Japanese is currently spoken by about 130 million people worldwide. Despite ranking as the 9th most popularly spoken language in the world, the Japanese language has a controversial history that scholars are still debating to this very day. The earliest known evidence of proto-Japanese peoples dates back to 3 AD. These early Chinese writings describe the consolidation of Japanese tribes under the Yamato Clan.Over the centuries, the Chinese, as well as Koreans and the Portuguese, have had a major influence on the development and history of the Japanese language.
Japanese has three different alphabets from which to choose for writing. The oldest of these is Kanji (above right - NIHONGO - meaning Japanese language) which was developed out of Chinese characters first used in Japan about 1,500 years ago. Kanji characters, which have been simplified over time, are used to represent abstract concepts, names and everyday words.
The two other Japanese alphabets are called Katakana (above) and Hiragana (below) which the Japanese invented in the seventh and eighth centuries AD. Each has 46 letters and are syllabic, meaning each letter represents a different sound.