If you’ve ever studied Japanese, you’ve probably come across the word “nihongo,” which means “the Japanese language.” But what exactly is Nihongo? While it can refer to any language that hails from Japan, it’s most commonly used to refer to the modern form of spoken Japanese. And when we say “modern” here, we mean that this form of language only dates back a few centuries—even though humans have been living in Japan for over 50,000 years! That’s right: our tongues have been evolving alongside each other for millennia.
What are the fundamental grammar differences between Japanese and English?
- In English, the subject of a sentence is followed by a verb and then an object. For example: “I ate an apple.” In Japanese, the order of those two elements is reversed.
- Japanese has no articles (a/an; the). So if you want to say “a house,” you’d have to use the proper noun or pronoun for that specific house—for example, kayaks no, i.e. (家のいえ), meaning “your house.”
- There are also no verb conjugations in Japanese; for instance, I like pizza vs. You like pizza vs. He likes pizza—these would all be expressed as sukunai (好き) in Japanese.
- Similarly, there are no noun declensions because nouns are not assigned gender—they remain neutral through their sentence usage, and context clues can be used to identify their intended meaning or role within a sentence structure if needed!
What are some examples of Japanese words that cannot be directly translated into English?
There are many words in Japanese that cannot be directly translated into English. This can be due to differences between the languages’ grammar or pronunciation, but it can also be because of homophones (words that sound alike).
Take, for example, the word “suki,” which has several meanings: love, like, and miss (as in “I miss you”). To communicate this meaning correctly without confusing native English speakers with one another, a translator would have to choose one of these words every time it appeared within a sentence. This might seem easy enough at first glance – until you realize there’s no direct equivalent in English! That means we’re left with two options: either using an idiom or synonyms instead of picking one word out of three possible choices because they all mean the same thing… except not really if you think about how much those words differ when misused.
Another common problem comes up when trying to translate Japanese pronouns (“I”/”you”) and prepositions (to/from). As mentioned above, many languages do not distinguish between singulars and plurals when speaking, so as a result, it can become unclear whether somebody is referring directly to themselves versus another person nearby who happens to share similar qualities (which could apply both literally or figuratively). For example, when translating “I am hungry” into Japanese, it could either mean “My stomach feels empty right now” OR “I have an appetite right now.” These subtle distinctions may seem minor at first glance but fail miserably when describing precisely why someone feels hungry while eating pizza. Hopefully, they don’t happen too often; otherwise, conversations will get pretty awkward fast!
Why is it so challenging to translate Japanese to English?
The difficulties involved in translating Japanese to English are numerous. For one, Japanese and English are two different languages with different word orders, sentence structures, grammatical structures, vocabularies, and cultures. Secondly, even if you’re fluent in both languages (which many of us aren’t!), it’s much easier to translate from one language into another than from a foreign language into your native tongue. Because of these factors and others—such as unfamiliarity with some terms or phrases that may be uniquely Japanese—translating between the two languages can be very difficult.
This is why we recommend hiring professional translators who have studied both languages extensively and have mastered them (note: not all translators are equal). If you need help finding professional translators who specialize in translating between any given pair of languages (including Japanese to English), please get in touch with us today!
Japanese word order is backward from English word order.
In Japanese, the subject comes after the verb. This is because Japanese grammar uses particles to indicate the role of words in a sentence, and these particles are not used in English. In other languages, the word order is determined by whether you use verbs or nouns. So, for example, if you’re writing about a person who is “eating soup,” you say:
The man eats soup.
If you want to say that he’s eating something else—for example, rice—you reverse it so that “man” comes before “rice”:
The man eats rice.
In Japanese, however, this isn’t how things work:
Soup-eating-man (or soukyuu shinjin)
In conclusion, there are many reasons why you may not be able to translate Japanese directly into English. However, the most important thing to remember when comprehending Japanese is that it’s backward from English word order and grammar. We hope this article has helped you understand why it can be so difficult and what steps you can take towards understanding more about the Japanese language if needed.