How Much Harder is Learning Chinese Than Spanish?

A big question I had in my mind before starting this trip was how much harder is learning an Asian language like Chinese than a European one like Spanish? Obviously Chinese is harder, but how much? Is it just a little harder than Spanish or is it several times more difficult?

My experience with both Chinese and Spanish is limited: I spent three months in Spain and am entering my third month in China. However, I would say both have been a success. There’s still a lot to learn, but I feel I can have conversations about most topics in both languages and, in the case of Spanish, I can also watch television and movies.

Being an intermediate learner means I can’t discuss the long road towards full fluency. But I believe I have a unique perspective: having learned both these languages, under the same conditions, similar timescales and only several months apart, the two experiences can be compared more easily.

Should We Even Compare Languages?

My good friend and avid language learner Benny Lewis would disagree with my premise for this post. His argument, as I understand it, is that comparing language difficulties is a waste of time. Why does it matter what’s more difficult? Why not focus on the positive attributes of every language you learn, instead of dwelling in pessimism or letting comparative difficulty justify you holding back from using the language?

From this perspective, I completely agree. Too many people whine about some feature of language X being hard, and use that to justify a sloppy, inefficient learning method. If you want to learn Chinese, you can definitely do it. It just might take a little longer than with Spanish.

However, my experience has been that learning Chinese isn’t simply harder than learning Spanish, it is different. The progression of the language differs from when I learned Spanish, French or Portuguese, enough that I think examining these differences can be very useful. If you have European language expectations for Chinese you might become frustrated at what is actually a very natural progression.

For those curious on an entirely unscientific attempt at quantifying the difference in difficulty between the two, my current feeling is that learning Chinese to spoken fluency is probably 2-3x as much work as it is for Spanish. If you include reading and writing, then 3-4x isn’t an exaggeration.

What Makes Learning Chinese Different than Learning Spanish?

I don’t want to dwell on the overall difficulty of Chinese. Aside from budgeting your learning time and expectations, knowing Chinese is harder than Spanish isn’t particularly helpful. After all, it all has to be learned regardless, so why focus on the negative?

Instead, I’d like to break down which aspects of Chinese require more work and how I feel that changes the best strategy to use when learning it.

Every language has dozens of difficult points, but the ones that are particularly Chinese, (i.e. they trip up the most Western speakers) are:

  1. Tones
  2. Vocabulary
  3. Characters

Chinese isn’t all bad news, it’s near complete lack of tense, mood, gender, grammatical number and inflections means it is grammatically much simpler than Spanish for all but the more advanced nuances.

Side note: Spanish and English grammar, while distinct, share many sentence patterns which are completely different in Chinese. While I never had to go through elaborate conjugation exercises to memorize Chinese grammar, I was well over a hundred hours of studying before I confidently could express the concept “more” in Chinese. Many Chinese concepts have one-to-one translations with English, but relatively fewer than Spanish, which somewhat dampens the common, “Chinese grammar is easy”, claim.

How Tones Changes Learning Strategy

With all of the previous languages I’ve learned, pronunciation was mostly a learn-it-once and then apply-it rule. French was harder than Spanish and Portuguese, but as long as you handle their r’s and get good approximations of the vowel sounds, you shouldn’t have too many problems and your accent will naturally soften with more practice.

The non-tonal parts of Chinese pronunciation evolved in a similar way for me. Study phonetic diagrams to make sure I’m getting good approximations of the phonemes English lacks (j/x/q are often tricky for English speakers, and I also found correctly separating -eng and -ang tricky) but after that it’s simply practice and asking for corrections. Chinese phonology was harder than any language I had learned before, but not excessively so. It just takes practice.

Tones, on the other hand, are something that require continued study well beyond a beginner stage. I agree with John Pasden’s critique of Chinese language education as assuming tones are a basic language feature, rather than something which can stymie even fairly advanced learners.

The other reason tones change learning strategy isn’t just their weirdness for non-tonal language speakers, but something Olle Linge of Hacking Chinese told me in a conversation: Most new Chinese learners neglect tones because, for simple speech, they’re rarely that important—natives can correctly deduce which tones should be there because your sentences are simple. However, as you get to more advanced levels of dialog and conversation, mixing up a tone can change the meaning of a sentence completely or be confusing to the listener.

It’s not possible to get pronunciation perfect from the first day, but I do think their long-term importance, their short-term difficulty and the ease of fossilizing bad habits of speech means that some amount of blind tone drills (both listening and production) should be a regular part of the learning schedule until well into Chinese.

How Vocabulary Changes Learning Strategy

European languages tend to share common root vocabulary from Greek or Latin. Even when the languages are not even related, such as English and Hungarian, there is overlap in technical vocabulary (guess what the Hungarian word politika means?).

Chinese is an interesting case because it has very few easily recognizable loanwords from English. Not only does its completely separate linguistic roots preclude the connections you can make between European languages, but even the words that have come directly from English are often barely recognizable. Winston Churchill’s surname is pronounced Qiūjí’ěr in Chinese (if you’re not familiar with pinyin, click here and use Google Translate to pronounce it for you).

My feeling is that the dissimilarity between English loanwords and their English pronunciation is in part because of the fact that Chinese uses a non-phonetic script (imagine if every word from another language had to be described using English syllables), and because tones need to be added where they don’t exist in English.

These two features, linguistic dissimilarity and few recognizable loanwords, means that learning Chinese is about as close as learning a language from scratch as you can get.

Side note: This isn’t all bad news. Chinese culture, and in particular their writing system, was once the standard in much of East Asia. As a result, learning Chinese words can make learning other languages easier. Some linguists suggest as much as 30-60% of Korean’s vocabulary may be Chinese in origin, which means learning Chinese can serve as an investment in other Asian languages the way learning French or Greek would help you learn other European ones.

From my experience these differences change how learning Chinese progresses compared to Spanish. With Spanish, after mastering basic vocabulary, it wasn’t usually considerably more difficult to start talking about complex subjects (politics, science, art) since many of these technical words are similar in English.

Chinese doesn’t have that advantage, so while I can talk about everyday things and common topics fairly easily, the more esoteric the topic, the more I rely on a dictionary to make my point.

My feeling is that this also shifts the emphasis on Chinese in a more input-based direction. In learning Chinese, I’ve found two tools useful:

  1. Anki’s MCC (Mastering Chinese Characters) decks. These are great because they have thousands of example sentences with crisp audio. Although they aren’t ideal if your only goal was spoken Chinese (the sentences are somewhat more formal and written vernacular) I’ve found it an incredible resource for expanding my vocabulary when I was content to approach that more passively with Spanish.
  2. ChinesePod. In particular, subscribe to their mid-level subscription and download dialog-only files. The real podcasts can get kind of lengthy and I find my attention wandering. Instead I prefer to take their dialogs, listen once or twice and then meticulously go through and parse out every word or grammatical construction I missed. I can usually do 8-10 per hour using this approach, so it’s great for building vocabulary while practicing listening skills.

Are these kinds of drills necessary for learning Chinese? I can’t say for sure, but I feel that without them, it would take a lot longer to break into the upper-intermediate level where you can start learning directly from books, television or music.

How Characters Change Learning Strategy

Writing and reading has been a secondary priority for me here in China. While I was originally not going to invest any time at all into learning the characters until I reached conversational fluency, a few things made me change my mind:

  1. Anki’s MCC decks are good for both character recognition and vocabulary/grammar/listening practice. Although one could redesign a better deck if only spoken comprehension was the goal, using this resource as-is has been pretty effective.
  2. Characters are a good way of linking vocabulary. In the beginning, I struggled a lot with the extreme homophony of Chinese. Knowing the characters in isolation and then using those building blocks to think about words means that I can keep concepts separate that only differ by a tone.
  3. Reading and writing, while not a short-term goal, is definitely a long-term goal. Therefore, even if characters slows down my progress somewhat in speaking Chinese, I don’t think it hurts my long-term chances of becoming fully fluent.

To that end, using almost exclusively Anki’s MCCs, I’ve learned roughly 1300 characters. By the time the three months are done, I’m expecting that to be around 2000. I also tried out Skritter briefly to get a sense for handwriting and to learn radicals. Thus far, I have learned to handwrite around 450 or so (although half of these are the Kangxi radicals rather than independent characters).

Estimates on the number of characters needed to be functionally literate vary from as little as 2000 to as much as 5000. By these estimates, I’m likely only a third of the way there in terms of character recognition (which is only part of reading Chinese, since most words are polysyllabic and whose meaning only vaguely corresponds to their component characters).

The biggest impact of characters on learning Chinese is short-term. For a long time in China you’ll be illiterate. You might be able to have conversations without issue, but anything more complicated than text messages or emails is often out of reach. Learning Spanish (or even Korean) one takes for granted that literacy is only a small extra cost on top of learning to speak, whereas with Chinese it is nearly the amount of work of learning the spoken language itself.

To handle the characters in Chinese I’ve seen two strategies advocated for:

Strategy One: Ignore All Characters Until You’re Conversationally Fluent

This is the strategy that Vat is using while we’re in China. It’s the strategy advocated by respected linguist and Sinologist Victor Mair. It’s also the one Benny used while learning Chinese, and what he suggested to me when I asked him for advice before attempting my own version of an intense Chinese-learning burst.

In learning Chinese, I can definitely see advantages to this approach. It simplifies the task of learning considerably and avoids students getting bogged down memorizing characters when they should really be practicing conversations. Most natives I’ve spoken with tend to balk at this approach, until you remind them that no Chinese person has ever learned characters before he could already speak Chinese.

If you’re not particularly interested in learning to read and write, or you find the idea of learning characters mildly terrifying, this is the strategy I’d suggest. There are some weaknesses, but I think it’s probably the best fit for most learners.

Strategy Two: Emphasize Character Learning from the Beginning

The other strategy, used heavily by textbook authors, is to make you learn a bunch of characters from the first day. This pedagogical style is even more prevalent in China where I’ve even seen beginner textbooks that have students reading over full dialogs in characters without pinyin.

This latter strategy often suggests practicing handwriting characters until the students can write full sentences in characters with a pencil and paper.

My verdict is that the second strategy is almost certainly a mistake (unless you just really like characters and have no interest in conversing in Mandarin). However, I’ve personally found I don’t lean as far as other advocates of the no-characters approach to learning.

Instead, I think characters are something worth learning if they’re used as a backup to the spoken language. Putting some light amount of character recognition has helped me remember vocabulary more easily, separate homophones and near-homophones mentally and has been useful in the inevitable situations where recognizing characters is required (even if full literacy is still a ways off). Learning characters does make more work, but it has been useful in combating those short-term problems with the spoken language and will, of course, be useful when I eventually want to read books in Chinese.

I also sense that characters shouldn’t be learned in isolation. Seeing characters when reading ChinesePod transcripts or MCC deck example sentences is great since you’re forming a link between character and spoken language.

Expectations for Learning Chinese

In comparison to the difficulties I foresaw learning Chinese, I feel that learning Chinese mostly met my expectations. It’s harder, but if you’re interested in learning about the largest, oldest and one of the most powerful languages and cultures in the world, I think it is definitely worth the extra effort.

Aside from the points noted above, Chinese does largely conform to my experience learning languages: as close to full immersion as possible is the best way to go, start using the language as soon as possible, don’t speak English. The difference is that compared to Spanish, I’d probably budget more time to reach the same level of speaking ability.

Interestingly, I believe Chinese is actually somewhat more exploitable than Spanish for rapid-learning methods. With Spanish, everything aside from the no-English rule, minor tutoring and a grammar book seemed unnecessary; what mattered was immersion. With Chinese, there’s a lot more room for improvement to be made through listening and pronunciation drills, visual mnemonics and active practice.

My Chinese and Future Progress

In terms of my own Chinese, based on my original goal of wanting to be able to have conversations in Chinese without considerable difficulty, I’ve already passed the lower-bound of that benchmark some time ago. I’ve now had more than a few multi-hour length conversations without needing to check for a translation more than a handful of times.

My next step is increasing my vocabulary and recognition to smooth my conversations and hopefully graduate to being able to watch television shows and movies and understand most of the dialog. I’ve also signed up to write the HSK 4 (China’s supposed equivalent of the B2 language proficiency exam) in Shanghai in one month.

Unlike my other languages, Chinese will probably require continued study (as opposed to simply continued use) to reach a truly proficient, long-term level. However, I think making the adjustments to the learning approach I’ve noted above, and a good work ethic, a strong foundation for the language can be achieved in only a few months.

  • Corey McMahon

    I think most people have an incorrect understanding of what “difficulty” actually means within the context of language learning.

    Yes, some languages are “harder.” What that means is that they take longer to learn. It doesn’t mean people are less able to learn the language or to use it effectively – it just means the required time investment is higher to achieve the same level of fluency.

    Much of what you discuss in this article also applies to learning Vietnamese. Tones and unfamiliar phonemes make learning the language “harder” than learning a Romance or Germanic language. I would say, however, that learning Vietnamese is “easier” than learning Chinese, simply because Vietnamese uses the Roman alphabet. Again, “easy” and “hard” (within this context) refer to the required time investment to achieve a certain level of fluency when compared with other languages.

  • DN

    Scott,

    as always an excellent description in detail of your learning experiences. I wish you good luck for the HSK4 exams.

    Jia you
    加油

  • John Pasden

    Great post!

    I’ve always felt that while it’s not truly important if Chinese is harder than another language, it’s still an interesting question to think about, and some people simply want to know what they’re getting into.

    Incidentally, I also hold a modified stance of “Strategy One: Ignore All Characters Until You’re Conversationally Fluent.” (One important piece of the puzzle is how interested the learner is in characters.)

  • Guillermo

    Great post! I’ve always wanted to learn multiple languages so I have enjoyed reading your posts on your linguistic journey. I am native English speaker and had the good fortune of being raised bilingual with Spanish. That let me learn Portuguese much easier than other languages I have attempted (German and Mandarin). I think the whole debate about language difficulty is really a matter of where your starting point is. For a Western audience, which this blog is certainly addressed to, I think you make a valid point that learning a non-Western language such as Chinese (Mandarin, I’m assuming for spoken?) is more challenging than another Western language. However, I do wish that these types of comparisons would include the baseline for which they are made. I’m sure many of your readers understand the implicit assumption you are making that as an English speaker who had little or no exposure to non-Western languages prior to attempting to learn Mandarin this would be a more difficult task, however I think it is important to not perpetuate these universal stereotypes on language difficulty, precisely for the reasons you mentioned in your post about turning people off to studying Mandarin. So I hope that as you move through your journey you can be more explicit about the comparisons you are making and where your starting point is. I can also imagine it would be difficult to compare the learning process of a language after having learned a previously new language because you are now in a position with a greater set of skills and tools to improve your language learning ability, such as being able to pick up on subtleties of language grammar, and word elements. Also, one thing I found in learning new languages is how important the cultural context is for language, so I can see how learning in a country where it is spoken can really help to learn the language in ways that are difficult to replicate outside that experience. Best of luck on your journey, I look forward to reading more about your journey.

  • Tara

    After you return home, do you intend to continue studying all four of the languages that you have learned during your travels? How would you go about dividing study time between them? Would you switch frequently back and forth between the languages, which might make keeping them mentally separate more difficult, or would you study each for a longer block of time before switching to the next language, which might mean less frequent reinforcement and more forgetting of material? Just curious!

  • adbge

    For those curious on an entirely unscientific attempt at quantifying the difference in difficulty between the two, my current feeling is that learning Chinese to spoken fluency is probably 2-3x as much work as it is for Spanish. If you include reading and writing, then 3-4x isn’t an exaggeration.

    Not a bad estimate!

    The Foreign Service Institute ballparks Chinese at 2200 hours to reach fluency with both speaking and reading. Spanish, on the other hand, tops out at 600 hours. So, about ~3.7x harder.

    Corey McMahon makes a great point, too, that difficulty translates to necessary hours of investment. Presumably, this holds across subjects — The notorious difficulty of a class like, say, real analysis just means that it takes many hours to master. Which is sort of liberating, when you think about. There’s a solution to “fundamental hardness”: invest more time.

    Oh, and a shameless plug: I wrote a retrospective after my 10,000th Anki card that some might find interesting.

  • Liu

    加油~~~~~^^

  • Weywoda

    Another interesting article. However, I believe there is a third strategy for learning Chinese that combines the two:
    1. Learn to write 2000-3000 characters via the Heisig method.
    2. Near the end of Step 1. embark on the road towards conversational fluency
    3. When you can speak fluently at a upper beginner/lower intermediate level and at least know the 500 most frequent words start reading/writing.

    The Heisig method is controversial and this strategy isn’t for everyone, but it works great for people who like the Heisig method. It also eliminates the difficulty of writing and recognizing the characters, allowing you to jump right into reading/writing. Once you know those 500 most frequent words (and their correct pronunciation) then you only need to look up which characters are associated with them. From then on you can read and write at least 70% of texts!
    Learning 2000-3000 characters will take you about 3 months give or take, depending on how much work you put into it, so it’s maybe not suited for a 3 month immersion experience. However, the good thing is that you don’t have to be in an immersion experience to pull it off. Another plus is that when you know those characters remembering new vocabulary will be much easier than in other languages, because you have a stronger associative-visual memory.

  • Michael

    I took some Mandarin Chinese classes while I was studying in college to perfect my reading and speaking skills. My learning really took off when I started focusing my time on learning pinyin and the four tones.

    Keep in mind I grew up in a Mandarin speaking home. However, that doesn’t mean I had my Mandarin grammer perfected. It only means that I was able to communicate well enough for native Mandarin speakers to understand. I always ask if I’m saying things right and if not, usually the native speaker will correct me.

  • soneng

    This post reminds me of my own challenges in learning English, which is the exact opposite case from yours. Back then my English was so poor that I couldn’t understand even school announcements. So i decided that I should tackle my most basic (and urgent) inability by listening to casual, everyday conversations – and the most easily available source would be none other than the TV. I watched American dramas with Chinese subtitles on (or the reverse as that allowed me to pick up useful day-to-day English) and consciously took note of both the contextual meaning and pronunciation of new English vocabulary.

    To this day, I still think that TV is still the best learning material for any beginners. This is probably the only material that you can learn and apply at once and one that doesn’t bore you like textbooks do.

  • Livonor

    Learning the Hanzi is definitively worth it, it makes learn high amounts of vocab in short period possible and technical/specific written words comes for free, I have a book about the development and structure of WW2 airplanes and can understand almost all the words despite having learned just about half of them, I also used to read wikipedia articles in the same fashion (still do, sometimes).

  • Laura

    Hi, very nice post!

    As native Spanish speaker and now as a Spanish language teacher in China I must say I’d loved to know many of these advices beforehand. Before I came to China I studied Chinese for a couple of years, however none of my teachers ever bothered to told us that tones were the must important thing… so when I came here I realized everything I thought I could say was wrong and that nobody could understand what I was trying to say, actually it has taken me more time to correct my pronunciation mistakes than other thing. Anyway, I just can say it studying Chinese needs time and real interest, otherwise it will be a sad experience.

  • Victor

    Wow Scott, congrats on finishing your MIT challenge and moving on to this new, also very interesting one! As someone whose mother tongue was Mandarin, but then became much more fluent in English than Mandarin (like most Chinese kids, I was made to learn through mostly what you call “Strategy Two”, and didn’t enjoy that very much!), didn’t have much fun having to learn French while growing up in Canada, and later on learned basic Spanish for fun, I am of the opinion that Spanish is much easier than any form of Chinese, and is probably one of the most straightforward yet beautiful languages in the world. Also makes a huge difference when you choose to learn voluntarily!

    Also the advent of stuff like Google Glass and Google Goggles (instant visual translation of text), combined with the prevalence of Pin Yin in China is making it less and less important to recognize Chinese characters. I always find it annoying though how the street signs all have Pin Yin, but don’t have the tones, so I end up sounding like a foreigner anyway when I ask for directions and have to guess the tones!

  • Scott Young

    Corey,

    I largely agree–anything can be learned if you spend enough time at it. One possible tweak is that difficulty could also be described by the flow of feedback you get. If several steps must all be executed correctly to begin receiving feedback it can be described as simply requiring more time, but the lack of feedback can be discouraging as well.

    Spanish, for me, required less time, but it also didn’t have the same lack of feedback hump I experienced with Chinese (where it was harder to slide directly into conversations) so that might discourage learners who aren’t expecting it (and part of the motivation for this post).

    Similarly, real analysis requires more work to learn, but it also requires many prior steps understood correctly to proceed. For that reason, you could say it is more difficult (rather than just more time consuming) because many people won’t know how to properly digest the task into subcomponents and build upon it.

    John,

    Completely agree. Chinese character learning timing is something I’ve not formed a hard opinion on.

    Tara,

    That’s a huge topic I’m going to write about once the project is finished. Short answer, language maintenance practice is critical (I would argue much more so than with my MIT Challenge) but I’m not going to be continuing them with the same aggressiveness I did while traveling so I’m looking to adopt a few low-maintenance habits.

    adbge,

    I had read that figure before, didn’t include it because I felt it gave undue specificity to what is a highly variable process.

    Ultimately I think the challenge of tackling Mandarin after a European language isn’t so much its relative difficulty but that it doesn’t progress in the same steps, which I wanted to discuss here.

    Weywoda,

    I didn’t mention learning characters prior to speaking, largely because I think it’s both (a) ineffective and (b) I’ve never seen anyone actually using it in real life before.

    I use something similar to the Heisig method to memorize the characters more effectively, so that’s a no-brainer whether you plan to learn characters before, after or concurrently with the spoken language.

    Soneng,

    I somewhat agree. I’m not a big fan of watching shows subtitled in English because it changes the task from a recall one to one of recognition, second because often subtitles don’t correspond exactly so getting the correct meaning can be hard. But, of course, it’s better than nothing.

    My favorite is to watch shows dubbed in the language that you’ve already seen before. I did this with Spanish, French and Portuguese, but finding English shows dubbed into Mandarin has been quite hard, so I may need to use your suggestion as an alternative.

    Victor,

    For survival in China, learning the characters isn’t necessary. But since we’re talking about learning the language, I think recognizing a few thousand characters quickly and accurately is a must if you want to even approach functional fluency. Yes, some things have pinyin, but most don’t and OCR and translation software are still lacking.

    Technology is getting better every year, but it’s also getting better at recognizing voice input and synthesizing voice output, so any argument against learning characters by way of technology is, in my opinion, an equally strong argument against learning the language at all. Perhaps it will be true in the future, but in the meantime I think being able to live in Chinese requires both characters and the spoken language.

    -Scott

  • Sarah Cooper

    Excellent post, Scott. Ever since I read about you on hackernews, I check your blog from time to time and you’re an incredibly inspiring person.
    Keep writing

  • HJ

    Hi Scott,

    thanks for sharing all the blogs.
    I am in Shanghai. If you need any help for your trip to Shanghai, please let me know.

  • lili

    I like your book”study less,learn more”,受益匪浅,it’s difficult for me to read english articles,but i will do it everyday.LEARNING EVERYDAY.wish you could pass the HSK4, 加油 ↖(^ω^)↗,为你点赞。

  • Lucia

    I’m a Chinese and a college student in China. I’ve subscribed your free-emails for several years. I like your methods about how to learn fast by oneself.

  • Tyson

    There are many movies dubbed into Chinese that were originally in English. All the Pixar movies are available, and lots of Hollywood action movies (almost anything that gets a cinema release in China). You can buy lots of them on Amazon.cn.

    Not so much TV available. Although apparently CCTV is dubbing Game of Thrones.

  • jmtech

    According to a friend of mine, Mandarin. Mandarin has more than 40,000 characters while Spanish alphabet has about 27 letters only. But, learning Mandarin is fun. The more challenging the task is the more fun.

    JOZELLE
    http://www.mandarin-espeak.com

  • Ren

    Chinese and Spanish can be both hard depending on where you’re from because these languages can have similarities with other languages. If you want easy chinese learning, you should talk with native speakers like at http://preply.com/en/chinese-b…. You can also watch movies with subtitles in order to be more familiar.

  • Link

    I agree that knowing Chinese makes other East Asian languages much easier. Even though Chinese, Japanese, and Korean are all unrelated and come from different language families (unless Japanese and Korean have a common origin, which is not widely accepted), adapting Chinese characters to the other two languages also brought a ton of vocabulary. Since I’m a native speaker of both Chinese and English, learning Japanese is really easy for me. The vocabulary is the easiest because many of the words are of Chinese origin and many new words are of English origin. Reading is almost as easy for me because I know most of the kanji, except those not used anymore in Chinese. To learn the readings, I just learn new vocabulary and associate the kanji with them. Reading Japanese is much more challenging to people who do not know Chinese because they must memorize the kanji, as well as the multiple readings, unlike with Chinese, where most characters are associated with only one reading and maybe tone differences. But if you already know the characters, you only have the memorize the readings.

  • Link

    I agree that knowing Chinese makes other East Asian languages much easier. Even though Chinese, Japanese, and Korean are all unrelated and come from different language families (unless Japanese and Korean have a common origin, which is not widely accepted), adapting Chinese characters to the other two languages also brought a ton of vocabulary. Since I’m a native speaker of both Chinese and English, learning Japanese is really easy for me. The vocabulary is the easiest because many of the words are of Chinese origin and many new words are of English origin. Reading is almost as easy for me because I know most of the kanji, except those not used anymore in Chinese. To learn the readings, I just learn new vocabulary and associate the kanji with them. Reading Japanese is much more challenging to people who do not know Chinese because they must memorize the kanji, as well as the multiple readings, unlike with Chinese, where most characters are associated with only one reading and maybe tone differences. But if you already know the characters, you only have the memorize the readings.

  • TheManWithNoHat

    You’d think their censors wouldn’t exactly be thrilled with it, but maybe they’re more concerned with politics and potential subversion than sex and gore.

  • TheManWithNoHat

    You’d think their censors wouldn’t exactly be thrilled with it, but maybe they’re more concerned with politics and potential subversion than sex and gore.

  • Jon Holden

    What a retard.
    Chinese is so much easier than Spanish.
    No conjugating verbs, no masculine/feminine, etc, etc.
    Sure, learning the CHARACTERS is difficult, but learning to actually speak the language is much easier…

  • Hubert Lamontagne

    That’s not what really makes a language easy… Spanish has tons of common vocabulary and grammar with English (once you get past the genders and verb conjugations), and that’s a massive, massive advantage for learners.

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