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What makes Japanese hard to learn?


Japanese is considered one of the most difficult languages to learn, especially for native English speakers. In this article, we will explore the reasons why Japanese is challenging to learn.

Kanji characters

One of the biggest challenges in learning Japanese is the Kanji characters. Kanji is a writing system that uses Chinese characters and has over 2,000 commonly used characters. Learning these characters can take years, making it difficult for beginners to read and write in Japanese.

Japanese Snack Box

Grammar structure

The grammar structure of Japanese is vastly different from English. Japanese sentences use a Subject-Object-Verb (SOV) structure, while English uses a Subject-Verb-Object (SVO) structure. This can make it challenging for learners to form sentences correctly and takes time to get used to.


Japanese pronunciation can be tricky for non-native speakers. The language has a limited number of sounds, which can make it difficult for beginners to distinguish between similar-sounding words. Additionally, the use of pitch accent can also be challenging as it changes the meaning of words.


Japanese culture places a strong emphasis on politeness and respect, which is reflected in their language. There are several levels of honorifics that are used depending on the social status and relationship between speakers. Learning these nuances can be overwhelming for beginners.


Keigo is a formal and polite language used in business settings and other formal occasions. It involves using different verb forms, vocabulary, and sentence structures than everyday speech. Keigo can be challenging for learners to master as it is not commonly used in everyday conversation.

Multiple readings

Kanji characters have multiple readings depending on their context, making it difficult for learners to know which pronunciation to use. This adds another layer of complexity to learning the language.

Counter words

Japanese has a unique system of counter words that are used to count different types of objects. For example, there are different counters for small animals, flat objects, and cylindrical objects. Learning these counters can be confusing and requires memorization.

Idioms and expressions

Japanese has many idioms and expressions that are unique to the language. These can be difficult for beginners to understand and can often be translated literally, leading to confusion.

Cultural differences

The Japanese language is closely tied to Japanese culture. Understanding cultural differences such as the importance of indirect communication and group harmony is essential for effective communication in Japanese.

Availability of resources

Compared to other languages, there are fewer resources available for learning Japanese. This makes it challenging for learners to find quality materials and guidance.


Immersion is essential for learning any language, including Japanese. However, it can be challenging for learners to immerse themselves in the language due to the limited availability of native speakers and cultural differences.


Learning Japanese is a challenging but rewarding process. By understanding the reasons why it is difficult, learners can approach the language with patience and perseverance. With dedication and practice, anyone can master Japanese.

Is Japanese the hardest language to learn?

According to the U.S. Foreign Services Institute, Japanese is the most challenging language for native English speakers to learn. The institute measures the difficulty of a language by the time it takes to learn, with the easiest language taking around 23-24 weeks and Japanese taking 88 weeks to master. This information was released on June 11, 2010.

Is Japanese a hard language to learn in Japanese?

According to experts, learning to speak Japanese is not too difficult. The language has a limited number of sounds, with only five vowels and thirteen consonants, and it is grammatically regular without complicated features like case declensions, which can be found in languages like Russian and German.

Are Japanese colleges harder than American?

One notable contrast between the American and Japanese education systems is that American students are encouraged to engage and participate actively in their own learning. This often leads to American universities being more rigorous than their Japanese counterparts.

Is Japanese harder or Chinese harder?

Learning Japanese may be a bit easier than learning Chinese, but Chinese is spoken by more people worldwide. Each language has its advantages and disadvantages. Ultimately, the language that speaks to you the most is the best choice for you.

Which is harder Korean or Japanese?

When it comes to learning Korean or Japanese, Korean is generally viewed as the simpler language. Compared to Japanese, the Korean alphabet has fewer letters and the language has less complex grammar. Additionally, Japanese includes more difficult Chinese characters.

Can Japanese be self taught?

Learning Japanese independently is entirely feasible, as long as you have access to the internet and a strong motivation to learn the language. You can begin your journey towards fluency immediately.


Japanese vocabulary can be difficult for beginners to learn because many words have multiple meanings depending on the context. Additionally, there are many loanwords from English and other languages that are used in Japanese, but their pronunciation and usage may be different.

Reading and Writing

Japanese has three writing systems: Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji. While Hiragana and Katakana are relatively easy to learn, Kanji is much more challenging. It is essential to learn the stroke order and correct form of each character to be able to write them correctly.

Formality Levels

Japanese has different levels of formality that are used depending on the situation and the social status of the people involved. For example, casual language is used among friends and family, while more formal language is used in business or academic settings. Understanding these levels of formality is crucial for effective communication in Japanese.


Particles are small words that are added to the end of nouns, verbs, and adjectives to indicate their grammatical function. Japanese has many particles, and their usage can be complex and difficult for beginners to grasp.

Verb Conjugation

Japanese verbs have several different forms depending on tense, aspect, and politeness level. Learning these verb forms can be challenging for beginners, but it is essential for effective communication in Japanese.

Cultural Context

Japanese language and culture are closely intertwined, so understanding cultural context is crucial for effective communication. The use of honorifics, indirect communication, and group harmony all have cultural significance that affects how language is used.

Practice and Immersion

To become proficient in Japanese, learners must practice regularly and immerse themselves in the language as much as possible. This can be challenging for those who do not live in Japan, but there are many resources available, such as language exchange programs, online communities, and language schools. Consistent practice and immersion are key to mastering Japanese.

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