Japanese is the sixth most widely spoken east Asian language in the world. It is also known as Nihongo in Japan. Thousands of Indians, like many in Southeast Asia, are learning Japanese to enhance their career prospects or to understand the Japanese culture.
Studying Japanese not only enables you to speak fluently but also helps you gain an insider view of the culture of this ancient nation.
Japanese, being a member of the Japonic language family, is the national language of Japan. The history of the Japanese language can be divided into the following periods:
- Old Japanese (the era of Buddhism)
- Early Middle Japanese (Heian period)
- Late Middle Japanese (Kamakura and Muromachi period)
- Early Modern Japanese (Meiji Restoration)
- Modern Japanese (Edo period).
Japanese is a mora-timed language with phonotactics and a pure vowel and consonant sound system. These features may sound complicated. But, it is these very features that make learning Japanese for Indians, easy.
Japanese words are mostly based on verbs, nouns, and particles. The language has a lexically significant pitch ascent. For those who want to learn Japanese, it is a step-by-step progression that includes reading, writing, listening, and speaking.
Learning About the Japanese
Various dialects of the Japanese language are spoken in the country. Some of the main dialects in the country include Tokyo-type, Kyoto-type, and Osaka- type, spoken according to the respective subdivisions of the national language throughout the country.
Relation of Japanese with Chinese Language
Contrary to popular perception, there is no genetic relationship between Chinese and Japanese characters. Only the Kanji characters are extensively used in the writing system of the country, where a large portion of its vocabulary is borrowed from Chinese. Apart from Kanji, the Japanese writing scripts also include Hiragana and Katakana.
Politeness and Honourifics in Japanese
The Japanese language is spoken keeping the difference in the status of the speakers in mind. The difference in the status is determined through various factors like job, age, experience, and even the psychological state.
Japanese people use grammatical expressions to describe politeness and formality. This is reflected extensively in the hierarchical nature of Japanese society. The 3 polite forms followed in Japan are TEINEIGO, SONKEIGO, and KENJOUGO.
Learning Japanese: A World of Opportunities for the Indian Labour Force
Like China, Japan is one of the countries that is a key investor in our country, this century. Trade with Japan and China forms an integral part of the national economy of India. Being a leader in many sectors like automobiles, animation, consumer electronics, computers, optical media, semiconductor manufacturing, infrastructure, shipbuilding, Japan is a major job destination for Indians.
“Made in Japan” is synonymous with high quality and technologically advanced products.
Japan leads in innovation and work ethic, due to which it is a power to reckon with when it comes to patent filings - be it in technology, automobiles, or vaccines. As per world intellectual property data, the total patent application of the country was over 300,000 in 2018 alone!
Prominent Japanese brands such as Sony, Honda, Panasonic, Hitachi, Toshiba, Sanyo, Casio, Canon, Minolta, Pioneer, Nikon, Fujitsu, Suzuki, Toyota, Mitsubishi, and many more now dominate the Indian national market for consumer goods. Relations between the 2 countries have never been better.
For Indians in the overseas labour force, the ability to communicate with potential Japanese clients, customers, and colleagues can open many doors. Moreover, the ability to speak the Japanese language in India offers many Indians specific jobs that have language requirements.
Nowadays, Indians can apply to companies that are in constant need of Japanese language specialists in cities such as Delhi, Noida, Gurgaon, Bangalore, Mumbai, Pune, Hyderabad, and so on in India. MNCs, across India, is also offering new job opportunities for Indians with working knowledge of Japanese.
Indians who want to join the Japanese labour force can learn about the famed Japanese work ethic, business etiquette. Moreover, they can avoid cultural faux pas that can make or break an outstanding business deal.
Anime, sushi, Sony PlayStation, Nintendo, Hello Kitty, Sudoku, karaoke, manga, martial arts, origami – these have fascinated us for years. Now, you can make these a part of your daily life by understanding the nuances of the language.
Whether designing electronic gadgets, inventing innovative, beautiful products, or high-end fashion clothing, the Japanese value craftsmanship, quality, and pleasing the consumer. And, these are qualities that Indians can offer aplenty!
How Close is Japanese to Hindi?
Did you know: The Hindi alphabet works using the same concept as Japanese. One character represents one sound and the languages are written exactly like how they sound. So, good news for Hindi speakers of the nation! If you can pronounce every character in Hindi, you should be able to learn the sound of Japanese pretty easily.
Let us illustrate this with an example. You can see how many sounds there are in Hindi that start with ‘k’ and look at those in Japanese.
Hindi: ke ka ki kee ku kri ke kae ko kaw
Japanese: ka ki ku ke ko
Basically, all you need to learn to pronounce in Japanese is a subset of what there is in Hindi. However, there is one challenge for Hindi speakers of India. There are so few vowels in Japanese that you may start to accidentally add in the rest of the Indian sounds into Japanese!
Japanese for Beginners
Japanese is generally perceived as a difficult language to learn. But, as already mentioned, it is not as difficult as you think, even though it differs from British or popular European languages, such as French or Spanish.
Just like any new language that you are learning, start learning Japanese by learning the basics. In fact, it is possible to understand the basics without knowing the complete Hiragana (Native Japanese words), Katakana (Foreign words), or Kanji (adopted Chinese characters).
You can learn Japanese, at least the elementary level, with the help of Rōmaji (Romanized Japanese).
Romaji was developed to describe Japanese sound in the Roman alphabet for those who have not mastered the 3 main scripts.
There are many easy ways to teach yourself Japanese - read Japanese textbooks, manga comics, follow Japanese news, read a Japanese newspaper. For the last exercise, one has to learn at least 2,000 kanji characters. Like any other new language, learning Japanese also requires a lot of time, persistence, and effort.
Once you overcome the initial hurdle, the rest of the journey becomes easier. Japanese grammar, for example, is fairly straightforward. Nouns have no gender, no articles, and no plural forms. There are only two verb tenses, present, and past. With only 5 vowel sounds and consistent phonetic spelling, the Japanese language is relatively comfortable to pronounce.
Online Japanese Courses
While conventional classroom training is the way to go when learning a new subject, especially language education, we encourage online Japanese classes that are more intense, without being too intimidating. They also provide greater support to learners.
Online Japanese courses are one of the most cost-effective language learning methods for Indians. It can be utilized from the comfort of your own home. All you need to make these classes work in your favour is a bit of focus and lots of motivation!
Like any other language, you must practice lots of listening, reading, and speaking in Japanese.
Whether you are an advanced Japanese language student looking to brush up on your Kanji, an intermediate learner with basic knowledge of Hiragana and Katakana, or a complete beginner without any Japanese language skills - it is not difficult to find an online Japanese class to suit your learning need.
For workers unable to obtain a visa to Japan due to the prevalent health crisis in the world (COVID 19), learning Japanese with the help of YouTube tutorials might be a good use of your time. JapanesePod 101TV, a free channel on YouTube, is one of the most popular choices for those looking for classroom-like coaching in Japanese.
JapanesePod 101 TV channel has a repository of videos that teach Hiragana, Katakana, Japanese language, grammar, pronunciation, along with great insights into the Japanese culture, heritage, and traditions. Moreover, the language tutorials are created by native Japanese speakers that lend a semblance of authenticity.
Japanese Courses in University
Keeping in mind the importance of the Japanese language, as outlined so far, various universities, such as Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru University and the Mumbai University, in India offer courses on their campus or through accredited centres.
For example, the Mumbai University offers a choice of 6 different courses in the Japanese language for students. These courses include Certificate in Japanese, Diploma in Japanese, Advanced Diploma in Japanese-I, and Advanced Diploma in Japanese-II.
There are 2 additional specializations on offer as well, namely, Diploma in Business Japanese and Diploma in Conversational Japanese. These classroom courses of one-year duration.
You can register for any Japanese language course that suits your need - whether you are looking to set up a business with a Japanese client or have just applied for a Japanese visa to go and study in this nation of the Far East.
Japanese textbooks are the way to go if you want to learn the Japanese language at home. Many such books come with a CD or DVD. There is a wide selection of books available at stores and online for every level of learners - from beginner to advanced level.
If you want to learn, whatever your purpose – as long as you have a reason – you’re more likely to reach your language goals.
Japanese textbooks are authored by experienced and trained Japanese language instructors. Hence, they are of a very high standard. But, remember - Japanese language study books are only meant for those genuinely interested in learning. If you are not one of them, the books may end up collecting dust on your bookshelf.
Learning Japanese with a Private Tutor
Whether you've just started learning Japanese or are pursuing a Japanese course in university, you can always do it with some extra support. Online tutoring services are a great option, in this regard. Private Japanese tutors can help you build on skills you already have or work with you on improving and fixing problem areas.
Online private tutors of Japanese offer great flexibility in schedule. Moreover, today, in the world of tech-driven education, you will find an amazing pool of tutors to pick from, from all over the world.
Now, in the century of globalization and technology, you have all the right language learning tools, materials, and motivation. With that, get ready to ace the Japanese language proficiency meter in a matter of a few years!