Japanese is a very fascinating language. It's complex, and nuanced, and sometimes it appears that there's a maddening number of ways to say the same thing; but it's also beautiful.
I've been studying it for approx 3.5 months now, and below is a list of some of the things I've found to be fascinating about the language itself, from the perspective of someone learning it.
Please keep in mind that the notes below are after only four months of study, so, there are likely to be mistakes. I welcome corrections, as I've come to understand there's no simple way to learn Japanese (read: mistakes will be made along the way).
When counting, the basic numbers 1, 2, and 3 are:
However, when counting things, these numbers change form. This is [apparently] based on ease of pronunciation (I'll put the number base in bold below so you can see how the numbers transform as you count different objects)
Genki translates to "energy", which means you're essentially asking if someone has pep, vim, and vigor.
In truth, people don't say this in Japan .. and on the rare occasion when they do, it's a two word exchange: "Genki?" / "Genki".
Plural is derived from context (as many things are in Japanese), as opposed to being stated explicitly.
If I say "hirugohan o tabemasu" it means "I eat lunch" or "I will eat lunch"... it depends on the context (the tense of the verb in that sentence is present tense).
Once again, everything is about context. A given subject can be omitted (because it's clearly implied) or there's a very specific/clear word for the thing you're trying to say.
For example, if I wanted to say "that blanket is soft and light", I'd begin with:
You'd think you could just say:
But no! There are rules for multiple predicates (multiple i-adjectives, na-adjectives, or verbs). You'd have to conjugate the 1st adjective and employ it's "te-" form, such that the sentence becomes:
To like "running", you have to use it's dictionary present form, but converted to a noun.
When first learning, you'd think you could just say:
But stated properly, this becomes:
In order to string together multiple verbs, the "te-" form is used for all but the last, and the tense of all verbs in the sentence is determined by the tense of the last verb ("te-" verbs have no tense):
In order to say:
You'd be tempted to write:
But since there are multiple predicates (verbs), we convert all but the last to it's "te-" form:
It's the tense of the last verb that determines the tenses of all the previous verbs, in this case it's present tense ("ni ikimasu" means "I go to"). If I changed it to:
... that would change it to “In the morning, I ate bread, drank coffee and went to the school”, as "ni ikimashita" is "I went to".
For example: French. If you learned French, you know the classic verb conjugation routine "I, you, he/she/it, we (plural), you (plural), they (plural)".
The "please" form uses the "te-" form as a root and simply adds "kudasai" (which means please), and the "May I" also uses the "te-" form as the root and adds "iidesuka" (which means "May I").
If we list out a set of nine conjugations:
We can then show them for four verbs:
(And that's not all of the possible conjugations)
The expression "hajimemashte" ("nice to meet you") is based on the verb "hajimemasu", which is the verb for "begin", and so whenever I think or say "hajimemashte" I think "we have begun".
I also like the expression "gozen rē-ji" for midnight. The word "gozen" means "AM", and "ji" is hour. The prefix "rē" means "anew" or "fresh", and so that expression for midnight translates to "new/fresh hour in the morning".
In any given sentence, the topic is often the same as the subject, but not necessarily. The topic can be anything hat a speaker wants to talk about. Topics are indicated by "wa" and subjects are indicated by "ga". The predicate "ga" can also be used to show emphasis.
"ko-hi" is coffee, and it's a topic being discussed, so it gets a "wa".
"ocha" is tea, and is also a topic being discussed, so it gets a "wa".
But the subject of the sentence, the take-away, is that I drink coffee, so the phrase "ho-hi wa nomimasu" (coffee, I drink) gets a "ga" because it's the part of the sentence that should be emphasized.
For example, when discussing family, there are three contexts:
A. Humble Forms (to people outside of family)
B. Honorifics (talking about other people's family).
C. Directly to my family
One example is "father": (A) "chichi", (B) "otō-san", (C) "otō-san".
Another is "younger brother": (A) "otōto", (B) "otōto-san", (C) (his name).
And one more is "son": (A) "musuko", (B) "musuko-san", (C) (his name).
There isn't always a 1:1 translation between sounds in Japanese and sounds in English. The two examples I've been a number of times are for the generic counters for one and two. I've seen them as "shitotsu/hitotsu" for one and "futatsu/hutatsu" for two. I believe that this is due to a 1:N relationship between the English and the Japanese, but I could be wrong.
Below are some practice sheets I've made to walk through some of the constructs I've mentioned above. YMMV, given how new I am to Japanese. It may also vary because apparently, the way we're learning Japanese isn't the same way it's traditionally taught. My understanding is that generally people learn a relatively narrow subset of the language at any given time, such that it can take years to introduce a concept like "dictionary present form" for a verb. We're learning it much more broadly, if that makes sense.