Is Japanese the Most Difficult Language?

Some Japanese, like my sister, believe that Japanese is the most difficult language for foreigners to learn in the world. They say “You need to learn Hiragana, Katakana, and a lot of  Kanjis. There are so many words that mean “I” such as “watashi”, “ore”, “Boku”, “watakushi”, “Sessya”, and etc. And learners would be confused by particles and “Keigo”.”  Yes, exactly Japanese seems difficult for foreigners to learn.

However, I know many foreigners to speak Japanese fluently. Exchange students, professors, and TV talents. Are they extremely smart? I don’t think so. Of course, they’re smart to some extent but I don’t think they have special brains that master the most difficult language with ease. So, I strongly doubt that Japanese is “the most difficult” language in the world.

Then, how about Korean people who learn Japanese? Korean has a similar grammatical construction and similar words to Japanese. Korean has some words that express the speaker’s respect(=Keigo). Thus, generally speaking, it’s not so difficult for Koreans to speak Japanese only if they master Kanjis. Anyway, I want to emphasize that no one can objectively tell which language is the most difficult because its difficulty depends on their mother tongue.

Then, why do some people believe the myth that Japanese is the most difficult language in the world? In my opinion, it is because they want to regard themselves as “special” or “superior” to others. Since the beginning of 20th Century, many people discussed Japan and Japanese people. Why did they defeat Russia and China? Why did they reconstruct so quickly after the WW2? As you know, there’re best-seller books written by foreigners such as “The Chrysanthemum and the Sword(Kiku to Katana)” by Ruth Benedict, “Japan as no.1” by Ezra Feivel Vogel. When foreigners discuss how Japan is strange, we Japanese feel kind of good. In addition, Japanese always look at Western countries like United States, Germany, France, Great Britain and etc. Compared to these countries, you can say Japan is totally different from these countries. Language, customs, figures, locations, history, and almost everything seems different. But if they look at neighboring countries in Asia, like China, Korea, Vietnam, Mongolia, Thailand, they find that Japan is not so strange as they imagine. Asian countries have a lot in common. They will find similar cuisine, similar festival, similar faces, and finally they conclude that Japan is no strange, no unique country. Japan is strange to European countries but really similar to Asian countries.

In conclusion, you can’t tell Japanese is the most difficult language because the difficulty of learning foreign language simply depends on the learner’s mother tongue. However, not a few people believe Japanese is the most difficult language because they want to think they are smart and special.

by Anonymous

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