Do you have friends who are Japanese? If you have, how about their English?
It is said that Japanese aren’t able to understand English at all, their pronunciation is terrible, they speak “Japanglish”, you know.
On the other hand, it is also said that Japanese language is one of the most complex language in the world.
Why are they not able to understand English well even though they are using a complex language?
Let me explain the reasons with a point of view from a native Japanese speaker.
1. Japanese grammar is quite different from English grammar
For example, we don’t have counting nouns and articles (a / the), and we often skip subjects. I mean, we often don’t need a subject in a sentence because of our grammar. It can make sense without them. That’s why our thinking way is following a quite different process compared to English speakers to begin with.
2. Japanese characters
Did you know we use 3 kinds of characters in Japanese? Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji.
By the way, Japanese Kanji is basically different from Chinese Kanji. Well, I will post about it in another opportunity. Anyway, I’d like to tell you that there are not Japanese characters which express only consonants, so we don’t get used to catch the sounds of a consonant only.
3. Japanese unique intonation
There are Japanese words which have the same spelling and pronunciation exactly but having a different meaning. We distinguish them with the difference of the intonation.
Since the intonation is important in Japanese, we always mind intonation unconsciously if we try to understand English as well.
What bothersome is that it’s sometimes pretty difficult to understand it for us if non-native English speakers are speaking English because of their origin intonations.
Especially, English which is spoken by native Italian or Spanish speakers, is sometimes rather difficult to catch what they said because of their unique intonation even if they have less specific accents.
It is said that French speakers often have a strong French accent if they speak English, but it’s not that difficult to understand it for us because their intonation isn’t unique.
Their “h” is too weak and their “r” sounds unique but that’s all. Furthermore, I am sure their English would be quite better than Japanese English at least.
4. The length of the sound
In Japanese, some words are distinguished with the length of the sound.
For example, A Japanese word “Obasan” has the meaning of a lady who aren’t young. Something like a madam in English, maybe.
If you pronounce the part of “ba” slightly longer than the other syllables, you refer to an old woman. It’s a small but big difference.
That’s why we tend to think if the accent is puts on a syllable the sound would be pronounced a bit longer than the other syllables.
This is a bad habit if we learn English…
5. We don’t learn Phonics at school
The biggest problem would be caused by our English education in my opinion.
I wonder if non-native English speakers usually learn Phonics at school.
How to pronounce is often written above the English words in Katakana when it comes to our English texts.
You remember what I said in No.2, don’t you? Every Japanese character has a vowel at least, that means, Japanese characters can’t express English pronunciation exactly.
They would rather confuse the learners because they express wrong pronunciations.
We learn a lot of wrong pronunciation in Katakana, that’s the reason why we are not able to catch English speakers pronunciation at all. Unfortunately, it’s not a joke…
Maybe, there would be the reasons besides them as well, but I guess that’s all of the main reasons.
I’m happy if you are interested in Japan and Japanese.
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