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Modern and Traditional Japanese Culture: The Psychology of Buddhism, Power Rangers, Masked Rider, Manga, Anime and Shinto. 在日イギリス人男性による日本文化論.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013


Japanese and English

Japanese and English by timtak
Japanese and English, a photo by timtak on Flickr.

The Japanese lexicon is largely made up of about 2000 building blocks, each of which can be pronounced in a couple of ways. Learning these blocks presents a large problem to Japanese school children who gain the impression that Japanese is difficult. English however has little in the way of blocks. The the simplicity of the alphabet gives the impression that learning English may be an easy task when in fact, each of the words are as unique as stones in a drystone wall. And the wall goes on and on. For fluency in English one would need to know approximately 30,000 unique words. English should be dumped as an international language and Japanese should be used as the international language instead.
And that is without considering the simplicity of the pronunciation, spelling (gohti), or regularity of the verbs.

Test: Lego Wall by keempoo
Drystone wall by Haversack
Drystone Wall copyright Codrington Gardens

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Not taking history into account... English is indeed a poor choice for an international language because of its lexical and idiomatic complexity, but Japanese?! It's vague and written in three scripts: one of them highly complex. An ideal international language, free of history, would have to be even more culturally independent than Esperanto. Some kind of multi-language group pidgin?
Thank you very much indeed for your comment. I know that many people think that Japanese is not suited to being an International language, but I think that most of them have not learnt Japanese.

I wanted to assert in this post that it is precisely because of the existences of the "highly complex" third script that Japanese is so easy. Learn 2000 of those "high complex" squiggles (kanji) and you can read a broadsheet newspaper.

Learn 2000 English words and you may be able to read Noddy.

Another way of achieving the same agglutinative efficiency is the method used by Ancient Greek and modern German - by combine base sounds. But that results in very long words, such as Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz.

A history free language is a good idea in theory, but in practice it is going to be a speaking-population free language. There are about 130 million Japanese speakers. Many of them would like to teach Japanese.
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This blog represents the opinions of the author, Timothy Takemoto, and not the opinions of his employer.