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View Poll Results: Which of Chinese or Japanese is harder to learn for a Westerner?
Chinese is harder 23 74.19%
Japanese is harder 8 25.81%
Voters: 31. You may not vote on this poll

 
 
Old 01-05-2016, 01:33 PM
 
Location: San Marcos, CA
674 posts, read 439,027 times
Reputation: 792

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Yanagisawa View Post
Because Chinese is handier than Japanese.

Let's compare two sentences below:
[b]
Why do you prefer talking, listening, reading, and writing in Chinese?
|<-- 100 spaces here -->|

为什么你情愿用中文听说读写?
|<-- 29 spaces here -->|
[\b]
Would you imagine how many more pages do you have to flip while you are reading a book written in English?


As for speaking,

Chinese sentence - 为什么你情愿用中文听说读写?has 13 syllables.

Japanese sentence - なぜちゅうごくごではなしたりきいたりよんだりかいたりするほうがらくなのですか? has 37 syllables.

It is much easier for me to say 13 syllables than 37 syllables




Sorry but no at the moment


It could be argued that the longer sentences are actually easier to listen to, since they are less information-dense.

I'm much better at speaking Vietnamese than I am at speaking Korean, but I've found it harder to get good at listening to Vietnamese, because I have to catch every little thing in order to understand the sentence. Korean is easier for me, a native English speaker, to hear, even though Vietnamese has slightly more familiar grammar.

I feel as though Vietnamese and Korean are interesting analogues of Chinese and Japanese. Both have much easier writing systems (Quốc ngữ is basically Latin characters with extra marks to differentiate vowels and tones, and Hangul is famously excellent, though educated Korean people still know some Chinese characters).

Vietnamese tones are, from what I've heard, more of an issue than Mandarin tones. I've looked at beginner lessons in Mandarin, and the tones seem really simple compared to those in Vietnamese or something really tough like Cantonese (and Vietnamese tones aren't that bad, either). I see those as roughly on par with having to learn the genders of nouns in most European languages. It's just another thing to learn about each word.

Missing the tone in Vietnamese, though, completely obfuscates the meaning of whatever word you're trying to say.


That's not the main issue that gives me problems, though. Two Vietnamese difficulties make the language harder for me than for many. The first is that the grammar, though similar to that of English (still SVO!), ends up being more subtlely painful. I'll often hear sentences in which I known every single word, but I won't be able to parse the sentence at all. This gets even harder if I'm listening to music or reading poetry or something, since in those contexts, words are often omitted because native speakers can quickly eliminate ambiguity omissions cause for learners.

The other problem is the speed of information flow. Keeping up is hard, particularly when every syllable carries meaning. With Korean, my mind gets a slight break when I hear a long word, and the word endings give me even more of a break.


That said, Korean has a bunch of grammatical subtleties to it that I'll probably never master. That doesn't have to be my goal, of course. If I just want to be able to express myself and have casual conversations with Korean people, I don't need to master the language completely.



I also think that a lot of the difficulty that goes along with learning Chinese (and Japanese) comes from the writing system. Aside from that, I can't see any reason why Mandarin would be harder than Vietnamese (of course, that's a really big thing to set aside).
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Old 01-05-2016, 02:55 PM
 
6,551 posts, read 4,096,465 times
Reputation: 16879
Quote:
Originally Posted by OwlAndSparrow View Post
The other problem is the speed of information flow. Keeping up is hard, particularly when every syllable carries meaning. With Korean, my mind gets a slight break when I hear a long word, and the word endings give me even more of a break.
This is a good observation, and good as a comparison between Chinese and Japanese as well. The fewer the syllables (and the shorter the word), the more semantic load every syllable carries and the less you can afford to miss. This may not be a problem for the native ear, but it does pose some difficulty for the learner.

All languages contain some redundancy. This helps ensure that the listener doesn't miss anything. If I say, "These books are all free," the hearer has FOUR chances to grasp that I am talking about more than one book. (These = plural, -s = plural, are = plural, all).

Chinese, lacking grammatical case, number, and gender, and not very concerned with tense, obviously has less redundancy than a language such as German, Spanish, and even Japanese and English. Chinese resembles "headline English" in which the small, "unimportant" words are left out and verbs are often set in present tense.

For example:

Obama unveils gun violence plan. (headline)

Today, Obama unveiled his plan to reduce gun violence. (normal speech)

One is definitely shorter! That doesn't necessarily make it better or clearer.
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Old 01-05-2016, 03:00 PM
 
Location: Taipei
6,776 posts, read 5,129,771 times
Reputation: 4566
Quote:
Originally Posted by Yanagisawa View Post
As for speaking,

Chinese sentence - 为什么你情愿用中文听说读写?:
This sentence is so weird.
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Old 01-05-2016, 05:19 PM
 
1,424 posts, read 736,377 times
Reputation: 508
Quote:
Originally Posted by saibot View Post
This is a good observation, and good as a comparison between Chinese and Japanese as well. The fewer the syllables (and the shorter the word), the more semantic load every syllable carries and the less you can afford to miss. This may not be a problem for the native ear, but it does pose some difficulty for the learner.

All languages contain some redundancy. This helps ensure that the listener doesn't miss anything. If I say, "These books are all free," the hearer has FOUR chances to grasp that I am talking about more than one book. (These = plural, -s = plural, are = plural, all).

Chinese, lacking grammatical case, number, and gender, and not very concerned with tense, obviously has less redundancy than a language such as German, Spanish, and even Japanese and English. Chinese resembles "headline English" in which the small, "unimportant" words are left out and verbs are often set in present tense.

For example:

Obama unveils gun violence plan. (headline)

Today, Obama unveiled his plan to reduce gun violence. (normal speech)

One is definitely shorter! That doesn't necessarily make it better or clearer.
If you think modern Chinese is dense, you will be surprised by classic Chinese. For example:
人不知而不愠,不亦君子乎

This is a famous quote from Confucius work, and it means "If people do not know (that you are knowledgeable), and you do not get angry, aren't you a gentleman that way?" In classic Chinese it has only 11 syllables.
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Old 01-05-2016, 05:22 PM
 
1,424 posts, read 736,377 times
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By the way, all Chinese students are required to learn classic Chinese, a language developed over 2000 years ago.
Probably only in Chinese speaking regions students still learn things written 2000 years ago, in their original form without translation.
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Old 01-05-2016, 05:30 PM
 
Location: Colorado Springs
4,376 posts, read 1,817,453 times
Reputation: 3301
Quote:
Originally Posted by yueng-ling View Post
By the way, all Chinese students are required to learn classic Chinese, a language developed over 2000 years ago.
Probably only in Chinese speaking regions students still learn things written 2000 years ago, in their original form without translation.
Interesting I hope you realize the chinese copied the Japanese in for the writing!
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Old 01-05-2016, 06:06 PM
 
25,059 posts, read 23,188,447 times
Reputation: 11619
Quote:
Originally Posted by BornintheSprings View Post
Interesting I hope you realize the chinese copied the Japanese in for the writing!
Japan adopted Chinese characters, not the other way around
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Old 01-06-2016, 08:46 AM
 
Location: Colorado Springs
4,376 posts, read 1,817,453 times
Reputation: 3301
Quote:
Originally Posted by theunbrainwashed View Post
Japan adopted Chinese characters, not the other way around
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Old 01-06-2016, 09:23 AM
 
6,551 posts, read 4,096,465 times
Reputation: 16879
Quote:
Originally Posted by theunbrainwashed View Post
Japan adopted Chinese characters, not the other way around
Quote:
Originally Posted by BornintheSprings View Post
That's why they're called "Chinese characters..."
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Old 01-06-2016, 01:40 PM
 
25,059 posts, read 23,188,447 times
Reputation: 11619
Quote:
Originally Posted by BornintheSprings View Post
You didn't know kanji literally means Chinese characters? They are called hanzi in Chinese. And hiragana and katakana? They are not Japanese creations either. They are actually parts of Chinese characters. Also, about half of the Japanese language is Chinese vocabulary called 音読み.
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