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Should I learn Chinese or Japanese first?


Learning a new language can be an exciting and rewarding experience, but it can also be overwhelming to choose which language to learn first. Chinese and Japanese are two of the most popular languages in Asia, and both offer unique benefits for learners. In this article, we will explore the pros and cons of learning Chinese or Japanese first.

Similarities between Chinese and Japanese

Before delving into the differences between the two languages, it’s important to note that Chinese and Japanese share some similarities. Both languages use Chinese characters, or kanji in Japanese, as part of their writing systems. Additionally, both languages have similar sentence structures and grammar rules.

Japanese Snack Box

Benefits of learning Chinese first

One benefit of learning Chinese first is that it is currently the most spoken language in the world, with over 1.3 billion speakers. This means that knowing Chinese can open up many opportunities for business and cultural exchange. Additionally, Chinese is a tonal language, which means that the tone of a word can change its meaning. Learning to distinguish between tones can improve your overall listening skills.

Challenges of learning Chinese

On the other hand, learning Chinese can be a challenge due to its complex writing system and grammar rules. Unlike Japanese, which has two phonetic scripts in addition to kanji, Chinese uses only characters for written communication. This means that learners must memorize thousands of characters to achieve fluency.

Benefits of learning Japanese first

One benefit of learning Japanese first is that it has a simpler writing system compared to Chinese. While kanji is still an integral part of written Japanese, there are also two phonetic scripts called hiragana and katakana that represent syllables. Additionally, Japanese grammar is relatively straightforward compared to Chinese.

Challenges of learning Japanese

However, Japanese can also present challenges for learners. One of the biggest hurdles is its complex system of honorifics and politeness levels, which can take years to master. Additionally, Japanese is not as widely spoken as Chinese, so opportunities for business and cultural exchange may be more limited.

Cultural factors to consider

When deciding between learning Chinese or Japanese first, it’s important to consider cultural factors as well. Both cultures have rich histories and traditions that may appeal to different learners. For example, if you are interested in martial arts or anime, you may be more drawn to Japanese culture. On the other hand, if you are interested in traditional Chinese medicine or calligraphy, Chinese culture may be a better fit.

Personal goals

Ultimately, the decision of whether to learn Chinese or Japanese first should depend on your personal goals and interests. If you plan on doing business in China or with Chinese companies, learning Chinese first may be more beneficial. However, if you plan on traveling to Japan or have a strong interest in Japanese culture, learning Japanese first may be a better choice.

Resources for learning

No matter which language you choose to learn first, there are many resources available to help you achieve your goals. Language schools, online courses, and language exchange programs are all great options for language learners. Additionally, immersing yourself in the language and culture by traveling or studying abroad can greatly accelerate your learning.

Learning both languages

If you are still undecided between learning Chinese or Japanese first, consider learning both languages simultaneously. While this may seem daunting at first, many people find that learning two languages concurrently can actually reinforce their understanding of each language.


In conclusion, the decision of whether to learn Chinese or Japanese first ultimately depends on your personal goals and interests. Both languages have unique benefits and challenges, so it’s important to carefully consider your options before making a decision. With dedication and the right resources, you can achieve fluency in either language and open up a world of opportunities.

Should I learn Chinese before Japanese?

Choosing to learn Japanese through anime, J-pop, or for a love of Japanese cuisine and culture is an obvious choice. However, those wanting to learn more about Chinese history and its influence on other cultures in Asia would benefit greatly from learning Chinese.

Which is more useful to learn Chinese or Japanese?

Japanese is more valuable than Chinese as being fluent in Japanese can lead to high-paying job opportunities due to the limited number of Japanese individuals who speak English fluently. If you choose to learn Chinese, you will face tough competition for jobs from a large group of Chinese speakers who are proficient in English.

Should I learn Japanese and Chinese at the same time?

Although some may be able to successfully learn both Chinese and Japanese simultaneously, it is a challenging undertaking that requires additional effort, time, and resources. For most individuals, it would be more beneficial to focus on one language at a time.

What should I learn first Chinese or Japanese or Korean?

If you don’t have a preference for any of the languages, I suggest learning Chinese Mandarin, followed by Japanese, and then Korean as the last option. Chinese is recommended as the first language because its grammar structure is similar to English, and it serves as the foundation for Korean and Japanese, much like Latin serves as the foundation for many European languages.

Is Japanese easy to learn after Chinese?

Having knowledge of Chinese can be very beneficial, particularly with improving your reading and vocabulary skills. In fact, more than 60% of Japanese vocabulary has common roots with Chinese language.

What’s harder Chinese or Japanese?

Learning Japanese is relatively easier than learning Chinese, but Chinese is spoken by a larger population. Each language has its advantages and disadvantages.

It’s also worth noting that learning Chinese or Japanese can be a long-term investment in your future. Both languages are spoken by large populations around the world, and knowing either language can greatly enhance your career opportunities. Additionally, learning a new language can improve cognitive function and memory, making it a valuable skill to have.

Another factor to consider is the availability of language resources in your area. If you live in an area with a significant Chinese or Japanese population, you may have access to local language schools or community centers that offer language classes. Alternatively, online resources such as language exchange programs and online courses can provide access to language learning from anywhere in the world.

While each language has its own unique challenges, it’s important to remember that learning a new language is always possible with dedication and consistent practice. Setting realistic goals and finding a study routine that works for you can help you stay on track and achieve success in your language learning journey.

In conclusion, whether you choose to learn Chinese or Japanese first, the benefits of learning a new language are numerous. From improving career opportunities to enhancing cognitive function, the investment in language learning is well worth it. With dedication and hard work, fluency in either language is achievable, and can open up a world of opportunities for personal growth and cultural exchange.

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