I’ll freely admit up front that I expected to be further with learning Japanese than we actually are… but also that the basics are actually a lot easier than I expected!
We’ve mentioned before that Japanese is spoken very differently to pretty much any other language – there’s no emphasis on syllables, so remembering to say words you’d learned as “yo-ko-sue-ka” as “yocooska”is tricky!
But, with the aid of JapanesePod101, we’re starting to pick up the essentials. And, doing it together has proven a fun way to spend evenings as a couple, too.
One nice thing is that Japanese has the fewest primary sounds of any major language – and most of them are present in English, so a native English-speaker actually knows 80% of the sounds used in Japanese by default.
We’ve both found that the first new sound we’ve been introduced to – a combination of an R and an L – is easy to use in words, but hard to pronounce alone. We expect to use it in words a lot though, seeing as it appears in “arigato” (“thank you”). The “r” is a lie!
A lot of common words are actually imported from English, or at least very similar to their English equivalents. “Toire”, which sounds more like a Spanish or Italian word, means “washroom”… which means it’s pretty easy to remember (“toire” is pretty close to “toilet”). “Hotel” is simply “hoteru”, though “station” is “eki”.
One important thing to learn is that Japanese sentences are structured in Subject – Object – Verb order, rather than Subject – Verb – Object; JapanesePod101 uses the simple example of “I apple ate” for sentence structure, and goes on to explain that while in English “I” or “I ate” are viable sentence fragments, in Japanese the simple phrase”apple ate” suffices in most conversations when it’s obvious who the subject is.
So we’re getting there! With a couple weeks still to go, we’re optimistic that we can pick up what we’ll need to know for the big trip.