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Japanese – What A Curious Language!


4 min read

Written by


Argos Multilingual

Published on

28 May 2018

Our Project Management Supervisor, Noriko Mori gives us some interesting insights! Find out more in the following interview!

1) Since many of us many not be familiar with the Japanese language, could you please provide us with some basic words or sentences to start the interview with?

  • In English: Hello, thank you for making time for this interview
  • In Japanese:こんにちは、今日はインタビューのお時間を作っていただき、ありがとうございます
  • How to say the Japanese version: Konnishiwa, kyouwa Interview no ojikann wo tukutte itadaki, arigatou gozaimasu.

2) When it comes to writing, Japanese is a special language due to its characters. Could you tell us more about the way you write and the different character sets?

There are 3 character sets: Hiragana (ひらがな), Katakana (カタカナ), and Kanji (漢字). We use all 3 for writing. Here is a good explanation pulled from Wikipedia “In modern Japanese, kanji are used to write parts of the language (usually content words) such as nouns, adjective stems, and verb stems, while hiragana are used to write inflected verb and adjective endings and as phonetic complements to disambiguate readings (okurigana), particles, and miscellaneous words which have no kanji or whose kanji is considered obscure or too difficult to read or remember. Katakana are mostly used for representing onomatopoeia, non-Japanese loanwords (except those borrowed from ancient Chinese), the names of plants and animals (with exceptions), and for emphasis on certain words.”

3) In comparison to the letters, Japanese grammar is quite simple. How does the grammar exactly look like?

Also found on Wikipedia: “Japanese is a synthetic language with a regular agglutinative subject-object-verb (SOV) morphology, with both productive and fixed elements. In language typology, it has many features divergent from most European languages. Its phrases are exclusively head-final and compound sentences are exclusively left-branching.[1] There are many such languages, but few in Europe. It is a topic-prominent language.”

For instance:

  • I went to Tokyo >> In Japanese: Tokyo he itta. (Tokyo, I went)
  • I ate Pizza >> Pizza wo tabeta (Pizza, I ate)

4) Are there any main differences in the language among different regions and do a lot of dialects exist?

Yes, there are many dialects among different regions. Some words have different meanings in other regions.

5) Could you tell us more about Japanese traditions, beliefs and values and how they might be reflected in the language? 

Traditionally, we use “respectful” language to people who are more senior, higher in positions, have more experiences (e.g. by age, grade in school, teachers, bosses etc.), and in business dealings. This is because we respect such values in others and is a form of showing that respect.

6) To finish off the interview, could you give a quick overview on how to successfully establish business in the Japanese market: if a company aims to enter this market which aspects about Japanese language and the people do companies have to have in mind to perfectly adapt to the country? 

Use modest and humble language when talking about yourself (your company) but be clear about what you mean. Some Japanese imply meaning in their words and not direct.

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