You think Japanese is hard?

So you think Japanese is hard?
Many of you have already seen this amusing description of the difficulty of Japanese. Well, here is my counter-argument of why Japanese is so much easier than English

Why Japanese is approximately 1.342×10^6 times easier than English
So you’re all bruised up from having engaged in a 2 hour royal rumble match with your Japanese teacher in which you failed to convince her to curve your grade even after 2 DDT’s and a Moonsault off the top rope. Well, what you need realize is that you’re a big sissy (yes, you) for not realizing just how easy Japanese is to learn. But after reading this, you’ll understand why your massive beer drinking is the root cause of your bad grade and not some intrinsic difficulty of the language.

1. Pronunciation is easy because Japanese people have a tongue disability
Japanese people can only make about 102 sounds. No, really. As a result, it’s incredibly difficult for Japanese people to correctly pronounce other languages. This is why simple English words like, “TV” sounds like “terraybi” in Japanese.

On the other hand, much to your benefit, pronouncing Japanese is a cinch. Unfortunately, your brain has been so thoroughly messed up by English that for some reason “karaoke” looks like “kery-okay”. I mean look at the word “thoroughly”, just look at it. Does the spelling make any sense? So the next time you ask in Japanese, “Where is the elevator?” and the Japanese person smiles and says, “yua japaniizu bery guddo” and just walks away, you’ll know that it’s really your fault he thought you were speaking in Swahili.

2. Grammar is easy because Japanese people are mind readers
In Japanese, there’s something called 以心伝心, which basically means that Japanese people can read each other’s minds, thereby creating a hive consciousness that is currently plotting to take over the world with giant robots. That’s why Japanese doesn’t have a singular/plural distinction and only past/non-past tenses. There really isn’t any sentence structure to speak of for that matter, either. You might think that leaving the subject and object out of a sentence would make it too ambiguous to say anything. Ahh, but you’re forgetting that Japanese people can read your mind. As a result, you don’t have to worry about subjects, objects, participles, sentence order, subject-verb agreement, articles, prepositions, pronouns, and pretty much the rest of English grammar.

For instance, if you wanted to say, “Hi, I’m looking for a cheap place to stay,” all you have to do is say, “Me…”, trail off into silence, nod, and point knowingly to your head. The Japanese person will nod knowingly back and then go back to whatever he was doing. In all likelihood, that’s probably his way of saying, “Back off you foreign infidel, you shall not have my daughters!” But you should have expected that since you were probably thinking nasty thoughts about his daughters.

3. Spelling is easy because it’s impossible
In Japanese, you don’t have to worry about spelling because each sound has a corresponding letter. Most words consists of 2 or 3 Chinese characters anyway. You might complain that it’s so hard to figure which Chinese character to use but since no one actually knows how to write Japanese without a computer, you don’t have to worry about it. Not to mention the fact that Japanese classes and textbooks don’t use Chinese characters because of the fear that it’ll make your head explode (which I imagine would create a huge headache for the janitors).

4. Japanese people are friendly to foreigners and are willing to help
In the unlikely event that you find yourself in a bind, you can easily ask any Japanese person for assistance and she’ll gladly oblige. The only catch is that you’ll have to be fluent in Japanese since Japanese people can’t speak any other language. (See the first reason) Also, when I said foreigners, what I really meant was white (and possibly black) English-speaking foreigners. That’s because Japanese people will only give you the time of day if they think it’ll land them some free English conversation practice.*

For some reason, most Japanese people are brainwashed from childhood to have an irrepressible desire to learn how to speak English. This is quite sad because it’s practically impossible considering how much more difficult English is compared to Japanese. But that doesn’t stop them for trying for 10 or 20 years. What results is a very interesting language that, unfortunately, no one understands. So remember, as long as you are either 1) fluent in Japanese, or 2) own a 200 processor Beowulf cluster that can parse Japanese English into real English, you should have no problems finding help.

I hope I have convinced you with my clear and concise arguments that Japanese really is just about the easiest language there is to learn. While this amusing essay makes quite a few jokes about the difficulty of Japanese, I just wanted to clear the air with a somber discussion of what Japanese is really like.

Author’s Note
I would like to clarify that I am, in no way, trying to prove that learning Japanese will make your teeth crooked and turn ugly colors. If that’s what you were thinking, you totally missed the point of this treatise.

*Then there’s the type of Japanese people who are so terrified of speaking English that they run away from you as if you were the living dead. I left that part out because it would disprove my argument, which I was told to never do in High School English class.

23 thoughts on “You think Japanese is hard?

  1. There’s this grup of Japanese tourist at my hometown, this oldman trying to starts a conversation in English “Very hot today” i replied in Nihongo, “hai, ttotemo atsui desu ne” he turn away & ignored me. It was quite rude of him but i just walk away T_T’

  2. Just a note: Japanese surely has more than 45 sounds. There are 46 kana, but counting voiced sounds, semivoiced and “kana compounds” like kyo, etc, Japanese would have 102 sounds if im not wrong (not counting long vowels etc…). Yes, English does have a wider sound inventory, but 45 sounds like a bit odd to me… =)

  3. i came across a link for your article via a mixi community called “i can’t read japanese.” i’m glad i found it! put a smile on my face on a rainy gray sunday morning in osaka. japanese isn’t so hard, but then it is! and then it’s not again…

  4. I have been learning the Japanese reading for many times, and really loved it. As far as I am deaf, and don’t talk or listen. I am only interest into fancy and beautiful writing system, so Japanese is it.

    Japanese is not that hard to me because of it’s picture ideology characters with the grammarically marks on the picture ideology characters to make you understand what it’s saying. When the Japanese don’t use the characters, it is really HARD for me to understand without the kanji. SERIOUSLY! Believe it or not.

    English is like “I am going to the store”, but Japanese seems like been smaller compare to English like “I wa store ga go” Only need “wa and ga” compare to English “am, ing, to, AND the”. In fact, if you read “I wa store ga go” in Japanese, then the “I” and “Store” and “Go” would be the kanji, and the “wa” and “ga” will be in hiragana. The katakana as foregin words is not used very much often if you read the newspapers or books.

    I loved Japanese as first above than other language in my interest, Korean, Portuguese, and Greek.

  5. I’m a university student who is deciding whether or not to take Basic Japanese. Came across your article when I was googling ‘Is Japanese hard’.. Yep, that was how desperate I was in looking for some assurance that it is manageable.

    In any case, (a little partly) because of your funny post, I think I am gonna take the module.

    p.s. look how your post can influence someone’s future 🙂

  6. That’s great. I’m glad I managed to get at least one person to take the plunge. I think Japanese is a very fun language to learn. You get exposure to a lot of interesting culture and learning the kanji really helps open the door to a large part of the East Asian continent. I hope you enjoy your class and hopefully you’ll have a good teacher.

  7. Funny! I love it! ^___^

    It’s realy funny, but when you look up how difficult Japanese is on google, half the time people tell you that it’s the hardest thing ever, and the other half people tell you it’s the easiest language (other than the Kanji and Kana) you could ever learn.

    Anyway, I loved this. I read it out loud for my sister to hear to ^__^


  8. i am saeed from pakistan i think that japanees are verty soft and very helping people and japanees language is very easy and no so hard.

  9. hahah I really loved you article. I started taking Japanese class in my local college, hahah when i first saw all the Japanese characters and the compounds sounds and double consonants on paper I was like OMG! THIS IS SO HARD, but when you think about it its so easy! in the first week we learned all the hiragana! and its basicaly the whole leguage right there, katakana is the same hiragana but different characters…anyways…

  10. I am always wondering about that hardest language ever thing. Show me an easy language. Sure, with some, one can talk faster. Like english I could start to chat like after 1 year, tops. 1 year into japanese I can localize stuff. ベッドのうえにねこがあります。Success! Except, no one wants to know where the cat is but what I saw in cinema last evening 😛

    English I speak as about the 3rd or 4th language for like 30 years (oops, I am old :D) And I notice again, and again how poor my command of it really is. English is considered an easy language.
    ANY language, when you want to go deeper, is difficult.
    Languages are different. Even culturally close languages are. I learnt latin for about 8 years, I also speak french, some italian, and some neo-latin. Many similarities for sure, but so different. When those close sisters are so different, what do I expect of a culture, which ticks totally different, has totally different concepts on each and every aspect of life, the universe and everything. I am soon gonna scream if I have to read yet again, that oh my, oh god, the verb is …… (gasp)…… at….. (prepare well) …. the … (it is a shocker, be ready)….end of the sentence.
    Or leaving out subject or object. Lots other languages do that, no one loses more than a sentence about it (or I had tomatoes on my eyes, when I read those books 🙂 )
    Politeness levels. I need tons in my language. Do you think my customer’s mother is “your mother” in a letter? Sure, if I want to lose the job. Otherwise it is: Your Honored Lady Mother. That is any client of ours. The honorifics for European blood nobility fill books on top of that. Ihre Durchlaucht von und zu (cant translate to english, sorry). There are titles going over several lines.
    I have no doubt, japanese is 10’000x more complexe in all these aspects. Probably more like 100’000x more. Still, I prefer to take the familiar as a welcome help, and the totally strange as the utterly interesting pearl, I have the privilege to study in my life, and time.

    Languages are beautiful works of arts in progress 🙂 Let us enjoy each brush-stroke, each pecularity, every word, or grammatical structure as a pearl, to be cherished. Let’s be curious of how the art evolves!

    oops! sorry for rambling :/ すみません。

  11. Thank you for posting this it is really funny. I too was also looking for some assurance that the language was manageable. I’m still leaning towards maybe a 8 on a scale of 1 to 10 on how hard the language will be for me. I only know english and japanese is so different from it I hear. Oh well, at least I’m not alone on this. I’ll definately look into taking a japanese class later on in life.

  12. I’m learning Japanese and so far, all I’m doing is trying to remember all 5 billion kanji. Then again, I’m teaching myself. Japanese makes so much more sense than English.:D I’m also learning Italian so I can go to Italy, Spanish so I can communicate, and Latin so I can lean the other two faster. Yep, I’m crazy.
    This is really funny. Me gusta.(“I like” for you non-Spanish speakers)

  13. This is really really funny. You are not only a good teacher but also a good comediant. Thanks for posting things like this. Its interesting what the first comment says because theres a lot of japanese people that only talk to you because you seem to know english, and if you talk to them in japanese they ignore you and keep “speaking” in english. I dont have anything against japanese people at all but I just hate this kind of people that see you as a tool for them to learn. (Sadly in Japan are huge amounts of this kind of people). Keep teaching us, and making us laughf. お願いいいい

  14. 他の皆さんのように、自分が色々な言語しゃべれるよって自慢することなく、いつもさりげなくさらっと英語でJapanese/Chinese/Koreanについて語るのが最高かっこいい!私はただただ’すげぇ’しか言えない。You are a genius.How did you realize so much things?
    你是谁? 怎么这么神啊? 收我做你的徒弟吧!

  15. hey tae….
    this post is seriously amazing and so true..;-)
    anybody who has an idea about how japanese is different from english will definitely be loling with teary eyes half way through this post like i did . . 🙂
    i totally agree that japanese is way easier than english.
    and that mind reading thing was the best.

  16. Somehow i’m not completely convinced by the previous posts….It’s been 3 years since i started to live in Japan… and so far my japanese language universe is about 20 words… every day i spend at leats 8 hours listening to japanese language, basically due to job schedule.

    I guess if it was a really easy language to learn, by now i should being able to speak it…. Ne!!!

    • I been in Japan for two years. I dont study that much anymore. I spend time listening maybe 2 hours a day. I speak common survival Japanese. You have to use spacial repitition. I came to Japan at 38. But if all I knew was 20 words I would have given up a long time ago. After my wife told me you are not learning cause you arent thinking in Japanese. After thinking about that for a while words just started to stick.

  17. I want to learn Japanese very badly. I think the language is so beautiful in its simplicity and it’s ettiquette. The hive mind just scared me. I love Japanese people. I have an uncle and aunt who are from Japan and they are very awesome. I also have a close family friend from Japan. Perhaps I’m missing the point in the article, but i am going to definitely pursue trying to learn Japanese. My boyfriend is already SO FREAKING GOOD at pronunciation already. Urghhh!!!!

  18. I’m one paragraph in, but i must stop you, “massive beer drinking” cannot possibly be the issue or ZUN wouldn’t be a god among men.

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