chapter  29
16 Pages

Literacy Acquisition in Japanese–English Bilinguals

ByNobuhiko Akamatsu

Japanese is often described as one of the most difficult languages to learn because of its unique writing system. The uniqueness derives from two types of orthographic systems cofunctioning in one writing system: logography and syllabary. The logographic writing system is known as kanji, which originated from Chinese characters. The syllabic writing system is called kana, a simplified form of kanji characters. There are two types of kana: hiragana (cursive kana) and katakana (square kana); therefore there are three different types of scripts (i.e., kanji, hiragana, and katakana) in the Japanese writing system. Furthermore, the Roman alphabet, called romaji, is sometimes used to write road signs, acronyms, and translations for foreigners. Each of these scripts (kanji, hiragana, katakana, and romaji) plays its own distinctive functions in the Japanese writing system.