Do Chinese and Japanese Understand each other’s Language?

Sometimes when we are looking into the map of these two countries in Asia—Japan and China we think that they are close countries. Yes, they are so close to each other. But most of us are having a mistake thinking that they share the same languages. It happens when some point you are looking into their writings written in TV’s, magazines, and even a piece of some newspapers and say “oh it really looks similar!” And it’s hard to differentiate the difference between them. Many amounts of queries are into this. Asking whether the two countries understand each other or are they sharing the same language?

Well, the answer is NO. In fact, when it comes to verbally express language it seems really hard for them to understand each other.  But it is also true that some educated Chinese and Japanese speakers can read each other’s written language since countless (Han Chinese characters) are partaken in both writing systems, in spite of the fact that it’s not 100% exact (numerous bogus companions do exist because of social contrasts or basically because of section of time).

We can’t say that it is all about the origin of these two languages because they are constantly evolving. And we know that modern Japanese and Chinese today are results of their evolutions over history. That’s why in some cases these two languages have their influence in each other.

How different are Chinese and Japanese?


To discuss further the differences between the two languages we will be talking about how they differ. Below are the differences between the Japanese and Chinese languages:


1. Tones vs Pitch Accent

Whenever we talk in, Japanese and Chinese offer no phonetic likenesses by any means, as every Chinese language are tonal (aside from Shanghainese and some other inventive Wu dialects), like their irrelevant neighboring dialects, to be specific Vietnamese, Lao and Thai, while Japanese uses the pitching highlight rather (abnormally, Shanghainese additionally utilizes this framework, as referenced prior). Mandarin Chinese has four tones in addition to an unbiased tone; Japanese, be that as it may, has a pitch emphasize framework (rising and falling sounds) that takes after the Korean, Norwegian, Swedish, and Serbo-Croatian, ideal models.

For example, in Chinese, a similar sound can have up to 5 unique implications relying upon the tone:

() mā: 1st tone, mother (noun)
() má: 2nd tone, hemp (noun)
() mǎ: 3rd tone, horse (noun)
() mà: 4th tone, to scold (verb)
 () ma: neutral tone, yes/no question ending (particle)

Japanese, in any case, has a lot more straightforward framework: a lot of sounds can have up to 3 distinct implications, contingent upon which syllable is focused (first syllable, second syllable, or accentless). The word はし (hashi) can be rendered in Kanji (Sinograms), contingent upon the compliment, as pursues (it will obviously contrast contingent upon the locale also, yet we’ll be taking a gander at the standard Tokyo discourse here):

(chopsticks) — accent on the 1st syllable:  /haꜜsi/ háɕì
(bridge) — accent on the 2nd syllable:  /hasiꜜ/ hàɕí
(edge) /hasi/ — accentless: hàɕí

2. Phonemes

When taking a gander at these dialects impartially, they both have not many phonemes. Standard Chinese has around 420 sound mixes; Standard Japanese has even fewer– just around 110 sounds blends altogether. Contrast these and the sound mixes in English– an incredible 158,000 conceivable outcomes! No big surprise it’s so troublesome for second language students of English to articulate every one of the words effectively.

3. Vowels

Mandarin Chinese has 10 vowels: ͡ɨ, ͡ɯ, a, o, ɤ, ɛ, i, u, y, ɚ.

Japanese, then again, has just 5 vowels: ä, i̥, ɯᵝ, e̞, o̞.

As should be obvious from the IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) interpretations, even the most essential vowels, for example,/an/and/u/that are inescapable in most human tongues vary in these two dialects when articulated by particular local speakers.

4. Consonants

Mandarin Chinese has 25 consonants; Japanese, once more, has fewer– it only has 18.

Mandarin has numerous consonants that are exceptional to numerous Western European language speakers’ ears, for example, the retroflex sounds normally happening toward the start of numerous syllables (in pīnyīn: zh, ch, sh, r; in IPA: [tʂ], [tʂʰ], [ʂ], [ʐ]/[ɻ]). In Mandarin, the voiced sounds are missing, and the monolingual Mandarin speakers can’t ordinarily recognize the run of the mill English voiced and voiceless matches, for example, b/p, d/t, g/k, z/s, and so forth. (Inquisitively, Shanghainese has said qualification, and Shanghainese speakers can recognize them in English.) That stated, Mandarin has a reasonable refinement allowed to suctioned and unaspirated consonants, for example, the/t/sounds in the English words ‘top’ (suctioned) and ‘stop’ (unaspirated), just as the/p/sounds in ‘port’ (suctioned) and ‘sport’ (unaspirated). The sidelong solid/l/in Standard Mandarin is a reasonable English/l/as in ‘let’ and ‘light’ (however it’s not dim or velarised English/l/[ɫ] which happens in words like ‘shaft’ or ‘cool’).

Japanese, then again, is considered by numerous students to be genuinely simple to articulate because of its little collection of sounds and the way that, aside from/n/, Japanese for the most part does not enable a consonant to be articulated without a vowel/an, I, u, e, o/tailing it. In, Japanese, all the voiceless stops/p, t, k/are just marginally suctioned (like a cross between the suctioned English stops and the unaspirated Spanish stops). In Japanese, the/r/sound is, like the Korean/r/, unclear along the side; which means, it can change between a scope of/r/and/l/sounds happening in English, for example, [ɾ] in ‘better’ (North American English), and [ɺ] like ‘daddy’ (North American English), or [l] in ‘part’ in Standard English, or [ɾ̠] like ‘rodent’ in Scottish English. This uncertainty in/r/and/l/ (they’re viewed as one phoneme in Japanese) makes local monolingual Japanese speakers unfit to recognize them in different dialects that do make a refinement for these sounds.

By chance, there’s another variety to it– numerous Japanese speakers who wish to pass on a profane subtlety in discourse would even roll their R to deliver the trilled/r/regularly found in Spanish and Italian. Watch out for it next time you watch a yakuza-themed film!

5. Grammar and Syntax

In the first place, the essential sentence structures of Japanese and Chinese contrast.

In Chinese, the word request is dependably SVO (subject – action word – object), much like that of English.

For Example:

我喝水 (Pīnyīn: Wǒ hē shuǐ.)

In Japanese, the word order is SOV (subject – object – verb), like that of German subordinate clauses.
For Example:

私は水を飲みます。 (Rōmaji: Watashi wa mizu wo nomimasu.)

Not exclusively do sentence structures vary, however, action words likewise contrast significantly.

Chinese, being a totally analytic language, comes up short on any type of conjugations and emphases; thus, action word tenses don’t exist. Action words are communicated generally in their angles (perfective, imperfective, dynamic, and so forth.), utilizing a molecule previously or after them. In the event that elucidation is required, a temporal adverb will be included before it (today, at this moment, a year ago, and so forth.). Once in a while, passive voice can likewise be utilized when the operator of the activity isn’t clear.

For Examples:

I’m eating right now. Literally, I [progressive aspect particle] eat: 我在吃饭。 Wǒ zài chīfàn.
I ate yesterday. Literally, I yesterday eat: 我昨天吃饭。 Wǒ zuótiān chīfàn.
She was asked (by me). Literally, she [passive voice particle] (I) ask [perfective aspect particle]: 她被(我)问了。  Tā bèi (wǒ) wèn le.

Chinese nouns and pronouns don’t change their structures either, so there is no distinction in structure between a particular and a plural noun or the noun/pronoun in the nominative (abstract) case or the accusative (objective) case. To indicate ownership, the genitive molecule 的 (de)– like the ‘s in English– will be included just after the holder.

For Examples:

A cup of tea, literally, one cup tea: 一杯茶 yì bēi chá.
Three cups of tea, literally, three cup tea: 三杯茶 sān bēi chá.
He sees me, literally, he see I: 他看我 tā kàn wǒ.
I see him, literally, I see he: 我看他 wǒ kàn tā.
My car, literally, I’s car: 我的车 wǒ de chē.
Your car, literally, you’s car: 你的车 nǐ de chē.

Japanese, nonetheless, being an agglutinative language, has a significant complex action word conjugation framework just as twelve particles (that occasionally look like the English relational words) demonstrating thing cases. The action words are constantly recognized the past and non-past (present and future tenses have a similar structure in Japanese) tenses, with different conceivable angles (perfective, imperfective, dynamic, and so forth.) just as voice (dynamic, aloof) and custom (honorifics).

For Examples:

I’m sleeping at home (said to a friend).
Literally, (I [topic particle similar to a subject] – usually dropped in speech) home [locative particle similar to ‘in’] sleep [informal non-past progressive]:
(私は)うちで寝てる。 (Watashi wa) uchi de neteru.

I was sleeping at home (said respectfully).
Literally, (I [topic particle similar to a subject] – usually dropped in speech) my house (formal) [locative particle similar to ‘in’] sleep/rest (formal) [humble past progressive]:
(私は)自宅で休ませていただきました。 (Watashi wa) jitaku de yasumasete itadakimashita.

I’m at the store now.

Said to an elderly or someone of higher social status: 今、店におります。 Ima, mise ni orimasu.

Said to a stranger of the same age or equal social status: 今、店にいます。 Ima, mise ni imasu.

Said to a friend: 今、店にいる。 Ima, mise ni iru.

Can Chinese Read Japanese

(and vice versa)

Would the Japanese be able to peruse Chinese? I raise this subject since it has suggestions for outsiders too. Will securing the capacity to peruse Japanese give you “some degree” of education in Chinese?

Japan, coming up short on a local composition framework, started bringing in Chinese characters from Korea, and later China, from the early fifth century, and the two-way trades proceed even at this point. All things considered, comprehend that beside their incompletely shared composition frameworks; the two dialects are etymologically inconsequential, contrasting impressively in such zones as language structure and punctuation.

Like English, Chinese is uninflected, so word endings don’t change with syntactic capacity or level of amenability. As in English, the fundamental Chinese word request is subject-action word object (SVO). In Japanese it is a subject-object-action word (SOV): “I apple (+object marker) ate,” rather than “I eat (+action-finished marker) apple.”

So it’s sensible to state that except if a Japanese individual has really examined the Chinese language, an individual professing to have the capacity to “read” Chinese can be interpreted as meaning the person in question can take a gander at signs, menus or printed message and perceive bunches of natural words.

In any case, the contrasts between the two — and there are many — can hinder understanding.

Another hindrance concerns contrast in the ways kanji characters have been streamlined. Rather than the customary characters still educated in Taiwan, both Japan and territory China changed their composed dialects — the previous after World War II, the last after the 1949 socialist unrest. Those changes, be that as it may, were not uniform, and Japanese aren’t ready to perceive many disentangled characters utilized today in terrain China, where, for one, the city of Guangzhou (Canton or Kōshū in Japanese) is composed 广州, instead of 広州 in Japan and 廣州 in Taiwan.

The two dialects do be that as it may share different authentic and social roots. Similarly as an informed English speaker may summon Latin articulations like “admonition emptor” (Let the purchaser be careful) or “mea culpa” (through my blame), different phrases, truisms and truisms that started quite a while in the past in China, for example, 疑心暗鬼 (gishin anki, a suspicious personality will seize shadows) and 弱肉強食 (jakuniku kyōshoku, survival of the fittest), normally spring up in Japanese discussion.

Instructed Japanese may likewise be acquainted with selections from Chinese abstract works. You may catch somebody state 春眠暁を覚えず (Shunmin akatsuki o oboezu), a rich method for saying you slept in. Its source is 春眠不覚暁 (Chun mian bu jue xiao, “I slept this spring morning, and missed the daybreak”), the main line of a well-known eighth-century sonnet by 孟浩然 (Mō Kōzen, Meng Haoran).

Japanese with a foundation in the humanities may have considered 漢文 (kanbun), a system conceived to change over established Chinese, for example, the abovementioned, to Japanese linguistic structure. Many appreciate the scholarly exercise of poring over 孫子兵法 (Sonshi Heihō, Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War”), which dates from the fifth century B.C. One popular entry goes, 百戦百勝非善之善者也 (Baizhan baisheng fei shan zhi shan zhe ye, “To win 100 triumphs in 100 fights isn’t the summit of aptitude).

Utilizing kanbun, the above moves toward becoming 百戦百勝は善の善なる者に非ざるなり (hyakusen hyakushō wa zen no zen naru mono ni arazaru nari). To guarantee to understand, course books, for the most part, incorporate a 解説 (kaisetsu, clarification) in present-day Japanese, which here would be 戦えば必ず勝つのが最善の用兵ではない (Tatakaeba kanarazu katsu no ga saizen no yōhei de wa nai, “To battle and accomplish certain triumph isn’t the best utilization of warriors”). Building up a natural comprehension of established Chinese through kanbun will give an individual a favorable position when learning the advanced language.

It’s likewise critical to remember that the two composed dialects started veering numerous hundreds of years prior. While Japanese understudies still learn 2,000 or more kanji, their cutting edge language incorporates countless borrowings covering everything from パン (dish, bread) to ズボン (zubon, pants) to ビデオ (bideo, video). To the untrained eye, Chinese borrowings of outside words can seem obscure to the outrageous. “Pokemon,” for instance, is worked out phonetically as 宝可夢 (baokemeng), utilizing characters signifying “treasure,” “worthy” and “dream.”

To respond to my prior inquiry, at that point, the further developed your perusing abilities in Japanese, the simpler it will move toward becoming to perceive Chinese expressions. Be that as it may, on the off chance that you need to get a utilitarian handle of the last mentioned, regardless of whether spoken, composed or both, there’s not a viable replacement for contemplating it. Taken from the other viewpoint, by acclimating yourself with Chinese, your Japanese education will more likely than not profit.

What’s more, as Chinese speaker endeavoring to peruse Japanese, is they can comprehend a decent lot of what the content is about, yet won’t comprehend everything. It resembles perusing a logical content/talk in Russian: You’ll select recognizable words and realize what it’s about, however not actually what it says.

Japanese has three contents. Kanji is like Chinese. While a few things can be rapidly comprehended, the language structure is unique. Bunches of Chinese understudies comprehend Japanese Kanji in all respects rapidly.



So in short, Chinese and Japanese are very different languages. Especially the spoken languages even though there’s a lot of vocabulary borrowed from Chinese into Japanese. And a little bit Japanese into Chinese. Only in writing are those two languages somewhat intelligible because of the Chinese characters that are used.

Your capacity to comprehend composed Japanese is because of the way that the Japanese language is written in Chinese content, which implies that it composes words as semantic units as opposed to mixes of sounds. Since the semantic substance of a character is commonly the equivalent between the two dialects, you don’t should probably comprehend Japanese to comprehend the essence of a basic sentence. On the off chance that you saw a Japanese content composed altogether in kana, accepting you could peruse kana, I’m certain it would be muddled. A large portion of the loanwords was embraced hundreds of years back, which implies that regardless of whether they hadn’t been totally changed by Japanese phonetics, the following sound changes in the two dialects would make them extraordinary.