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Why You Should Learn… Japanese

Cherry Blossom in Japan          Following on from my post last week about learning Russian, here’s the eighth post in my series on the top 10 most spoken languages in the world.

No. 9: Japanese

122 million native speakers, 123 million total speakers. Official language of Japan and spoken in expat communities all over the world.

Why Japanese?

          Japan is one of the most innovative countries in the world – just take a look at how many technology companies come from Japan. The Japanese are also very keen tourists and travel in droves to spend the money earned back home in the world’s third-largest economy. Japan is another one of Asia’s booming economies, and as a business language, Japanese would be pretty useful. It’s also one of those hard languages that few Westerners speak, which can set you apart from the crowd.

            I’ve never been to Japan before, nor have I tried to learn the language. But I have heard of students spending their Third Year Abroad in Japan, and of graduates participating in the JET programme, (the Japan Exchange & Teaching Programme) which places you in a Japanese school as an Assistant Language Teacher for a year. No previous knowledge of Japanese is necessary and it would be a good way to learn the language. Have you been to Japan and picked up a few words? Do enough people speka English to help you get around, or is there a big language barrier?


Top 5 Survival Phrases:

  • もしもし ‘Moshimoshi’ – Hello
  • ありがとう ‘Arigato’ – Thank you
  • お元気ですか? ‘Ogenkidesuka?’ – How are you?
  • 私は日本語を理解していない ‘Watashi wa nihongo o rikai shite inai’ – I don’t understand Japanese.
  • さようなら ‘Sayōnara’ – Goodbye

          As always, the BBC’s language site is a good place to start for information on learning Japanese and if you’re based in the UK then you could also contact the the Japan Foundation in London.

Next week I’ll be profiling your favourite languages that don’t make it into the top 10: French, Italian & German.

[You can still vote below for the languages you’d most like to learn]


  1. An interesting language to learn, I tried whilst living and working in Japan with some success. Although a very structured language there are many rules to follow as regards verb forms and endings etc. Incidentally the ‘hello’ expression ‘moshi moshi’ is generally used to answer a telephone only, ‘konichi wa’ would be the more general expression. Good luck to all those who give it a go !


  2. Not at all lazy Virginia, it’s just that being in a place often makes learning a necessity if you want to get around and explore a little bit below a country’s veneer. Also one gets to know the vernacular rather than the ‘text book’ version. I remember listening to a radio broadcast in HK featuring a linguist from SOAS London, although he could manage Cantonese it was very staccato and lacked fluidity, missing were those simple everyday expressions which I guess every language produces.


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