Send Flowers to Iran AND Persian Carpets to Japan

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Which is more difficult: Japanese or Chinese?

I’m interested in both Japanese and Chinese and I can speak and understand both to some level.

After 3 years of living in Japan without formal Japanese courses, and a year of living in China, I realized that Japanese is harder to sound natural and native than Chinese. I still sound like a retard when I speak in Japanese. For Chinese, there are many instances when I talk to the locals and they don't get my tones so get flustered but when I found my bearing I can converse much more fluidly.

The most difficult thing I encouter when learning Japanese is that the lessons on textbooks and schools are retarded compared to what is actually spoken. Have you ever heard anyone say the following?

私はあなたにえんぴつをあげる。(Watashi ha anata ni empitsu wo ageru)

I swear that you will never, ever hear this sentence in your entire life. In fact, 90% of the time 私 (Watashi) and (あなた)Anata are not used. Compared this to Chinese where 我 (wo) and 你 (Ni) are commonly heard from a regular conversation. The lack of subjects usage in Japanese is a hurdle which until now I find difficult to overcome.

Some people have the wrong idea that since Mandarin uses 4 tones (+ 1 neutral tone) then it is much harder than Japanese which is mostly flat. But the truth is, the tonal foundation is an advantage in the long run. I believe that languages are better learned through the ears than through the eyes (a proof of which is that deaf people cannot make themselves understood), and hence devoting a long time in learning the tones and the music of Chinese produces the long-term result.

My last complain on Japanese is that there are so many readings for a certain character compared to Chinese which has at most 2 readings for some of its characters. Take for example:

行 - Could be read as kou, kyou, gyou, an, i..ku, yu..ku, okona..u/i in Japanese

行 - Only Xing2 and Hang2 in Chinese

Anyway, I still hope that one day I can speak both languages fluently and even be able to translate from Japanese to Chinese and vice versa.

30 HIT back:

Philippines Travel Blog said...

This two languages makes me sick.. I think i should stick to my bad English :D

junjun said...

Japanese is easy for me but the zhi, ji, shi, qi sounds are quite confusing.plus xu, shu- what is the difference??

Mos said...

Hi babe, nice post but I disagree. Japanese is easier too.

Sara* said...

heeyyy ;p
let me get this straight, now ur living in china??
cuz my aunt lives there and she says the language is pretty easy... easier than japanese.
but doesnt it differ from place to place? i mean the talk in beijing is different from other places in china.. am i right?
anyway... i was an expat wife for 17 years.. now im in my country having fun and the expat life is over :)

shizukuxp said...

Chinese is the most difficult language, i'd also rather study 3 european language which are more useful. Spanish, Italian, and even French are quite easy.

foongpc said...

Hi, thanks for dropping by my blog. As for your request to exchange link, I'm fine with it. Have placed you under "Blogs I Follow" : )

foongpc said...

Who is the one speaking in this post? Mos or Nikou?

I find learning Mandarin quite difficult even though I'm a Chinese! I always get all those 4 tones all mixed up! But I can speak Cantonese which they say have more than 5 tones! LOL!

bluedreamer27 said...

for me it would be Chinese
i once worked with a japanese company so im quite familar with them
Happy Easter!!!

莫斯 said...

日语不太难,但是我也会说中文。

Kelly said...

Hi guys,

I saw your post on my blog so I wanted to let you know that I've added a link to your blog from mine. :)

I'd like to add that both languages are hard but for different reasons. Mandarin may have a simpler grammar and fewer readings for each character but you need to learn a lot more characters to be comfortable reading a newspaper or book. Tones and pronunciation aren't too difficult if you practice enough. One of the things I used to find hard about learning Mandarin was learning new vocabulary. I find it harder to memorise disyllabic words (most words in Mandarin seem to be 2 characters long). Japanese words seem more like normal words to me...if that makes any sense. :)

Japanese grammar is a lot more complicated but it's not incredibly difficult either. Speaking fluently is a real challenge, though, and I find it hard to memorise the "on" and "kun" readings of kanji. I also find it hard to remember the various politeness levels...spoken Japanese can be very VERY different to the language you learn from books or language classes!

jinsei said...

Damn, stupid blogger ate my post... Well here's a shorter summary:

Hi, I saw your post on my blog and this is an interesting article. I have to say that although Japanese pronunciation is similar to English in terms of phonetics, it's not taught very well in the classroom. The Japanese have a sort of tonal pronunciation where they vary the pitch during the utterance of a word. And that is almost never taught in the classroom, but without it you sound like a retard (literally).

Chinese is certainly easier to learn once you get past the hurdles of pinyin/pronunciation and the characters, but I wonder how much of that is due to sucky methods on the Japanese side...

Steve said...

Hey, this is Steve from stevesayskanpai.wordpress.com. Thanks for your post on my site.

I understand your points, but I think I've overcome some of the difficulties you describe in Japanese. Firstly, in my two years in Japan I hung out with lots of Japanese friends, and for a while dated a Japanese girl who didn't speak English. This meant I was communiating in Japanese a lot, and got used to the differences between formal/polite/"textbook" Japanese and casual/everyday Japanese.

Secondly, although you are right about the pronunciation of kanji in Japanese, there are maybe double the amount of characters to learn in Chinese to become fluent. Also you have to remember the tones which- although you say aren't that big I deal- I personally found quite difficult when I was travelling in China.

Still, theres no doubt that both languages are a bitch to learn compared to other European languages!

Steve

Mr. Thoughtskoto said...

hello mos and nikou, added your blogs to the KABLOGS - aggregating site of the Pinoy Bloggers Abroad at http://thoughtsmoto.blogspot.com
under ASIA and the PACIFIC Region

Sardonyx said...

For me, both are hard to learn hehehe. My daughter knows how to speak and write Japanese and she's learning Korean through the internet and by watching Korean novelas and Chinese as well of course by watching Taiwanese novelas too hehehe. She said she's having a hard time learning Chinese than Japanese (maybe her advantage w/ Japanese is that she's here in Japan LOL). By the way she's taking up Japanese 4 now in school and she's practicing it by talking to her Japanese friends (emailing and texting too).

Well, good enough for you if you speak Chinese and Japanese unlike me, stuck to english and Filipino :-)

S said...

I've studied both and both are difficult but I think Japanese is easier to pronounce but much harder to read (since there are 3 scripts and the kanji can be read different ways depending on context).

http://shanghaiexpatlife.blogspot.com

Henrik Falck said...

Hi, thanks for you comment on my blog post regarding learning Chinese from Japanese! I found your post very interesting. Your perspective is a little bit different from mine. To me it seems like Chinese is a bit easier to master than Japanese - but I already know the Japanese kanji quite well which is a huge advantage when learning Chinese (at least in the beginning). Anyway, good luck with your studies of both languages!

Mos and Nikou said...

Jinsei - now I'm reviewing my pronunciations of Japanese. Another problem of mine is that whenever I talk to my husband, I usually baby talk and messed up the language even more.

Mos and Nikou said...

Steve - In my two years in Japan I hung out with lots of Japanese friends, and for a while dated a Japanese girl who didn't speak English. This meant I was communiating in Japanese a lot, and got used to the differences between formal/polite/"textbook" Japanese and casual/everyday Japanese. When I was in Japan, I wasn't fortunate to date a Japanese boy that I like and doesn't speak the English. Everyone seems to only want me to teach them English. ;-(

Mos and Nikou said...

Kelly - I find it harder to memorise disyllabic words (most words in Mandarin seem to be 2 characters long). Japanese words seem more like normal words to me...if that makes any sense. :)
Now that I think about it, everything is really bisyllabic. It would have been a lot easier if they just make longer words and remove the confusion on similar words with different tones.

Mos and Nikou said...

Hi S,
Thanks for visiting. We almost have the same blog URL??

http://shanghaiexpatlife.blogspot.com

Mos said...

Congratulations babe!

caryn said...

hahaha! i studied chinese in hs, but i still cannot get it ;-) i think its because we never spoke it at home. in tokyo though, i think the immersion in the culture helps a bit. hehehe. pero i'm far from fluent pa ;-)

Mos and Nikou said...

Hi Ate Caryn,

Thanks for visiting. I didn't know you also studied in a Chinese school.

Btw, Thanks for updating us on the Life in Japan. Your posts and pics are great as ever.

Blackie007 said...

I can relate! I tried learning Japanese, using the books plus the Pimsleur series, but the actual words spoken are different!!

And I found it hard to understand the Japanese movies as the watashi and anata are missing, too, besides other words.

It may be due to my ignorance, but I kind of felt that Japanese sentences are too abbreviated....they don't speak complete sentences! I hope I'm wrong, though.

Disney said...

good analysiz of 2 languages. i learn them both but cannot speak still. ~~)

Expatriates said...

I don't know Japanese but i know English, Hindi and Chinese.

Viagra Online said...

I've been thinking on take a Japanese course but I would like to learn Chinese too but I've could decide which will be better and useful for a job.Generic Viagra Buy Viagra

Daniel said...

I have found a great product cure for this problem or to learn Japanese .  My friend recommended me to visit http://tinyurl.com/ucanspeakjapanese

Anonymous said...

don't worry korean grammar is more complicated than japanse grammar. they are simliar but korean i sjust more complicated :)

Anonymous said...

Hate to say this to you but I've never heard a foreigner who could speak Chinese without sounding weird. Perhaps no one told you while you were in China. Oops.