Japanese language factsheet

Written on 2 November, 2020


More than 130 million people speak Japanese, making it the ninth most widely spoken language in the world.

It is the official language of Japan and a member of the Japonic language family.

There isn’t much known about the language’s history or when it was first used in Japan. There are Chinese documents from the 3rd century recorded with a few Japanese characters, but substantial texts did not appear until the 8th century.

Five interesting facts about the Japanese language:

Japan refers to itself as 日本 which is pronounced ‘Nihon’ or ‘Nippon’ – but in other languages it is usually called ‘Japan’ or a variation of that.

Japan uses three writing systems which are the native alphabets of hiragana and katakana and the Chinese characters called kanji. Kanji is paired with hiragana to form words and sentences and katakana is used for foreign loanwords as well as adding emphasis.

There are no plurals in Japanese and there are no articles such as ‘a’, ‘an’ and ‘the’.

The Japanese word for ‘Japan’ means ‘Land of the Rising Sun’.

Japanese is one of the fastest spoken languages at 7.84 syllables per second, for comparison, English is spoken at 6.19 syllables per second.

Experts in Japanese translation services

If you would like to work with a professional translation agency for the translation of your documents from Japanese to English or English to Japanese, please do get in touch with the award-winning team at Surrey Translation Bureau.

Contact us

Surrey Translation Bureau

As an award winning ISO certified translation agency in the UK, we offer language services to corporates, professional organisations, public bodies, individuals and other translation agencies. We have experience translating across almost all world languages and work with specialists in a wide range of fields including medical, legal, technical, marketing, financial, science, the EU and environment.

STB’s mission today is to provide high-quality and customised language solutions for any client – whatever their size – who wants to thrive in the dynamic global market or who simply wants to communicate more effectively with their customers and suppliers overseas.