Most people who come to stay in Japan for any extended period of time soon find themselves needing to study Japanese or further expand upon their current knowledge. On the surface Japanese seems to poss little difficulty. Japanese phonetics are simple as all consonants are always followed by a vowel, this comprises the bulk of the Japanese alphabet with only vowels and one consonant (n) able to stand alone. Pronunciation is also simplified as it is mainly based around the consonant/vowel combination. Simple sentence construction, basic conversation (such as asking directions or if someone is available), learning hiragana ひらがな & katakana カタカナ are aspects of Japanese a person can master within their first three to six months. From this point problems begin to arise, major newspapers and other meaningful publication are written with a barge of Kanji (Chinese characters) in which case the character’s hiragana pronunciation does not appear. The interesting problem about this factor is that many Japanese get confused on the character’s pronunciation as in Japanese a Chinese character will have multiple pronunciations with a least two as the following explanation states; 例 is read two ways, one is Chinese style ( おんよみ [onyomi] [ 音読み ]) 例 = れい [rei] or in Japanese style ( くんよみ [kunyomi] [ 訓読み ]) as 例えば = たとえば [tatoeba]. Even though there is a pronunciation difference the character remains the same.
Another difficulty that arises is Japanese assimilated sound and diphthong. Assimilated sounds and diphthong are extremely hard to define just by listening to Japanese speak, the reason for this is that in most cases Japanese rarely use their lips or exaggerated facial motion, this combined with the fact that Japanese speak in low tones in sometimes becomes impossible to define assimilated and diphthong sounds. The best way to define if a word is an assimilated or diphthong word is to see it written. When a assimilated sound is present you can find a っ (this is a lower case つ ) indicating that the consonant following it is elongated. Refer to the following examples.
* そくおん [sukuon] ( 促音 ) = っ assimilated sound
(e.g. おっと [otto] ( 夫 ) = [husband], かっこ [kakko], いっさい [issai] ( 一才 ) = [one year old]).
* ようおん [youon] ( 拗音 ) = diphthong
(e.g. ひゃく [hyaku] ( 百 ) = [hundred], りゅう [ryuu] ( 龍 ) = [dragon], びょういん [byouin] ( 病院 ) = [hospital]
The following will give the various grammatical terms and their defined translations. Most learners of Japanese have heard these terms before but have had a hard time finding the meaning in the normal English-Japanese Dictionaries. In most cases Japanese follow similar rules as it’s English counter-part, the only difference is the sentence structure.
めいし [meishi] ( 名詞 ) = noun (people, animals, inanimate things, places)
どうし [doushi] ( 動詞 ) = verb (actions, events, processes & states)
ふくし [fukushi] ( 副詞 ) = adverb (a word that modifies something other that a noun)
だいめいし [daimeshi] ( 代名詞 ) = pronoun (a function word that is used in place of a noun or noun phrase)
ぜ んちし [zenchishi] ( 前置詞 ) = preposition (a function word that combines with a noun, pronoun or noun phrase to form a prepositional phrase that can have an adverbial or adjectival relation to other words)
せつぞくし [setsuzokushi] ( 接続詞 ) = conjunction (an not inflected function word that serves to conjoin)
け いようし [keiyoushi] ( 形容詞 ) = (true) adjective (is a word whose main syntactic role is to modify a noun or pronoun, giving more information about the noun or pronoun’s referent).
The final hindrance for anyone living in Japan is over time you must find that job, bills have to be paid. Working in Japan is not as simple as it may appear, as many Japanese employees work ten to sixteen hours a day and sometime on weekends this leaves little time to study. What little time is left in the day is spent on commuting back and forth from work which in most cases is between ninety minutes up to three hours round trip with multiple transfers. This is if you are lucky and have a normal job like the natives, if not then you are probably like the majority of the unlucky who get stuck as English teacher. If you are among this majority it will be even harder to obtain proficiency in Japanese as you will be working up to eighteen hours a day and only speaking English. Self study is the best in Japan but it is also good to find a good stable professional Japanese teacher. Good Luck and Enjoy.