"יפנית היא לא כמו סינית!"
Translation:Japanese is not like Chinese!
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I’ve studied both and let me tell you, I’ve come across people here who are completely amazed that they’re different. Back when I was in middle school I met a guy who was amazed that Japanese and Chinese people couldn’t understand each other’s languages, and in high school when I demonstrated the differences in sound to a few of my peers they were astounded to discover how incredibly different they sounded.
For the record: Japanese has a more fluent rhythm and a phonology that makes it sound like a mix between Spanish, Italian, and Finnish, more or less. Chinese is more sing-songy with heavier syllables. Also, syntax-wise they are very different, with Japanese using subject-object-verb and Chinese using subject-verb-object (with some odd caveats).
(Speaking as someone who has extended beginner knowledge of Japanese and a basic idea of what Chinese looks like.)
Funny that you call Japanese rhythm ‘fluent’, because the fact that its pronunciation is based on syllable divisions (or more correctly, morae) make it sound somewhat ‘jerky’ to me. (Not saying this in a pejorative way at all.)
Nevertheless, as TeribleT and DerAndereLerner say, there is a big aspect of similarity between Japanese and Chinese, and that is the logogram writing system (the characters being called kanji in Japanese and Hanzi in Chinese; and hanja in Korean, by the way). I even stumbled upon an English-speaking teacher of Japanese who referred to these characters as ‘Chinese characters’.
The importation of these Chinese characters in Japanese even led to an influence in pronunciation, which can be seen through the concept of kun’yomi and on’yomi: the former means the native Japanese pronunciation(s) of a character, while the latter designates the borrowed (and adapted) Chinese pronunciation(s) of that character. Which can make it difficult sometimes to guess how a written word will be pronounced. (But hey, to be frank, I find Hebrew’s lack of vowels somewhat even more disturbing, although that may just be me. ;))
They are somewhat similar. Enough so that Japanese can pick out words. You wouldn't get the same result if you asked a Japanese speaker to translate sentences from Russian or French. Those are completely dissimilar. YouTuber "that Japanese man Yuta" asked Japanese people on the street, if they can read Chinese sentences (Cantonese) , he is trying to do a separate video for Mandarin. https://youtu.be/-E6vHCT0wpw
I agree that the pronunciation sounds very different, but one can notice some similarities for some characters or even words through on’yomi pronunciation. Yet, the number of Japanese sounds is so much lower that the adaptation may be hard to hear most of the time (think of a file compression that turns an image into a pixellated one, or a sound into a ‘blocky’ one).
On a side note, contrary to Chinese and several other Asian languages, Japanese is not a tonal language, which seems to be a rarity in this region of the world. (Although Japanese does have ‘pitch accent’, but this is an almost word-wise notion rather than sentence-wise.)