Forget Me Not

Filed under:☽2004,Culture — posted by JAWjaw on 8/23/2004 @ 12:30 am

For anyone who has ever studied Japanese as a second language, one of the most difficult challenges is the writing system. Although I have lived on Okinawa for what can seem like forever at times, the written language is still a thorn. With the spoken language there is a constant auditory refresher course in daily life. However, unless one purposely makes a daily effort to utilize it, the written language can pretty much be forgotten. The only problem with being illiterate as far as a writing system is concerned is that eventually one has to use the language for one reason or another. The Japanese written language is a complicated combination of three separate systems. Hiragana, a system composed of characters which are used for native Japanese words; Katakana, the characters used for foreign words; And Kanji, the most difficult system consisting of a type of hieroglyphics that was adopted from the Chinese written system of over 5000 characters. To complicate matters even further, the language consists of many English language foreign words that have been “adopted” by the Japanese. The largest problem with these words is that they are not pronounced or spelled in the same manner as the native language. So when trying to write these words, not only do you have to convert from the alphabet to Katakana, one also has to mentally change the words from English to the Japanese verbal version of the word to do so. It is no surprise very few foreigners ever become proficient in this written language.

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