Japanese is a surprisingly easy language to speak

The reason why I started with such a title is that I feel that some parts of listening and speaking in Japanese are easy.
In Japanese, intonation is not so much emphasized. Of course, there is intonation in some words, but it is sometimes easy to understand because Japanese people are speaking in a predictable way. The pronunciation does not change when words and verbs are linked together as in English. This makes Japanese a relatively easy language to listen to. However, it may take some time to get close to all the words because there are so many ways of expressing words.

Difficulties when listening to Japanese

Among them, I have listed several points that are difficult when listening to Japanese.
1, There is a lot of onomatopoeia.
2, There are many abbreviations and omissions in the text.
3, Long sentences make it difficult to understand what is being said.

Japanese onomatopoeia

First, the reason for the large number of onomatopoeia in Japanese is said to be because Japanese has few verbs. This is said to have led to a reliance on onomatopoeia and honorifics for detailed expressions. (In Japanese, verbs with the same meaning can be changed as honorifics.) Although onomatopoeia is used frequently in Japanese, it is inappropriate for business Japanese, and people were expected to speak while avoiding them. These are sensory words, and since many of them express subjectivity, they were sometimes said to be inappropriate for business. Recently, however, onomatopoeia is often used intentionally in presentations and POP. This is because it makes people feel a sense of familiarity.

Origin of Onomatopoeia

Now, onomatopoeia also has matters or events from which it is derived. Here, “Pekopeko” and “Wakuwaku” are explained.

Pekopeko” means “hungry. This is the Japanese word “Hekomu,” which means a hollow stomach, and “Pe” is the Japanese word for the semivoiced sound of “He. Therefore, in Japanese, “Pekopeko” is used to express the state of being hungry.

Next is “wakuwaku,” which is probably familiar to you because it is often used in the Spy Family anime. Wakuwaku” is often used to express the feeling of looking forward to something exciting and eagerly awaited. This “wakuwaku” is derived from “waku,” which means water welling up. Wakuwaku” is derived from “waku,” meaning “water welling up.” It expresses the fact that one’s feelings are constantly welling up like water.

To better understand onomatopoeia

For those learning Japanese, some may be looking for a more efficient way to learn these things. One recommended study method is to “read manga. I also encourage you to read them in Japanese. The reason is that manga contain a lot of this onomatopoeia. Also, manga has pictures, so it is easy to visualize. Recently, online manga has become popular, so why not try reading manga in Japanese and enjoy it while learning this onomatopoeia?

Japanese is a high context culture

The second reason is that Japanese sentences are often abbreviated. This reason is that Japanese is a high context language. In Japanese, there is a word “kuuki wo yomu(空気を読む)” (“reading the air”). The meaning of the word is that one is not able to “act in consideration of the atmosphere of the place, such as hierarchical relationships, without being told what to do in the situation. Those who have been to Japan or met Japanese people may understand this, but have you ever felt that Japanese people do not express their thoughts and opinions? This is the high context culture of understanding without saying. (It is a difficult problem because even Japanese sometimes do not know what the other person is thinking.)

The reason why I am telling you this is because this also leads to the omission of sentences. For example, suppose A and B are having a conversation. In that case, if it is a normal sentence, they are talking about themselves, and if it is a question, they are asking the other person a question. For this reason, the subject is omitted in Japanese. This is also similar to the “reading the air” mentioned earlier.

Japanese who speak abbreviations as they are

Now let’s talk about the many abbreviations. Japanese is a language in which spoken and written words are easily linked. English also has words that are abbreviated, such as thx and plz, but they are pronounced properly when spoken. In Japanese, however, the word “Ryoukai” is abbreviated as “ryo. And when they speak, they say “ryo” as well. Therefore, when learning Japanese, it is necessary to understand that this abbreviated word is pronounced as it is. Also, it is necessary to remember words that have the same meaning as more than one word.

When to use abbreviations

Abbreviations are routinely used in Japanese. They are sometimes used in news programs and newspapers. However, there are certain places, such as courtrooms, where abbreviations should not be used. There are two reasons for this.

1, Distance from the other party
2,Pervasiveness and casualization of abbreviations

Distance from the other party

Distance from the other party” is exactly what is spoken.
For example, using abbreviations for one’s boss at work should be avoided because it is treated as if it were equivalent to not using honorifics. Of course, there are ways to intentionally use abbreviations as part of communication, but if you are not sure whether the other party understands the language, you should not use it. On the other hand, if you are talking to a friend or in a private space, it is often acceptable to use abbreviations. In addition, one may strengthen the sense of camaraderie by creating abbreviations like a code that can only be understood by one’s peers.

Pervasiveness and casualization of abbreviations ​

Abbreviations also have a certain rank. That is, some that even appear in dictionaries such as PC and VIP gain status as words. These are allowed to be used in the workplace, for example. However, words created in recent years are not allowed to be used because many people do not know them. Not only that, but they may be misunderstood as rude, so the Japanese are careful about this.

As for casualization, there are only a few words that fall under this category, such as “Sekuhara (sexual harassment)” and “Pawahara (power harassment). These words are widely used but give the impression of casualization, so some people do not recognize them as harassment. For this reason, lawyers and prosecutors do not use these abbreviations. This is “harassment,” and it is also to strongly assert that it is a problematic practice. Of course, the primary reason is that abbreviations are not listed in the law.

Then, how about Japanese language learners?

In the author’s opinion, Japanese language learners should also actively use abbreviations.
The reasons are
1, It is easy to make friends with Japanese people.
2, Japanese people who become friends with you will teach you abbreviations that they do not recommend.
3, When working or doing a part-time job, the manager or co-workers will teach you the abbreviations that are not recommended.

People may have noticed that when you speak an abbreviation, the Japanese will scrutinize it. If you speak an abbreviation that they don’t recommend, they will explain to you to correct it. But if you don’t speak it, you will never get the chance. However, if you are in a business situation, it is recommended that you check with your colleagues beforehand.

Order of Japanese sentences

It is obvious, but the longer sentences make it more difficult to understand. Especially in Japanese, I think it becomes more difficult. I will explain why.
1, There are no rules for the order of words such as time and place.
2, There are cases where it is not clear what the modifiers are modifying.
3, There are sentences in which the meaning changes depending on the position of punctuation marks.

Japanese word order

English has an order like “subject + verb + object (person) + object (thing) + place + time”. Of course, Japanese has the same order. In Japanese, of course, there is an order: subject + object + verb. The order of the object is “when,” “where,” “who,” “what,” and “how.
The problem is that this order is often not followed when conversing with others. In Japanese, even if the order of these sentences is different, conversation can still take place due to the culture of “reading the air”. Rather, it is most accurate to say that the person listening re-constructs the sentence to understand what the other person is saying. This culture can cause two problems during a conversation: “no subject” and “disjointed sentences. This depends on the skill and habits of the speaker. Therefore, it would be easier to understand what a person who has spoken many times is saying.

There are two main ways to deal with this.
・Request that the text be concise.
・Talk repeatedly to improve your understanding of the other person’s habits.

Difficulty with Japanese modifiers

Sometimes it is not clear where the Japanese modifier is modifying.


four books and notebook(S) bought.

Eh? Where’s the hard part? You would have said, “I don’t know. There are two possible interpretations of this sentence.
1. I bought four books and a notebook.
2, I bought four books and four notebooks.
In Japanese, words such as a, an, and the are never preceded by a number. This makes it difficult to determine whether the four modifiers are books or really notebooks.

In Japanese, there are sentences in which it is difficult to tell the extent to which a modifier modifies. When these come up, there is no way to confirm which is which except by acquiring new information.
Those who speak plainly can speak plainly by telling us that they bought one notebook and four books. This is because by putting the notes first, they make it clear that the number 4 qualifies the books.
When you speak Japanese, it will be easier to understand if you pay attention to modifiers and the order in which you speak.

Japanese Punctuation

Punctuation in Japanese is also troublesome. I should probably talk about this on the Reading page, but I dare to write about it here. This is because it is difficult to know where the other person’s punctuation marks are in a conversation. This is a very big problem. First, let’s look at an example


Even if you couldn’t read Japanese, you would know that the sentences are the same except for the punctuation. Let me begin by explaining the meaning of the above sentence. This curry is made by a delicious izakaya. The second sentence is “This delicious curry is made by an izakaya. Yes, this “Oishii” means delicious. The position of the punctuation mark changes whether the phrase is “izakaya-san whose food is delicious” or “tasty curry”. This is the second of the two evils of ambiguity about where the modifier hangs. The first harm is mentioned in the previous topic.
There is only one way to distinguish between the two. The part where the other person pauses for a breath is punctuation. There is a place where the other person takes a breath pause somewhere. Depending on where it is, you can discern either meaning. This is a feeling that I, who was born and raised in Japan, can understand as a matter of course, but I do not know if this is a common idea throughout the world. If you have an opinion, please write to me.