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What do Japanese speakers struggle with in English?


Japanese speakers are known to be some of the most proficient non-native English speakers in the world. However, there are still some areas in which they tend to struggle. In this article, we will explore the most common difficulties Japanese speakers face when learning English.


One of the biggest challenges for Japanese speakers when learning English is grammar. Japanese grammar is very different from English grammar, and this can cause confusion for learners. For example, in Japanese, the verb always comes at the end of the sentence, whereas in English, it usually comes after the subject.

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Another area where Japanese speakers struggle is pronunciation. English has many sounds that don’t exist in Japanese, such as “th” and “v”, and this can make it difficult for Japanese learners to pronounce words correctly. Additionally, Japanese has a limited number of vowel sounds compared to English, which can also cause issues.


Japanese speakers may also struggle with vocabulary when learning English. The two languages have very different roots, and many words in English have no Japanese equivalent. This means that learners must memorize a large number of new words.

Idioms and Phrasal Verbs

Idioms and phrasal verbs are another area where Japanese speakers may encounter difficulties. These expressions are often used in everyday speech and can be challenging to understand for non-native speakers. Additionally, they often have multiple meanings that are not immediately apparent.

Understanding Spoken English

Comprehending spoken English can also be challenging for Japanese learners. English speakers often use contractions, slang, and colloquialisms that may be unfamiliar to non-native speakers. Additionally, the speed at which native speakers talk can make it difficult to keep up.

Writing Skills

Writing in English can also be a struggle for Japanese speakers. English has many rules for punctuation and sentence structure that may be different from Japanese. Additionally, writing in a second language can be more time-consuming and challenging than writing in one’s native language.

Cultural Differences

Cultural differences can also pose a challenge for Japanese speakers learning English. English-speaking cultures have different customs and traditions, and learners must learn to navigate these differences to communicate effectively.


Another issue that Japanese learners may face is a lack of confidence when speaking English. Being self-conscious about pronunciation or grammar can make it difficult to speak fluently and feel comfortable in conversations with native speakers.

Reading Comprehension

Reading comprehension can also be difficult for Japanese speakers learning English. Reading in a second language requires learners to understand new vocabulary, sentence structures, and nuances of meaning that may not exist in their native language.

Learning Styles

Finally, it’s important to remember that everyone has different learning styles, and what works for one person may not work for another. Some Japanese learners may struggle with rote memorization of vocabulary, while others may find grammar rules challenging to remember.


In conclusion, there are many challenges for Japanese speakers when learning English. From grammar and pronunciation to cultural differences and learning styles, there are many factors that can impact the success of English language learners. However, with dedication and perseverance, Japanese learners can overcome these difficulties and become proficient in English communication.

What do Japanese struggle with when learning English?

Japanese language has a limited number of clear vowel sounds and consonants, only around 114, whereas English has a vast array of over 2100 different pronunciation mechanisms. This presents a significant challenge to Japanese speakers even if they can read English fluently, as accurately pronouncing the words can be difficult.

What are common mistakes Japanese speakers make in English?

Japanese people often make mistakes when speaking English because of the differences in syntax and other linguistic constructs between the two languages. One of the most well-known examples of this is the confusion between the spellings of words that use the letters “l” and “r,” such as light/right or long/wrong.

Why is English hard for Japanese speakers?

Learning English can be challenging for native Japanese speakers due to a variety of factors, including differences in written forms between the two languages, limited exposure to English, cultural attitudes towards language learning, and the complex nature of English grammar and syntax.

Is learning English hard for Japanese people?

The language barrier is likely the biggest obstacle for Japanese individuals to learn English, as Japanese is fundamentally different from English and other languages in the Indo-European family. As a result, mastering English poses a significant challenge for many Japanese learners.

What is the hardest Japanese accent to understand?

Kyushu-ben refers to the dialects spoken on the southern and westernmost island of Japan, which can be difficult for non-native speakers to understand. This dialect features unique vocabulary and variations in vowel pronunciation.

What English sounds does Japanese not have?

To pronounce “Tôkyô” correctly in Japanese, you should say “To-o kyo-o”, and “shôgun” should be pronounced as “sho-o gun.” It’s important to note that Japanese doesn’t have certain English sounds such as “c,” “f,” “l,” “q,” “v,” and “x,” so when Japanese speakers need to use these sounds, they use similar sounding syllables in their language.

Resources for Japanese Learners

Despite the challenges, there are many resources available to help Japanese speakers improve their English language skills. Online courses, language exchange programs, and tutoring services can all provide valuable support for learners. Additionally, there are many textbooks and workbooks designed specifically for Japanese learners of English that can help them overcome common difficulties.

Practice and Immersion

One of the most effective ways to improve English language skills is through practice and immersion. Japanese learners can practice speaking and listening to English with native speakers, either through language exchange programs or by joining local conversation groups. Watching English language movies and TV shows and reading books in English can also help improve comprehension and vocabulary.

Patience and Perseverance

Learning a second language is not easy, and it requires patience and perseverance. Japanese learners should not be discouraged by setbacks or mistakes but should instead view them as opportunities for growth. By setting realistic goals and staying committed to their studies, Japanese speakers can achieve success in learning English.

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