged, a vast majority have always been interested in learning Asian languages. Asian languages have somehow become synonymous with words like “unique” and “exotic,” which is why many are craving to master at least one of the languages under it. One major Asian language that people usually start with is the Japanese language. Thanks to the widespread popularity of anime (animation), manga (comics), and Japanese food, it is impossible not to find a person who is interested in speaking Japanese. And perhaps, you are also interested too!
But before you purchase textbooks or start signing up with classes, allow us to tell you one major truth: learning Japanese is not an easy endeavor. If you are truly passionate about being able to speak with Japanese people like a real native, then you must commit thousands of hours to practice and getting to know the whole language. According to the locals, what usually makes it difficult is the fact that the written Japanese language is pretty confusing for beginners.
In fact, the Japanese language does not use the Latin alphabet, which means that you will need to train yourself in using their native writing system. And the hardest thing here is that the writing styles are different. The locals make use of hiragana, katakana, and kanji (based on Chinese characters) simultaneously, which is why you need to master these three in order to fully understand Japanese.
No matter how hard the language may be, especially for total beginners, we do believe that mastering it is entirely possible. Perhaps, you might want to start learning about the details of the language before you get to the actual language-learning part. Let’s get to know more about the Japonic languages in the section below.
Major Spoken Languages In Japan
Japan is not just the home of ramen, okonomiyaki, or tempura. You can also find distinct Asian languages, which all reflect certain aspects related to the Japanese culture, beliefs, and society.
So what language do they speak in Japan? In this section, we will walk you through the languages under the Japonic language family that exist until this day in Japan.
1. The Japanese Language – Official Language Of Japan
The Japanese language (also known as Nihongo) is the official language of Japan and is spoken by over 128 million people. It is basically part of the Japanese-Ryukyuan language family, which has existed for quite a time now. Since it has existed alongside the Chinese language back in the day, the Japanese language that we know now shows signs of heavy influence from the Chinese. In fact, the Kanji is still used today and is part of their regular sentences.
2. Hokkaido Ainu Languages – Ethnic Language In Hokkaido
The Ainu language is a distinct Japanese language that is spoken by the ethnic group (known as Ainu) based on the island of Hokkaido prefecture. This is quickly becoming extinct as there are reports stating that there are only 10 actual native speakers of this language. As part of the preservation of the language, the locals and the government are working together to create dictionaries, textbooks, and learning materials related to it.
3. Ryukyuan Languages – Ethnic Language In Ryuku Islands
The Ryukyuan language (also known as Luchuan) is a unique type of language in the sense that it is not actually that much related to the Japanese language at all. It is a recognized language and is mainly spoken in Kagoshima and Okinawa prefecture. It is mutually unintelligible, which is perhaps one of the reasons why there are not a lot of language enthusiasts are interested in this one. Just like Ainu languages, this one is also considered an endangered language.
4. Bonin Languages – Native Language Based On English
Bonin is one of those that you can easily relate to since it is based on the type of English spoken in Bonin islands. Just like the two languages we have discussed, this one is also quickly becoming an endangered one which is why the government is focusing on preserving and reviving their indigenous languages.
As we reach this part of the post, we hope that you were able to learn more about the most common spoken languages in Japan. While there are many other languages spoken in the country, the ones we have featured in this post are those that are pretty popular and are gaining a lot of attention. As mentioned, some of those are considered minority languages. What makes it popular today is that the locals are trying their best to preserve some of these languages and prevent extinction.
Additionally, please do note that there are also foreign languages spoken in Japan since it has been the home of many foreigners too. May it is for students, migrants, or workers, many have considered moving to Japan because of the opportunities you can find in the country. Some other popular languages because of the foreigners include:
- Mandarin Chinese
Out of all these languages, English (as EFL or English as a foreign language) is considered one of the most important ones and is widely taught in schools. While it has been part of their education system for quite a time now, please do not go out to Japan and think that you can get by with just learning English. The truth is that not everyone speaks English. Most of the locals may be able to understand you, but there is a huge chance that they won’t be able to communicate with you comfortably.
If you are truly interested in learning this Asian language, we highly recommend checking out the Ling App. The Ling App is an impressive platform that comes with complete lessons, ideal for those who truly want to master the standard Japanese language and 60+ other foreign languages. Aside from teaching you vocabulary, the platform will help you understand the Japanese writing system, grammar and will even point out grammatical features in the language.
On top of that, the Ling app lessons are all developed by real native Japanese speakers, language professionals, and educators who truly understand your needs. Just by using the app for 10 minutes a day, you can jumpstart and start learning the language in Japan and other Asian languages in an instant.
So, what are you waiting for? Recognize Japanese words and use them like a native with the Ling App.