Learning the Japanese Language

Whether it's done out of necessity or purely for enjoyment, learning Japanese is an interesting experience because the language is so different from English. Becoming fluent is sure to give anyone's brain a workout, but there are numerous resources on the Internet with great lessons and information. There are also a lot of helpful sites for learning only basic or 'survival' Japanese. These are a good place to start, especially for travelers and those who want to learn a few sentences for business situations.

Part of the reason why Japanese is complicated to learn is that it's a mixture of different languages and traditions. It includes three different types of words: native Japanese, words taken from English and other Western languages, and words that were introduced from Chinese centuries ago. The written language also contains many symbols that were borrowed from Chinese. These are called kanji. Each of these characters represents a meaning.

There is another category of written Japanese called syllabaries, which can be further divided into the hiragana and the katakana characters. Syllabaries are more similar to English in that each symbol stands for a certain sound, although these sounds translate to syllables rather letters. Kanji and syllabaries are often used together in the same sentence.

Another basic thing to be aware of when beginning to learn Japanese is the grammar differences. Like many other languages, words appear in sentences in a different order than they do in English. The verb is always at the end, after the subject and object. Getting used to the different pronunciations and inflections in the language also takes some practice.

The Japanese Alphabet
Japanese Phonic Alphabets
Japanese Phrases for Travelers – Alphabets

Basic Japanese in Kanji
Beginner Kanji Lessons
Learning Basic Japanese Kanji
Japanese Idogram (50 Basic Kanji)

Basic Sentences in Japanese
Japanese Phrases for Travelers With audio pronunciations
Basic Sentences in Hiragana For many common situations, including greetings, shopping, email, and more
How to Understand a Japanese “Sentence"
Japanese Language Basics with Useful Phrases

Understanding and Pronouncing Japanese Names
Japanese Name Pronunciation Guide
Japanese Names on NationMaster

Comprehensive Resources
The Japanese Language A great overview of basics and history
eLanguageSchool Japanese Lessons Includes audio and video
Japanese Pronunciation
JapanCast Free podcast lessons