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Should I learn Japanese or Mandarin?


Learning a new language can be an exciting and rewarding experience, but choosing which language to learn can be a daunting task. Two of the most popular languages to learn are Japanese and Mandarin. Both have unique cultures and histories, but which one should you choose to learn? In this article, we will explore the differences between the two languages and help you make an informed decision.


Japanese and Mandarin share some similarities, such as their use of characters in writing. Both languages use Chinese characters in their writing systems, albeit with different pronunciations. Additionally, both languages have complex grammar structures that require careful attention to detail when learning them.

Japanese Snack Box

Difficulty Level

One of the biggest factors to consider when choosing a language to learn is its difficulty level. Japanese is often considered more difficult than Mandarin due to its complex writing system, which includes three different scripts: kanji (Chinese characters), hiragana, and katakana. On the other hand, Mandarin has simpler grammar structures but requires a lot of dedication to master its tonal pronunciation.


Another important factor to consider when choosing which language to learn is its usefulness. Japanese is spoken mainly in Japan and has limited use outside of the country. On the other hand, Mandarin is spoken by over 1 billion people worldwide and is the official language of China and Taiwan. It is also increasingly becoming important in global business and politics.

Cultural Significance

The cultural significance of a language cannot be understated. Learning a language can give you deeper insights into a culture’s history, traditions, and values. Japanese culture is known for its rich history, art, and anime/manga industry. Mandarin culture has a long history and has made significant contributions to art, literature, philosophy, and science.

Job Prospects

Learning a new language can significantly boost your job prospects, especially if you plan to work in a multinational corporation or international organization. Knowing Japanese can be useful if you want to work in the gaming or entertainment industry, while knowledge of Mandarin can be beneficial if you plan to work in finance, trade or international relations.


If you love to travel, learning a new language can help you better communicate with locals and enhance your travel experience. Japan is a popular tourist destination and knowing Japanese can be helpful when navigating public transportation and interacting with locals. Similarly, China is a vast country with diverse cultures and languages, and knowing Mandarin can help you communicate with locals in different regions.

Language Learning Resources

When choosing which language to learn, it’s essential to consider the availability of resources such as textbooks, tutors, and language courses. Japanese language learning resources are widely available online and offline, including textbooks, mobile apps, and online tutors. Similarly, Mandarin language resources are also readily available, including textbooks, language schools, and online courses.

Personal Interests

Your personal interests can also play a role in which language you choose to learn. If you love anime/manga or Japanese culture in general, learning Japanese might be more appealing to you. If you’re interested in Chinese history or business opportunities in China, Mandarin might be the better choice for you.

Learning Environment

The learning environment can also influence which language to learn. If you prefer self-study, then Japanese might be more accessible due to the abundance of online resources. On the other hand, if you prefer immersive learning environments, then studying Mandarin in China or Taiwan might be the best option for you.

Time Commitment

Learning a new language requires a significant time commitment. It’s essential to consider how much time you’re willing to dedicate to learning a new language. Japanese is said to take around 2,200 hours to achieve fluency, while Mandarin is said to take around 2,200 hours as well. However, it’s worth noting that learning times can vary depending on individual ability and learning style.


In conclusion, both Japanese and Mandarin have their unique advantages and challenges. Consider your personal interests, job prospects, travel plans, time commitment, and learning environment when deciding which language to learn. Ultimately, the key to successful language learning is dedication and consistent practice.

Is it more useful to learn Japanese or Chinese?

When considering your options, it’s important to take into account the popularity of the language. Chinese has the second highest number of speakers in the world with over 1.1 billion people speaking the language worldwide. In contrast, Japanese is not as widely spoken, only having around 128 million speakers and not ranking in the top 10 languages spoken globally.

Which should I learn first Mandarin or Japanese?

Many learners recommend learning Chinese before Japanese because mastering Chinese can make it easier to learn Japanese. Japanese has three writing systems, including Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji, and understanding the characters and language structures of Chinese can help in understanding Japanese.

Is Mandarin more important than Japanese?

Both Mandarin and Japanese can provide you with benefits, but which one is more valuable to you depends on your intended use of the language. For instance, if you plan to visit China, learning Japanese won’t be as helpful. On the other hand, if you want to understand Japanese culture, Mandarin may not be as beneficial as learning Japanese.

Is Mandarin or Japanese harder?

Mandarin has a very simple grammar where translating “I eat rice” word-for-word is considered correct and there are no specific honorifics to remember. Japanese has many English loaned terms, which can make it easier to learn and remember new vocabulary, especially for beginners.

Will learning Japanese help me get a job?

Learning Japanese can greatly enhance your job opportunities, especially in fields such as translation, interpretation, government roles, and flight attendant positions. By gaining proficiency in the language, your chances of securing employment in these areas will increase significantly.

Does learning Japanese worth it?

Learning Japanese offers numerous social advantages, including the ability to communicate with a wider range of people and make new friends. Speaking Japanese can significantly enhance one’s social life, as it enables them to connect with Japanese-speaking individuals and establish meaningful relationships with them.

Language Exchange and Community

Another important aspect to consider when choosing a language to learn is the availability of language exchange and community. Language exchange programs allow learners to practice speaking the language with native speakers, while language communities provide support, motivation, and resources for learners. Japanese and Mandarin both have active language exchange programs and communities, but Mandarin has the advantage of being spoken by a larger number of people worldwide, making it easier to find language exchange partners and communities.

Pronunciation Challenges

Pronunciation can be a challenge for learners of both Japanese and Mandarin. Japanese has unique pronunciation features such as pitch accent, which can be difficult to master. Mandarin has four tones, which can change the meaning of words, making it essential to pay attention to tone while speaking. However, both languages have resources available to help learners improve their pronunciation, such as audio guides and online tutors.

Future Growth Potential

When choosing which language to learn, it’s also important to consider its future growth potential. While Japanese remains a popular language among learners worldwide, its growth potential is limited due to its limited use outside Japan. On the other hand, Mandarin’s growth potential is significant due to China’s increasing economic and political influence globally. China’s Belt and Road Initiative is also expected to increase demand for Mandarin speakers in the future.

Personal Goals

Ultimately, your personal goals should guide your choice of which language to learn. If you’re learning a new language for personal fulfillment or enjoyment, then choose the one that interests you more. If you’re learning a new language for career or academic purposes, then choose the one that aligns with your goals. Whatever your reason for learning a new language may be, remember that it’s a journey that requires patience, dedication, and consistent effort.

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