Friday, February 2, 2007

Nihongo Becomes More Difficult

Japanese language is said to belong to the rather difficult category.

If you speak about the sound I think it's not too hard because I feel a lot of similarities in sounds with other languages especially Spanish and Italian, and to me the sounds of languages like Chinese and the European countries with strong Russian influence seem impossible to pronounce correctly.

But if you start thinking about the correct conjugation and the hierarchy that hides within Nihongo... it gives you a nasty headache. Just for a little background information, so far there are at least three hierarchical levels in Nihongo: 1) respective, 2) humble, and 3) polite. When you are speaking to a person higher in status or older than you or you have to speak in a very formal situation, your proper speech is to mix the first two which means you address the being you're talking to in respective form at the same time as positioning yourself low by using the humble form. Um... very hard to explain, indeed.

The language is so difficult and strict even for a native Japanese if you try to speak it properly that many times the language is simplified and turned more casual. And this casualization of proper language has been a bit of a problem in Japanese society nowadays, for lesser people can use the language correctly. Our language is falling apart.

For some reason, a kind of an educational committee decided to divide the three levels into five, and turned in a proposal to the Minister of Education and Culture today. Well, actually their aim is to make the levels more easier to understand, to make the levels of language more comprehensible to those who don't really understand it.

For example, the humble form is separated into two: the first group "kenjogo" include words that positions the other being (that you're talking to) higher, and the second group is a collection of words that make polite the action you are making. This is "kenjogo II".
Then, there is this this new category "bikago" that divides from polite term. I couldn't find any examples of this in the article I was reading.

When a complex language that only a minority can use properly becomes even more confusing, I wonder what's the point of preserving the language in the older style. We might as well create a new-generation language out from the casual version of language most of us use in daily conversation.... actually... I remembered that this is going on sometimes. Some of the casual speech, because they're being used so much that no one can stop it, are being officially acknowledged by the specialists in Japanese and education, I think.

But then, I soon come to think that preserving the correctness is significant in maintaining national identity. Afterall, language is something that mirrors national character, the history, the customs, the tradition, the culture, the way our mind works, the way our society operates - all of these are condensed into our daily tongue. Allowing it to fall apart means that bits of these qualities are fading away.

In a way, I'm glad that I was born a native to this language simply because I won't have to go through studying such complex stuff for years...!

Today's update on Japan Mode: webmanga CharmyNurseM Chapter 9 release! (in about three hours from now)

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