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https://www.duolingo.com/HoneyBadger1016

Difference between Chinese and Japanese

Is Japanese close to Chinese or not? I mean, if a Japanese guy wanted to learn Chinese in high school, would it be easy or would it be extremely different and confusing?

Please don't downvote, I was just wondering if they were similar.

2 years ago

39 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/pseudocreobotra

They aren't related at all. The only thing they have in common is that they use (mostly) the same symbols... And for Japanese, it's only one of the three writing systems and it came to Japan a looong time ago and was modified heavily.

First of all, there isn't one Chinese language but a large number of Chinese languages with Mandarin being the best known example. Chinese generally is an isolating language while Japanese is agglutinative. That's why Chinese only uses these complicated characters while Japanese has lots of simpler characters scattered into its writing - they usually represent grammatical endings etc (which Chinese simply doesn't use).

Even the characters that exist in both Chinese and Japanese are troublesome because the pronunciation hardly ever is the same... And it's not limited to that. Japanese uses a tiny number of different sounds compared to other languages (it's only a fraction of the different sounds that exist in English) and tends to be spoken in a rather monotonous manner. On the other hand, in Chinese, your pitch has to go up and down like crazy because the meaning changes with the "tones". I think there was a whole text just with "shi" in different tones.

A skilled speaker could probably have a VERY rough idea what a written text could be about based on the meanings of the characters but probably a English speaker with no German knowledge at all would understand more if confronted with a German text ;) And speaking has nothing in common at all as the pronunciation is so different.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/NukuchAjau

I think the "shi " text you where talking about is thise one

《施氏食狮史》石室诗士施氏,嗜狮,誓食十狮。 氏时时适市视狮。 十时,适十狮适市。 是时,适施氏适市。 氏视是十狮,恃矢势,使是十狮逝世。 氏拾是十狮尸,适石室。 石室湿,氏使侍拭石室。 石室拭,氏始试食是十狮。 食时,始识是十狮尸,实十石狮尸。 试释是事。

Shíshì shīshì Shī Shì, shì shī, shì shí shí shī. Shì shíshí shì shì shì shī. Shí shí, shì shí shī shì shì. Shì shí, shì Shī Shì shì shì. Shì shì shì shí shī, shì shǐ shì, shǐ shì shí shī shìshì. Shì shí shì shí shī shī, shì shíshì. Shíshì shī, Shì shǐ shì shì shíshì. Shíshì shì, Shì shǐ shì shí shì shí shī. Shí shí, shǐ shí shì shí shī shī, shí shí shí shī shī. Shì shì shì shì.

« Lion-Eating Poet in the Stone Den » In a stone den was a poet with the family name Shi, who was a lion addict, and had resolved to eat ten lions. He often went to the market to look for lions. At ten o'clock, ten lions had just arrived at the market. At that time, Shi had just arrived at the market. He saw those ten lions, and using his trusty arrows, caused the ten lions to die. He brought the corpses of the ten lions to the stone den. The stone den was damp. He asked his servants to wipe it. After the stone den was wiped, he tried to eat those ten lions. When he ate, he realized that these ten lions were in fact ten stone lion corpses. Try to explain this matter.

So yeah, tones are pretty important :P It is cool you are also a Japanese learner, I am myself. How long have you been studying?

AUDIO: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vExjnn_3ep4

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/csi
csi
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omg that "shi" text is crazy and cool...

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/NukuchAjau

Ikr, one of the reasons I'll stick to Japanese as my asian language.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/pseudocreobotra

Just a few months, still quite a bit away from N5 =) I attend a class (mostly for speaking and listening practice) but the pace is quite slow so I also study on my own (mostly grammar and kanji).

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/NukuchAjau

Cool! I have been studying for a few months myself, mabye sometimes we can have a text chat in one of our streams? I would love to practice with another beginner :D Also, what is your favourite kanji? I write many sentences here

https://www.duolingo.com/comment/11538300

See if you can read my sentences!

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/italianvonne
italianvonne
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I heard about this poem once years ago before even knowing much about the Chinese language and this is my first time seeing it written out. Definitely a you have to be able to read it to understand it! Crazy and clever all at the same time.

I recently started learning Chinese and I don't try to think about homonyms and how many I will come across. If I do, I think I will start to confuse myself. I'm just in the beginning stages and there are plenty already, but I just don't think about it since normally we hear homonyms and homophones in context. Ugh. I think I see lots of dictionary usage in the future.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/NukuchAjau

Yup, it's a killer...

When you say you are learning Chinese, which one? And does it use simplified of traditional?

I would like to know, as Chinese learners always interest me.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/italianvonne
italianvonne
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I'm learning Mandarin. I'm using both helloChinese and ChineseSkill apps for now. I have the settings set for simplified characters, and the practice exercises where you have to trace or put together characters are always in traditional. I would like an exercise where you have to pick the corresponding character. Like show a traditional character and you have to choose the simplified version or vice versa. I need to send that suggestion in.

I want to learn both traditional and simplified at the same time. I haven't really gotten to writing yet. I've tried once but not sure if I did it correctly or what type of pen I may need to use. (I found free character practice paper to print out online and used the app for the stroke order) . I only did this for a few traditional characters as I don't know simplified character stroke order. I assume it's similar but since the simplified characters can differ greatly in form from the traditional, I just don't know. I still have to figure out what writing practice books to order. At least with helloChinese it shows the order of strokes for some of the individual traditional characters, but it's tracing and you don't have to think about the order so I don't feel like I'm remembering the stroke order. I've heard of pleco, but I haven't downloaded it. My phone already has so many apps. I need to buy a tablet I think.

I watch a lot of children's tv programming on youtube. Short simple stories are great. I'm still at picking out words here and there stage but it's a good measure to see how much I'm learning. If I can understand a whole sentence I'm amazed and wonder how it even happened lol. Also the children's learning programming is nice as they usually go over numbers and basics. I watch other shows but it's not much to choose from because I am not a soap opera person, nor a singing competition watcher which there seems to be plenty of. I was blessed to come across a comedy that I can stand to watch even though I can't understand any of what's being said. I hit gold if something has both Mandarin and English subtitles. But if there's only one subtitle then I'd rather have Mandarin so I can know what words are being used and be able look them up.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/NukuchAjau

Wow, you seem really passionate about it. I see you going places, good luck with your studies!

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/italianvonne
italianvonne
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Thanks!

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/HoneyBadger1016

Thank you for the very long and extremely educational comment. Seriously, it was helpful.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/pseudocreobotra

You're welcome =) I'm learning Japanese and work with a few Chinese people (in addition to being a general language nerd) so I know a bit about this stuff. If there are any questions left, please feel free to ask and I'll see whether I can help you.

I think my Japanese textbooks has a few examples of how the pronunciation of originally Chinese words changed in Japan until it became nearly impossible to recognize it. I could look it up, if you are interested?

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/HoneyBadger1016

No, that's not necessary. I just wanted to know if the languages are similar. :)

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/yangluphil
yangluphil
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I agree with the rest but I would not say the two languages are unrelated at all. Kanji is more than an alphabet system since each character has its meaning and although a lot of kanjis' meaning differ from their counterparts in Chinese, most of the difference is subtle if not almost the same. Besides, a Japanese learner usually notices that some short phrases are very hard to translate succinctly and accurately into e.g., English, but many of those phrases have a very close(both syntactically and semantically) translation in Chinese. So do Chinese and Japanese people have an easier time pick up each other's language than say an English speaker would pick up either of the two? Yes, not by a long shot but the advantage is there.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/draquila

Genetically speaking, they are completely unrelated and this is a fact. They either have no common ancestor or their common ancestor is so ancient as to be completely unknowable (in other words, they are as related to each other as to English). So, the statement that they are not at all related is true.

It's true that the shared ideographic writing system makes it easier to understand written text but that doesn't translate to an understanding of the language or any real similarity between the two. Japanese is a Subject-Object-Verb agglutinative language while Chinese is a Subject-Verb-Object isolating language. They're very different in their fundamental structure. They do, however, share some features, notably the system of counter-words common in East Asian languages.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/yangluphil
yangluphil
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As I said I agree that the two languages are very different, or as you mentioned genetically different. But they are hardly unrelated. You seem to suggest that two languages with different ancestors are unrelated. That is where I disagree.

According to Wiki, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japanese_language "In addition to words from this original language, present-day Japanese includes a number of words that were either borrowed from Chinese or constructed from Chinese roots following Chinese patterns. These words, known as kango (漢語), entered the language from the 5th century onwards via contact with Chinese culture. According to the Shinsen Kokugo Jiten (新選国語辞典) Japanese dictionary, kango comprise 49.1% of the total vocabulary, wago make up 33.8%, other foreign words or gairaigo (外来語) account for 8.8%, and the remaining 8.3% constitute hybridized words or konshugo (混種語) that draw elements from more than one language."

If half of vocabulary in one language comes from another language I would not say the two are unrelated. On the other hand, in Chinese there is also a LARGE chunk of vocabulary burrowed from modern Japanese.

Languages are not only about the origin, they are also constantly evolving. The modern Chinese and Japanese as we know today are results of their evolutions over history, during which the two have enormous influence over each other. A lack of common ancestor is not a good argument for a lack of relation between two modern languages. This comes from a mandarin speaker and I know for a fact that I never learned Japanese but if someone gives me an article written in Japanese, I will probably figure out what the article is about, and the meanings of a few sentences here and there. By no means do I claim the two languages are as close as e.g., English-German or even German-Dutch. But the relation is there nevertheless :-p.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/chaered
chaered
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So it's more like they were close friends, or maybe roommates, and one copied a lot of habits, gestures, recipes and clothing style choices from the other one. People meeting them might notice they seem more in tune with each other than strangers would be, but that does not make them related in the sense of sharing ancestors. But this may be pushing the analogy too far.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/yangluphil
yangluphil
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I think this is a very good analogy

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/draquila

I suppose it depends on what you mean by "related." Certainly in the linguistic sense they are completely unrelated. It's also true that languages can get "genes," so to speak, in ways other than direct descent, and this is especially common with vocabulary because loan words are easy to adopt. But I think it's misleading to say that the languages are related because, apart from being linguistically untrue, the structure of the two languages is fundamentally different.

Your ability to understand written Japanese is due to the fact that the Japanese language is written in Chinese script, which means that it writes words as semantic units rather than combinations of sounds. Since the semantic content of a character is generally the same between the two languages, you don't need to be able to understand Japanese to understand the gist of a simple sentence. If you saw a Japanese text written entirely in kana, assuming you could read kana, I'm sure it would be unintelligible. Most of the loanwords were adopted centuries ago, which means that even if they hadn't been completely changed by Japanese phonetics, the ensuing sound changes in both languages would make them different.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/yangluphil
yangluphil
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That is a good point. Yes my only knowledge of "true Japanese" is hiragana. I would say more than half of the words, when spoken, would be unintelligible. But a portion of the loan words would still be intelligible. (I don't have statistics for the "portion" since intelligibility is very subjective.) In a sense those loan words are pronounced like a dialect of Chinese just like Henan Mandarin, Liaoning Mandarin, or Sichuan Mandarin. They sure sound different but they are different in a systematic way and it is not easy for English speakers to realize.

For example, many people think Cantonese is a different language than Mandarin but ask a Chinese person he (, who is not a Cantonese speaker lol), is likely to disagree with you, because Cantonese and Mandarin only differ in the way to pronounce various characters and the difference is pretty mechanical. In most cases one certain syllable in Mandarin is mapped to another syllable in Cantonese with little to no exceptions. Once a Mandarin speaker gets used to that, he can suddenly understand and speak Cantonese. After all the vocabulary and writing systems overlap by over 90%. And it does not take very long to get used to the pronunciations at all.

Yes the pronunciations of kanjis are less close to Mandarin than Cantonese words are, but again there is an association, which may not be evident to untrained ears but takes very little time to get used to.

Other than vocabulary and the writing system, the two languages are fundamentally different, in terms of grammars, the other two writing systems, and the philosophies of constructing the languages as a whole. I guess my take on the particular 'relation'(not necessarily a linguistic one to you) between Japanese and Chinese languages is, it is significantly easier for a Chinese speaking person to learn Japanese than non-asian language speakers and vice versa. After all vocabulary and characters are big difficulties for non-Japanese speakers in general.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/davidvdb
davidvdb
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One of the three Japanese scripts (Kanji) is basically the Chinese script. Apart from this, the two languages are almost completely different. (And please change the title!)

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/HoneyBadger1016

Gah, my little sister was playing with my account again (I went to get a sandwich and she was on my laptop)!

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/HoneyBadger1016

But thanks for answering, haha. :)

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/KaitlynV.Ellis

No, for the most part they are completely different. I have a friend who's parents are both from China, although she was born in America. As a result she can speak Cantonese, Mandarin, and English. So, I'm willing to bet that she definitely knows the difference. (Also, your profile pic. is AWESOME! I LOVE LEO VALDEZ!)

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/HoneyBadger1016
<h1>Aw, yeah, Leo Valdez is sick. Thanks for commenting. :D</h1>
2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/KaitlynV.Ellis

You're welcome. (Just don't burn anything. ;])

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/HoneyBadger1016

Lol, totally. :D

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/KaitlynV.Ellis

XD (Hmmmm. Trying to think of some good Leo quotes. But after all there is such a vide variety of them that it shouldn't be hard. By the way, just a question, have you read the whole series? It's okay if you haven't, it just nice to see someone else that likes the heroes of Olympus. :D)

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/stephapus
stephapus
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I am a native Cantonese speaker.

I personally cannot understand any spoken Japanese outside of basic phrases I picked up from my friends who love anime and manga (like arigatou and so on) - not because it shares any similarity in this sense with the Chinese language. As other users mentioned, there are some common representations with retained meanings of written words between the languages; a simple example of this would be 口 ("mouth") - so a Japanese speaker may find writing easier to learn than speaking any dialect of Chinese. And yes, Japanese and Chinese are related, in a sense how English is related to German (in pseudocreobotra's great example!).

In addition to this, I would like to say that the word "Chinese" is quite vague when describing the languages spoken and written in China and Hong Kong - Chinese encompasses the spoken languages of Cantonese and Mandarin, which are both quite different from each other. Cantonese has 8 different intonations in which you can pronounce something while Mandarin has 4. The system of writing that some people have referred to as kanji or symbols here is actually called Hanji, and once again, there are two major systems of writing, not limited to either types of Chinese. There is traditional writing (which boasts a very complicated writing system with many strokes) and there is simplified (which is, as the title suggests, much simpler than the traditional - however, it is still quite different from Japanese).

In summary, knowing an Asian language would definitely be helpful when learning another Asian language. It also depends on the person themselves on whether they find it easy or not - some people have a natural affinity for languages while some others may dislike even the concept of learning them :p

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/draquila

English and German are very closely related, both being part of the West Germanic branch of the Germanic branch of the Indo-European family, whereas Japanese and Chinese are not related at all. Japanese is a Japonic language, which means it's related only to the languages of Okinawa. Some would argue that it's part of a larger language family with Korean and Turkish but I think this theory is usually considered to be discredited. On the other hand, Chinese is a Sino-Tibetan language. I don't know much about this family, but I do know it's unrelated to the Japonic family.

They do share some features, like counter words, but their similarities are not at all comparable to the similarities between English and German. For example, in Japanese (some) adjectives are conjugated for tense, and verbs not just for tense but also for concepts expressed in English with words like "can" and "if," but in Chinese there is no inflection of any kind.

On a side note, I think that Japanese kanji are largely the same as traditional character forms, but there are definitely some forms which were revised after the war and a few characters that are unique to Japanese.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/HoneyBadger1016

cool! :)

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/SuperSquashMann
SuperSquashMann
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As someone learning (Mandarin) Chinese with a bit of Japanese experience, in some manners it's actually more difficult than starting from only English. I often mix up Chinese pronunciations of the characters with their Japanese equivalents; For example, 二 is pronounced "èr" in Chinese, but "ni" in Japanese, which happens to sound similar to the word for "you" in Chinese. Maybe the experience is different for a fluent speaker, but it can be quite confusing.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/bfoshizzle
bfoshizzle
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To put this in perspective, it might be helpful to think about language families. English is part of the Indo-European language family (which includes languages as diverse as French, Russian, Spanish, Persian, Hindi, Bengali, German, Greek, Irish, Kurdish, Punjabi, and lots of others) while Chinese languages are in the Sino-Tibetan language family (along with Burmese and Tibetan languages), and Japanese is mostly by itself in the Japonic language family (along with a few much-less-spoken languages; though it's sometimes considered to be a part of the Macro-Altaic family, which would include Turkish, Mongolian, Korean, and many others, but this isn't a very common idea). If you were to look at it this way, than Chinese and Japanese are more distantly related than English is to Bengali, Farsi, or Russian. Japanese may borrow quite a lot of words from Chinese (just as Turkish (a Turkic language) borrows from French or Arabic), and Japanese uses a writing system based on Chinese writing, but that doesn't mean they're very similar.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/halek10
halek10
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I think a Japanese speaker would have a big advantage in terms of learning vocabulary. The pronunciation is basically nothing alike (compare Chinese xué with Japanese gaku for 学), and you're better off expecting to start from scratch there. That said, there are heaps of cognates, so for a lot of the words you just have to learn a new pronunciation. It's kind of like learning that the French for "review" is révision. It doesn't sound like the English word "revision," and the meaning isn't exactly the same, but it's easy to remember, and you just have to work on your phlegmy "r" and nasal "on."

You also don't have to do nearly as much work in terms of learning how to write, although be forewarned that simplified Chinese characters can look very different from their Japanese versions.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/bfoshizzle
bfoshizzle
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I would imagine learning Chinese from Japanese would be relatively more difficult than learning Greek from English. A lot of words in English come from ancient Greek, but the languages are still very different from one another (and they're still in the same language family). I would imagine that learning Chinese writing from Japanese writing would require a lot more effort than an English speaker learning to use the Greek (or Cyrillic) alphabet. While a Japanese speaker may have some potentially large advantages over an English speaker in learning a Chinese language, it would only represent a fraction of the time it takes to learn the language.

2 years ago