Japanese language

Japanese (Nihongo, 日本語) belongs to the Japanese language family. It is spoken as a mother tongue by about 122 million people and as a second language by more than 1 million people in Japan. It is also spoken in American Samoa, Argentina, Australia, Belize, Brazil, Canada, Dominican Republic, Germany, Guam, Mexico, Micronesia, Mongolia, New Zealand, Northern Mariana Islands, Palau, Panama, Paraguay, Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and USA.

The number of Japanese speakers worldwide is estimated at about 123 million people.

There have been several attempts to establish a genetic relationship between Japanese and other languages and language families. The most accepted theory is that Japanese, like Korean, is part of the Altaic language family. This shows that Japanese and Korean are related, although in a very remote way. As for the Ainu language, which is spoken in northern Japan, it does not seem to be related to Japanese. Ainu is considered as a language isolate.

Who speaks Japanese

Japanese is the official language of Japan. The entire education system, the media, business and government use Japanese.

In addition to Japanese, there are 14 other Ryukyu languages, which are spoken in Okinawa and the neighboring Ryukyu Islands. Speakers of these languages and Japanese speakers do not understand each other, and in most cases, they do not even understand among each other.

Since speakers of Japanese and those of these Ryukyuan dialects do not understand each other, some ancient scholars considered them to be independent languages. However, the prevailing view today is that they are variants of Japanese.

Dialects of Japanese

Although Japan is a relatively small country, it has a surprisingly large number of dialects that differ from each other in pronunciation, grammar and vocabulary. Many of them are unintelligible to each other. They are generally divided into two main groups:

  • Eastern Japanese
  • Western Japanese

There are two forms that are considered standard:

Hyojungo, or standard Japanese

It is taught in schools and used in television and official communications. Standard Japanese can also be divided into bungo 'literary language' and kogo 'spoken language'. The two varieties differ in grammar and vocabulary. Bungo was the main written form of Japanese until the late 1940s and remains important today for historians, literary scholars and lawyers. Kogo is the most widely used today.

Kyōtsūgo or the common language.

Standard Japanese is based on the Tokyo dialect, but is not exactly the same.

It is not spoken uniformly throughout the country. On the other hand, there are different versions of standard Japanese influenced by local varieties. Many people speak their local dialect in addition to standard Japanese.

Translation agency for Spanish-English-Japanese

Now that you know a little more about the Japanese language, you might be interested to know that we offer professional translation services from both English to Japanese and from Japanese into English. We specialise in translation from and into Spanish.

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