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Japanese Speaker Learning Chinese

Hi. I'd like to reach out and see if there are people already tredding where I'm trying to go and if you have some good pointers. I'm sorry if this has been discussed elsewhere, but in that case I just couldn't find it.

I'm a fluent japanese speaker, began learning it 15 years ago and have been using it daily for the last five, beginning to learn Chinese because recently I've started working with chinese people and am going to Shanghai for a business trip in September. This sparked my interest despite the fact that I've always dreaded Chinese in the past because of the tones, and because I didn't have much success with it ten years ago, so I'm really glad that nowadays there are a lot of great apps out there to help learning the tones too. I've actually gotten somekind of hang of them with the only downside being occasionally getting scolded by the japanese wife for making weird noises around the house.

One or two months of study in and I find myself rather enjoying the process. The grammar, up to this point atleast, is refreshingly dead simple and while I've never been great with the Chinese characters (I can read a Japanese newspaper enough to know what's going on) I find that in many cases the characters considerably speed up learning new chinese vocabulary for me. Often it's a familiar character used with a different meaning, or two character combinations being used with exactly the same meaning but with different pronunciations.

I used Duolingo up until about a week ago, when I began searching for somehting that would drill me with the tones more, and ended up with HelloChinese, which caters to a complete beginner but with a lot more limited content in the learning tree. HelloChinese also allowed me to change the characters to the traditional ones, which feel more comfortable to me. Hat's off to everyone at Duolingo for the great app, but I needed something to bridge the gap from zero to where Duolingo starts, mainly pronunciation wise for a tone-deaf person. At the moment my plan is to finnish HelloChinese (one quarter done in a week) and then go back to Duolingo with perhaps trying FluentU in the side or mabe redo HelloChinese without pinyin or with the simplified characters.

With this study, I'm sure that in September I'll be able to order coffee in Shanghai and properly greet my co-workers, but thinking long term, I'd like to ask if anyone with similiar background with Japanese here, who has reached some functional fluency in Chinese, could tell me about their experiences. I'm not aiming at C1 or C2 level but some intermediate level of fluency in a few years would be great.

Did knowing Japanese help learning Chinese? How is your Chinese and how long have you been studying it? What did you do, and do you have any tips on what to do?

Answers greatly appreciated! :)

July 13, 2018



You may also want to try the app ChineseSkill. It's free and great. I use Duolingo, HelloChinese and ChineseSkill all together. Wonderful tools.


Thank you for the tip! I'll definitely take a look at ChineseSkill.


Tones came quite easy to me and I did my best to master them. The greatest difficulty I have had were the characters and I have given up on learning to write them (after learning and partially forgetting maybe 2000). I am content with slowly learning to read more characters and being able to type them on a computer. (The way Duolingo teaches Chinese is ideal for that, but I could already read a large number of the characters in this course when it came out).

Needless to say, it would have made Chinese a lot easier if I had learned the script before (with Japanese).

  • 1440

I'm quite certain that most of the people that you'll meet with in Shanghai for your business are not native Shanghainese. Even if they are, they can still speak Mandarin.

Knowing Japanese for sure helps learning Chinese, not much in syntax but in vocabulary. That's a big plus as even with just those Kanji that you know of, I think you may be able to survive in Shanghai.

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