Japanese Language Data And Statistics

Written byIchika Yamamoto

Japanese language is a member of the Japanese-Ryukyuan (or also called Japonic) language family.

And there are some other facts about Japanese you might be interested in knowing. In no particular order, here are some of the numbers about Japanese:

  • It is spoken by over 130 million people. The language is mostly spoken by people living in Japan, then by small immigrant communities located all around the world as well as lot of seniors in Korea, Taiwan, some parts of Japan, the Philippines, and miscellaneous Pacific islands as a result of forced tuition of Japanese language by Japanese occupants before and within World War II.

  • The largest Japanese immigrant communities can be found in Brazil consisting of around 1.4 million to 1.5 million immigrants and their descendants. The second largest communities are located in the USA counting over 1.2 million people. (1.2% of Californian population has Japanese ancestors and around 5% of Hawaiians speak Japanese while circa 12.6% of the population are descendants of Japanese). Other emigrants can be found in Peru, Argentina, Australia (mostly, in its eastern parts), Canada (1.4% of Vancouver’s population has Japanese ancestry), and the Philippines (in Davao and Laguna in particular).

  • Regulator of the language is mostly the Japanese government.

  • Japanese writing system is considered as the most or one of the most complicated all around the world.

  • Written Japanese employs 3 cardinal scripts nowadays. These are Chinese characters kanji and syllabic alphabets hiragana and katakana. Combinations of 3 of them are used when writing.

  • This complicated system is the result of long-standing development during which Japanese adopted Chinese script and accommodated it to its own language.

  • Kanji characters don’t reflect pronunciation, but meanings. Kanji characters differ to Chinese interpretation in many factors:

  • Chinese and Japanese are 2 different languages coming from different language families.

  • Grammatical language structure and word stock of both languages differ a lot.

  • Japanese texts do not only contain Kanji, but they are always a combination of kanji and kanas.

  • Etc.

  • Unlike Chinese, Japanese has several ways of reading and the right meaning is defined according to its context. Some ways of reading are the Sino-Japanese. In fact, it is a truncated pronunciation of original Chinese pronunciation. The Sino-Japanese reading is preferred in combined words (with some exceptions), which are one-syllabic. The reason why Chinese has influenced Japanese word stock massively is that Japan was a cultural idol in the past and Chinese was a language of scholars likewise Latin in Europe and Sanskrit in India.

  • Another way of reading is Japanese reading which is multi-syllabic and Chinese pronunciation is not mostly audible in it.

  • The Japanese language contains thousands of words of foreign origin (complexly called “gairaigo”) and its number has a continuously increasing tendency. These words are often distorted (for example, PC = paso kon).

  • Level of Japanese literacy is close to 100%. In Japan schools a free typing test can be fun to do and some are even presented in the form of a game. Japanese young students are educated to type fast and accuracy using typing games for kids.

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Author: Ichika Yamamoto
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