Tokyo preview

Japan

Japanese is comprised of a combination of three different character sets, hiragana (the most basic form of Japanese and the first set traditionally taught to students), katakana (the second set traditionally taught to students and is exclusively used for words borrowed from another language), and kanji (this third set is based on Chinese characters and is very complex). Hiragana and katakana can both be mastered in a matter of months, but becoming “fluent” in the kanji system can take a lifetime. In many aspects of day to day life as an expat living in Japan, understanding the thousands of kanji characters in existence is not a requirement (although one needs to know approximately 2,000 characters to read a Japanese newspaper). In fact, particularly in Tokyo, more written and spoken English is being used, especially in business where there are an increasing number of bilingual Japanese.

But while fluency in written and spoken J…