Is Japanese or Chinese Easier?

By OptiLingo • 6 minutes read

As the world continues to open up and become a global village, language barriers are being broken down. This is owing to the fact that human beings are migrating immensely due to various reasons. The Chinese culture and language have spread widely due to their powerful trade ties with the rest of the world. The Japanese are equally powerful and because they come from the same region, some individuals confuse them and think that they can be interchanged. However, they differ in various ways, including their language and culture.

So you may be asking yourself what is easier to learn Japanese or Chinese. To make an efficient decision, you have to really scrutinize both of these languages. Generally, linguists have confessed that technically difficult languages don’t exist. Toddlers, who are learning to talk, quickly absorb the language of the environment that surrounds them this is regardless of their ethnicity or nationality. Adults who find themselves in a far-flung country will also adapt to the language of the nationality where they are situated without any qualms.

Moreover, it’s easier for anyone to master a language that is close to the dialect they are accustomed to. However, the top languages that are being spoken all around the globe include English, Chinese, French, Portuguese, German, Italian, Dutch, and Spanish. Learning any language orally is simpler than getting to write it. In addition to this, all dialects have a writing system, pronunciation, spelling, grammar, and vocabulary among other aspects.

The difficulty attributed to learning a foreign language is gauged by the hours it takes to learn it. According to a foreign language Institute, which is located in California’s Monterey locale, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, and Arabic are among the hardest languages that you can learn. What easier to learn Japanese or Chinese hasn’t been differentiated by the institution. The institute categorizes learning of other languages in the world in the following way:

The first category has Swahili, Danish, French, Afrikaans, Swedish, Spanish, Dutch, Romanian, Italian, Haitian Creole, Norwegian, and Portuguese. These foreign tongues have been placed as the first batch of least difficult language that an English speaking individual can learn within a considerably short time.

The second category has Hindi or Urdu, Bulgarian, Modern Greek, Dari, Malay, German, Persian Farsi, and Indonesian. These foreign languages are in the second least difficult group of learning for native English speakers.

The third category has Bengali, Vietnamese, Modern Hebrew, Amharic, Lao, Burmese, Turkish, Czech, Tamil, Nepali, Thai, Hungarian, Sinhala, Cambodian Khmer, Serbo-Croatian, Pilipino Tagalog, and Russian. Have been placed as the third hardest foreign languages to learn for a native English speaker.

Approximately 1.5 billion people in the world speak Chinese. As compared to only an estimated 126 million who speak Japanese. This should be a clear depiction of the answer to this question what easier to learn Japanese or Chinese. Since clearly, these numbers have depicted that the Chinese language may be easier to learn after all. However, here is a breakdown of both of these languages.


About the Chinese language:

The Chinese language is one of the official languages of China. Chinese exists in many dialects, but Mandarin and Cantonese are among the most popular forms. Mandarin is spoken by approximately 960 million people all over the world. The other dialects include Huizhou, Jin, Ping, Hakka, Wu, Yue, Min, Gan, and Xiang.

The roots of the Chinese languages lay in the Sino-Tibetan and Sinitic language family. The ancient language has been in existence for long and it has undergone various changes over the years. The Chinese language is also spoken in Singapore, Taiwan, Macau, Malaysia, and Hong Kong among many other countries.

The Chinese language is written in Hanzi characters. However, its spoken version exists in another form. The written variety hasn’t changed drastically over the years. However, the spoken form has managed to evolve greatly.


About the Japanese language:

The Japanese language is spoken mostly in Japan and it’s the official language of the country. The language is written in Kanji, Katakana, Japanese Braille, and Hiragana characters. This language has undergone various reforms throughout the ages as it has been in existence since the 9th century. Kanji is quite difficult to master while learning Kana is moderately difficult.

Although the Japanese language roots cannot be traced effectively to its origins, this foreign tongue is linked to the Altaic and Polynesian language roots which encompass Ainu and Austroasiatic languages. The Japanese language is broken down further into many other dialects that exist in the country. These include the Tokyo dialect which is considered as the standard version among many others. However, many other languages are spoken in the country they include Ryukyuan which is spoken in the Ryukyu Islands, Kagoshima, and Okinawa.

Japanese is also spoken in Madagascar, Taiwan, South Korea, Vietnam, Singapore, China, Philippines, and Indonesia. This is because prior to the Second World War Japan controlled these countries and they were forced to speak in Japanese.

The Japanese language is written in the tategaki format, whereby characters are written from top to bottom in columns. In addition to this, the columns are read from right to left.


Similarities and differences between the Japanese and Chinese languages:

Both of these languages have an element of the kanji characters. However, they are widely used in Chinese as compared to Japanese. Moreover, the kanji characters are used to depict the same meaning in both languages. Nevertheless, there are still some huge differences in the kanji characters that both languages use.

In addition to this, the traditional Chinese and Japanese format of writing is also similar. This is because the characters are written from top to bottom in columns and they are read from right to left.


Reading and writing:

Learning to read and write Japanese is harder than Chinese. This is because Chinese language characters have one pronunciation while the Japanese have more than two. However, the word endings of the Japanese language are simpler to read as compared to the Chinese ones.


Similarities to other foreign languages:

To gain fluency in the language an English native speaker might take approximately four years learning Japanese. This is because Japanese words are closely related to Turkic, Korean and Mongolian languages as opposed to Chinese which is closer to English and other European languages.



The Japanese language has a limited amount of phonemes. This language doesn’t have any tones although it has diverse patterns of intonation. Therefore, you need to understand them before you start speaking the language. Nevertheless, a sizeable number of words are differentiated by intonation.

On the other hand, the Chinese language has numerous phonemes. Moreover, every syllable in this language has a specific tone. Therefore, if you pair the wrong tone with a syllable, you change what it means.


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