So I started learning Japanese a while back. I’ve always been into anime and I thought, it’s time I learned some Japanese to enjoy things in their original language and meaning. One thing that I found out immediately was how vast the character set was. I mean, learning just hiragana and katakana isn’t all that difficult. What gets my mind boggled is the amount of characters in the Kanji character set. You seriously want me to remember over 1000 characters when all my life, I’ve been used to expressing myself using just 26 letters. This will be a hell to learn. Not to mention the constant practice required to keep all of them in memory.
Another thing that’s hard to get ones head around is the concept of subject and topic. In English, you only have to deal with a subject and an object. Just placing proper words in the proper positions is enough to explain almost everything, and if you mess up the position of the words, you get a meaningless sentence that you know is wrong. In Japanese however, you have to deal with the concept of subject and topic. The two words seem to mean the same thing from the perspective of an English speaker but actually mean very different things from the perspective of a Japanese speaker. A subject explicitly mentions, well, a subject. When using the subject marker, が, we express something about the subject itself. But when using the topic marker, は（わ）, we express that the sentence is somehow related to the topic (noun) but not express something about the topic (noun) itself.
Let’s take an example of the name of the anime “Your lie in April”. In Japanese, it’s written as “４月は君の嘘” (Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso). Now, we can break the sentence into “４月は” (Shigatsu wa) and “君の嘘” (Kimi no Uso). The second part is pretty easy to understand, “君の嘘” translates to “Your Lie”. But the first part is a little vague if you ask me. “４月は” simply indicates the topic is “April” without providing any explanation of the relation to what comes after it. The “April” bit just hangs there without any apparent reason or meaning to it. Now you may interpret the sentence as “Your lie in April” but nothing is stopping you from interpreting it in a different way either. There’s no relation specified whatsoever between “４月は” and “君の嘘”. If you ask me, this is an extremely large shortcoming of a language.
Another thing that got me worked up is the fact that the same word can sometimes mean different things depending on the content you write it in. For example, the word “かぜ” means both “wind” and “cold”, differentiated only by their Kanji writing. “風” meaning “wind” and “風邪” meaning “cold”. So if I’m to put the word in hiragana in a sentence, there’s no proper way to know if one means “wind” or “cold”. So, in order to differentiate between the meanings, I’m forced to learn the Kanji writings of the two words. English is far easier in this aspect in that there’s two different words have two different spelling and pronunciation.
For a language that’s been around for thousands of years, I expect it to be a little more clear with it’s words and grammar. I do not mean to say that Japanese, as a language, is all bad. I’m just pointing out some of the problems an English speaker may experience while learning the language from the ground up. There are also some good points about Japanese that are lacking in English. The fact that the syllables do not change their pronunciation depending on their placement is a huge blessing. It means that one can pronounce any word if they know the pronunciation of the syllables in the word. English is notorious in this aspect for having different pronunciations of syllables depending on whats at either side of it. Sometimes, the pronunciation you expect is not the correct one and you have to hear it’s pronunciation to know about it.
So in short, no language is perfect and each have it’s own problems when you look at them. But, Japanese is a bit complicated because of it’s heavy use of Kanji character set with its vast number of characters. For an English speaker to be able to get his head around the complex grammar and character set requires a lot of study and practice.