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Which do you think is easier? Learning English or Japanese?

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Which do you think is easier? Learning English or Japanese?

Postby Tokage » Sat 08.25.2007 3:46 pm

Which do you think is easier? A native English-speaker learning Japanese, or a native Japanese-speaker learning English?

When learning English, almost all words must be heard when learning, because many words are not spelled as they are pronounced, and vice versa, which takes a great deal longer to learn rather than if you could just read them. But when learning Japanese, most words are pronounced as they are spelled.

However, while learning Japanese, you must also learn many kanji, which is a very time-consuming and important process, whereas english has no sort of pictograms, just words.
Last edited by Tokage on Sat 08.25.2007 5:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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RE: Which do you think is easier? Learning English or Japane

Postby Bucko » Sat 08.25.2007 6:57 pm

I reckon it's harder for a Japanese to learn English than for a native English speaker learning Japanese. Take into account the following:

Grammar: In English nouns usually have to be declared, and always have to be defined, either with a/the/this/that/his or with a "zero" definer. This can be very tricky for someone whose native language does not require such detail (e.g. Japanese). Also, english verbs cannot be easily modified. You simply have to "know" that the past tense of 'eat' is 'ate'. Japanese verb forms, on the other hand, has a simple forumla, and relatively few irregularities.

Writing: despite what most people think, writing in English is a lot harder than in Japanese. Japanese has around 3000 characters that need to be learnt, however in English, with it's irregular spelling, the average person needs to know how to spell around 40,000 words, each with their own unique string of characters. In other words, you could consider one English "word" to be equal to one kanji, as kanji are, after all, combinations of similar characters or elements.

Sounds: whereas almost all "sounds" in Japanese can be found in English, it doesn't work visa versa, so Japanese learners of English have to train themselves to hear and pronounce new sounds - something which is almost impossible for the average Japanese adult.

Formality: someone else might want to comment here as I'm still learning all the different forms and how to speak indirectly and politely in Japanese however I'll say what I currently think... Japanese seems to actually have defined "forms" to use with different people, whereas the rules of English formality are a lot looser. Someone in Japanese might use the super polite request お電話していただけませんか, but in English you could say:
would you be so kind as to give me a call?
could you be so kind as to give me a call?
do you think you might be able to give me a call?
could I be so rude as to ask you to call me?
may I ask you to give me a call?
could possibly give me a call?
etc etc, it's really up to the imagination of the person involved, rather than a defined rule of politeness. Thus, learning the subtle nuances in formality in English is probably very hard for a Japanese person, and in the end might just resort to a simply 'could you give me a call'.

To top it all off, English is a very rhthmic language where subtle stresses and timings change the meaning.

I'm just glad that I'm a native English speaker learning Japanese, and not the other way around.
Last edited by Bucko on Sat 08.25.2007 6:57 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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RE: Which do you think is easier? Learning English or Japane

Postby kayuu » Sat 08.25.2007 6:58 pm

English is supposedly the hardest language to learn fuently. There are so many irregular verbs, irregular spellings, irregular pronounciations and irregular plurals (moose, meece, mooses?) that nothing seems to make sense - you have to learn everything as a single entity when you come across it. There are probably more exceptions to each rule than there are instances of them.

Japanese has a very logical grammatical structure and very few exceptions. Kana isn't especially hard to learn. In fact, I'd probably rather spend my time learning Kanji than I would learning all of the irregular verbs in English. The only slightly difficult thing about learning Japanese is the fact that none of the words are similar to English. French is easier to learn for an Englishperson because we can understand where they got 'auto' (car) from, but we have no idea where the Japanese got 'jidousha' from.
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RE: Which do you think is easier? Learning English or Japane

Postby hungryhotei » Sat 08.25.2007 7:04 pm

kayuu wrote:
The only slightly difficult thing about learning Japanese is the fact that none of the words are similar to English. French is easier to learn for an Englishperson because we can understand where they got 'auto' (car) from, but we have no idea where the Japanese got 'jidousha' from.


You seem to be forgetting about the vast numbers of words in Japanese that orginate from English or other European languages. We may not be able to relate jidousha to a word in English, but we certainly can with the word マイカー.
Last edited by hungryhotei on Sat 08.25.2007 7:05 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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RE: Which do you think is easier? Learning English or Japane

Postby lemonaid » Sat 08.25.2007 7:06 pm

Well, the Foreign Service Institute of the Department (FSI) of State published a list which you can find at the bottom of this page:

http://www.nvtc.gov/lotw/months/november/learningExpectations.html

Here's an excerpt. I modified it slightly to add some information found at the top of the page:

Category III: Languages which are exceptionally difficult for native English speakers. 88 weeks, 2200 class hours to achieve Speaking 3: General Professional Proficiency in Speaking (S3) and Reading 3: General Professional Proficiency in Reading (R3). Second year of study in-country.

Arabic
Cantonese
Mandarin
Japanese
Korean


So Japanese is considered to be one of the most difficult languages to learn for native English speakers. I'm sure the japanese foreign ministry have a similar list.

I'd like to add that this is intensive study directed by the FSI. It's nowhere close to taking Japanese in university.

(...) students at FSI are almost 40 years old, are native speakers of English. and have a good aptitude for formal language study, plus knowledge of several other foreign languages. They study in small classes of no more than 6. Their schedule calls for 25 hours of class per week with 3-4 hours per day of directed self-study.
Last edited by lemonaid on Sat 08.25.2007 7:37 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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RE: Which do you think is easier? Learning English or Japane

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Sat 08.25.2007 7:07 pm

Do not believe the myth that Japanese grammar is simplistic or easy to learn. That tends to be a surface impression people have due to the simple conjugations -- the reality is that Japanese grammar is extremely complicated if you learn it thoroughly.
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RE: Which do you think is easier? Learning English or Japane

Postby Bucko » Sat 08.25.2007 7:21 pm

Yudan Taiteki wrote:
Do not believe the myth that Japanese grammar is simplistic or easy to learn. That tends to be a surface impression people have due to the simple conjugations -- the reality is that Japanese grammar is extremely complicated if you learn it thoroughly.


I agree that's it's harder than you first think, but even after all this time I'm amazed at how systematic the grammar is, at least to the level I've reached (approx JLPT 2). Looking forward to some challenging gems in the future though :D
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RE: Which do you think is easier? Learning English or Japane

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Sat 08.25.2007 10:12 pm

Grammar is always systematic; that's almost the definition of the term "grammar". I think foreign languages often seem more systematic than your native language because you study the grammar of a foreign language in a different way that shows the "building blocks" better than the way you acquired your native language.
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RE: Which do you think is easier? Learning English or Japane

Postby NocturnalOcean » Sat 08.25.2007 11:56 pm

Anyone who says Japanese grammar is easy, is one who does not speak Japanese "fluently". And even discussing what language is more difficult for either group is a futile discussion. Because we can never know. All we can say is that English is a difficult language for the Japanese, and Japanese certainly is a difficult language the other way around. But I think maybe one reason many think English is so difficult for the Japanese is because Japan lack English speakers. However that is not because the language is difficult, it is simply lack of education.
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RE: Which do you think is easier? Learning English or Japane

Postby caroline » Sun 08.26.2007 4:32 am

But I think maybe one reason many think English is so difficult for the Japanese is because Japan lack English speakers. However that is not because the language is difficult, it is simply lack of education.


But when I'm in London or New York, I don't hear that much English/US/persons speaking japanese, either : so it's lack of education too or should it makes me think that japanese is difficult for English speakers?
I don't get it...
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RE: Which do you think is easier? Learning English or Japane

Postby NocturnalOcean » Sun 08.26.2007 5:27 am

The point is English IS educated in all of Japan, at least in highschool, but japanese is not educated as a part of high school education in English speaking countries.
And from this you could draw two conclusion to why most japanese does not speak a language like English, which everyone in the world use, and they are educated in.
1. The language is simply too difficult for japanese speakers.
2. The education system fails.

I go for number 2.
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RE: Which do you think is easier? Learning English or Japane

Postby caroline » Sun 08.26.2007 8:00 am

lack of education
English IS educated in all of Japan
The education system fails.

Lemonaid>
Since i'm not an english speaker, I did not understand what you meant : for me, lack of education is just that, a void in education, as bad manners might be, or not knowing that the earth rotate around the sun ...
" "A" Being educated did not equate" " "A" being taught"... I'll bear that in mind.
As for failure of educational systems to teach foreign languages, there are many more examples of that than the reverse, unfortunately.
My own country is quite famous for having people study at least 7 years of english or german or else, and not being able to speak afterwards. Not for the same reason as japanese, though.
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RE: Which do you think is easier? Learning English or Japane

Postby NocturnalOcean » Sun 08.26.2007 8:50 am

Well what I mean to say is that failing in learning a language can be narrowed down too a few reaons.
I will add one reason in addition to my above statement.

1. The language is simply too difficult to learn(for most)
2. You, yourself, lacks the capability of learning a new language.
3. The way you are educated in the language, is not good enough.

Of course you have such things as, people not being in motivated enough and so on, which I guess is very common for people learning a second or third language in high school.

What I wanted to say though in this debate was that, some people might blame the lack of English speaking Japanese on the difficulty of the English language(Because these days, it is common for most Japanese kids to learn English sometimes during high school or similar). But I think rather than English being too difficult, it is something wrong with the way it is educated. I am not saying English isn't difficult, because it is. The opposite cannot be said for Japanese for English speakers. Japanese isn't taught to most children in school, and those who study Japanese, does it for some other reason that the school system forcing it upon them.

But as I mentioned earlier, how difficult learning a language is, is mostly an individual thing. Though, there is no doubt that learning a language that has similiarites makes it easier for everyone.
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RE: Which do you think is easier? Learning English or Japane

Postby World_Traveler2007 » Sun 08.26.2007 8:57 am

lemonaid wrote:

Arabic
Cantonese
Mandarin
Japanese
Korean



There's a lot of good points here. This list is right too. With the work I do, In order to go to DLI (Defense Language Institute, it's required to take a pre test (which is stupid) to see how well someone might learn a language. This list here being the most difficult. And, in DLI, the course for these langages are 63 Weeks. The next list down, includes russian, and I don't know what else but the courses are still a little over a year long.
With what Bucko said up top, I agree 100% There is so many things about english that would make it harder for others to learn. I taught myself spanish, easy enough since there are a lot of similarities with English. Italian wouldn't be too hard either. But, when learning Russian (I only know a little bit), German (knew it when I was younger), and now Japanese... There's a LOT more work to be done here. I just got through learning Hiragana so I'm slowly progressing.
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RE: Which do you think is easier? Learning English or Japane

Postby kayuu » Sun 08.26.2007 3:00 pm

hungryhotei wrote:
You seem to be forgetting about the vast numbers of words in Japanese that orginate from English or other European languages. We may not be able to relate jidousha to a word in English, but we certainly can with the word マイカー.


I wasn't taking into account the loan words that are written in katakana because they're not really 'Japanese words' but '[insert language] words written in Japanese script' - I was thinking more along the lines of native Japanese words.

As for Japanese being a hard language to learn for native English speakers - I think that maybe its the fact that the structure is so completely different that you can't just speak in Japanese but rather you must be able to think in Japanese, too.
Last edited by kayuu on Sun 08.26.2007 3:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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