Japanese is the national language of Japan, and is spoken by around 127 million people in Japan. It is a member of the Japonic language family, and has no close relatives. Despite this, Japanese has been influenced throughout history by Chinese, and makes use of Chinese characters (kanji) and vocabulary. Modern Japanese is written with a mixture of its two syllabic scripts, hiragana and katakana, and kanji. Outside of Japan, sizeable Japanese-speaking communities also exist in Brazil, Hawaii, Peru, the Philippines, the United States – as well as Australia. Japanese speakers came to Australia during the 1880s and 1890s to work in the pearling and sugarcane industries. At the end of World War II, Japanese migration was banned, and remained so until 1949. When restrictions were lifted, numbers increased, with migration climbing steadily from the 1980s. The teaching of Japanese began to grow around the 1960s in recognition of the ties between Japan and Australia centring on trade and diplomacy, education and tourism. Government policy has at different times supported the expansion of Japanese through the primary and secondary sectors, and it remains one of the most widely taught languages in Australian schools. Notions of politeness, humility and respect are important in Japanese culture and are expressed through the way language is used; learners need to be able to choose appropriate forms to convey status. This can be challenging for Australian learners. However, Japanese grammar is notably consistent, pronunciation is predictable, and once hiragana characters are acquired, new words can be pronounced intuitively.
Number of people in Australia who speak this language at home: 43,690 (ABS Census Data, 2011)
Language Category: Asian Languages
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