Japanese has not yet been clearly classified, which is why it is usually considered an isolated language. It does not have any relation with Chinese nor with the language Ainu although of in a provisional form it has been classified in the controversial group of the altaicas languages along with Korean and Mongolian by its supposed similarity with them.
Since 2,500 BC, Japan islands began to be populated by Mongolian people coming from the continent. Since then, the development of an archaic language (Yamato) with a polysyllabic structure and its own culture began. Until the third century AD Korean sages did not introduce Chinese culture to the islands. This cultural invasion lasted approximately four centuries, during which science, arts, religion and, of course, the Chinese alphabet were introduced.
The future speakers of Japanese used the Chinese alphabet to give expression to their ideas and concepts, conserving both the Chinese readings and the proper ones of those symbols. For this reason, when we study in the present the Kanjis system of the Japanese we have to learn both readings, the near to the Chinese and the "own" of the Japanese.
Based on simplifications of Chinese ideographic characters, two syllabaries were created to syllabically represent all Japanese sounds. These Japanese syllabaries would receive the names of hiragana and katakana respectively. The Japanese katakana syllabary is the one that is used today to represent all foreign words, this gives the Japanese the option to include foreign words and sounds without problems.
Due to the peculiar Japanese culture, among the characteristics of the Japanese language there is a system of honorifics that result in verbal forms and specific grammatical constructions to indicate the social status and the relationship between the speaker and the listener, as well as the degree of respect towards the directed person.
Japanese in the world
In Japan approximately 125 million people speak Japanese, that is, the entire population. In the Hawaiian Islands, Japanese is spoken by more than 250,000 Japanese immigrants, who constitute 30% of the population. In California, about 300,000 people speak Japanese. In Brazil 400,000; and on the coast of Peru, Japanese is spoken by a significant number of people.
Japanese is still spoken by some people in some former Japanese colonies such as Korea, Manchuria (China), Guam, Taiwan, Marshall Islands and Palau.
Japanese language has a wide dialectal variety, due to the mountainous terrain and a long history of isolation, both internal and external. Japanese dialects differ from each other in intonation, morphological inflection, vocabulary, particle usage, and pronunciation. Some dialects of Japanese come to differ even in the number of phonemes they have, although this is not very common.
The official variant of Japanese has its origin in the Kanto dialect (Tokyo and surroundings).
In spite of the variety, the Japanese dialects do not vary much by geographic questions, for that reason the speakers of geographically distant dialects can be understood with ease. However, there are dialects of Japanese that, although geographically close to each other, differ to such an extent that speakers will not be able to understand it.
The ryukyuan language, spoken on the island of Okinawa, is often considered a dialect of Japanese because of its etymological and grammatical similarities. However, the Japanese and the Ryukyuan differ to the point that it is not possible to understand without problems. This has led many Japanese linguists to create a new category within the Japanese family.
Japanese has few sounds, most of the syllables are open; the accent is musical and has a high tone and a low tone.
The phonological system of Japanese is relatively simple. It consists of five vowels, which are written with the letters of our alphabet: a, i, u, e, o, in that order.
The Japanese is composed of 19 consonants that correspond to the sounds: k, s, sh, t, ch, ts, h, f, m, n, y, r, w, g, z, j, d, b, p, n. The sound of the consonant "n" is in Japanese the only one that can be placed at the end of a word. All words will end in Japanese necessarily in "n" or vowel. In ancient times, the letter n is considered a syllable in itself.
Japanese knows the concept of short and long vowel, according to its duration when pronounced. Some vowels of the Japanese can be deaf, that is to say they cannot pronounce themselves.
Understanding this complexity, whenever a translation to Japanese is needed, a native speaker must be in charge of it, not only because of a deep understanding of the language, but also of the unique culture. In case a translation is needed from Japanese to another language, the translator should be native speaker of the target language, but in this case, he also needs to have enough knowledge of the Japanese culture.