Jump to content
Chinese-forums.com
Learn Chinese in China

Has anyone leveraged their knowledge of Chinese to learn Japanese?


黄有光
 Share

Recommended Posts

  • New Members

If so, how did it go? I'm very vaguely considering picking up Japanese sometime in the next decade. I would like free access to a more democratic culture than China, and all the music, literature, and film that Japan has to offer, and I have a dear friend who lives in Japan too. I know that, for monolingual English speakers, Japanese is ranked as a Category V* language -- the most difficult out of all Cat. V languages!  But at the same time I wonder if my knowledge of Chinese might significantly reduce the amount of time it would take to learn Japanese to an intermediate level (~25.000 word vocabulary).

 

Anyone have any input here?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Site Sponsors:
Pleco for iPhone / Android iPhone & Android Chinese dictionary: camera & hand- writing input, flashcards, audio.
Study Chinese in Kunming 1-1 classes, qualified teachers and unique teaching methods in the Spring City.
Learn Chinese Characters Learn 2289 Chinese Characters in 90 Days with a Unique Flash Card System.
Hacking Chinese Tips and strategies for how to learn Chinese more efficiently
Popup Chinese Translator Understand Chinese inside any Windows application, website or PDF.
Chinese Grammar Wiki All Chinese grammar, organised by level, all in one place.

Yes. I don't have any heritage or background from a young age in either language. I started with Chinese at the age of 22 in my Senior year of College/University. After 3 years of mainly self study I was at an advanced level in Chinese and passed HSK 6. About a year later I started to learn Japanese on my own. I learned beginner to low intermediate Japanese using textbooks written entirely in Chinese. Then I moved on to teaching conducted entirely in Japanese. Chinese made things easier because I could already recognize 95% of the characters used in Japanese even up to a business/professional level. However, it was still extremely painstaking to learn. Took 5 solid years of really hard work every day to reach a level where I could understand and function in the vast majority of situations without feeling like my Japanese still had major issues with it (though I don't think it will ever be perfect.  

 

The hard work was worth it, but it really was an extremely difficult language to learn, at least for me, even with very high level Chinese to begin with. 

 

If I could do one thing differently, I would have just used an English textbook alongside the Chinese ones, to accelerate progress early on, avoid missing out on important grammar details and things that would have saved me a lot of trouble later. 

 

Too make a long answer short, it will help, but it won't "significantly" reduce the time it would take to learn the language to a high level of proficiency. To me it required a lot of patience and I felt like giving up many times along the way.

  • Like 1
  • Helpful 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • New Members
On 7/17/2022 at 10:12 AM, Moki said:

Took 5 solid years of really hard work every day to reach a level where I could understand and function in the vast majority of situations without feeling like my Japanese still had major issues with it (though I don't think it will ever be perfect.  

Oof, yeah that is something I was afraid of.

 

One of the things I found very easy about English-->German, and conversely very difficult about English-->Chinese, was that for the former, word definitions almost always lined up 1:1, whereas for the latter, there was very rarely a clear alignment between the different vocabularies, which made vocabulary acquisition much more difficult.

 

How is it with Chinese-->Japanese? Is there a disconnect with the vocabulary, or does the close geographic proximity of the two languages create a cultural Sprachbund effect, with much more closely aligned vocabularies?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Unfortunately outside of the Kanji, not really. And even with Kanji I'd say half the time they can't even be used in the same even if the meaning is similar in both languages, which makes things really confusing and requires building a good sense of how the language works and words are used over time. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • New Members

@Moki How about pitch accent? After a while did you find that the pitch accent of compound words is predictable based on the roots? Does the pitch accent of root words get extended in a predictable fashion over agglutinated suffixes?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I did the opposite (Japanese -> Chinese), and I found knowing Japanese helped a lot. I think it's the more helpful direction though.

 

I guess for Chinese characters and sino-japanese words there will be some help. After a while you should be able to get a grasp of the sound patterns in your head and guess sino-japanese word pronunciation to some degree...... except in Japanese there are so many different readings in the first place (but you'll get used to it), and Japanese preserves the 入声, so unless you know Cantonese or some other dialect that has them, you'll have trouble guessing these. (EDIT: Also, Mandarin had a merger of 精组 and 见组 words into j, q, x initial, in Japanese these can be like either し or か行 initial; if you know Cantonese, you can tell which is which) Note that the meaning of most Chinese words in Japanese are different from modern Chinese, or are more archaic. Learning Japanese would be more likely to help you understand the archaic Chinese really, but there are definitely a lot of vocabulary (advanced level formal/written-ish Japanese) that would come as common sense for Chinese speakers, but be difficult for Japanese learners to grasp.

 

Note that the writing of Chinese characters can be slightly different (often times ever so slightly, that you wouldn't even notice), so make sure you learn them.

 

One thing that may be helpful to know that isn't immediately apparent is, Chinese 阳声 corresponds to sino-japanese 清音, and 阴声 corresponds to 濁音 (which means words with the ゛symbol). This is again not so helpful if you only know Mandarin, as 上声 and 去声 阳阴 is merged, and Mandarin's random assignment of 入声 will confuse everything, but the takeaway message is basically tone 1 words are probably 清音, and tone 2 words are probably 濁音 (unless of course it's a 入声 word or other exception). If you know Cantonese, you can calculate whether a word is 清音 or 濁音 with good accuracy.

 

Japanese is in my very biased opinion one of the easiest languages to learn in the world because of the abundance of resources and opportunities to use the llanguage

 

EDIT: Pitch accent is completely Japanese, and unrelated to Chinese. Though knowing Chinese might help make your ears more sensitive to pitch, that's all I can say.

  • Like 1
  • Helpful 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • New Members
On 7/17/2022 at 11:55 AM, Takeshi said:

Pitch accent is completely Japanese, and unrelated to Chinese.

In Japanese, is the pitch accent of compound words predictable from the respective pitch accents of the roots?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I don't think so, but don't quote me on this. But I think compound words (as a group) have somewhat predictable pitch accent, I feel like it's often on the first mora of the second word in the compound (I actually have no idea, don't quote me on this).

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I studied Japanese in the past for a year or so - not enough to get me anywhere, but that's what eventually led to Chinese. 

From what I remember, what struck me as very hard (and differs from Chinese) is the many readings that each kanji has.  It gave me the feeling that it was impossible to learn all those variations.

Grammar is way more structured - as everyone says, it's harder - but at the same time I find it way more logical and "tidy", and there's some many more good textbooks and resources out there compared to Chinese.

 

That said, I think if I started over with Japanese now I would find it much easier compared to the past because of the approach an method I developed during my years of studying Chinese. 

For example: as a Japanese learner beginner I didn't quite understand how characters work, and I tried to learn them off a list in isolation - which was demoralizing and a complete waste of time. 

Now I feel that characters not only don't "scare" me anymore, but they are generally helpful and would be a very good knowledge foundation on which to build further knowledge.  

And note on the side, for me - being Italian native speaker - Japanese pronunciation is a million times easier than Chinese. Not sure if that applies to English speakers. 

 

It's funny that you should raise this topic as the transition from Chinese to Japanese is something I've been thinking about in recent months (I say transition because definitely I don't have time for both).

My objectives and perspectives changed so much during these years of studies, that I'm wondering whether my initial motivations for learning Chinese still hold. 

Leaving everything and go backpacking around China for years is clearly becoming less and less likely, so maybe I'd be better off switching to a language that has a lot to offer in terms of popular culture. 

 

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I did the other way around, Japanese -> Chinese.  It definitely helped being able to read the characters...but the simplified forms just looked bizarre.  Amputated.  I suppose it still comes in handy on the rare occasion I see traditional characters.  But still, these days when I infrequently see a page of Japanese, I'll scan it and still can't make out what it's saying.  Too few characters, those characters are often variants, and way too many kana.  Boy, to think I once thought the Joyo Kanji of 2,136 characters sounded like an impossible goal...😅

 

Japanese grammar is atrocious.  It's not like Chinese grammar, which gets harder the more you learn, no it hits you in the face up front.  And the readings...ouch.  How can anyone learn them all?

 

Japanese is just easier to speak and sounds cooler. Especially when girls speak it. Mandarin twists your tongue up in knots.  It can be done, but Japanese is just effortless.  It will definitely be easier to use correct word pitch when coming from Chinese to Japanese.  It's one of those things that foreigners never do right.

 

I would say that the textbooks are probably better.  Chinese textbooks are written by automatons who fail to address questions the learner will immediately have.  Japanese has had a longer time bathing in the sun of people who know what they're doing and how to explain things to a western audience.  

  • Like 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and select your username and password later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Click here to reply. Select text to quote.

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...