Is Okinawan language different from Japanese?
Its own distinct language Outside Japan, Okinawan is considered a separate language from Japanese. This was first proposed by Basil Hall Chamberlain, who compared the relationship between Okinawan and Japanese to that of the Romance languages. UNESCO has marked it as an endangered language.
Can Okinawans understand Japanese?
According to linguistics research, Ryukyu (Okinawan) languages (yes, there are more than one kind and not mutually intelligible) are a sub-group of Japonic language family however not intelligible with standard Japanese or any other Japanese dialect spoken on the main islands.