So I have been toying with getting a Minor in Japanese studies whilst I complete my Arch degree.
I may be rethinking this.
Because of Kanji.
Kanji caused my brain to shut down.
Japanese have three writing systems. Hirigana is used for writing out Japanese words. Katakana is generally used to spell out foreign words and names. Both of them have distinct character alphabets but each letter represents a specific phonetic sound.
Kanji is different. Kanji is symbolic alphabet (like hieroglyphics) who's individual meaning changes depending on where it is relationship to other words. A kanji may have many different meanings and different pronunciations depending on the context. This context is dependent on it's position, how it is combined with other kanji, and whether it comes before or after other hiragana or katakana characters.
So for example one kanji can be read as both see/sei (in Gakusee) or as u (in Umareru) or as nama (in Nama biiru.)
Oh and that is all dependent on whether or not is in an on-reading (Chinese) or kun-reading (Japanese) mode. If the word is expressing Japanese concepts or words then you use kun-reading, otherwise you use on-reading.
If the word is part of a compound noun with another kanji then you always use the on-reading, and when the kanji is used as an adjective stem or verb stem then you use the the kun-reading.
Well they sorta help you out by putting the appropriate hirigana or katakana pronunciation in little letters above the kanji. So in order for you have any hope of pronounceing it right you have to know the two other alphabets.
*Edit* Oh and lest I forget a single Sentance may contain ALL of these forms. I'll scan an example later.