How Similar Are Chinese and Japanese?

How Similar Are Chinese and Japanese?

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Check out the link in the description below. Quiz time: Are the following words
Chinese or Japanese? First. Yes it’s Japanese. Next. It’s Chinese. Next. Actually, this is both Chinese and Japanese. And finally. Actually this is neither, this is Thai. What, you thought all Asian languages are the same? Racist. Hello everyone. Welcome to the LangFocus channel,
my name is Paul. Today’s topic is: the question how similar are Chinese and Japanese. A lot of people look at a map of Asia and see how close Japan and China are or they might look at a sample of Chinese and Japanese
writing and think that something looks similar and they might conclude that the
two languages are similar, but are they really similar? Well, the short answer is
no they are completely different languages but Japanese has been highly
influenced by Chinese in its vocabulary and its writing system Chinese and Japanese do not share any
common origin and they don’t belong to the same language family Chinese languages belong to the
Sino-Tibetan language family and Japanese as far as we know belongs
to the Japonic language family. Phonology: First off, the phonology of
the languages is very different With the most basic difference being that Chinese is a tonal language while Japanese is not. A tonal language is one in which there are tones or pitches that help determine the meaning of the words you use; if you used the
wrong tone then the meaning of the word changes. Here’s an example: the word for teacher, “lao3shi1” and the word for naive, “lao3shi2” and the word for old-fashioned, “lao3shi4”. So I’m sure that Chinese teachers get
called naive and old-fashioned all the time by mistake or maybe not by mistake. In Japanese there are basically no tones like this that determine the meaning of words. In Japanese there is something called pitch accent which means that the syllables of a word have either a higher pitch or a lower pitch
but they’re not like the tones in Chinese because they typically don’t
determine the meaning of the word they’re more like stress in English. Structure: the structure and grammar of the two languages is completely different at the most basic level Chinese is an
SVO language while Japanese is an SOV language Here’s an example in Chinese: “ta1shuo1zhong1wen2” This means he speaks Chinese and you can see SVO: subject verb object. And here’s that sentence translated into Japanese: “kare wa chūgokugo wo hanashimasu”. Here we can see SOV: subject object verb. And you can see there are some extra little words in Japanese that don’t exist in the Chinese sentence for example Japanese has the
topic marker “wa” which doesn’t exist in Chinese and Japanese also has the
object marker “wo” which doesn’t exist in Chinese. Chinese is an analytic language
which basically means that you create a sentence by placing independent elements
side-by-side. Analytic languages like Chinese do not use inflection: inflection
means modifying words to indicate some kind of grammatical meaning like plural,
gender, tense or case You don’t change any part of a
word in order to change its meaning Instead you can add to the meaning of that word by adding an extra word next to it Japanese on the other hand is an agglutinative language that uses inflection. Agglutinative languages use a lot of affixes: Rather than just placing independent words side-by-side
you attach additional pieces to words to add or modify meaning: this kind of
inflection in Japanese means that Japanese words are often longer than
Chinese words and that it may take a few words in Chinese to translate one Japanese word. In these Chinese sentences we
can see that there’s no inflection “wo3qu4xue2xiao4” this sentence means I go to school “wo3qu4xue2xiao4” this sentence means I went to school so no part of the verb is changed indicate the past tense We can show the past tense by
just adding a time expression. Now these similar sentences in
Japanese show inflection This sentence means I go to school
“watashi wa gakkou e iku” I went to school
“watashi wa gakkou e itta” And the polite form of “I go to school”:
“watashi wa gakkou e ikimasu” I want to go to school:
“watashi wa gakkou e ikitai”. In this Japanese example we use inflection
changing the word “iku” to the “iki” form and then we use agglutination to attach
a form that shows intention: “tai”. In Chinese though there’s no inflection or
agglutination: you just add an extra word like this. That’s just a brief sample of how different
the grammar is in Japanese and Chinese basically they’re completely different languages when it comes to their grammatical structure The one area which there is some similarity between
Chinese and Japanese is in vocabulary and in the use of Chinese characters.
During a period of great Chinese influence between the 5th and 9th centuries CE
there was a huge amount of borrowing from early Middle Chinese
into Japanese. Japanese originally had no written form
so Chinese began to be used as the literary language and as the language of science and of religion. Chinese vocabulary began to be borrowed into Japanese and the Chinese writing system
was gradually adapted to fit the Japanese language so not only
were vocabulary borrowed But the Chinese characters that represent them were also adopted. 60% of the words used in Japanese are of Chinese origin but that includes all of the words in the dictionary and that
includes a lot of very specialized, academic and formal vocabulary that’s mainly used in writing. In spoken Japanese the number of Chinese loan words used as much lower, At about 18%. The borrowed words were almost all Chinese nouns; even though in Japanese they might be used as verbs or as adjectives that’s just one way in which the
vocabulary is used differently but also the pronunciation of those
Chinese words that were borrowed into Japanese changed to match the Japanese
phonological system and that included the loss of the tones of those words.
And also these words were borrowed a long time ago, which means that the words have
also changed in pronunciation in Chinese so the pronunciation has diverged quite a bit, meaning that modern Japanese pronunciation and modern Chinese pronunciation of similar characters or words is quite different. And it’s also important to point out that Mandarin was not the standard form of Chinese back in those days when those vocabulary words were
borrowed into Japanese, so Even at the time they were borrowed the pronunciation was different from standard Chinese today And from what I understand the modern Japanese pronunciation of those loanwords Is often more similar to modern Cantonese
than it is to Mandarin These examples show how the same words are pronounced very differently in Japanese and Mandarin The word for family: In Japanese it’s “katei” and actually in Japanese the meaning is more like household or home And in Mandarin: “jia1ting2”. Next, the word for death:
In Japanese: “shibou” And in Mandarin: “si3wang2” Next, the word for season:
In Japanese, “kisetsu” And in Mandarin: “ji4jie2” And the word for home country:
“In Japanese: bokoku” And in Mandarin: “mu3guo2” So you can see that these words
look the same and they have basically the same meaning but they sound very different So Chinese vocabulary represented by Chinese characters were borrowed into Japanese but those Chinese characters were also then applied to native Japanese vocabulary that had a related meaning to those Chinese loan words That means that a Chinese speaker can often look at a native Japanese word and understand its core meaning without knowing that Japanese word because the Chinese character is used to represent it So Chinese people can often read a
text in Japanese and they can make sense of the basic meaning of it based on the Chinese characters but they won’t understand all the details And the same is true in reverse: Japanese people can look at a Chinese text and kind of make sense of the meaning of it based on the Chinese characters that they know. But it is easy to misunderstand the
details of what’s written especially if they have zero knowledge
of the other language Here are some Japanese example sentences that have the same Chinese characters but the meaning is very different because of the inflection that’s used “Neko wa sakana wo taberu”. That means,
The cat eats fish. “Neko wa sakana wo tabenai”. That means,
The cat doesn’t eat fish. “Neko wa sakana wo tabeta”. That means,
The cat ate fish, in the past tense. “Neko wa sakana wo taberutsumori”
the cat plans to eat fish “Neko wa sakana ni teberareta”, that means
The cat was eaten by a fish So a Chinese character reading these sentences would get the core meaning of the Chinese characters But they would miss something in the inflection For example the negative, or the past tense,
or intention or the passive form especially the last example could be
highly misunderstood So imagine you’re an English speaker
reading something with English loanwords it might look something like this Cat bla fish blah food blah blah Of course even after just a little bit of studying Japanese a Chinese speaker could probably learn enough to understand basic
Japanese sentences like that For me, as someone who studied Japanese to a relatively advanced level the same is true in reverse: when I was in Taiwan last year on the subway for example I could read a lot of the advertisements and I would get most of the meaning; I wouldn’t understand all of the Chinese characters but I would get usually 3 out of 4 of them
and the fourth one would be new to me because in Chinese there are a lot of characters that actually aren’t used in Japanese at all But just getting 3 out of 4 of them was often
enough to understand the basic meaning of that advertising but of course I had
no idea how to pronounce those Chinese characters and if I tried to read them
out loud like the Japanese I would hear laughter from both my girlfriend and
from local bystanders. It might seem strange that I can look at a Chinese
character in Chinese and understand what it means without knowing how to say it
but think of it as a symbol like a number the number seven right here is
pronounced differently in different languages but when you see it you know
what it means no matter how you pronounce it Chinese characters are kind of like that except that they represent a much wider range of meanings The Chinese characters
used in any particular sentence can be very different from those used in the
other language for a sentence of similar meaning and in Japanese there are a lot
of compound words that were created from Chinese characters but those compound
words don’t actually exist in Chinese these are called “wasei kango” which means
something like Chinese vocabulary created in Japan Here are some examples of “wasei kango”: some were created to represent things unique to Japan like “ninja” “geisha” and others were created during the Meiji period to represent Western concepts like democracy, “minshu”. So even though you might recognize
a lot of characters when you look at some text in the other language they
might be used in a very different way so the meeting will be unclear A Chinese speaker might be confused by “wasei kango” when they try to read some Japanese and Japanese people might be confused
when they read Chinese because there are a lot of Chinese characters that were never borrowed into Japanese in the first place or they’re not used in modern Japanese But in either case, even basic knowledge
of the other language would help in reading comprehension quite a bit Japanese “returned loan words” in
Chinese so as we’ve discussed already lots of Chinese vocabulary was
borrowed into Japanese but some Japanese vocabulary has also
been borrowed into Chinese. A moment ago I mentioned “wasei kango”
Japanese vocabulary created from Chinese roots vocabulary that didn’t exist in Chinese
but some of those “wasei kango” have actually been borrowed from
Japanese into Chinese Some sources say that such vocabulary accounts for around 30% of modern Chinese vocabulary. Of course the way those returned loan words are pronounced is based on the modern Chinese pronunciation of the Chinese characters Here are some examples: The word for history in Japanese, “rekishi” and
Mandarin, “li4shi3” The word for industry, in Japanese, “kōgyō”
In Mandarin, “gong1ye4” The word for electron or electronic in Japanese “denshi”
In Mandarin “dian4zi3” The word for injection, in Japanese “chūsha”
In Mandarin “zhu4she4” The word for philosophy in Japanese “tetsugaku”
In Mandarin “zhe2xue2” The word for system in Japanese “keitō”
And in Mandarin “xi4tong2” And most Chinese people these days
are probably not even aware that those words were borrowed from Japanese It’s also important to point out that in mainland China, Simplified Chinese characters are now used as
opposed to the traditional Chinese characters used in Taiwan and in Hong Kong That means that someone from mainland China may have some more trouble recognizing Japanese kanji than someone from Taiwan for example So in short, Chinese and Japanese are
very different languages especially the spoken languages
even though there was a lot of vocabulary borrowed from Chinese into Japanese And a little bit from Japanese into Chinese Only in writing are those two languages
somewhat intelligible because of the Chinese characters that are used So the question of the day for Japanese speakers: “What’s your experience when you
look at a Chinese text?” “Are you able to understand the basic meaning
based on the Chinese characters?” And similarly for Chinese speakers: “What happens when you look at a Japanese text?” “Can you understand the basic meaning or did you get confused because of the different way that the Chinese characters are used?” Thanks again to all my Pateron supporters and I
want to say thanks to all the New subscribers who joined this month;
there are a lot of you And you are very welcome and very appreciated Thank you for watching, have a nice day

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About the Author: Oren Garnes


  1. From China, I feel like right now almost all young teenagers like Japan a lot, and I m one of them. We listen Japanese songs, watch animations and movies. They’re so awesome. Thank you Japan.

  2. I think most people from mainland can understand traditional Chinese characters and Japanese kanji without too much issue.

  3. do you have a chepter about: HEBREW vs ARABIC? if not – i will thank if you will do it! (with subs in HEBREW, becoase i talk HEBREW!).

  4. Бля , мне показалось это Епифанцев стоит на заставке

  5. Whats so racist about thinking their language is the same, people don't know..
    And I wouldn't go around comparing the two as their is still deep hatred for what the Japanese Army done in Nanjing and other parts of China..

  6. 日本語は語尾変化や接続助詞の使い方が難しい

  7. Same experience, when I was in Taipei I was able to communicate with the staff of a restaurant or train station by writing in Kanjis. The staff looked at me, looked at my writing, then talked to me in Chinese, and I was like "I don't understand Chinese". They were probably thinking "This European guy is a weirdo…"

  8. I think Japanese pronunciation of words of Chinese origin is closer to that of the Wu dialect (e.g. Shanghai dialect) than to that of Cantonese.

  9. I'm Japanese and love China. Wish we could be better friends, but my country's Government should be mature enough to apologise for the Atrocities committed before and during WW2. I wish both Countries a bright Future! 🙂 LOVE YOU GUYS!!!!

  10. 簡体字で表記されると理解できないことがあります。繁体字で表記してくれると案外大まかな意味は理解できます。

  11. 一般大部分中国人日语听不懂,但是能看懂,因为日语里的汉字大概都是中文的意思

  12. Actually, what modern Chinese borrowed from Japanese are Phrases other than Words. That is the beauty of Chinese you can create a new Chinese word to describe a new meaning using existing characters with related meanings, and people can easily get its meaning and remember it with no effort. In English, you usually create a new word that you might have to study it. That is the reason modern English has so many words than in the past. Even beautiful is that when a new Chinese word/phrase is created, it is still simple, short, meaningful, sounds well and elegant.

  13. 我觉得说得不对。日本文字来源于中国,日本人在唐朝学习中国的,包括文字

  14. 中文难在发音与书写,但是语法确实并不复杂,?和日语语法相比中文真的简单太多

  15. Obviously, both of these languages are fake, part of a giant conspiracy by the Illuminati. There is no China or Japan, as the edge of the Earth is somewhere in Russia.

  16. 中国語の文章……法則が分かってくると3〜5割くらい理解できる気がする。あと書きやすそう(小並感)


  17. In fact, Chinese has a closed structure with English, but I have big problems with tense in English. Because Chinese does not have Tense. However, I prefer the way of Chinese to handle tense, just clarifying the time or using symbolic words. For example, I went to school in English. In Chinese, I go to 过 school. I ate lunch. In Chinese, I eat 过 lunch.

  18. 日本語中はとっても多い外来語、例え:ボランティア「volunteer」、シルエット「silhouette」。日语中有很多的外来语,例如:志愿者,影像等。

  19. Kanji is something really hard to learn. The most disturbing thing is that you can write everything with hiragana and katakana but they still use those old and complicated kanji’s.

    Japan is the only country to have that ( 2 different simbols for the same meaning)

    My wife ( she is Japanese) doesn’t understand some old and unfamiliar kanji’s, but if it is written in hiragana she understand.

    I know It is part of their culture, but they should erase the kanji’s for a more simple life ( my 2 girls needs 10 years to learn kanji’s, 10 fuc.. years to read and write)

    I hate kanji’s ( I know only 150 ), you need at least 1900 to read a newspaper

  20. I’m a Chinese, one thing I am pretty sure is Chinese teachers won’t get called naive and old fashioned all the time by mistake. These three words are easy to distinguish in Chinese

  21. 最后一段在胡说八道了,中国的简化字是从中国的繁体字来的,而不是从日本的字来的,因为日本的字借用的中国繁体字,还有中国所有单个字的发音基本固定,所以任何新鲜的事物需要新的描述语言,汉语只要用对应的字创造出相应的词就可以。这就是汉语的强大之处,而不像日语搞出片假,来引英语的很多单词。日语的母语是汉语无疑的,老外你们不懂,作为中国人,我学了一些日语,会发现很多很多日语的发音接近中国一些地方方言的发音,所以不仅仅字借用了,汉语的音很多日语也借用过去了

  22. 为什么没有把台湾岛划到中国版图,你上面中国的地图明显有误,台湾是中国的领土!请改正,谢谢。

  23. lol. another white guy who has no idea about ancient Asian history. this guy doesn't even know japanese came from china in the qing dynasty 200 AD, and he is here misleading everyone. so sad.

  24. Japanese and Chinese have similarities because Japan was in east Asian cultural sphere, which is crated and improved by China.

  25. 當我看到日文文章的時候,我就學會日文了⋯⋯


  26. Can you make video about How Similar Are Chinese and Vietnamese ,Vietnamese and japanese, Vietnamese and Korean you know we are in sinosphere and sharing han culture

  27. I like to group up regions for ancient trade, which influenced culture and language…
    So I say China, Korea, Japan, Thailand?, and Laos? are part of this little bubble

  28. So Tagalog (Philippine) is VSO so it is so hard to translate and as bilingual you translate everything in ur head before speaking.. Most of us can't totally speak in straight (without pausing) in english ??

  29. 1:42–1:50 Tones/pitch can change the meaning of the word. In Japanese, 橋 and 箸 are both はし hashi. But they are pronounced differently. Same for 女子 and 助詞. 雨 and 飴 and more. Tones in Japanese are not marked in the language like Chinese, so I think Japanese is harder to learn than Chinese.

  30. Примерно на половине ролика переводчик на русский устал, выпил воттки и началась такая халтура…

  31. 领导:你这是什么意思?小明:没什么意思。意思意思。领导:你这就不够意思了。小明:小意思,小意思。领导:你这人真有意思。小明:其实也没有别的意思。领导:那我就不好意思了。小明:是我不好意思。请问:以上的“意思”都是什么意思?

  32. So Japan imported Chinese characters and made new words from them that China then readopted with a new version of Chinese pronounciation. Well then

  33. 04:00日本語が分かって下ネタが分かるならこの場面で貴方は笑うでしょう!

  34. 我=吾=俺=私=鄙人=在下=本人=孤=寡人=哀家=贫道(道教信徒专用)=贫僧(佛教信徒专用)=朕(皇帝专用)=……=I(English)

  35. Learning Japanese can often supplement a lack of Chinese understanding.

    In math class I heard some Chinese guy saying something to me with words that sounded like “ma” and “ochinchin”. I immediately called him out on it and he was, indeed, insulting my mother!

  36. Chinese is the Latin of east asia, the only difference is Chinese people are still using it. Chinese people could understand ancient Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese books.

  37. i find that knowing english helped me more in understanding spoken japanese than knowing chinese, while the opposite is the true for written japanese

  38. Eastern languages shouldn't be categorised using a western centric system like SVO or SOV etc. Japanese is not simply SOV. OSV constructions exist too. And the concept of subject in Japanese is highly debatable. Also, Chinese people from the mainland have no problems reading traditional Chinese. To think that those using traditional Chinese would have an advantage in learning Japanese is laughable. Btw many Chinese characters in Japanese are the same as simplified Chinese.

  39. Chinese is gonna take me at lest 1yr to learn half of it but japanese is gonna take me maybe 4or5 months to learn because its more easy for me to learn

  40. 確かに。




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