With Japan being one of the world’s leading industrial powers, Japanese language services have become extremely important in social and business settings. The Japanese language is in fact, a window into the country’s cultural and social etiquette.
This East Asian language spoken by about 125 million speakers presents some features that makes it unique. For that reason, today we’ve brought together some of the most curious facts about this harmonious language. Let’s discover them!
#1 Unknown historical origins
Believe it or not, despite being the ninth most-spoken language worldwide, the origins of the Japanese language are unknown.
Quick fact! Some link Japanese to the Altaic language family, which includes Turkish, Mongolian and other languages, but it also shows similarities to Austronesian languages like Polynesian.
2# Only recognized as the official language of Japan
Japan is the only place where Japanese is the official language. Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean Japan is the only place where the language is spoken! Japanese is in fact, recognized as a minority language in the Republic of Palau, where the island state of Angaur speaks primarily Japanese.
Quick fact! Japanese is the most space-concentrated of all the most-spoken languages. A vast majority of its speakers live exclusively on the island of Japan.
3# Different writing systems
The Japanese writing system consists of three different character sets: kanji (several thousands of Chinese characters), and hiragana and katakana (two syllabaries of 46 characters each; together called kana).
Briefly, the two “kana” systems are known as syllabaries, which means that each character represents a specific sound rather than a specific consonant or idea. Kanji, on the other hand, are Chinese characters. These are ideograms, which means each character has its own meaning and corresponds to a word, so by combining characters, more words can be created.
Quick fact! Japanese texts can be written in two ways: In Western style (in horizontal rows from the top to the bottom of the page) or in traditional Japanese style (in vertical columns from the right to the left side of the page) and both exist side by side today.
4# Japanese isn’t derived from Chinese
Japanese is considered one of the most unique languages in the world with no direct derivative language that birthed it. Contrary to popular believe then, Japanese isn’t derived from the same language family as Chinese!
Quick fact! The Japanese grammar system is utterly unlike that of Chinese. In Japanese, verbs follow nouns, while it’s the other way around in Chinese.
#5 Key Market for International Business
The Tokyo Stock Exchange (TSE) is the largest stock exchange in Asia, with more than 3,700 companies listed and a combined market cap greater than $ 5.6 trillion (as of December 2020). For many foreign companies, Japan has also become the place for development of new products and concepts.
Quick fact! With its population consisting of 126.5 million people and its major industries including automobiles, computers and consumer electronics, Japan is home for 52 of the Fortune 500 companies.
Do you know any other interesting facts about the Japanese language history? Drop a comment below! We'd like to know more!