Japanese: こんにちは

Distribution: Countries included but not limited to: Japan, Korea, and Hawaii.

Introduction: Japanese has been argued to be in a language family of its own (Japonic or Japanese-Ryukyuan family). However, linguists agree that Japanese is unrelated to Chinese. Interestingly, in modern Japan, everybody understands and can speak an approximation to the standard language, though wide dialectal variety exists.  

Cultural and Rhetorical Influences

  • Indirect communication is used.

    • Body language, including actions and facial expressions, are the true expression of the speaker.

  • Being 'put on the spot' in public is avoided.

    • Getting an answer wrong can be a cause of real shame.

  • Spontaneous answers are rare.

  • Non-Japanese tutors may easily misinterpret embarrassment as inability to speak.

  • Tentativeness is preferred to assertiveness, hesitancy to momentum.

  • Social hierarchy of in-group and out-group:

    • Friendships take time and trust to build.

  • Questioning authority is frowned upon:

    • Regard for authority and formality is in tune with teacher-dominated lessons.

    • Focus on the 'correct' answer; grammar is emphasized over content.


  • Writing systems: Kanji, Hiragana & Katakana (characters), and Roumaji (arabic letters).

  • Articles “the/a/an” do not exist.

  • Adjectival phrases always precede the noun.

  • Subject-object-verb word order.

  • Relative pronouns do not exist.

  • Relative clauses precede the modified word.

  • Subordinating conjunctions follow their clause; sentence particles showing interrogation, affirmation, tentativeness, etc.

  • Topic of a Japanese sentence may be announced separately at the beginning:

    • Simlilar to spoken English, "That car" - we've had nothing but trouble with it.

  • Verbs are self-contained entities: every verb can stand as a sentence on its own, except for the copula (be).

  • Difficulty arises with the complex English tense/aspect system:

    • I see her tomorrow.


Banno, Eri. Shokyū Nihongo "genki" =: Genki : an Integrated Course in Elementary Japanese. Tōkyō: The Japan Times, 2011. Print.

Dickerson, Miyoko. "Japanese Culture." Personal Interview. 10 Apr. 2014.

Education in Japan. Education in Japan. Oct. 2007. Website. 16 Apr. 2014. http://www.education-in-japan.info/

Shoebottom, Paul. A Guide to Learning English. 1996. Website. 27 Apr. 2014.http://esl.fis.edu

Thompson, Ian. "Japanese Speakers." Learner English: A Teacher's Guide to Interference and Other Problems. 2001. Ed. Swan, Michael and Bernard Smith. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001. 296-309-213. Print.

Western Washington University. US / Japan Culture Comparison. 2011. Website. 27 Apr. 2014.http://www.wwu.edu/auap/english/gettinginvolved/CultureComparison.shtml