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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

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Old 01-13-2016, 09:42 AM
 
Location: Colorado Springs
4,376 posts, read 1,816,273 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by swathisharan View Post
I feel chinese is more tuff when compared to japanese.
English can be tuff too!
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Old 01-13-2016, 08:32 PM
 
919 posts, read 603,473 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by OwlAndSparrow View Post
Yanagisawa, yeah, I'm terrible with context in Vietnamese right now. I'm trying hard to improve my reading skills so I can pick up on things like that.
Many foreigners in Japan even don't know if other guy is talking to you or not, because we tend to not stare at your eyes while talking to you.

I've heard Germans MUST stare at your eyes even while driving on the Autobahn, which frightens Japanese

Quote:
Originally Posted by OwlAndSparrow View Post
I could argue that the difference between that and the English example is that in the English example, most of the meanings are metaphors derived from the driving example, and the others are extremely rare. Then again, I only know that because I've spoken English my whole life. Incidentally, a similar statement in Vietnamese (about red lights) means something quite different. "Em c đn đỏ." I... don't want to translate the meaning of that.
To my eyes, it's same with the sentence: he return I return.

You can not/cannot/can't fully depend on linguistic features to understand what others intend to mean.

Quote:
Originally Posted by OwlAndSparrow View Post
I'm a native English speaker, and I can't distinguish between can and can't when spoken except by syllable stress (even when speaking!). If it's stressed, it sounds like "can't," and if it's not stressed (stress goes on the verb after it), it sounds like "can."
Thanks for the tip! I'll try harder
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Old 01-13-2016, 08:34 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by saibot View Post
Really? In my American dialect, they sound nothing alike. In rapid speech, unstressed "can" sounds like "k'n" and ends with a clear nasal sound. Unstressed "can't" sounds like "kʔ" (with a nasal vowel) and ends with a glottal stop.
I found this:

How do I pronounce and differentiate between the sounds of "Can" and "Can't" in both American and British English?
In this song Bittersweet symphony by The Verve at 01:21 I don't get whether the singer is saying "No change, I can change I can change, I can change" or "No change, I can't change, I can't change, I can't change". I have looked many website for lyrics, half them says it's "I can change" and the other half "I can't change".
So I guess it is not easy at all
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Old 01-14-2016, 01:11 PM
 
6,528 posts, read 4,090,047 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Yanagisawa View Post
I found this:

How do I pronounce and differentiate between the sounds of "Can" and "Can't" in both American and British English?
In this song Bittersweet symphony by The Verve at 01:21 I don't get whether the singer is saying "No change, I can change I can change, I can change" or "No change, I can't change, I can't change, I can't change". I have looked many website for lyrics, half them says it's "I can change" and the other half "I can't change".
So I guess it is not easy at all
Yeah, well, lyrics of songs are notoriously difficult to understand--far more so than ordinary speech!

Back to the subject of the difficulty of Chinese, yesterday I picked up a little book at the library titled Dreaming in Chinese by Deborah Fallows. The author has a PhD in linguistics and spent three years living in China, both studying Chinese and using it in her daily life. I found this observation interesting:

"I personally found it most perplexing that so little about Chinese resonated with any other language I had ever worked on. Chinese seemed so arbitrary, and there was nothing to grab on to. I could try to memorize the same words two or three or four times over, only to have them slip away again. It was eighteen months before I [could] say something without rehearsing it...understand conversations I overheard on the street, or accomplish more than the simplest transaction. Approaching any sense of intuition about the language was painfully slow. For me, Chinese is that hard."

She talks about the difficulty she, as an English-speaker, had with characters, tones, and the huge number of homonyms, and gives anecdotes about being persistently misunderstood because she was using the wrong tone on a word.

I think that sums up the response of English-speakers to learning Chinese pretty well. Japanese has its difficulties too, but I have to say from my own experience, and that of my nephew and a high-school friend, who both went to live in Japan and married Japanese women, it is not as hard as Ms. Fallows describes Chinese to be.

Last edited by saibot; 01-14-2016 at 02:36 PM..
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Old 01-14-2016, 02:52 PM
 
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Which one is harder in what way? Reading & writing? Speaking? From my understanding, Chinese only has one set of characters in their written language. Japan on the other hand has four, one in which is kanji which derived from Chinese. Kanji has what, 2800 characters or something like that? So Japanese basically utilize all four for reading & writing. In order to be able to read a newspaper in Japanese, one needs to know something like at least 700 Kanji, and then the Hiragana and Katakana. There is very little Romaji compared to the other three. Road signs in Japan are all basically only in Kanji though with exception to a growing number being also in Romaji alongside Kanji. Chinese has only one written language that I'm aware of. On the other hand, Chinese speaking is way more intricate compared to Japanese speaking, at least it seems it is to me.
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Old 01-14-2016, 04:09 PM
 
2,441 posts, read 1,941,239 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by OwlAndSparrow View Post
Yanagisawa, yeah, I'm terrible with context in Vietnamese right now. I'm trying hard to improve my reading skills so I can pick up on things like that.

I could argue that the difference between that and the English example is that in the English example, most of the meanings are metaphors derived from the driving example, and the others are extremely rare. Then again, I only know that because I've spoken English my whole life. Incidentally, a similar statement in Vietnamese (about red lights) means something quite different. "Em c đn đỏ." I... don't want to translate the meaning of that.


I'm a native English speaker, and I can't distinguish between can and can't when spoken except by syllable stress (even when speaking!). If it's stressed, it sounds like "can't," and if it's not stressed (stress goes on the verb after it), it sounds like "can."
Is this in English? In addition to the presence of the T at the end, the vowel is different in the two words - short a in can, arrr in can't.
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Old 01-14-2016, 04:39 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WildColonialGirl View Post
Is this in English? In addition to the presence of the T at the end, the vowel is different in the two words - short a in can, arrr in can't.
Are you Australian? Your dialect is different from mine and is obviously non-rhotic. In the general American dialect, which is what I speak, the vowels are the same in both. Short, as in "cat."
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Old 01-14-2016, 08:22 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by saibot View Post
Yeah, well, lyrics of songs are notoriously difficult to understand--far more so than ordinary speech!

Back to the subject of the difficulty of Chinese, yesterday I picked up a little book at the library titled Dreaming in Chinese by Deborah Fallows. The author has a PhD in linguistics and spent three years living in China, both studying Chinese and using it in her daily life. I found this observation interesting:

"I personally found it most perplexing that so little about Chinese resonated with any other language I had ever worked on. Chinese seemed so arbitrary, and there was nothing to grab on to. I could try to memorize the same words two or three or four times over, only to have them slip away again. It was eighteen months before I [could] say something without rehearsing it...understand conversations I overheard on the street, or accomplish more than the simplest transaction. Approaching any sense of intuition about the language was painfully slow. For me, Chinese is that hard."

She talks about the difficulty she, as an English-speaker, had with characters, tones, and the huge number of homonyms, and gives anecdotes about being persistently misunderstood because she was using the wrong tone on a word.

I think that sums up the response of English-speakers to learning Chinese pretty well. Japanese has its difficulties too, but I have to say from my own experience, and that of my nephew and a high-school friend, who both went to live in Japan and married Japanese women, it is not as hard as Ms. Fallows describes Chinese to be.
First of all, having a PhD in economics doesn't guarantee a fortune.

A pianist can be a tone-deaf. Although people tend to believe every speaker of tone languages can sing a song very well, but that's not correct. I've met a pianist in Taiwan who was a typical tone-deaf. All you have to master is relative tones, not absolute tones, in order to speak tone languages correctly.

Same goes for linguistics. You don't have to be a good speaker of languages to be a linguist.

The main job of a linguist is analyzing languages, just like a chemical analyst.

We don't expect every chemical analyst is a good producer of, say, a medicine. But people tend to expect that for a linguist. So the first question people ask is: how many languages do you speak?

OK. Back to the topic, the table I quoted in the previous post tells us the answer.

Both Mandarin and Japanese are among the hardest language group for English speaker, however, Japanese is a little bit more harder than Mandarin.
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Old 01-14-2016, 09:05 PM
 
6,528 posts, read 4,090,047 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Yanagisawa View Post
First of all, having a PhD in economics doesn't guarantee a fortune.

A pianist can be a tone-deaf. Although people tend to believe every speaker of tone languages can sing a song very well, but that's not correct. I've met a pianist in Taiwan who was a typical tone-deaf. All you have to master is relative tones, not absolute tones, in order to speak tone languages correctly.

Same goes for linguistics. You don't have to be a good speaker of languages to be a linguist.

The main job of a linguist is analyzing languages, just like a chemical analyst.

We don't expect every chemical analyst is a good producer of, say, a medicine. But people tend to expect that for a linguist. So the first question people ask is: how many languages do you speak?
Well, that is mostly true (except for the part about being tone-deaf. The world is not divided between those who have perfect or absolute pitch, and those who are tone-deaf, as though those are the two options. The vast majority of people are somewhere in the middle. Being tone-deaf means you are unable to distinguish relative tones. I don't expect that a tone-deaf person could be a good pianist, as he would be unable to discern when he'd played a wrong note).

You don't have to be a good speaker of many languages to be a linguist, agreed. I have a BA and MA in linguistics, as a matter of fact, and I don't consider myself truly fluent in any language except English. I find the question "How many languages do you speak?" slightly annoying, too.

However, as a linguist, you do acquire a certain facility with languages in general, just from spending so much time analyzing them. The part that was the most significant to me in the quote I posted was that Ms. Fallows found Chinese harder than any other language she had studied, which I assume was several. (For my BA, we were required to study one language for four full years, or two languages for two years each; in addition, I had studied two entirely different languages in high school for three years each). She certainly implies that Chinese words were more difficult to remember than words in other languages (and in a part I did not quote, she elaborated on the task of memorizing first the tone of each new word, then learning to distinguish it from similar words with a different tone, then being stymied by identical words with the same tone but different meanings).

I can only reiterate that these aspects of Chinese are very difficult for native English speakers. Japanese has its difficult points too, but they generally do not lie in pronunciation or vocabulary. Speaking for myself, the most difficult part of Japanese is mastering when and how to use the correct honorific and humble forms. The plain style is very easy; I wish it could be used all the time!
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Old 01-14-2016, 11:46 PM
 
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For advanced language learners, the real challenge is always vocabulary. Pronunciation and grammar may be challenging for beginners, but you master (or get by with) them within a few years.
Chinese has a huge vocabulary due to the long history of literature. Also, words from different dialects sometimes become official. That is partly why very few foreigners can write good Chinese articles.(In fact I have not met anyone.)
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