If you’re interested in learning more about Chinese and Japanese language, this article is a great starting point discussing various differences between the languages.
Chinese and Japanese are two incredibly beautiful languages that each bring their own individual challenges when it comes to learning them, or even implementing them in subtitles or voice overs as part of a business project.
Whether you’re considering learning either language, thinking of using Chinese or Japanese voiceovers, or even if you’re just curious, it’s interesting to know about the main differences between these two fascinating languages. Let’s take a closer look:
1. Chinese Is Much More Widely Spoken
You may assume that Japanese and Chinese are equally popular languages, when in fact, there are many more Chinese speakers than Japanese speakers. At present there are 1.31 billion people who speak Chinese (including all types) and 126 million who speak Japanese.
2. Japanese Language Is The “Newest”
The Japanese language comes from a rich cultural mix of Chinese and Buddhist influences and came after the Chinese language, which has roots as far back as 3,000 years ago.
3. Tones & No Tones
Japanese languages have no tones at all and the pronunciation itself is very simple. Every syllable’s length is identical, each containing a vowel and a consonant.
4. Japanese Uses Three Writing Systems
Japanese uses three writing scripts which are; Kanji, Hiragana and Katakana. Each type has a different ‘job’ with Kanji forming the main meaning and content of a sentence. The grammatical aspect of the sentence is then written in Hiragana, and any foreign language words or names are written with Katakana.
Chinese, however, only uses one writing system which is called Hanzi. This is the classic and traditional writing system Chinese writing is based on. This system has been simplified within the last 60 years to form a simplified Chinese script. This isn’t a different writing style, but rather a version of Hanzi easier to learn and improve overall levels of literacy in the language.
5. Japanese Is Read Differently To Chinese
In Chinese there are sometimes multiple ways to read different Hanzi characters. With Japanese, there can be multiple ways to read any one character in Kanji, with one single character being read potentially in over 5 different ways sometimes.
6. There Are Social Forms Of Japanese
Chinese doesn’t really have many social forms of language compared to Japanese, which has many. Polite speech in Japanese is called Keigo of which there are three types depending on how formal the situation is. You can have humble, honorific and polite Keigo. So, when it comes to translation, Japanese can be really complex because you may need to understand the context in which the language was spoken, and by whom, in order to translate it correctly.
7. Japanese Grammar Is More Complex
In Chinese, Hanzi characters are used and various aspects of the grammar only have one form, whereas Japanese uses Hiragana, which offers more grammatical possibilities and is therefore more complex.
8. Sentence Structure Is Different
The sentence structure in Chinese is similar to English and consists of “SVO” which represents; subject, verb and the potential for an object. Japanese sentence structure is instead “SOV” which represents; subject, any objects if relevant and then the verb at the end.
Whilst Japanese and Chinese have many things in common, such as aspects of the language honorifics, name order, numbers and language characters, the differences are really interesting. As with any language, an understanding of its origins and culture can help make learning it a much more enjoyable experience.
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