About the Japanese Language
Japanese is spoken by about 130 million people, 122 million of whom are in Japan. There are also Japanese speakers in the Ryukyu Islands, Korea, Taiwan, parts of the United States, and Brazil.
Japanese has many “registers” – levels of politeness. Throughout the Pimsleur course, you will learn how to speak a polite level, which is appropriate in virtually any situation you are likely to encounter in Japan.
In the 3rd and 4th century AD, the Japanese borrowed the Chinese writing system of ideographic characters. Since Chinese is not inflected and since Chinese writing is ideographic rather than phonetic, the Chinese characters did not completely fill the needs of the inflected Japanese language in the sphere of writing.
In the 8th century AD, two phonetic alphabets, or kana, were devised: Hiragana and Katakana. They are used along with the ideographic characters (or kanji) to indicate the syllables that form suffixes and particles and for foreign loan words.
The direction of writing is usually from top to bottom in vertical columns and from right to left. The Roman alphabet has also been used increasingly to transcribe Japanese.