Japanese is spoken mainly in Japan and it has approximately 120 million native speakers. According to the Wikipedia, there were 4 million foreigners mostly in South Korea and China who studied Japanese in 2012. The trend to learn the language has accelerated since the 19th century, especially since the Second World War. This is due to the economic boom in the 1980’s in the country and the manga and anime culture.
The Japanese language itself is quite unique and it’s relation with other languages is debated. We can find some forms of the written language in Chinese scripts in the 3rd century, but important written Japanese texts appeared in the 8th century. The isolation of the country ( Japanese: 鎖国、海禁) ended in 1853 and more and more loan word appeared in the language.
Japanese mugs with the kanji of stability
This words are usually written using the katakana ( カタカナ、片仮名 ) alphabet, which is stored in a 5x10 table of 46 characters. On the other hand there is another alphabet, which is called “hiragana” (ひらがな、平仮名) and used to write native Japanese words. These have been created simplifying some of the Chinese characters( かんじ、漢字 ) in 1900 and they have erased some of them in 1946. The best is if you start learning these, then practice them a lot. If you are done with them, you can basically read a Japanese text, which consists of only hiraganas and katakanas. Now let’s move on to the next step.
I have mastered my basic Japanese skills using a book called “Minna no Nihongo”. This book has about 200 pages, with several lessons, and they discuss some kind of grammatical problem with a background story. Another good thing is that the whole book has been written using Japanese, so no English words whatsoever. This means, that the book does not contain a single Latin letter and if there is a kanji ( Chinese character ) then they write the corresponding reading using katakana or hiragana ( furigana ). A such it is a perfect source for improving your reading skills. Every single lesson has about 50 new words or expressions. You can buy it for a reasonable 20$ on Amazon.com and you can start developing your Japanese by yourself.