How Does a Chinese Person Feel When Learning Japanese?

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Oct 23, 2016 03:07
Many Chinese people think Japanese is easy to learn because Chinese and Japanese share a lot of characters, but if they start studying the language, most of them would probably change their minds. Japanese is not easy in the least. The grammar is utterly different, and the vocabulary is complicated.

Generally speaking, Japanese words mainly have three origins: wago (Native), kango (Chinese) and gairaigo (European, mainly English). According to an authoritative Japanese dictionary, wago comprise 33.8% of the total vocabulary, kango make up 49.1%, gairaigo account for 8.8%, and the remaining 8.3% consits of hybridized words that draw elements from more than one language. [1]

1) Wago (native)

These are the words often used in daily conversation. For foreigners, they’re the most difficult to learn, because their forms vary from occasion to occasion according to grammar, which is quite annoying. While I’m speaking and writing, although I try my best to find the correct forms and cautiously PASTE them together to form a sentence, I always make mistakes.

2) Kango (Chinese)

I like these words, because they look so familiar!!

During China's Tang dynasty (the 7th-9th centuries), Japanese borrowed a tremendous number of words from Chinese. The meanings of some words have changed in Chinese, but have remained the same in Japanese. For instance, “娘” means “daughter” in modern Japanese and ancient Chinese, but “mother” in modern Chinese.

Many Chinese people don’t know that modern Chinese has also borrowed a huge number of words from Japanese. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Japanese people created a great many new Kango words using Chinese word roots to translate words of European origins. Later, the Chinese language absorbed those words, and today we don’t even feel that words such as “民主,” 科学,” “纪律” are actually “foreign.”

Like English words derived from Latin/French, kango words are typically perceived as somewhat formal or academic in comparison to equivalent Wago words. Given that Japanese newspapers prefer to use Kango, even if a Chinese person has never studied Japanese, s/he will probably be able to get the gist of Japanese newspaper articles. (I’m not sure the inverse is also true.)

However, as Chinese people who are learning Japanese, when we write in Japanese, we shouldn’t use Kango words all the time just for the sake of convenience (the form changes are less complicated than those of Wago), because if we do so, our writing will sound very unnatural.

3) Gairaigo (European, mainly English)
These words are mostly proper nouns and special terms. Believe it or not, this is my favorite part! The meanings are almost exactly the same! And, the forms hardly change. I love to use them, because I’m lazy. Haha.




1) 和语词


2) 汉语词


很多中国人不知道,其实现代汉语中很多词汇来自日语。在19世纪末,20世纪初,日语用汉语的词根翻译欧洲词汇。然后,中文大量引进这些词,我们察觉不出这些词其实是“舶来品”。这些词语包括“民主”、 科学”、 “纪律” 等等。



3) 欧洲语言(主要是英语)