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Huh, I've just started learning Japanese after spending several weeks there and looking forward to visiting many more times, and I would never characterize it as especially difficult. There are some challenges, but nothing mind-blowing.

The kana and kanji may seem intimidating, but identifying fragments and context through repetition has been more rewarding and entertaining than frustrating.

I understand there are many subtleties, but after having hung around some native speakers for a while and hearing the patterns and starting to pick up on pronunciation, rhythmic patterns and key words, conversation topics start to become intelligible and communication possible.

I also found it fun to learn a few basics on a recent month-long trip, but the US State Department has rankings of language difficulty based on hours of instructions required for foreign service employees, amd puts Japanese in the most difficult category, with a note that it is the most difficult within that category[1]. Mastering it to a diplomatic level seems incredibly time consuming for native English speakers.

[1] https://en.m.wikibooks.org/wiki/Wikibooks:Language_Learning_...

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