There are certain things you never miss until they’re gone- things like pronouns. Japanese has pronouns, an abundance even; they’re just very rarely used in comparison to English. There are at least 10 different ways to say “I” and “you” depending on gender, social rank, how formal a situation is and how familiar your relationship is with the other person. Despite this variety, polite conversation calls for a careful avoidance of all of these words.
In addition to pronouns, Japanese often leaves out many other parts of a sentence that I previously thought to be important, such as subjects and verbs. Here is an example conversation in English. Everything in parenthesis isn’t said when expressing the same situation in Japanese.
A-san: Hello! How (are you)?
B-san: (I’m) fine. What did (you) do (this) weekend?
A-san: (I) went to see a movie.
B-san: How (was it)?
A-san: Good! (I) want to see it again tomorrow. (Do you) want to come with (me)?
B-san: (I’m) sorry, but (I can’t come).
A-san: Oh, (I) see. Don’t worry (about it.)
Although I miss being able to say “him” or “her” instead of memorizing the names of a couple hundred students, I do appreciate this minimalist aspect of Japanese speech. Not only is it efficient, it also makes my Japanese seem much better than it actually is. The fewer words I have to say, the less chance I have of making a mistake and sounding like moron.