[ previous ]
[ next ]
@ The wonder of Japan 3

Mr. Yamanami's "Understand through etymologies! A technique memorising English words, which I recently read, describes the following. I want to excerpt some interesting points.

As English has a lot of irregularity, patience and endurance are required for using it perfectly. The pronunciation of English is not as easy as cognate German. The irregularity comes from the history of English.

The Britain Island was an island of the Celts. The Celts of the Britain Island were called the Gael. The Roman military invaded the Island twice in the half century BC, and the Christianity was conveyed to the Island afterwards, hence the Gaelic language was affected by the Roman culture and the Latin language. This is the first background.

The Angles and Saxon put the Celts, the former inhabitants who separately reigned in small countries, under control like wildfire, and turned the Celts to Island and Scotland. The German language of the North German, who became a ruler, spread out the Britain Island in a flash. This German conquest is the second background of English. Hence, the old English was German.


Originally the Britain Island is geographically near Northern Europe, so the languages of Northern Europe came into the Island from ancient times. The Northern European languages, which impacted on the Britain Island for a long time, is the third background of English.



The Anglo-Saxons, who were invaded by the Normandy Duchy which rose in north western France, surrendered to the Normandy Duchy at the Hastings war in 1066. French mixed with the Normandy dialect was the official language of the Island for 300 years since that time. This affect of French is the fourth background of English.

Like this English has grown in a melting pot in which various tribes and their languages have been mixed up. It is natural that English is so much complicated.

AND, what I want to tell this time is that Japanese people often say "Japanese is a special language, so it is too difficult for foreigners to study Japanese", however Japanese is not so special compared with English but a common language like Arabic and Indonesian.

As I wrote in the parts 1 and 2 of the wonder of Japan, the fact that Japanese does not have such complexity as English has may strongly be related with the fact that Japan has been invaded only twice.

Japanese, which is strikingly similar to Urdu, the official language of Pakistan, has comparatively been keeping purity as a language, and Japanese is not a special language at all.

As Japan received a strong thought system called Buddhism and a character system called Kanji from the neighbouring, old and big country, China,, Japanese is strongly affected by Chinese, however there have been a lot of similar cases everywhere in the world. For example, Indonesian has a lot of Dutch words from the language of the suzerain, and Arabic words from Islam, the dominant religion.

I cannot help thinking that, in the background that the Japanese people want to consider that Japanese is a specially difficult language, a sense of self-defence of the Japanese people living in an island country in the Far East is working. When we position Japanese not as a particular language but as one of the common languages in the world without bitterness, we may not be prepossessed with such a stupid delusion that mastering English is the first step to become a cosmopolitan, I think. Is it self-satisfaction of me who is proficient in English?

The attached illustration is tanka poetry using Manyo Kana. The Japanese people before creating Hiragana transformed Chinese Kanji into Japanese with great hardship.

[ previous ]
[ next ]

top page