Is it harder to learn Chinese or Japanese?
If you’re deciding what Asian language to study, or just wondering about the difficulty of language learning, you may have asked yourself, “Is it harder to learn Chinese or Japanese?”
This is an interesting question! First of all, for native speakers of English, both Chinese and Japanese are both categorized into the highest level of language learning difficulty by the Defense Language Institute and Foreign Service Institute. The level of difficulty is based on the amount of study time it would take a native English speaker to learn various foreigner languages. That is, the more time it takes for them to “absorb” the materials in a language, the more difficult level the language is put in.
So which is more “difficult?” And why are they more difficult? Let’s take a side by side look at Chinese and Japanese in terms of grammar, characters, and pronunciation.
Which parts of Chinese and Japanese are hard?
Chinese grammar is relatively easy, even when compared to English. There is no tense or conjugation in Chinese. On the other hand, there is in Japanese, not to mention the notorious “honorifics,” is especially challenging for foreigners. As for characters, the Japanese “kanji” did originate from Chinese characters, so they both have characters that are of a similar difficulty level. However, one also needs to learn “kana” (Japanese script-hiragana and katakana) when studying Japanese.
In terms of pronunciation, Japanese may be relatively easier for native English speakers since it is not a tonal language and it does not have some unique sounds such as “c”, “zhi“, “chi”, “q” in Mandarin. Since Mandarin has tones and more unusual pronunciations, it will definitely be harder in this aspect.
Summary: Learn Chinese or Japanese
In a nutshell, each of the languages has its difficult parts. Choosing which is “more difficult” will vary from person to person because some people are naturally better at tones, while others may be more adept at memorizing and writing kana or characters. To some, Japanese grammar might seem complicated. To others, they may actually enjoy it and find it simple.
So the answer is, either language could be harder depending on what strengths and weaknesses you have as a learner.
The Next Step
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