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Learning a new language is always challenging, but the specific challenges individuals face are often the result of their native language and culture. Although japanese students begin learning english very early in school, years later they often still struggle. The numerous differences between the japanese language and english create many unique challenges and problems for japanese learners of english. The issues they face are mainly with pronunciation, grammar, and cultural differences that affect their speech. japanese students face many problems with pronunciation due to the lack of many sounds in their own language and the variety of sounds used in english.
One commonly mentioned difference is the lack of ‘l' in japanese and the confusion between ‘l', ‘r', and ‘d'. The japanese ‘r' sometimes sounds like an ‘l' and at other times even a ‘d' and they will often use the ‘r' sound instead of the ‘l' sound when speaking english. It can be difficult to show them the distinction. They also struggle with the ‘v' and ‘th' sounds, because these are also not part of their language. Many japanese who are very good at english still will not be able to correctly produce these sounds. The japanese language also requires all consonants (except ‘n') to be followed by a vowel sound, because they use a syllabary rather than an alphabet, so it can be difficult for them to say english
words that have multiple consonant sounds or that end with consonants, such as ‘told' or ‘grumble'. There are also many grammatical problems derived from linguistic differences. The japanese often struggle with the future tenses, because their language does not technically have a ‘future tense', although there are ways to talk about the future, so they may produce a sentence like ‘We go to tokyo this weekend', omitting the use of ‘will' (Teaching japanese Students). They also often neglect to change the verb to match the subject, because this does not need to be done in japanese, so they will make the sentence, ‘He buy groceries on Friday', using ‘buy', which you would use with ‘I/they/you/we' but must become ‘buys' for he/she (Shoebottom). The difference in culture can also pose its own set of issues. japanese speech changes depending on the
speaker's age, occupation, sex, and relationship, so people sometimes don't feel comfortable speaking to social superiors at the same level. japanese also speak more tentatively and abstract and speaking directly, which english demands, can be difficult. In turn, english-speakers can become annoyed at their japanese counterparts when they speak in such noncommittal and vague terms (Shoebottom). For the japanese, it is more polite, but using that same speech in english can actually sound rude, bored, and unnecessarily difficult. The combination of differences in pronunciation, grammar, and culture between japanese and english
creates many issues for the japanese when they try to learn and use english. While learning another language is known to help people learn how that language functions, it also teaches a lot about one's own language and culture. The differences can make things difficult, but many times they are also what make it intriguing, so it's important to recognize them without letting them overwhelm the speaker. Works Cited Shoebottom, Paul. “The difference between english and japanese.” Frankfurt International School 26, January 2011. . “Teaching japanese Students.” The World Languages Fair for Education. 26, January 2011. .
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