You’re fascinated by Japanese culture? And you wish to learn Japanese in the British capital city? Your better half is Japanese and you want to communicate with them in their native language? You’re preparing for a big trip to Japan? Or you just want to be able to read your favourite mangas in their original version?
The Japanese language is seen as exotic due to the distance and somewhat mysticism that shrouds the faraway islands of Japan. It can somehow seem like a daunting enterprise to undertake but fear not!
In London, you will easily find Japanese natives ready to help you learn their mother tongue.
We’ve put together everything you should know about Japanese classes in London and on Superprof.
The Japanese Language in The World: From Tokyo to London
The Japanese language, or nihongo 日本語, is the mother tongue of about 130 million Japanese people but it is not officially the language of Japan by law. According to linguistic experts, Japanese is a language isolate, a natural language with no demonstrable genealogical (or "genetic") relationship with other languages, one that has not been demonstrated to descend from an ancestor common with any other language.
The land of the rising sun, home to 127 inhabitants, of which 99% of them speak Japanese has their first language. However, millions of Japanese people have emigrated in the last century, for economic, political or social reasons. You may encounter Japanese speakers in Latin America, Europe, Asia and Oceania.
Several millions of Japanese expats - nikkeijin, 日系人- mainly in Brasil, Peru and the US but also in other western and Asian countries: China, Taiwan, Australia, Philipines, the UK, Canada, Thailand, Germany, France, South Korea or Singapour.
Cities such as London have seen attracted millions of Japanese tourists every year and nearly 30,000 Japanese citizens live in the capital city. And according to tourist surveys, Japanese tourists will only increase. Spending £250 million last year, Japanese tourists represent a major part of the British tourism market.
As the third economy in the world, Japan is a major player in market exchange, international business and is on the board of most of the biggest international institutions (UN, G8, ASEAN and OMC). Japan is also an 8.3 billion dollars trading partner for the UK.
With 127 million native speakers and a 3 million people diaspora around the world, learning Japanese could be a great edge for your resume as Japan is a major player on the world stage.
On 3 May 2011, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said that Japan is "one of [Britain]'s closest partners in Asia".
In 2014, Japan and the UK celebrate 400 years of diplomatic relations. In June 1613 the East India Company ship, The Clove, had been sent by King James with presents for the ruler of Japan, including the first telescope ever sent outside Europe. The ship commanded by John Saris, arrived at Hirado, as the first British ship to reach Japan. Saris was introduced to Tokugawa Ieyasu and presented with various gifts, the principal one being the large silver-gilt telescope.
Japan is a very important trading partner for the UK with more than £4 billion worth of goods exported to the country of the rising sun in 2017 and more than £7 billion worth of goods imported to the UK.
Japanese communities in London have been flourishing since the 20th century with many Japanese owned stored and business operating in the capital since the late 19th century.
Today stores like Muji and Uniqlo have a strong presence all over the UK and can be found all across London.
A 2011 census found that more than 17,000 Londoners regarded Japanese as their native language while the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs estimates that 50,864 Japanese nationals were calling the UK home.
In the past decade, Japanese food and culture has become mainstream and walking the streets of London, one can not avoid passing by sushi and ramen shops, Japanese interior design outlets or Japanese art galleries.
If you are really interested in Japanese culture you could consider joining The Japan Society. This UK leading independent body is dedicated to the enhancement of the British-Japanese relationship. With a history stretching back to 1891, its members are committed to promoting deep and lasting understanding between our two countries.
The Society’s main objectives are:
- To promote learning and advance education in the subject of and with regard to Japan.
- To promote the study of Japan and its people in all their aspects, traditional and modern, and to make the results of such study more accessible to the general public.
- To promote the study of Britain and its culture by Japanese people and to further educational exchanges between Britain and Japan.
The Japan Society has a membership of some 1000 members both individual and corporate, of whom 45% are Japanese. Its varied programme provides opportunities for members and others interested in Japan to meet and exchange ideas and experience.
Its work with schools throughout the UK and small grants scheme to support local projects both serve to encourage and deepen understanding of Japan.
The Japanese Writing System and Grammatical Structure
Learning Japanese will not be the easiest of tasks. Even though learning any new language can be arduous, Japanese is a language very remote from the Germano-Latino hybrid that is English.
You will have to learn Japanese writing system which comprise not one, but four different alphabets or syllabus. Kanji, katakana, hiragana and romaji are all important to master if you truly want to speak Japanse like a native.
The Japanese writing system is the results of a succession of assimilation of the Chinese characters (kanjis) and of Western influences (Arabic numerals and Latin letters called romaji).
Linguists estimate that there is more than 50,000 different kanji, each representing an idea and being used to write the root of a word, but it seems that knowing only 2,000 of them will mean that you’re fluent.
46 hiragana and 46 katakana constitute the Japanese syllabus and are used to spell or phonetically describe Japanese phonemes.
Hiragana includes all the words that can be read and written using kanji but you will also have to learn about grammatical particles called furigana and yomigana which are kanas associated to kanjis to indicate the correct pronunciation for the words.
Katakanas are also used to describe words of foreign origin.
One thing that you might notice when you start learning Japanese is that it is an atonic language which means that words are unaccented, and syllables are without stress or pitch accent.
A number of Japanese phonemes are different from the ones in English and are more similar to the French language: « a » will be the same as in father, « e » will be the same as in bet, « i » will be the same as in meet, « o » will be the same as in story and « u » will be the same as in food.
Reading and writing Japanese is commonly done from left to right (yokogaki) but traditionally Japanese has been read and written from top to bottom in columns of texts going from right to left. The yokogaki system reflects the influence of Western society in Japan.
Why Learn Japanese?
Learning a new language is always a good way to gain a deeper understanding of linguistics and to broaden your horizons.
Learning Japanese in London may have some unsuspected benefits.
When you will start learning Japanese you will quickly realise how rich and intricated the Japanese culture is. Going back more than 2,000 years, the History of Japan and its unique isolationist stand contributed in created a one of kind society with unique cuisine, art, religion and language.
You will certainly have to reach an intermediate level of Japanese if you wish to break off with your London routine and relocate your life to Japan. Very few are the job opportunity in Japan if you do not speak a decent level of Japanese.
To remedy this you could always take an intensive round of classes at home. Once your Japanese in good order, it would be very easy for you to become an English teacher in Japan.
Indeed the level of English on the Japanese archipelago has never been amongst the best in the world and the government have been trying very hard to remedy to this though schools programs and business initiatives to promote the English language around the country.
One of the particularities of living in Japan is that most Japanese will never consider you to be a full-time citizen and will often ask you when are you going back home, even though you may have lived in Tokyo for the past 10 years. Do not take offence though as Japanese are never ill-mannered and politeness is one of the pillars of everyday life there.
Our Japanese Classes In London and On Superprof
Superprof counts at least 10 tutors registered in London but has hundreds more ready to give you online Japanese lessons.
Our UK based teachers will be able to teach you Japanese through Skype or FaceTime. No commute, easier and more flexible scheduling, the perfect combo to learn Japanese easily.
Those tutors will be able to:
- Teach you Japanese calligraphy
- Teach you Japanese business etiquette
- Teach you Japanese conversational skills
- Prepare you for the Japanese Language Proficiency Test
- Teach you hiragana, katakana, kanji and everything related to the Japanese writing system
To choose your tutor simply compare all the profiles, their experience, their fees and diplomas. With regular work and constant focus you should be able to speak Japanese in a matter of weeks.