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The Japanese Language

日本語プログラムへようこそ! Welcome to the Japanese Program!

For general questions on Japanese program and courses, contact us: Yukiko Maru (Leary), Masako Murakami, or Hiroko Yamashita

For placement exam. contact Yukiko Maru or Masako Murakami.


Japanese Program News

Japanese Language Proficienty Test . For details, visit:

JET Program application - for details, visit:


Characteristics of the Japanese Language

Japanese is spoken by approximately 121 million people. It is almost exclusively spoken by the people that live in the islands of Japan. Because of the physical isolation of the Japanese language, its genetic affiliation to other languages or language families is not definitively known (Shibatani 1990). 

Japanese is a head-final language, whose basic word-order is SOV. It allows a relatively flexible word-order because particles such as case markers and postpositions agglutinated to nouns and postpositional phrases mark the function of each word independent of its position in a sentence. Two sets of Japanese phonograms, Hiragana and Katakana, which are derived from Chinese characters (Kanji), make the writing system of Japanese a unique one that utilizes those three sets of orthography simultaneously in written language.

There are some 'myths' about the Japanese language. For example, it is sometimes considered to be an illogical and/or vague language, or it is an extremely difficult language for westerners to learn. Aside from the fact that there are no cognates between Japanese and any European language, Japanese is just as logical as any other languages, and it may be learned by any foreign language learners. The perceived difficulty mostly arises from the differences in sociolinguistic aspects of language use between western societies and the Japanese society, such as the respect for seniority in the society reflected in language use or preference to avoid directness in order to save the participant's 'face.' In order for students to learn the language effectively, the Japanese language program at RIT incorporates the sociocultural aspects of language use through classroom activities, readings, and lectures.

Work Cited

Shibatani, M. (1990). The Languages of Japan. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.