SOAS University of London

Japan & Korea Section, Department of East Asian Languages & Culture

Languages of Japan & Korea at SOAS: Japanese

Japanese, a major language of the world, with more than 120 million native speakers, is thought to have connections with the Altaic group of languages (including Korean and Mongolian) in northern Asia. It is often assumed that Japanese must be a close cousin of Chinese, and the writing system does derive from that of Chinese. They are, however, entirely unrelated genetically, although Chinese has influenced Japanese. Japanese is considered to be a difficult language, but it will be reassuring to discover that in terms of pronunciation, spoken Japanese is actually very accessible and not particularly hard to master. The main challenge comes in getting to grips with a large alien vocabulary and a writing system that is undoubtedly the most complex in the world today - one which uses Chinese characters in combination with two distinct home-grown Japanese writing systems. Japanese is popular for the study of its culture and because of its economic importance.

If you would like to learn Japanese, contact either Professor Drew Gerstle ( or Mr Alan Cummings ( (Department of Japan and Korea)

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