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Old 06-04-2013, 07:45 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tiger Beer View Post
One thing I've been curious about Chinese. Could someone learn to READ Chinese, and have no clue how to speak or comprehend it. I mean, is it possible to just study the characters, know the meaning 'in English', and more or less read/understand it based on that?

(I'm sure my question sounds crazy, but without knowing Chinese, I've long wondered that).
If you mean just to memorize how to pronounce the Chinese characters and learn to read like that without understanding the meaning, then it's technically possible, but it's probably unrealistic to do so. Who memorizes how to pronounce thousands of characters without comprehending any of them? But still, it is possible because most Chinese characters have only one reading in Mandarin Chinese. It's probably not possible in Japanese as most kanji characters have one or more on reading and one or more kun reading, and therefore one will not be able to read correctly unless one understood the sentence.

The languages one can easily read correctly without speaking or comprehending them are Spanish and German due to their highly regular spelling.
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Old 06-04-2013, 07:48 AM
 
Location: The western periphery of Terra Australis
24,683 posts, read 45,361,353 times
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I thought if one comprehended it one understands its meaning.
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Old 06-04-2013, 07:54 AM
 
Location: In the heights
22,121 posts, read 23,642,005 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by trancedout View Post
Can someone break this down for me?

I've never quite understood it. To my knowledge, Japanese & Chinese (not sure if Korean is as well) are all based off the same Kanji characters.

How is that Japanese words are typically much longer and follow a certain pattern that is not found with Chinese? How are Asian languages translated in English letters in the first place?

When the characters are all completely different, I've always wondered how they are changed into English letters, while still retaining its meaning.
Japanese words often also use a syllabary or two (sort of like an alphabet) which phonetically spells out words along with Kanji. Korean used to also have a writing system that used Hanzi (Chinese characters) that was called Hanja but that has fallen out of favor for the alphabetic Hangul system. Vietnamese is also similar in that it used to have a writing system based on Hanzi but has transitioned to an alphabet system based on the roman alphabet. An important thing to note is that these languages are not related to each other. The reason they all have or had writing systems based on Hanzi and have some superficial similarities to each other is because of the historically powerful influence of China and Chinese culture on its neighbors.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Davy-040 View Post
the Chinese talk fast+loud (like they are about to fight you) and seem to enjoy it when other people can hear their voice, the Japanese are more shy about their English and talk slow+low volume.
Somewhat true (except I don't see the fighting part), though with large regional variations. I don't think that's what's being asked though.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tiger Beer View Post
One thing I've been curious about Chinese. Could someone learn to READ Chinese, and have no clue how to speak or comprehend it. I mean, is it possible to just study the characters, know the meaning 'in English', and more or less read/understand it based on that?

(I'm sure my question sounds crazy, but without knowing Chinese, I've long wondered that).
It is possible to learn how to read and understand written Chinese without speaking any of it, if that's what you're asking.
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Old 06-04-2013, 08:41 AM
 
Location: Columbus, Ohio
1,413 posts, read 3,872,870 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tiger Beer View Post
Japanese uses kanji characters, but they also have two other alphabets entirely. One of their alphabets it to accomodate their own grammar, which is completely and totally different from Chinese altogether. The other Japanese alphabet is used ONLY for foreign words. Kind of like a 'how to pronounce this in Japanese' alphabet.

In short, Japan has three entirely different writing systems, and kanji (the chinese characters) is just one of them. But, it's the completely different grammar altogether in Japan, which makes it so much more difficult. (Korean is basically the same grammar as Japan, but everything is written in the one Hangul Korean alphabet).

Regarding grammar, Chinese grammar is relatively similar to the English grammatical style. You can just sort of translate the same words more or less in the same parts of the sentence, and have it come out kind of close. In Japanese and Korean, the entire sentence structure is reversed and backwards and upside down seemingly from English.

Translating English in Japanese/Korean I have to reverse the order of my subjects, verbs, add on little classifiers all over the place, etc. I don't know Chinese, but heard its a similar grammar to English. So I want to say "I like ice cream", I can translate 'I', 'like', 'ice cream' and keep in the same sentence order, and it sounds right. In Japanese/Korean, the verb 'like' goes at the end, and I'd have to add some type of honorific depending who I'm speaking to. The honorific goes at the end of the sentence just after the verb. 'I' and 'ice cream' would need classifiers to designate which is the subject and which is the object. In short, it's much more complicated in Japanese/Korean than Chinese. You really have to think about it, when translating them into English, because the grammar is just so completely different from English & Chinese.

This is about a good of an explanation in layman's terms as it gets folks. Another thing to remember is a shared alphabet should not be taken for literal translation.
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Old 06-04-2013, 08:43 AM
 
Location: Columbus, Ohio
1,413 posts, read 3,872,870 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tiger Beer View Post
One thing I've been curious about Chinese. Could someone learn to READ Chinese, and have no clue how to speak or comprehend it. I mean, is it possible to just study the characters, know the meaning 'in English', and more or less read/understand it based on that?

(I'm sure my question sounds crazy, but without knowing Chinese, I've long wondered that).

I am sure you can. I can read Japanese, but I am terrible at speaking and comprehending Japanese at this point. I am learning Kanji atm and the spoken language. But I have mastered hirgana and katakana.
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Old 06-04-2013, 09:23 AM
 
Location: Macao
15,945 posts, read 36,149,597 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GoldenTiger View Post
If you mean just to memorize how to pronounce the Chinese characters and learn to read like that without understanding the meaning, then it's technically possible, but it's probably unrealistic to do so. Who memorizes how to pronounce thousands of characters without comprehending any of them? But still, it is possible because most Chinese characters have only one reading in Mandarin Chinese. It's probably not possible in Japanese as most kanji characters have one or more on reading and one or more kun reading, and therefore one will not be able to read correctly unless one understood the sentence.

The languages one can easily read correctly without speaking or comprehending them are Spanish and German due to their highly regular spelling.
Opposite. I mean, NOT studying how to pronounce the Chinese characters.

So, you'd only study the characters and know what they meant, in English. So you'd have no concept of pronouncing the characters in Chinese (or Japanese) or any other pronounciation attached to the characters.

Interesting that you mentioned that Chinese only has one meaning for the characters. I don't know Japanese kanji very well, but I do know that each character can have so much varied meaning and different pronounciations, and can be compounded with other characters that again would change meaning. If that isn't like that in written Chinese, that is interesting in itself.
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Old 06-04-2013, 12:18 PM
 
810 posts, read 1,129,802 times
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I appreciate the replies, this is more complicated than I thought. To make it simpler, how do Chinese/Japanese cities become their American version?

Yokohama would be a good example...it follows the consonant-vowel-consonant-vowel pattern you see so often in Japanese when it's translated to English.

How did 横浜 become "Yokohama" in English from the original characters?

There's also a lot less variance in Chinese surnames from what I have noticed, there seem to be so many more Japanese surnames following that pattern.
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Old 06-04-2013, 12:22 PM
 
Location: NYC
90 posts, read 177,639 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tiger Beer View Post
Opposite. I mean, NOT studying how to pronounce the Chinese characters.

So, you'd only study the characters and know what they meant, in English. So you'd have no concept of pronouncing the characters in Chinese (or Japanese) or any other pronounciation attached to the characters.

Interesting that you mentioned that Chinese only has one meaning for the characters. I don't know Japanese kanji very well, but I do know that each character can have so much varied meaning and different pronounciations, and can be compounded with other characters that again would change meaning. If that isn't like that in written Chinese, that is interesting in itself.
I am sure you can learn Chinese without knowing how to pronounce it. My parents (who are Japanese) can read a Chinese newspaper to a pretty good extent without knowing the pronunciation (but they do know the structure, particles etc). I can't say for myself since I grew up learning both languages.

Also, kanji typically has only one meaning and it is more or less similar to Chinese hanzi usage-wise. The main difference is that kanji, being a borrowed writing system has an onyomi which is the "Chinese" pronunciation and kunyomi which is the Japanese one. During the Han Dynasty Chinese spread, along with Buddhism to Japan. Chinese was the court language for a long period of time and a lot of the pronunciation stuck around. It is the same with Korean though in Korean hanja is much less used now (though still studied).

Quote:
Originally Posted by trancedout View Post
I appreciate the replies, this is more complicated than I thought. To make it simpler, how do Chinese/Japanese cities become their American version?

Yokohama would be a good example...it follows the consonant-vowel-consonant-vowel pattern you see so often in Japanese when it's translated to English.

How did 横浜 become "Yokohama" in English from the original characters?

There's also a lot less variance in Chinese surnames from what I have noticed, there seem to be so many more Japanese surnames following that pattern.
Yokohama is the kunyomi of 横浜. Some cities are pronounced by their onyomi name. Good example is 京都 or Kyoto. TBH I don't know why that is. I suspect it is probably from the age of the cities. Cities that were existent during the Heian period probably all still use onyomi. Take my info with a grain of salt.

Last edited by aceofangel; 06-04-2013 at 12:45 PM..
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Old 06-04-2013, 05:46 PM
 
1,099 posts, read 1,668,250 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tiger Beer View Post
Opposite. I mean, NOT studying how to pronounce the Chinese characters.

So, you'd only study the characters and know what they meant, in English. So you'd have no concept of pronouncing the characters in Chinese (or Japanese) or any other pronounciation attached to the characters.

Interesting that you mentioned that Chinese only has one meaning for the characters. I don't know Japanese kanji very well, but I do know that each character can have so much varied meaning and different pronounciations, and can be compounded with other characters that again would change meaning. If that isn't like that in written Chinese, that is interesting in itself.
As aceofangel has mentioned, it's also possible, but can be difficult and cause lots of misunderstandings. Most Chinese characters have one READING and also one meaning. They can be used in compound words (two or more characters) but both the reading and the basic meaning of the character is retained. This is different in Japanese when there are often different ways to read the same character.

Most people in Hong Kong can read Taiwanese newspapers without any problems although they cannot speak Mandarin. Taiwanese can likewise read most writings intended for the Cantonese audience but may need some learning due to different characters used, especially for the particles.

As aceofangel also noted, with some practice as to the word order and other grammatical particles used in Chinese (which is some of the simplest), one can get a basic grasp of the meaning of a Chinese sentence without knowing the correct reading. However, both modern Chinese and Japanese usage of the same Chinese characters are sometimes different. There are also some kanji in Japanese that are specifically borrowed and used to suit Japanese concepts and grammar. For example, 先生 now means "mister" in Mandarin Chinese while it means "teacher" in Japanese. It is probably Japanese that retained the old meaning because that same term has cognates in some Chinese "dialects" like Hokkien. Other words like 勉强 mean "to force" in Mandarin Chinese while it means "to study" in Japanese, 家内 means "inside the home" in Mandarin Chinese while it means "wife" in Japanese.
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Old 06-04-2013, 06:20 PM
 
810 posts, read 1,129,802 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by aceofangel View Post

Yokohama is the kunyomi of 横浜. Some cities are pronounced by their onyomi name. Good example is 京都 or Kyoto. TBH I don't know why that is. I suspect it is probably from the age of the cities. Cities that were existent during the Heian period probably all still use onyomi. Take my info with a grain of salt.
Kunyomi/Onyomi means the English spelling of how they phonetically sound in Japanese?
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