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Learning Chinese before/after/at the same time as Japanese as an L2


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mungouk

I'm sure this has been covered before many times, but let's get up to date on studying both Chinese AND Japanese as a second or other language (L2).

 

There must be people here who have the same questions (and hopefully answers)....

 

  • If you're already at HSK level X, would you know JLPT Kanji at Level Y?
  • How do you manage knowing Hanzi pronunciation in Chinese vs kun'yomi and on'omi pronunciation of JP Kankji?
  • What are the JP equivalents of the great APPs and websites that we already know for learning Chinese?

 

etc...

 

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Insectosaurus

One thing you could try is having the audio on front in Anki, if you're using Anki that is. That way you will get used to the sounds and internalize the readings of kanji. Another way is to convert kunyomi words to kana. Since you already know the characters it shouldn't much of a problem for you, with enough immersion, to connect hikigaeru to the character for frog, to take a simple example.

 

I don't know my HSK or JLPT level, but I can safely say Chinese learners don't know how lucky they are that Pleco exists... I've found no Japanese app that comes even close.

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alantin

I began studying Japanese about 20 years ago and did a lot of Character and writing study over a number of years in the beginning using "Remembering the Kanji" by James Heisig and various other methods coupled with Anki. For character study I remember https://kanji.koohii.com/ being a really good site to use coupled with the Heisig books. They however don't really offer anything in regards to remembering the readings and my own take on that has mostly been to to remember the readings along with words. There was a method called "Kanji Town" too which was basically another memory palace with locations and characters in your "town" reminding you of the on/kun yomi.


Other than that, I don't think I can offer much good advice for Japanese learning resources since all my experiences are already quite dated.
 

I reached a point where I could read books and news papers and understand them while not knowing how to pronounce all words on a page, but later my focus has been completely in spoken language and I have used it daily with my wife and Japanese friends for ten years now. as a result I don't have any trouble following Japanese movies, variety shows, television shows, news, audio books, etc. and I speak in quite a local dialect and accent too, which the Japanese often find quite amusing. I took JLPT N2 about five years ago and could probably have a shot at passing N1 too, but to pass it comfortably, I would need to brush up on my reading and characters. I haven't really found the JLPT N1 that interesting for me as Japanese doesn't really have any professional value for me and I can already do pretty much anything I want to do in Japanese. However, maybe I'll give N1 a shot at some point and it would be interesting to see if learning to read Chinese at a high level helps with Japanese. Currently 100% of my focus is in Chinese though and I already found out at some point that trying to learn two languages at the same time really isn't for me.

 

However, prior knowledge of Kanji has been extremely useful for me while learning Chinese during the last three years. It took me a little getting used to the simplified characters and they make remembering and guessing readings and meanings quite easy. During conversations with tutors I can often understand the meaning of a new unfamiliar word from context and seeing the characters without looking it up in a dictionary. Also the on yomi sometimes work as crutches for remembering a a character reading, but it's not really something I rely on. One thing that, at least for me, make Chinese light years easier than Japanese is that the characters have far fewer readings. In comparison Chinese is so logical, simple and straightforward that it is a true pleasure to study! In comparison Japanese writing has always been a jungle filled with trip wires for me..

Kun yomi are essentially Japanese stems of words attached to Chinese characters with the okurigana to show the inflections etc. with no relation to Chinese so I don't really see how there could be any help from prior Chinese knowledge for learning them. However, I also find them a lot easier to remember than the on yomi which feel a lot more "random" to me in Japanese.

Essentially any advice I can give for learning written Japanese is to read a lot and maybe use something like lingQ to get going. Learning readings with memorization techniques doesn't really feel to me anywhere even close as effective as just getting a lot of exposure to the language and picking them up along the way. And also remember to check every word you're not sure about! You can't assume the reading and even my Japanese wife, who is very well read by the way, says that she has about 50/50 chance of guessing the readings right for a word she hasn't seen before but knows the characters for. Names are even more irregular.

The "good news" is that westerners studying Japanese often find it that Chinese people pick up reading really fast compared to them due to their previous knowledge of the characters and my experiences learning to read Chinese seem to confirm this too. It is a lot easier to just attach new readings to characters that are familiar to you already, than to learn completely new characters including meaning, reading, writing, use, etc. without no previous knowledge to help you along.

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carlo

I started Japanese when my Chinese was already fairly advanced (ie my first textbooks and class were in Chinese). If you do it that way I think it works well. I can imagine that learning Japanese as an adult without already knowing the Kanji must truly feel like learning two languages at once!

 

You kind of have to abandon the Chinese idea that there is (more or less) a 1-to-1 correspondence between syllable, meaning and character. English is also like that -- if you're a learner of English, and come across a new word in written form for the first time, there's no guarantee you'll get it right. Luckily, things are much easier now thanks to Youtube, apps etc, so the idea is to always get an audio reference when you can. This guy's channel for example is a goldmine

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alantin
16 hours ago, carlo said:

If you do it that way I think it works well. I can imagine that learning Japanese as an adult without already knowing the Kanji must truly feel like learning two languages at once!

You kind of have to abandon the Chinese idea that there is (more or less) a 1-to-1 correspondence between syllable, meaning and character.


@carlo, definitely! And when doing it the other way around, Chinese delights you every day with this simplicity! 😂
In my case my first Chinese tutor was a Chinese/Japanese bi-lingual and I had lessons for a couple of months with her in Japanese. She was awesome at explaining differences between Japanese and Chinese languages and cultures and access to such a teacher who could use one of her native languages to teach the other one was definitely one perk in approaching Chinese from the Japanese context.

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Lu
17 hours ago, alantin said:

There seems to be two threads with the same title now..

I merged the two threads, and @alantin I took the liberty of deleting the copied part of your second post.

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mungouk
On 6/7/2021 at 2:25 AM, carlo said:

I can imagine that learning Japanese as an adult without already knowing the Kanji must truly feel like learning two languages at once!

 

Well... maybe 3 languages at once! 🙈

 

I started this thread because I thought there must be a strong synergy between learning Japanese and Chinese side-by-side. I teach Chinese college students, many of whom choose to learn Japanese, and I envy the fact that they can look at a character and "know" (hopefully) the meaning, even if they don't remember the on'yomi or kun'yomi pronunciations.  

 

My current plan is to go for JLPT N5 in December 2021, just as a simple first goal, meanwhile working on HSK 5 which I'll probably do in February 2022, or maybe just before Spring Festival. Actually, from a first glance at the Kanji that you have to know for N5, most of them are very easy to know if you can already recognise Hanzi, bearing in mind that many of them look like the traditional forms rather than simplified (which I've been learning).  Going from something like 天气 → 天気 is pretty trivial though, and even the pronunciation is almost the same.

 

I'm only at beginner level in Japanese. In 2008-09 I first did 3 semesters in evening classes in Edinburgh, Scotland (Moray House RIP), and then took my first trip to Japan. Which I loved, but... the Kanji threw me right off. Restaurant menus... ohh!  I had a very basic grasp of Kana at that time and knew no Kanji at all.  This put me off quite a bit.

 

Later when I'd moved to Sydney I took up evening classes again and the teacher was wonderful... I jumped straight into Kana and started learning some Kanji independently on wakikani.com. I probably only knew about 100 kanji at that point. But that helped a bit when I came to starting with Chinese a few years later.

 

Ever since then I've wanted to get back into Japanese while also studying Chinese, but was afraid that it would fry my brain somehow!  I think @amytheorangutan and I almost discussed as much at one point.

 

Anyway, I recently started having Japanese lessons again via italki.com... only one a week, "for fun", and I'm surprised how much vocabulary is suddenly springing back from my subconscious.

 

To get to the point, I don't think my brain is being fried (yet) at all... Japanese is obviously a very different language from Chinese, and apart from the writing system, and maybe things like particles and classifiers (also common to other East Asian languages) it's relatively easy to differentiate. Apart from the standard L2/L3 interference problem. 

 

So... those of you who went from Chinese to Japanese... are there any textbooks in Chinese you would recommend?  What level of Chinese do you think you'd need to be able to use them?

Any recommendations for dictionaries etc?  Someone already mentioned the lack of something like Pleco for Chinese... what's the best equivalent tool out there? 

ありがとうございます!

 

 

 

 

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alantin
28 minutes ago, mungouk said:

Any recommendations for dictionaries etc?  Someone already mentioned the lack of something like Pleco for Chinese... what's the best equivalent tool out there? 


I don't know about electronic ones, but this is a pretty good online one: https://jisho.org/

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carlo
1 hour ago, mungouk said:

and then took my first trip to Japan. Which I loved, but... the Kanji threw me right off. Restaurant menus... ohh! 

My first trip to Japan was in early 2000.... I could read almost anything (well the 漢字 part) but couldn't say a word to anyone, which drove me absolutely crazy!

 

The iphone app Midori isn't Pleco but does the job, anything beyond that I usually go for the monolingual dictionary on my Mac. Satori Reader is also cool. Moji辞書 is pretty good.

 

My textbooks are too old, I assume you don't want to learn about agricultural communes. If I were to do it all over again, I'd get the grammar/ basic rules out of the way (the Basic Japanese series* from Japan Times in English is brilliant) and then just use all the free Ch/Jp bilingual resources on Youtube and Bilibili, it'll take ten years to watch them all.

 

* Edit: "A dictionary of Basic Japanese Grammar"

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alantin
36 minutes ago, carlo said:

I could read almost anything (well the 漢字 part) but couldn't say a word to anyone, which drove me absolutely crazy!


That’s not too much... I doubt anyone here will be able to get what my wife sent to me a little while ago without being able to read the kana: ”今思い出したけどその辺りマルチーズの夏のイベントあるんちゃう?”

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Insectosaurus
1 hour ago, carlo said:

Midori

 

I'm pretty sure Midori, like most other Japanese apps just use the same Jmdict community based dictionary, but I'm guessing it's the functions that make Midori more popular than a lot of other competitors. For those who still use the cdict (or whatever it's called) Midori, Jisho etc. are very good recommendations. There is a way to get good dictionaries in your web browser (through Yomichan) but I would wish there was a more legal way to do it, like Pleco for Chinese.

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amytheorangutan
17 hours ago, mungouk said:

Ever since then I've wanted to get back into Japanese while also studying Chinese, but was afraid that it would fry my brain somehow!  I think @amytheorangutan and I almost discussed as much at one point.

Yes, I tried to start Japanese last year but then I got swamped, not related to the languages themselves but I just didn't have enough time to devote to both and if I reduce my Chinese study time I regress quite a bit because my Chinese is not good enough for me to just read/listen/watch leisurely. I still have to use quite a lot of brain power and time to study new words plus I'm so bad at multi tasking, so I bench Japanese at the moment. 

 

So since I'm a total beginner I read this explanation about kanji last year (read the reply by Rey Curtiss) which I think is really helpful to know before I start learning Japanese how the language uses the characters. It might be obvious to intermediate learners but for beginner it's helpful to know since there are so many different pronunciation attached to kanji and might be overwhelming. 

 

 

 

 

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mungouk

When I was focusing on Japanese (before I ever started to learn Chinese), I used wanikani.com to learn Kanji. I liked it and happily subscribed for a year.

 

It's very mnemonic-based, and at the time it worked for me... up to about about 100 Kanji.

 

Now I have a much better understanding of Chinese Hanzi, I'm slightly wary of going back to this mnemonic-based approach... I don't use this method for Hanzi but rather focus on understanding sound components and meaning components. Obviously I have a lot of new learning to do, since Japanese uses traditional characters or variants. 

 

Does anyone have experience of learning both?

 

I think what I'm trying to dig at here is this:

  1. If you're coming to Japanese as a complete beginner (maybe never learned any other language ever ever, or at least one that used a non-Latin alphabet) how is this different from being an experienced language learner?
  2. If you've already spent time learning Chinese/Hanzi, what's a good approach to learning Japanese/Kanji, given what you already know?

 

 

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NinjaTurtle

Amy,

 

The only way to learn Japanese 'kanji" is to take them one step at a time. Feel free to ask any question on kanji and I will help you with it.

 

I read the article you posted, a link to Italki. Did you understand what they said about 本? The link has one big mistake concerning 本. Did you find the mistake? Do you have any questions about the various readings for 本?

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carlo
On 6/7/2021 at 6:29 PM, alantin said:

That’s not too much... I doubt anyone here will be able to get what my wife sent to me a little while ago

Haha good point. I was thinking of restaurant menus, street signs.... I remember even back then, I could understand a surprising amount

 

It's much easier to learn Japanese kanji after you're familiar with the corresponding hanzi. A random example, if you already know that a factory product that's passed quality control is 合格 in Chinese, it won't be hard to remember that passing an exam in Japanese (goukaku suru) is written as 合格する. Much better than trying to remember all of 合's readings in isolation...

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alantin

That is true. The more ”official” a text is, the more of it will be in kanji. 😊

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amytheorangutan
12 hours ago, NinjaTurtle said:

 

The only way to learn Japanese 'kanji" is to take them one step at a time. Feel free to ask any question on kanji and I will help you with it.

 

I read the article you posted, a link to Italki. Did you understand what they said about 本? The link has one big mistake concerning 本. Did you find the mistake? Do you have any questions about the various readings for 本?

Hi there, thanks for the offer to help, when I pick up Japanese again I will definitely take up on your offer. I'm not currently studying Japanese for the time being as I don't have the time.

 

Yes, it's a link to Italki question. However, the main point of my post is not the original question about the character 本 and I did notice the person asking the question said ホンis pronounce "hoso" which should be "hon". The thing I was pointing at is the reply below the question, which is not specifically related to 本 but just an explanation of the broader picture of how kanji is used in the language which is helpful for beginners to understand before just randomly memorising each pronunciation of all kanji. It's always helpful to know the mechanic of it, just like I think it is useful to know how majority of hanzi works in Chinese with the meaning and sound components etc. I think seeing the bigger picture as a beginner helps you choose the learning method you use to learn the characters and just make it that little bit less confusing. 

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Anica

I am not the best person to ask as I learnt both Chinese (first) and Japanese (afterwards) in a rather unorganized way. But I can now read easy Japanese novels.
 

What worked well for me was the Chinese textbook set 新标准日本语, which exists at the beginner, intermediate and advanced level. It comes with an exercise book 同步练习, which I found useful and which also has extra audio recordings. The book is made for self-study and quite comprehensive, the texts are reasonably interesting (sometimes there were quite a lot of business related dialogues; sometimes you wondered why they talk so much about Chinese things and not Japanese ones; but overall it was still okay).

 

It starts with many more kanji per lesson than the western textbooks I know, which to me seems like a great plus. For me, kanji were much easier to read and remember than the (at first sight) totally unknown sounds of hiragana. I knew simplified characters quite well and tradional ones superficially, which helped a lot. Some characters are used differently, some are written differently, some are uniquely Japanese. But you have a framework in your mind to build on, so you approach them much quicker and with less awe than a total beginner. You just have to pay attention to also learn the readings of kanji and not be satisfied with only learning their meaning. An Anki deck with audio should help, as well as doing the exercises in the book. At first, I regularly mixed up both pronunciations (like 先生, which exists in both languages) but after a while you get used to it. And I would go along with the book at first: starting with vocab and not trying to learn all the different readings of a kanji right away. You may concentrate on that later on.

 

As for how much Chinese you need when working with these books (or similar ones): I would advise you to look up grammar points also with an English language book (like the Dictionary of Japanese grammar), as Japanese grammar is different from Chinese and English grammar, and really understanding the Chinese explanations was often difficult for me (partly because of the terms, partly because of a different linguistic background). The sample sentences in the grammar section, however, remain useful. You will gradually have to look up more words in the vocab sections, but that is doable and useful for both languages. There are Chinese translations of the text in the back of the book (and for all sample sentences in the grammar section) and if I did not get something in the Japanese text they often helped, even at the more advanced levels.

 

For me, what is most difficult, is allocating my limited spare time to more than one language of intensified study. It happens easily that I dedicate too much time to one and neglect the other. 

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mungouk

Thanks @Anica, that's exactly the kind of help I was looking for! And thanks for the textbook recommendation.

 

Learning the meanings of Kanji seem relatively straightforward (at least for those where the meaning is the same as Chinese, which appears to be very many of the common ones), but how about kun'yomi and on'yomi readings?  Is it possible to be systematic about that? 

 

In other words does the modern mandarin pronunciation help with knowing the kun'yomi reading, or is the connection too far back in time?  Maybe it works for, say, 70% of Kanji?

 

 

On 6/9/2021 at 5:27 AM, NinjaTurtle said:

The only way to learn Japanese 'kanji"

 

Hmmm. There's always more than one way! 🙂

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