Japan is a country of 127 million inhabitants, spread over four main islands: Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushu. It has a super-megalopolis and is full of manga.
When you think of Japan, you probably think of feats of engineering such as the bullet train, cultural symbols such as temples, gastronomical excellence such as sushi, rich historical legacy such as the emperor, and wonders of nature such as the cherry blossom and Mount Fuji.
Tourism has been bouncing back in Japan ever since the devastating 2011 earthquake and subsequent tsunami which damaged the a nuclear power plant at Fukushima in the Tohoku region of the country.
And although the problems of the devastation in the Fukushima prefecture still remain, tourism increased by 19.3% in 2017 according to Japan National Tourism Organization.
The attractions for tourists are obvious; a rich culture which is steeped in history. From Kyoto to Hiroshima, Tokyo to Sapporo, Japan has it all.
Japan is also the world's third largest economic power in the world, and is very prominent in the economic and cultural sectors.
Although the Japanese language has a reputation for being an arduous one, it is used regularly in the world of publishing, international trade, and the automotive sector.
But if you want to learn Japanese, you will have to be patient since the language has:
- four writing systems,
- multiple levels of politeness,
- a subtle pronunciation and syllabary rhythm.
But once the learning is complete, the mastery of this language will be a great thing on your resume! Typing Japanese lessons near me into Google is a good starting point to find local tutor or learn to speak Japanese through Superprof and see how many tutors are available in your city. Find Japanese lessons London or learn Japanese online.
And with such a vibrant history, you can even study Japanese through its culture in order to increase your language skills and learn more about the land of the samurai.
Let's finally convince you and discover the importance of the Japanese language around the world...
How Many People Are There in Japan?
In 2017, the population of the archipelago was almost 127 million, with the biggest religious groups in Japan being Shinto and Buddhism.
According to the Japanese government, Japan is a nearly homogeneous nation on a linguistic level. 99% of the population speaks the same language. With its 126 million speakers, the official Japanese language is called yamato and has been based on the language of Tokyo since the 17th century.
According to the New York Times, Japanese is the 10th most spoken language in the world.
Throughout the history of the Japanese language, it has been exported to some Latin American countries during the various diasporas known throughout Japan in countries like Brazil and Peru. According to the Japanese Embassy in Brazil, between 1.3 and 1.5 million people of Japanese origin have settled in the country--especially in Sao Paulo!
But let's go back to the Land of the Rising Sun for a moment...Did you know that there are Japan dozens of dialects in Japan?
The most popular is called the "Kansai-ben" and is from the Kansai region, which is 500 km from Tokyo. The "Kansai-ben" has become so popular in Japan that some television comics would not hesitate to use this to make the audience laugh (a bit like an American comic using a hillbilly drawl).
Here are some popular expressions that change according to the region:
- Hello: Konnichiwa in the East, Maido in the West
- How are you ? : O genki desu ka in the East, Moukarimaka in the West
- I'm fine: Genki desu in the East, Bochichidenna in the West
- Goodbye: Sayonara to the East, Hona to the West
The Impact of Japanese Colonization on the Japanese Language
The history of Japan has been marked by its many colonizations...
Indeed, the country of the Rising Sun has been dominated by its immediate neighbors for about fifty years, particularly those across the Sea of Japan. But before was a different story.
Japanese history is littered with wars with its close neighbors. In 1895 - the year of the end of the Sino-Japanese war - China gave Japan the island of Formosa (Taiwan), as well as the peninsula of Liaodong (south of Manchuria).
A few years later the conquest of Korea was another important step in Japanese colonialism. From 1910 to 1918, Japan took control of Korean lands and imposed draconian political changes.
Among other things, they imposed a language policy that changed the face of Korea. In 1889, Japan created a center for teaching conversation in the "national language." This center quickly became a school for training teachers in the Japanese language. Little by little, the government imposed the national language in schools.
What was the result? In these territories, mastery of Japanese became the norm.
Japanese also became the official language of Taiwan. The instruction at school was now in Japanese, and the names of cities were Japanized...
In 1888, according to the new laws of Public Education, Article 1 stipulated:
"The public school must teach the Taiwanese children moral principles and practical knowledge, and instill in them the characteristics of Japanese citizenship"
In southern China, in the Manchurian region, the Japanese government implemented a less severe language policy.
In this Chinese region, the Japanese held on to their "national language" but sort of acknowledged the local languages of Manchu, Chinese, Mongolian, and Korean.
Little by little, Japanese was introduced into official texts within the local administration. In schools, teachers became . bilingual. They usually spoke Manchu-Japanese or Mongolian-Japanese.
In fact, for centuries Japan has had a tense relationship with its neighbors, and in particular China during the Meiji period. Lasting changes with roots in the 19th century can be seen when compared to the days when Nara was the nation's capital, and Japan had closer ties with China.
Even now, Japanese is being used in Taiwan, somewhat to the annoyance of Beijing. According to the website "Journey to Taiwan:"
"Those born in the 30s and 40s have Japanese as their mother tongue and still use it at times. Nowadays, Japanese remains one of the most studied languages in the Taiwanese school."
Japanese Teachings All Around the World
Every year, many people start learning Japanese for beginners to:
- go to work in Japan,
- read manga,
- watch anime,
- live in Japan...
In fact any foreigner, whether a tourist or someone living in Japan, will need some sort of level in the Japanese language.
On average, learning Japanese takes twice as long as European languages to learn.
Foreigners must learn the kana (the phonetic alphabet) and kanji (the symbolic alphabet), which represent 2 very important parts of the Japanese writing system!
In France for example, as in all foreign languages studied at university, the Japanese language curriculum is generally divided into two distinct sections:
- A BA in Literature and Language,
- and a Master's in a Foreign Language,
Each of these sections has its own set of specific courses and trains students towards a specific profession.
In fact, most large cities across the world offer similar options. And if there aren't any university courses, there will almost definitely be a Japanese language school close-by, perfect for learning the grammar and syntax of the Japanese language. In Italy, there is even a European school of manga--the first art academy dedicated to Japanese techniques.
Note: To have your education be recognized in Japan, it is preferable to have your English degree in Japanese be accompanied by a certificate of your Japanese language level, the JLPT, issued by the Japanese Ministry of Culture.
However, according to statistics from the Japan Foundation, the number of Japanese learners in the US is about 90,000, placing the United States in first place among the G8 countries along with France and Canada.
Japanese Business Culture and the Japanese Language
Japan holds a strategic place in international trade, and therefore a certain amount of influence overseas.
The Japanese country has a vast maritime domain. This is a crucial environmental advantage for trade.
Foreign trade is thus a fundamental element of Japan's commercial influence in the world and especially in Asia. According to many sources, 57% of Japanese imports and 48% of its exports are within Asia. China is its first trading partner due to its geographical proximity.
The 3rd world power dominates many sectors which emphasize its commercial influence:
- renewable energies.
In 2014, Japan became the world's 4th largest importer and exporter of goods and its trade accounted for about 36% of Japan's GDP. The country is a hub of Asian trade.
The Japanese country has also created privileged links with Western countries. Japan is a first rate creditor and the world's largest investor.
The country also owns the Tokyo Stock Exchange, which is the world's second largest stock exchange.
It is then very interesting to learn the Japanese language since the country can be a gold mine in order to find work in trade.
If you want to undertake business studies, it could be a good option to learn Japanese. Indeed, it could also change things for you to have a certificate attesting your level in Japanese. To pass this certificate, you must pass a linguistics test equivalent to the English TOEIC in four levels: it is the most widely recognized reference in Japanese mastery by non-natives and its name is the Japanese aptitude test (JLPT). It was created in 1984.
Recruiters appreciate this test big time.
But remember that Japan is a country of tradition. Everything from Japanese cuisine to sumo wrestling is steeped in history which governs how they function today. The same can be said of business, and therefore you should make sure that you are up to scratch with Japanese business practices in order to be successful. In a country where respect is so important, the last thing you want to do is to accidentally offend a business associate.
The Spread of Japanese Culture In the World Via Manga
Who has never read or seen a manga? Since their first appearance in the US in 1970, they have continued to fascinate the young and old.
Here are some numbers regarding manga:
- the sale of mangas increased by more than 150% between 2000 and 2005,
- mangas account for 40% of comic book sales in France,
- in 2008, 15 million mangas were sold for a turnover of nearly 95 million euros.
Invented by the cartoonist Katsushika Hokusai, the term manga literally means "derisory image".
In Japan, the term manga refers simply to comics in the broad sense, whereas in the West it has an undeniable Japanese meaning and connotation. At least as much as Japanese calligraphy!
These very popular weeklies are not expensive compared to the work that goes into them (on average they are 230 yen, a little less than 2 euros).
In Japan, the manga is an integral part of the Japanese's daily life (40% of books purchased). From an early age, history or religion are taught in primary schools through manga. On the street there are manga distributors, advertising posters are omnipresent, series are broadcast on television...A real manga culture exists in Japan.
Japanese love them, but they are also a great way to export the Japanese language abroad.
A gateway to Japanese culture, the manga has followers all over the planet. It has helped to pique the interest in Japanese culture. It remains one of the most economically and socially profitable export products.
For example, North America is one of the world's biggest manga-buying markets with an estimated value of $ 300 million of exports in early 2011. Other large markets also exist in many countries in Europe and Asia. The Pokemon series, launched in 1996, is arguably one of the most profitable manga exports, with revenues of $ 150 billion plus.
In early 2006, France, with more than 13 million annual copies, is the third biggest manga market in the world after Japan and the United States. It represents 26% of the comics' turnover and constitutes the strongest progression behind the youth fiction, falling in second position as the sector's most dynamic edition.
The most impressive is the Shonen Jump, at more than 5 million copies.
Here are the top 5 best selling mangas:
- Dragon Ball: 17,000,000 copies
- One Piece: 2,000,000 copies
- Gunnm: 1,300,000 copies
- Akira: 1,100,000 copies
- Kenshin: 1,500,000 copies
These are some of the many works that have contributed to the spread of the Japanese language through culture!
Mangas are just one way that you can learn Japanese by immersing yourself in the language. Remember, the more exposure you have to Japanese, you quicker you will pick up new phrases and vocabulary.