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The Japanese language, also known natively as Nihongo, is spoken by 128 million people in Japan and in Anguar, one of the islands that make up Palau. The language was heavily influenced by Chinese between the 8th and 12th centuries but significant changes occurred in the 400 years following this period.
While the first words from English would start to appear during this time, loanwords would start to become incredibly popular by the mid-19th century, a trend that continues today.
Japanese is an interesting and challenging language to learn so let's see why it's important that you study it, the challenges students will face when they do, what we learn about it in school and at university, and how private tutors can help you to drastically improve your Japanese with tailored learning.
The first and most obvious reason to study Japanese is so that you can speak it to people in Japan. Given that the levels of English spoken by the Japanese is quite low, especially in comparison to our European neighbours, Japanese is really the only way to properly communicate in Japan.
Learning the language can teach you far more than just the words and grammatical structure of Japanese. In fact, by understanding the language, you'll also learn a lot about Japan, the culture, and give yourself a great opportunity to properly experience the country and culture if you do choose to visit.
Japan is also the world's fourth-largest economy in terms of GDP and Japan enjoys a developed free-market economy. This means there are a lot of business and career opportunities either working in Japan or with Japanese businesses. Again, if you want to do business right, you need to speak the language. After all, Japan has a strict business culture and etiquette and if you get any of this wrong, you'll greatly disadvantage yourself.
The first thing you'll notice if you've ever seen Japanese written down is that the letters in their alphabet aren't the same as those in English. Firstly, Japanese isn't technically written using an alphabet. In fact, the language uses three different writing systems.
The kana writing system is the closest thing you'll see to the Latin alphabet as each character represents a syllable. Almost all the kana characters represent a consonant-vowel pairing but there are characters that represent the vowels and one character that represents the "n" sound.
Kana is actually divided into two writing systems: hiragana and katakana. The former is used for suffixes alongside kanji, the main writing system that we'll get to in a minute, and the latter is used almost exclusively to write loanwords from foreign languages.
Kanji is the main writing system used. Rather than represent sounds and syllables as our alphabet does, this writing system represents full words and ideas, much like in many Chinese languages. This is no accident, either. The kanji characters actually originated in China and were adopted into the Japanese language starting towards the end of the 8th century and early 9th century.
Even once you begin to understand the writing systems, the challenge doesn't end there. Japanese grammar is quite different from English grammar. Japanese doesn't use pronouns very often (I, you, he, she, we, they) meaning you have to be on your toes during most conversations just to know who everyone's talking about.
Then there are particles. Japanese doesn't have verb conjugations but instead uses 188 different "particles", words that indicate grammatical function and meaning, in every sentence!
The first real opportunity for students in schools to learn Japanese will be during their GCSE. Of course, Japanese isn't the most popular language so you may struggle to find schools or centres offering Japanese GCSE courses.
If you do find a Japanese GCSE course, it probably won't be taught in your school and you might even need to get lessons from a private tutor to complete. However, as we said, there are plenty of advantages to learning the language and once you get to university, there are for more options when it comes to learning Japanese.
One of the most effective ways to learn foreign languages is with private lessons. No matter your level or experience with a given language, the teaching on a course offered by a private teacher will adapt to you, the student.
Whether you're looking for tutors for beginners, intermediate, or advanced Japanese courses, you'll have the opportunity to focus your time on exactly what you want to learn in the language. For example, students preparing for an exam at university can revise what they need to know whilst those looking to work in Japan can get classes on business Japanese.
Private tutoring is also available for students on all budgets. While some home tutoring can be quite costly, there are group classes available or even online tutoring from native Japanese speakers. No matter you're budget, there'll be help available that you can afford.
Tutoring also works well with students' preferred learning styles. Since they're often the only face in their class, the tutor can teach them in a way that works for them rather than the one-size-fits-all approach that a lot of school teachers have to adopt for classes with a large group of students.
Whether you're in the hustle and bustle of London or the peace and quiet of the countryside, one of the best ways for students to find Japanese tuition is through Superprof. You can find tutors who work near your home or online tutors from Japan!
A lot of the tutors on the platform offer the first hour of tuition for free so use this time to try a few different potential tutors out before choosing the right one for you. You can also use this time to negotiate the finer details of your lesson like time, location, schedule, etc.
With every hour of your classes spent focusing on you, you'll be able to make far quicker progress than you would in a group lesson.
Of course, if you're on a tight budget, group tutoring is available where you and some friends or family could learn Japanese together!