A lot has been said about how difficult Japanese is to write, how difficult the grammar is and so on. However no one has brought up the point that Japanese is really easy to pronounce. Ever taken Spanish, remember how there are only 5 vowel sounds- "a e i o u"? Well, Japanese uses the same five vowels only they usually order them "a i u e o". After this one takes a consonant and puts it on the front of these vowels to produce more sounds.

For example- "ka ki ku ke ko" There are only a couple of irregularities: the "t" group of "ta chi tsu te to" has no "ti" sound and no "tu" sound.

Also there is no "si" sound, rather the hiragana are "sa shi su se so".

Now because there are so few sounds in Japanese, there tend to be a lot of these tounge-twister words that are long but are comprised of many small syllables (again think of Spanish). Also getting used to "Japanese" pronunciations of loanwords (think "orenjii juusu", or better yet, "urutoraman") is a bit of a trick. Really however one should concentrate more on learning the language and think less about why it is different. This is why IMO young children are the best at learning other languages, because they just learn the language without obsessing about the differences between one language and another.

  • also- Kanji were taken from China at several different times through history and as such their pronunciations vary depending upon when they were "borrowed". Sometimes the "on" readings are very close to the modern Chinese pronunciation while other times they vary greatly. These Japanese loanwords serve as the basis of many linguistic reconstructions of middle Chinese because of the stable nature of their pronunciation after they entered the Japanese language. Also note that there are often differences in meaning between Chinese and Japanese uses for kanji, again in part due to the fact that the kanji were borrowed at different times in history and reflect the current usages at the time they were borrowed.